Sending birthday greetings to heaven


We still have a few months before our sons’ birthdays, but we’re already excited about birthdays around here. The boys describe their dream birthday cakes with the same excitement as they imagine their Halloween costumes. Those plans change regularly, and I haven’t done any work on either.

Because I know that birthdays are a hot conversation topic, however, I mentioned to Leo on Saturday morning that it was Jesus’ mother’s birthday. He lit up right away.

“Should we sing Happy Birthday to her?” he asked.

Together Leo, Daniel, and I sang to Mary.

“Mama, everyone in heaven can hear us,” Leo said. “But we can’t hear God when he talks.”

We talk about that a lot—how God speaks to us, but we don’t necessarily hear him the way we hear a person on Earth.

We talk about people in the Bible who did hear God, and how they recognized him in a burning bush or the whisper of a gentle breeze.

And we talk about how we sometimes know God is talking to us even if we don’t hear his voice clearly.

When I say we talk about this a lot, it’s because Leo asks. John and I mention God and our faith casually enough, but Leo is curious—and I really do believe he’s at a magical age. He is hungry for knowledge, and he’s especially interested in God. Who wouldn’t be?

As we talked, our 4-year-old didn’t seem to think I fully understood that God was listening. He wanted to make sure I was clear on this point.

“God knows every language,” he said—as I stood at the stove frying eggs and wondering whether I had told him that. “He knows Spanish and Chinese and…what do people speak in California?”

“English and Spanish and some other languages,” I said.

“Yes,” Leo said. “He can speak English too.”

Indeed he can. And I have no doubt that birthday song was heard and understood in heaven.

As it turned out, the day became one long birthday celebration. Later that morning, my younger brother and sister-in-law welcomed a beautiful little boy, their third son. So we spent parts of our day on the phone, getting acquainted with a newborn baby born several states away.

We’ll have to sing a lot louder next year. When we’re singing in our kitchen, Mary can hear us perfectly fine from heaven. But you have to sing pretty loud in Baltimore to be heard in New England.

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.