Holy Fist Bumps and Raising Children

Holy Fist Bumps and Raising Children


This past Sunday, I received a holy fist bump. Yes, I am serious, a holy fist bump. It was given to me by a nervous 8-year-old new altar boy. It is a story of raising our children in trust that the Lord will supplement our feeble efforts with his grace that overflows all that we can do or imagine.

My Archbishop has asked me to go every other week to a small mission parish. This past Sunday, there were 35 people and that was a good Sunday. The parish is five hours away, which means that I cannot be there save on my assigned Sundays. I have been training two boys to be altar servers. That is a small exaggeration because last Sunday was only the second Sunday in which they have served.

When a priest hands a censer back to an altar server, he hands it back with the chain held in his fist, palm down and the back of his hand up so that the altar server can kiss his hand as he takes the censer back. But, this was only the second Sunday that this 8-year-old had served, and the very first time that he was receiving the censer back from the priest. He froze; he did not remember what to do. So, he improvised.

He looked at my fist and gave me a fist bump. I thought it was an extremely creative response and had trouble maintaining my composure so that I would not break out laughing. However, I did share the episode during the sermon. The whole congregation burst out into spontaneous and strong laughter.

You might think that afterward the child would never come back. But, I made sure to keep giving positive instructions to the boy during the rest of the Divine Liturgy. Afterward the congregation came up—as he held the antidoron—and kept congratulating him on his fine service. The boy wants to continue serving at the altar.

Raising our children in the light of Our Lord is not an exact science. Rather, it is a mixture of the fear that one might make a serious mistake and the love that commits us to our children even to our very own death if that is what is required in order to defend our children. It is a love that is but a reflection of God’s love, “who gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Raising our children includes giving them the freedom to make mistakes without fear of punishment, unless they deliberately disobey and/or sin. Raising our children means teaching them that laughter is not always negative, even when it is somewhat at our expense. Raising our children means being ready for the unexpected and not rushing to judgment when it happens. Raising our children means having a sure trust that our God will speak to us, guide us, and maybe even cover for us as we stumble on our path.

Raising children is a holy calling and a calling full of grace. “The steadfast love of the Lord never changes …”

Posted by the Orthodox Christian Network.  You can find the Orthodox Christian Network on Google+.

About author

Fr. Ernesto Obregon

I am a Cuban. My sister and I arrived in the United States of America in 1961. I was nine years old at the time and my sister was five. Yes, alone. Our mother, a widow, put us on the plane in La Habana, and we were taken to an orphanage upon our arrival in Miami. No, I never lived in Miami for longer than about six months. Yes, we and our mother were re-united. She escaped from Cuba by boat about four or five months after we arrived in the USA. We were re-united and were sent by the Catholic Welfare folk to Ohio, where they had found my mother a job and us a foster home while she learned English and got situated. So, I grew up in Ohio, had a paper route, learned to build snowmen, and moved from place to place as out mother got better jobs. Eventually she met a good man and re-married and we settled into his house in Mansfield, Ohio. I was a 15-year-old teenager.

Needless to say, none of this was necessarily guaranteed to keep me strong in the faith, although my mother tried. I rebelled during my teenage years and left Roman Catholicism for some vague hippie philosophies and a lot of rebellion. By 1970 I had been expelled from college after my first year, a year in which I was very confused and quite directionless. When I returned to Mansfield in defeat, I was approached by a friend who had become a “Jesus Person.” He took me to this “farm” that was filled with about four middle-aged adults and lots of early 20′s Jesus People. One of those adults was a Southern Baptist pastor, a former Campus Crusade staffer, and uncomfortable supervisor of hippy Jesus People, and is now the Very Rev. Gordon Walker, an Archpriest of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese. His story, along with others whom I know, is chronicled in the book, “Becoming Orthodox” by the Very Rev. Peter Gillquist.

My journey was different. I eventually ended up as an Anglican priest, and a missionary. My wife and I served in both Bolivia and Perú, and our three intelligent and very perspicacious daughters spent a decade of their formative years in South America. I ended up as The Archdeacon of Arequipa of the Anglican Church of Perú, which is part of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, which is part of the Anglican Communion.

We returned to the USA when our children began to attend college, and I took a parish in one of the dioceses of The Episcopal Church. Within less than four years, we realized that this was not a Church in which I could doctrinally live.

It was at this point that Fr. Gordon Walker came actively back into my life and told me that it was time that I came into Orthodoxy. He was right, and I have been Orthodox ever since. I was ordained in the Antiochian Orthodox jurisdiction, but am currently serving as an attached priest at a Greek Orthodox Church. God has blessed us. We have wonderful grandchildren. And we are truly blessed.