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The 3-year-old who embraces the tabernacle every morning



Little Olivia hugging the base of the tabernacle

Benito Rodríguez - published on 03/25/23

"We’re trying to create a Christian home... We want the Lord to be the center of our lives."
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On many mornings, as soon as I leave my daughters at school, I have the habit of spending a few minutes in the school chapel to pray. I recently had the best kind of distraction while I was there.

It’s a large, bright chapel, with Byzantine-style paintings. Among the many pews, a few scattered parents pray in silence at the beginning of the day. In the background, I hear the murmur of the hustle and bustle in the hall near the offices. I look at the tabernacle, trying to strike up a conversation with the Lord.

It’s not always easy because the cell phone vibrates in my pocket, I get disturbed by something that’s worrying me, or, the countless tasks of the day come to mind. So I have to make a little effort to concentrate, even squeezing my eyelids shut while resting my head on my fists.

Running up to the tabernacle

It was in one of those moments that a new distraction appeared. A very sweet one: a few firm steps (but not running), and an angelic little voice that was answered by her father’s whispers.

I didn’t want to turn my head back to where the sound was coming from, so as not to lose my concentration again … until they began to go down the aisle towards the tabernacle.

I saw a little girl asking about the paintings on the walls, pointing to a little sheep, and her father telling her which scene from the Gospel it represented.

Father and daughter go to the church every day.

The little girl’s steps, calm until that moment because she was holding her father’s hand, suddenly accelerated. She let go of her father’s fingers and went running softly towards the tabernacle.

It’s a free-standing tabernacle, located to the right of the altar as you look at it from the pews, with its light burning behind it. It has a unique design, with its base rising from the floor, and it’s as tall as an adult person. It’s red and orange until it reaches the doors, where the Bread of Life is represented. The red is the flame of life, like an oven that bakes the bread that awaits us to receive it. 

A touching embrace

I had already lost my concentration, curious as to what this little girl was going to do.

She climbed the three steps and embraced the tabernacle with eagerness and with incredible tenderness. I’m sure she gave it a kiss.

Olivia hugs the tabernacle while her father looks on.

Her dad was waiting behind her. I was stunned, and moved. It wasn’t a quick hug. She enjoyed the embrace. It was intense, full of real love.

Then she took hold of her father’s little finger again, and her little steps and her little voice left as they had come.

How envious I was to see her and Jesus hug like that! I could clearly feel that the embrace was reciprocal. There was such innocence, such self-confidence, and such love for Jesus.

“Jesus is there”

Obviously, I took it upon myself to find this father, contact him, and learn the story of his family. I was captivated by Olivia (3 years old), by her smile and her naturalness.

In front of the tabernacle, after she gave it another hug, I pointed my finger and asked her, “Who is there?” With a smile from ear to ear she turned, as if to look me in the eye, and said to me, “Jesus.” I held out my hand and she high-fived me as hard as she could. Then she gave Jesus another hug.

Olivia is immensely happy as she hugs Jesus in the tabernacle.

Encouraged by her parents

This daily practice of Olivia’s was not born out of nowhere. It’s the result of the way her parents have taught her and her siblings. Jaime is young, but he and Beatriz already have Olivia (3 years old), Felipe (2) and a third on the way, Diego. Jaime told me about the tone in which they’ve taught the their little ones about the Eucharist:

I wasn’t taught it tenderly enough as a child. I was brought up in a Catholic family, but neither at home nor at (Catholic) school was I taught sufficient admiration, respect, and love for the miracle of the Eucharist. I want my children to have a more natural approach and to be able, from a very early age, to have a deeper intuition of what this mystery is: the greatness of God becoming a little piece of flesh and waiting in the tabernacle of the Church for each one of us.

God, the center of this family

Jaime has always had faith in God, but it wasn’t important in his life. Then, when he was 22 years old, he had an encounter with the Lord. He feels that it was God who then put Beatriz on his path. “Later I met Beatriz, who has always had a stronger and more active faith than I have. Our courtship was always with the Lord and the Church involved. I didn’t even need a year of courtship to ask Beatriz to marry me.”

“We’re trying to create a Christian home, perhaps with more care and emphasis than I received at home. We want the Lord to be the center of our lives. It’s taken me several decades to assimilate this, so I try to make our children live this way from childhood.”

For that reason, they lovingly cultivate some principles of piety at home, as a family, that are simple and effective: “Things such as the fact that God must be our first thought when we wake up and we should pray before going to sleep, pray together, give thanks to the Lord, try to meditate on the Word, bless the table … and talk a lot about Jesus.”

The normality of talking about Jesus

They talk about Jesus and with Jesus in a completely natural way. Philip is already talking about Jesus and kissing him. It’s “that magic of children, who believe blindly and without cracks in their faith,” Jaime tells me. And he proudly tells me about a video he recorded of his daughter with his cell phone:

It’s incredible how with Olivia, who’s just three years old, we recorded a video of her narrating the Passion of Jesus Christ, with amazing love and knowledge. She narrated it and was moved by everything that happened to the Lord. The people who watched it were fascinated to see such a little girl talking about Jesus and going into details of the Passion that many do not know.

No wonder. Just by watching her embrace the tabernacle every morning, those of us who see her are completely fascinated.

Jaime humbly says goodbye telling me that he wants to raise “faithful devotees of the Lord, and I’m sure that God will fill in all the gaps in our human education.” And much more, because with his children he’s already captivating and bringing closer to that tabernacle all those who see them and discover their story.

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