Through the years our children would sometimes ask (because they knew we struggled) if we were poor? Their Dad would grin (largely) and say, “I am the wealthiest man around, look at what I have….Beautiful children, happy times, the Catholic Faith!”
Their hearts would be at ease once again, knowing that, yes, wealth is not about material things.
Mary Reed Newland, in this lovely excerpt, reminds us that material security is fleeting and that the security we must have is from God, that He will never leave us. This is something that must be taught to the children….and sometimes having less is more valuable in learning these lessons.
According to a Polish folktale, Death was once an old woman, and she was sent by God to call the widowed mother of seven little children. The children lamented and pleaded so urgently that at last Death was moved to question God about it. Must she take the mother of the children?
God sent her to the Lord Jesus, and the Lord Jesus sent her to the bottom of the sea to fetch a stone as round as a loaf of bread. She found the stone and brought it back to Him, and He bade her bite it in two. She bit and bit, until her teeth ached; and finally she bit it in two, and there inside was a little worm.
The Lord Jesus spoke once more to Death: “Now, you see? I have remembered this little worm inside the stone at the bottom of the sea. Do you think I would forget the orphans? Go, make haste, and take their mother.”
Security is as simple as that. It’s found in God alone. When you look it up (thinking that surely there’s some more tangible definition), it’s defined as “freedom from danger or risk, from care or apprehension.”
And all a man has cannot free him entirely from these — not money, or a house, or an education, or good food, or dry shoes, or warm clothes. Not even a mother and a father are really a security. Any or all of them can be lost in the wink of an eye, and all there is left is God.
But God can care for us in spite of these things. He is our security. Assure your child that God will always provide for him.
What this chapter proposes is that it’s possible to raise children so convinced of their security in God’s love that they need not fear what the world may hand them. And the way to such security is complete faith that everything and anything that happens, happens with the knowledge of God and is permitted for some reason. He knows, which is for our best good.
We learned about material security the hard way, by being very poor. Nor are we the only family who learned this way. Like others who did not understand how safe God is, we were afraid.
We learned because He made us, and if we had not been poor, perhaps we would never have learned. There were incredible lessons.
We learned that when your children have no shoes, and they ask you, “When will we have shoes?” you face a choice of two things. Either you tell a lie, or you tell the truth. To lie is never the answer to anything. To answer that He will send what is needed at the right time is not so easy as it sounds, but even so (even when you’re amazed to hear yourself speak with such daring), it is the only truthful answer.
It’s a tremendous act of faith, even when He has to wrench it out of you, and He rewards even the small acts of faith with the grace to have more faith, and more simple faith. “Right now,” we told them, “God knows you have no shoes. And He sees you on the grass and the driveway, and He sees the stones and sharp little sticks. He’s asking a very big thing of you. He’s asking you to wait a little longer until He says the time is right for shoes. You’re His children, and He loves you and will care for you. Today He’s asking you to show your trust in Him by going barefoot, without any shoes.”
Some weeks it was pea soup all week, and some days berries. Or no gas, or heat, or stamps. These things are not unusual with the poor, nor will the poor say they don’t pinch and hurt. But they hurt only the part of you that doesn’t trust, and if learning to trust is bought with such pinchings as these, it’s hardly any price at all, because in the end, you discover you’re always cared for. Then you learn once and for all that it’s foolish to be afraid.
Even so, it seems hardly possible that children could live through all this, accept it, and remain unscarred. But children believe that God is loving and caring for them. They are pure, untouched by sin, radiant with grace.
Why is it so hard to believe that faith can sustain them? We judge them by ourselves all the time. Filled with fears we have acquired because we lack faith, we assume that children will have the same fears. We even think that if they don’t fear, it’s because they haven’t enough sense to fear.
And all the time we forget that Christ said unless we have childlike faith, we won’t even get into Heaven! They are the wise. It is we who are foolish.
But God is very patient, even with our foolishness. Every family that has ever been poor has its own private collection of small miracles by which it has at last learned to trust. And there’s always a favorite one that becomes a part of family lore, handed down to the untrusting to remind them they must trust.
