Fr James Lyons
In a circle of love a heart that was never supposed to beat pumped blood and a life that was never meant to be took hold and lived.
As dawn announced a new day on 26 October, an infant cry announced a new birth, giving Emma and Roy their first born.
When his parents came to see me last Easter they were in deep shock. A scan had revealed their child was being formed with the heart outside the body. Such a rare condition pointed to certain death and they were offered an abortion. The couple knew they carried a son. They named him Jesus Valentino and decided to let the pregnancy take its natural course.
I encouraged parishioners to pray for them, and we invoked the intercession of Suzanne Aubert, foundress of the Daughters of Compassion, who gave special care to infants.
As the birth date approached, successive scans showed normal growth patterns for the body but no change to either the heart’s position or development. The couple were advised not to expect their child to survive birth. But Jesus Valentino was born at dawn on a Sunday. He weighed 8lbs. A most caring surgeon secured the heart in a protective dressing and I baptised the newborn in his parents’ arms.
Emma and Roy’s prayer had been that they would be able to hold their child, see him as a person and to let him feel their love. ‘If we have him for only one minute, it will be enough,’ Emma told me.
A week later, they brought him to Sunday Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral, to give thanks. It was the weekend we celebrated All Saints and All Souls and they joined a parish celebrating the mystery of living and dying, of holiness and imperfection. It was a true homecoming as they presented their child, humbly and gratefully, acknowledging the prayerful support the parish family had offered for their journey.
‘Our prayers have been more than answered,’ said Emma. ‘The latest scan showed our boy’s heart to be so malformed that it should not be functioning at all – so every beat is its own miracle.’
Medical professionals were increasingly amazed. The following week Emma and Roy took their son to the grave of Suzanne Aubert at the Compassion Centre at Island Bay.
‘We wanted to thank Suzanne for guiding our way,’ Emma told me. ‘We knew JV’s time with us was limited. I asked her that when it was time for him to leave us he might die peacefully and without pain.
‘It was such a beautiful day. The gardens were so colourful, the birdsong was amazing and our darling JV so very peaceful. I think he was showing us a glimpse of heaven.’
Two days later, on 10 November, Jesus Valentino died peacefully in his mother’s arms.
This month we remember the birth of another son, the Son of God and son of Mary who, with Joseph, held Jesus the Christ in a circle of love and deeply pondered the mystery of his presence among them. The Holy Family is given us as a model of gifting love, selfless devotion to the call of God to bring harmony and peace to our world.
Emma, Roy and their son, Jesus Valentino, certainly modelled that for me and many others. From the circle of their love, shown to be so much more stronger than death, life is given the highest value, faith is strengthened and news of great joy revealed.