My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I should grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.
~ "The Rainbow" by William Wordsworth
Several weeks ago, upon a First Sunday gathering at Fatima Farm, it began to rain toward the end of our festivities. Those guests remaining - and there were still many - gathered casually closer in under the protection of the gazebo where music was being played, and as the rain was not too heavy no one was really bothered. In fact many children remained scattered around playing in the fields. One child, he was six years old, ran suddenly up to his father who was at the moment playing a washboard along to a bluegrass tune. The boy talked excitedly for a moment then pointed behind him, upwards, gesturing for his dad to look up. The man peered along the lines of the point, but couldn't obviously see whatever wrapt his boy's attention in the moment. Two minutes later, an older boy, about 16 years old, broke off from his game of football toss and jogged over to the gazebo and, as the song had culminated and there was a moment of quiet, called out, "Come look at the double rainbow!" It was no longer raining, the sun had broken through the clouds westward, and the group hurried out into the open space to see the sky and were met with an astonishing sight - a perfectly glorious rainbow spanning the expanse of eastern sky from end to end, with its double just a space above, just as full if only somewhat diminished in color.
There were audible gasps and "oohs" and "aahs" - as there should be. Mr. Verlander immediately began to recite Wordsworth's poem, as he should. To a friend who came out a moment too late to see - for after a couple of minutes the rainbow faded right before our eyes as we watched, we were gifted with the chance to look up when it manifested - it was said, "Nothing gold can stay." It was a simple, wonderful, happy minute of life in an already enjoyable day - and we are always deeply glad for those reminders of God's magnificence, for really only He could have orchestrated the universe to be beautiful, even long centuries into its fallenness, just so, as laid witness by the natural instinct - or blessed inspiration - of young and old alike to glory in the sight.
Yesterday we held a farewell party for our oldest son who will next week begin his adventure at Gregory the Great Academy. With close friends and family, we began by praying a rosary, entrusting our son to Our Lady's special care, with pointed petitions for his growth in the theological and cardinal virtues, followed by a blessing with holy water by his father and godparents. Mr. Verlander took the opportunity then to introduce his mother who had come, too, and explain her vital role in his own formation - he prayed his first rosary with his mother, and she catechized him and ensured his education in Catholic schools, so much does she understand the import of such things. The fruits of her labors are now evident in her grandchildren, and we are grateful. With this background summary we invited everyone to continue to pray for our son as he begins his education far away (this latter aspect the most difficult part). After a veritable feast, Mr. Verlander rang the bell again to gather everyone for a sort of presentation of the gifts. He recited Thomas Moore's "The Minstrel Boy" (for our Thomas More) - a poem about a boy going off to war girt with his father's sword and a harp "slung behind him." The minstrel falls but he tears the harp's "chords asunder" for its "songs were made for the pure and free/They shall never sound in slavery." Mr. Verlander bestowed on his oldest boy, clearly for all to see the apple of his eye, his own rosary (our greatest weapon in spiritual battle) and his cherished guitar - each, we hope, to be used by him each day. He was also given a binder of all our family's favorite songs, most of which we learned from the Greg boys! Then we surprised our son by all chiming in to sing the version "The Minstrel Boy" so well-beloved and often sung by the boys at Gregory the Great. Our son then picked up a guitar and performed "The Parting Glass," accompanied by his older sister. We were pretty well much in tears most of the time, but they were happy tears.
It is nine years since we discovered the existence of this one of a kind boarding school, and we have dreamed of the moment one of our boys would be old enough to go. Our son now, as my husband explained, is a hobbit - and so the sacrifices and sufferings entailed in his leaving home are real and great. And yet he has looked forward also to this day, a natural and not unexpected step in the course of his life growing up so far, and so the hopeful anticipation outweighs our trepidation over the prospect of missing each other. His father, like Gandalf, has full confidence that he is a burglar after all - evidenced not a little by his rapid maturity from, as was quipped, "his twelve year old self to his fourteen year old self" over the last couple years. God keep us on our pilgrim way and especially in this next year. Mother Mary, wrap us in your mantle! Deo gratias for His gifts and graces, we say again and again, and may we all wish our days to be bound each to each by natural piety!
On this little homestead our family aspires to work the land and hand on the Catholic Tradition, walking in wonder and learning to live by the fruits of our labor, in honor of Our Lady of Fatima, who guides us to Him.