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  • Sarah Raad

Smiles

We must always pray for souls for it is only through prayer that we can be saved…

The Garden of Earthly Delights (Bosch)

Above the desk where I work, I some beautiful photographs of my three children that I have stuck to my wall, so that when I am having a bad day – or a good one for that matter – I can look at their smiling faces and see the people I love.


I have always kept photographs of loved ones around me while I worked. While I was single, it was photographs of my siblings and friends, later, I kept photographs of my husband. Now, I keep photographs of my children, and also – especially since my conversion last year – I keep pictures of Saint Padre Pio, Saint Jacinta, Saint Charbel and Our Lady of Lourdes as well…


I was looking at the photographs of these beautiful children – for they are very beautiful to me – the other day. In each photograph, the children are smiling big toothy smiles and looking like lovely little creatures – all neat and tidy and clean.


Each of my children has a different smile – and all three will need some significant investment into orthodontics in the future…


My eldest son has teeth that are large and a little crowded. At the moment, it is not much of a problem, but as he grows older and his adult teeth continue to erupt, the crowding of his teeth will become reminiscent of Count Dracula and eventually he will probably want to attend to them.


My youngest child – my daughter – has a very lopsided bite and when she smiles it is clear that she will need lots of work to get her pearly whites looking lovely because right now those teeth point in a million different directions – thanks to her infant thumb-sucking habit.


And then there is my middle child who has apparently gorgeously straight teeth. When he smiles, all of his front teeth are beautifully aligned and they look really really straight. The only problem with my middle child’s teeth is that although they appear almost perfectly straight right now, his teeth will require the most work in the future! You see, he has a very narrow jaw. That means that he has several adult molars that will never erupt because there is simply no room for them to come through. That would probably be alright, except that I have been told that these unerupted teeth will cause this child a lot of issues down the track and will most likely require surgical removal in adulthood – much like wisdom teeth are removed for many adults when they begin to cause pain and discomfort.


Now, why am I bothering to explain the differences in the smiles of my three cheerful children?

Well, I have been thinking… Those smiles there are really like our souls.

Sometimes, a soul may appear to be doing alright. It might be apparent when you spend some time with the person that there are small vices or bad habits – venial sins – that could be problematic, but right now, when you are dealing with them, everything is going more or less according to plan. You cannot really imagine anything major that could be a problem in the future, to people on the outside, such a soul can appear okay. This is like my eldest son’s smile. You can tell that it is not perfect, but it is no catastrophe yet. In fact, you would really only be able to see the extent of what is to come by looking at a dental x-ray.


At other times, a soul may appear to be in a disastrous state. There are serious things going wrong with the soul. The person is living in a state of mortal sin, and the life of that soul is in danger. This is like my youngest child’s smile. One look at her smile and you are bound to think to yourself, “That child needs some early orthodontic intervention.”


And then there is my middle child. His smile represents the most vulnerable of all souls… For there are souls who appear to be doing good as they trot along the wide path, not even aware of the abyss at the end.


Saint Faustina wrote in Diary 153… “I saw two roads. One was broad, covered with sand and flowers, full of joy, music and all sorts of pleasures. People walked along it, dancing and enjoying themselves. They reached the end without realizing it. And at the end of the road there was a horrible precipice; that is, the abyss of hell. The souls fell blindly into it. As they walked, so they fell. And their number was so great that it was impossible to count them. And I saw the other road, or rather, a path, for it was narrow and strewn with thorns and rocks; and the people who walked along it had tears in their eyes, and all kinds of suffering befell them. Some fell down upon the rocks, but stood up immediately and went on. At the end of this path there was a magnificent garden filled with all sorts of happiness and all these souls entered there. At the very first instant they forgot all their sufferings.”


These souls, like the smile of my middle child, have hidden dangers of which they will not be aware until it is too late.


And the smiles of each of my children remind me of the beautiful words of Saint Padre Pio, who said, "Those who pray, have hope. Those who pray little, are in great danger. Those who do not pray, are lost."


And so, as I watch the smiling faces of my three little children, it occurs to me, that I should pray for souls… Your souls and mine. For in the prayers that we pray for those souls – there is life… Both for them, and for us…


After all, the Holy Spirit is the Eternal Giver of Life, and Saint Bonaventure reminds us that “the Holy Spirit comes where He is loved, where He is invited, where He is expected.”


My Lord and my God… Help me to LOVE You, the INVITE You and to RESPECT You always…


For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.


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