Our favorite miracle was particularly lovely. It happened on a day when we had no food left but four loaves of bread, which had used up all the supplies in the house. There was nothing to spread on it, but it was bread. It was all that stood between us and being completely bereft.
We sat down to supper, and said grace, and when we were about to eat, there was a knock at the door. It was the little girl from across the road with a bundle wrapped in newspaper. Had we eaten yet? No, wouldn’t she like to come in? “No. I can’t. But Johnny thought you might like these.”
And she thrust the bundle into my husband’s hands and darted off into the night. When we opened the newspapers, there were four fishes.
Say if you wish that it wasn’t even a miracle. All right. He did not multiply our loaves, nor miraculously provide our fishes. But He put them in the brook. He bade them bite the line. He inspired our neighbors to share them.
If being as insecure as we were that night is necessary before we see God’s hand providing, then praise be! It’s the final casting out of all fear.
But even when intuition senses the truth of all this, souls will hold back from so complete a surrender for fear of the pain that might follow. This is too bad, because there’s going to be pain no matter what. It can be fruitful and sweet when we surrender with trust. It can be bitter and breed fear when we refuse to trust.
A child’s way is the best: to love God and know that He loves you. One alternative is to build a bulwark against fear.
Once when I was in the hospital, there was a mother in the bed next to me. Her youngest daughter was visiting for the length of her mother’s confinement, but she was unhappy and wanted to come home. Her father explained that she couldn’t, not yet, but if she would be patient for a while longer, she could have a reward.
He couldn’t say at the moment. But something she wanted.
“Then I want a bicycle.”
But there wasn’t money for the bicycle.
“Oh, yes, there is. In the bank account. Go get it out of the bank account.”
The mother groaned. “Now what to do? We’ve been telling them there’s a bank account. You know — so they’d feel secure. But there’s no bank account.”
How easy it is to sacrifice something good for something sentimental. That mother was good, and she wanted her children to feel secure, which was good. But God is security, and it’s up to us to decide just how much faith we can afford to place in God.
Riches aren’t bad in themselves, and it’s a mistake to cast aspersions on those who have no material needs. It’s harder for the rich (now someone will say, “Yes, but I’d like to try it for a change”) to know God, precisely because they do not need His care the same way the poor need it.
For the poor, there’s a delicate perception to be formed in their children about riches. Too often a child, absorbing his parents’ bitterness, will sum it all up with “They think they’re better than we are, because they have money.”
And again we must show them that security does not depend on what you have, but on what you are. We’re all the same, the rich and the poor, precious and beloved in the eyes of God, purchased by the blood of Christ. If we differ, it’s in degree of love: one is rich or poor, really, in terms of his love.
Riches are an accident. “Do the Joneses have more money than we have? Are we poor?” Childhood is the time for learning that only in one sense is poor synonymous with no money.
“If you mean, do we have only a little money, why yes, then some people would think we’re poor. But we’re really very rich in more ways than we’re poor. We have God, and we know He loves us. We have the Church to teach us how to save our souls. We have the sacraments, such riches that money can’t ever buy. And we have fun together and love each other. Our Lord said (and He chose to be poor) that having all the money in the world was nothing, if you should lose your soul.”
I heard the children talking one day about “being rich.” “Well, it depends what you mean,” said someone. “Money? Or something like grace?”
We do not have to protect our children from feeling poor. With a Christian set of values, they need never feel poor.
And St. Francis De Sales says: “The measure of Divine Providence acting on us is the degree of confidence that we have in it.” This is where the problem lies. Many do not believe in Providence because they’ve never experienced it, but they’ve never experienced it because they’ve never jumped into the void and taken the leap of faith. They never give it the possibility to intervene. They calculate everything, anticipate everything, they seek to resolve everything by counting on themselves, instead of counting on God. -Fr. Jacques Philippe, Searching For and Maintaining Peace http://amzn.to/2u1NCTd (afflink)
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