ONE Magazine

The official publication of
Catholic Near East Welfare Association

Celebrating 50 years | God • World • Human Family • Church

A Lost Greatness

Meditations on children and the challenge to the Christian to retain a childlike spirit.

“A child is God’s opinion that the world should go on.”

Children – they are the heartbeat of humanity. Pumping new life into us with their vitality, ingenuity and trust, they link us to our future. They are proof that God loves His creation. Every day they affirm that the Father still delights in renewing the face of the earth.

The overpowering responsibility of carrying the weight of the world on their tiny shoulders is handled with such effortlessness. What causes the young to be so carefree? Perhaps it is the wonder they possess. They hold an innocent wonder that is yet unspoiled by the burdens of life. For in that wonder lives the essence of simplicity, the uncomplicated acceptance of everything around them; what they see, feel, smell and hear.

The elderly possess that trait of wonder also. Not as a child’s wonder before a new experience, but, rather, wonder arising from the realization that one’s remaining sunsets are few. Because of that shared trait, a special affinity unites them. A radiant joy emanates from the elderly when they are in the company of children. For these two share an oblivion to detail which so often entraps and distracts us from appreciating the beauty surrounding us.

The ability to find cause for joy in the world around them allows children to be seers of the unseen, to stand in awe of things an adult takes for granted. Because of that guilelessness, they marvel at the butterfly dancing on flowers or Santa Claus and his reindeer.

Their complete unquestioning trust allows them to live the sacrament of the moment. They are unlike the adult who is hindered by life’s daily worries and concerns. Living one moment at a time, children possess a capacity to see and feel sharply, to reach out and grasp that which intrigues them.

“For children are greater than the grown man. All grown men have more experience, but only a very few retain the greatness that was theirs before the system of compromises began in their lives.”
– Robert Henri

Returning to the greatness we knew as children is what our Father told us we must do. “Unless you change and be come like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. And so, the one who makes himself as little as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom.” (Mt 19)

To become childlike and not childish is the challenge for the Christian adult. To return to a simple, uncomplicated, guileless trust in God is what He asks of us. He longs for us to know Him as Father and to trust each moment of our lives to His loving care. Jesus rested in His Father’s love. Our Father has the same desire for us; to never doubt His love. By trusting Him we know our every need is fulfilled.

Children’s total dependency allows them to trust completely. Their trusting, despite their less than perfect worlds, is a plea for us to remove the blinders which prevent us from seeing our lost greatness. For we ought to rely on God. Instead we put our trust in our earthly resources; our money, our reputations, our knowledge. Swiftly we withdraw our trust from God.

It is easy to look at children and see the endearing qualities; the impishness, warmth, charm and spontaneity. We would rather ignore the mournful glances of fear, anxiety, hunger and hurt. By recognizing these pains, we admit we have violated their trust. We have betrayed their belief in us by the world we have prepared for them.

Because we often fail to meet the challenge to become like children, we cannot escape the chaos we create. Scenes from around the globe flash through the mind’s eye bringing into focus a dismal picture of the world we are giving them: bodies of massacred families in the Shatila and Sabra camps of Lebanon; thousands wandering Ethiopia’s drought stricken desert in search of food; untold numbers languishing in Iran’s prisons, awaiting execution because they choose to believe a different creed.

The economic, political and cultural turmoil at the root of violence in today’s world has been the backdrop for a generation of children who know nothing else as a way of life.

Miraculously children survive…playing hide and seek, making mud pies, laughing, crying when they bump their heads and having crushes on one another. Their indomitable spirit prevails over the harsh landscapes they call home.

Amidst the poverty, disease and hate-filled environments we’ve bequeath our children there is a single shining hope. A hope which finds itself in children’s trusting nature. For if growing children retain that unique greatness – their trust – and place it in the Divine Father, the world will indeed be more peaceful.

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