Bows and Arrows
This has been a year of accomplishments for our third daughter. Like millions of others, Mariana completed high school and is headed for college. But her other accomplishment is one she shares with relatively few others.
For ten years Mariana was a member of Anima, a young people’s chorale. Since 1964 Anima has been helping choristers experience the wonder of music and song. Their repertoire varies from the most profound sacred music to the funkiest rock n’ roll. No language is off limits. They have sung all over the world, premiered children’s music, and accompanied professional orchestras, ballet troupes, and theatre companies. Led by gifted and dedicated instructors, the choristers celebrate the highs and lows, joys and sorrows of life through God’s gift of music. They leave their audiences smiling, sometimes crying, and by concert’s end almost always standing and cheering. Anima is truly one of Chicagoland’s best-kept secrets.
Over a half-century before Anima was born, an immigrant was writing. For Lebanese-born Kahlil Gibran, life was a struggle. Born in 1883 during his mother’s third marriage to an irresponsible man, Gibran was homeless by eight years old. He suffered a childhood accident that weakened him for life. His only early education came from a Marionite priest who saw something special in him. In 1895, Gibran’s strong-willed mother brought them to the U.S., where Gibran developed his skills as both artist and writer. In 1923, he published The Prophet, a collection of Gibran’s writings as told through Al Mustafa, a chosen one about to return home after years of exile. Unheralded at first, The Prophet became wildly popular during the counter-cultural ’60s. By the ’70s, it had become a staple of Catholic weddings.
This past season the Anima choristers, swinging and swaying in a church sanctuary, breathed life into one of Gibran’s most cherished passages. Asked to “speak to us about Children,” Al Mufasta said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
It was a glorious moment as the kids joyfully proclaimed their dignity and value.
Yet many in our culture reject their words. Through you but not from you? With you but not belonging to you? Our culture treats the unborn as mere pieces of personal property, stuff we own and can junk up to the moment of birth. According to our Supreme Court, liberty is the right to define our own concept of the mystery of human life. It sounds nice, but there is a world of difference between defining and acting. It’s the difference between philosophers and madmen. The right to think does not beget us the right to kill. But in our me-first culture, that distinction is largely lost. Wrong time, financial worries, health concerns, unmarried, embarrassing, inconvenient? They all work, for life is all about us.
Anima’s singers, like all other children of our day, are not ordinary kids. They are the survivors of an unholy culture war two generations old. The Supreme Court took away their right to be born. They survived legal abortion by the luck of the draw. Of course, this is not the first time that we have put ourselves before others, for we are a fallen people. But the stakes have never been higher. We are killing our present and our future, Life’s longing for itself.
Something was obviously missing from that stage: more choristers. If we really believed the words, just think how many more choristers would have graced that church. How many more would be adding joy and beauty to this world. How many more would become the role models and heroes that our culture desperately needs. We have silenced the music of life.
As for the parents, Gibran had these words:
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The Archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the Archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
In our futile search for self-fulfillment, we forget that by serving God’s purpose rather than our own, we find the fullness of life’s meaning. Life is not about self, for self dies when we die. Life is about God’s Plan to bring all creation back to Him. We are part of the continuum of life, not its summit. He calls us to cooperate with His gift of life, not discard life when it fails to serve our interests. When the circumstances of new life are most difficult for us, He will reward us for our fidelity. We can count on His help. We can count on His love.
After all, His bows were once His arrows.
Paul V. Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on a variety of pro-life topics. He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois, where they are raising their six kids.
© Paul V. Esposito 2011. Culture of Life. Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted. Comments? Visit us at http://www.the-culture-of-life.com