Pet Bird by William-Adolphe Bouguereau
THE SECRET of existence — a golden rule that will never fail no matter what happens — is to remain always, in some essential part of one’s being, a child.
Not a child physically or intellectually, of course. But in the supernatural order, in our souls, we should always be children. Children are immature, willful, stubborn, emotionally unstable and unknowledgeable. But they are trusting. They are highly conscious of the benevolence that lies behind all things. A child knows he is loved and he loves in return with his undivided heart. He has momentary fears, sometimes they are severe, but he does not suffer from existential anxiety or dread. He is not plagued with worry. It is often when adults don’t understand the complete trust and love of the child that they mistreat him. The child has confidence that he is protected even when he lives in miserable surroundings or has irresponsible parents.
And so it is with us — or should always be with us.
We are loved and protected. Benevolence surrounds us — and if we are not conscious of it, something is terribly wrong with us. Everything that happens expresses the will of God in some way. He wants the best for us in his fatherly protectiveness. But he cannot know him as a true Father unless we are true children. We can turn everything to good if we trust in his love and fatherliness.
Even when we are in our busy prime years, with important affairs and responsibilities, and even when we are old, this beautiful truth holds — we are children all the same.
Yoga instructors say we should empty ourselves. But nothingness cannot love us. Nothingness cannot satisfy us. Nothingness is nothing. The child knows there is something. He is never seduced by blankness. His heart is too full for blankness. He cannot attain that aridness.
Instead we should seek to fill ourselves.
We should fill ourselves with the simplicity and littleness of the child and through it obtain the elevating grace of God our Father. The more important and successful a person is, the more he needs to strive against the currents of his own complexity and bigness. That’s why important and successful people are so often shallow. They think they are self-sufficient. They have forgotten they are little — or they are too absorbed in the world to orient their littleness toward God. The child is little, weak and he owns almost nothing. It is really quite amazing when you think about it. If the child is not loved — and usually he is loved intensely — he cannot survive at all because he has so little to himself, is entirely incapable and is so little.
He has his simplicity — to which God in his simplicity responds. The child’s littleness and weakness ensure that he is loved. His vulnerability and poverty touch the hearts of those who love him with such profound and moving pangs of sympathy and tenderness. It is the same with us in our relations with God. He is even more approachable than the most loving human father. He is moved by our awareness of our littleness.
St. Therese of Lisieux was a great master of this doctrine of spiritual childhood and believed it was her destiny to spread this truth. She taught that we should emulate the littleness of the child in our relations with God. We advance spiritually the more we uncover our littleness in our suffering and faults:
I have many weaknesses, but I am never astonished because of them. I am not always as prompt as I should like to be in rising above the insignificant things of this world. For example I might be inclined to worry about some silly thing I have said or done. I then recollect myself and say, ‘Alas, I am still at the point from which I started.’ But I say this with great peace and without sadness. It is truly sweet to feel weak and little.
(Novissima Verba, St. Therese of Lisieux, quoted in The Complete Spiritual Doctrine of St. Therese of Lisieux, by Rev. Francois Jamart, O.C.D.; Society of St. Paul, 1961)
It is truly sweet to be a child.
Always and everywhere, in a secret and essential part of our being. Read More »