A Baby in a Basket: Our Frail Humanity


The local news media recently carried a story about an infant who was found in a clothes basket, just inside the Dayton Avenue entrance to the Cathedral of St. Paul on January 4. An employee of the Cathedral was making the rounds to lock up after the 5:15 Mass, when he discovered the basket in the foyer. The employee immediately notified Father John Ubel, who baptized the infant, naming him Nathan John after his rescuers. Police and emergency personnel soon arrived on the scene. They were so taken with this beautiful gift from God, that they stopped at Target on the way to Children’s Hospital to buy some gifts for Nathan. There was a tearful reunion at the hospital, as police and emergency personnel said farewell to little Nathan.

This is a story of God’s providence working in our world. I was inspired by the courage of this mother who gave birth to this little boy, and perhaps knowing that she could not care for him, left him in God’s house where he would be safe. This story prompted local government officials to remind the public about Minnesota’s Safe Place for Newborns Law. This law allows a mother, or someone with her permission, to leave an infant born within the past 7 days, at a hospital or urgent care facility with no questions asked. This story touched many of our hearts, as we can all relate to the hope and joy that a newborn brings. And doesn’t this story harken us back to the story of Christ’s birth in a lowly stable?

Baby Nathan reminds us of our frail humanity. Here was a precious life, perhaps only minutes or hours old, left in the foyer of a church. When the employee discovered the baby, he had no name, no clothes and no home. Within minutes, he was in the arms of a Catholic priest, acting in the person of Christ. And what does this priest do in Jesus’ name? He welcomes the child into the family of God by administering the sacrament of baptism. He gave him a name, both on earth and in heaven.

Like baby Nathan, we all come into this world with nothing, and we go out the same way. Everything we have in this life is a gift from God. The sin of our first parents, inherited from the moment of our birth, darkens our intellect and weakens our will. St. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, talks about the battle we fight, as we try to do the good that we want to do but often find ourselves falling short. Like this beautiful newborn child, we are weak and helpless. We are dependent upon the God who loved us into being for our very lives.

There is a wonderful humility that comes when we realize who we are. We are children of a God who is so in love with us, that He sent His only Son to die for us, so that we could be free! Our lives on this earth are a journey that leads us back to God. Just like the newborn infant who is dependent upon his parents for everything he needs, so too are we dependent upon God for our very existence. When we recognize our frailty and come to God in our need, He pours out his abundant mercy and grace upon us in ways that we could never have imagined.

Being weak and in need is not highly prized in our society. In our efforts to embrace our smallness, we meet many challenges from a society that calls us to be self-sufficient, confident and competitive. We see evidence of this worldliness all around us. It is especially evident in our modern society, where there is a focus on personal success, sometimes at the cost of neglecting those who are less fortunate.

Perhaps the story of this abandoned baby touched the hearts of so many, because we can all relate to the vulnerability of this little one. There he was, lying not in a manger, but in a basket of clothes. He was wrapped not in swaddling garments, but in a green Ninja Turtle blanket. Just like at Bethlehem, it was night, dark and cold, and he needed protection from the elements outside. Baby Nathan’s life changed that night in more ways than one. He was found by loving people who got him the care that he needed. He also became the newest member of the Church as Father Ubel administered his first sacrament there in the sacristy of the Cathedral.

Maybe God sent Baby Nathan to our Cathedral to remind us that we are frail humans, who are dependent upon our heavenly Father for everything. So say a prayer today for baby Nathan. I suspect he will soon be in the arms of loving parents, who will give him a good home. And let us remember this beautiful Christmas lesson, about the need to be little and humble. Sweet dreams, baby Nathan!

God bless you!

Deacon Tim

Leave a Reply