I’ve often marveled at how children have an innocence and freedom to embrace life in a way that those of us who are older, especially adults, cannot ever gain again. They can enter into almost any situation and be awed by it. They have a gift of wonderment that as we age, we usually lose. And it is a loss we don’t acknowledge and we train ourselves to look upon wonder as childish.
The last year or so, when I remember to pray with specific intentions at night, I’ve honed in on praying for my children that they might come to know Jesus and his immense love for them. I’ve realised that though I hold tight to my faith, I don’t know how to encourage their relationship with Christ at their age. I lead by my example, but my example is that of a faith-filled adult, and has distinct adult-ness to it (ex. praying a whole rosary, sitting in adoration for extended time periods, reading the bible & commentaries on the bible). I look to parishes and it’s as though children are forgotten at this stage of their development. We have youth ministry, but it’s (more than likely) older children youth ministry. There is typically nothing and no resources for young children. We have religious education for youth, but it’s only associated with sacraments. There is art and craft ideas all over Pinterest, but how does one help their child spend time building their relationship with Jesus when they’re younger than confirmation/1st Eucharist age? Is there anything we can do to develop their relationship or are they too young to understand?
Too young to understand. We hear this all the time. I don’t exclude myself; I have used and still use this phrase and have lived in this mentality, though I’m not proud of it (and I’m trying to change!) I’ve been shaped, in part, by a larger group of people who don’t give credence to the young child and their capabilities, and I think we all unknowingly participate in this, as it’s dominant in our society. But it’s wrong. And I learned more about my own mistaken thinking this last week while learning how children as young as 2.5 years can and do have great capability to think and imagine and enter deeply into relationship with Christ; to understand the mysteries of our faith. Better, even, than most of us adults. “You’re not old enough to understand, therefore, you’re not worthy to receive.” Is this not what we say? When we withhold the great Gift of our Lord, it’s more often than not because we believe in our hearts that children do not understand who Jesus is or that he is completely and fully present to us in the Eucharist. It is really telling more of our view of the world when we see gifts (even gifts we ourselves do not possess to give) as something that has to be earned by knowledge. It is Jesus’ gift, and gifts are not based on knowledge. We can never earn our right to any of the sacraments.
I believe children have much clearer access to a relationship with God than people who have aged beyond 6-7 years (age of reason. and baggage). So my question to myself is this: how am I inhibiting my children’s relationship with the Father, Son, and Spirit from developing and what can I do to aid it? What tools am I giving to my children to deeper develop their relationship with God?
As Lent comes upon us, I will be looking for ways to incorporate the tools I learned about in order to help them build their autonomy and independence with their relationship with God. And I’ll also be evaluating my bias and bringing that to God as well.