As with our previous two children, I am making a novena of sorts in the weeks leading up to the birth by attending Mass every day beginning 30 days before the due date until the day of birth.
Aside from the opportunity to attend Mass in churches I wouldn't normally attend, this novena affords the opportunity to pray for my wife as she enters the difficult final weeks of pregnancy, especially all the pain and discomfort she must endure. The novena is also offered for a safe and healthy delivery, but perhaps most importantly I pray for the holiness of my new child.
As Catholic parents, we know we have a duty to impart the gift of the Catholic faith on to our children.
"Through the grace of the sacrament of marriage, parents receive the responsibility and privilege of evangelizing their children. Parents should initiate their children at an early age into the mysteries of the faith of which they are the first heralds for their children" (CCC, 2225).So, I pray for the graces to be a good father, and for my wife to be a good mother, as we raise our children in the faith. I pray that they will learn this faith, love it, grow stronger in it, and become closer to God. In doing so, I hope and pray they reach Heaven. That's the ultimate goal.
If you want to get to Heaven - no matter your profession, education, or socio-economic status - you have to die first. It's the ultimate equalizer. But it's not just some moment to be avoided. We ought to contemplate death and in so doing be prepared for it. Tempus fugit, memento mori. Time is short, remember death.
A holy death, hopefully with access to the Sacraments, is a tremendous blessing and grace in those final moments of life.
In the midst of my aforementioned pilgrimage/novena for Baby Liam, I happened to attend a Requiem Mass offered at the Shrine of St. Joseph near Downtown St. Louis as part of the Church Music Association of America's 2016 Sacred Music Colloquium. The Mass was offered for the souls of all the faithful departed, especially CMAA members who passed away in the last year.
During this Mass I realized that not only should my prayers be offered for a safe delivery, or that my son would lead a holy life, or that I might be a good father, but I should also be praying for my son's death - that it might be a holy death, that he will have access to the Sacraments and a good priest, and that he will be surrounded by his loving family. I also prayed, somewhat selfishly, that I would not be alive to see his death even though that wouldn't change the other intentions.
I fully realize this reflection is a little morbid. Death is not something modern society likes to contemplate, and frankly neither do I. But the Catholic faith teaches us not to ignore or fear death, but instead to realize it's place in our path towards salvation, and most importantly to relish the thought of death as a birth into eternal life.
If as a parent I do my job well, my son's death, whenever that may be, could be his birth into life in heaven. At least, that's what I pray it will be.