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PAINTING BY Eugenio Zampighi, 1857

by Father Daniel A. Lord, 1950’s

Part One is here.

Part Two is here.

What Marks a Child?

Now Christ never used words carelessly. Nor did He make upon His followers demands that He did not mean to help them realize. So if He laid down the general rule that they must be like little children, He must have found in little children and their dear youthfulness qualities of high value.

Beyond the enthusiasm of children, the quick responsiveness that we have already noted, just what other qualities are characteristic of a child? I think that high on the list could probably be placed gaiety, lightness, gladness of heart. Certainly too the normal child has an unspoiled faith in others, a faith that is born of his confident trust in his father and his happy experiences with his mother.

Fearlessly the little child faces the world. It is only after he has been taught to be afraid that he shrinks from a dog or refuses to pet the kitten or draws back from the stranger or is terrified by fire or the falling of water. All this that makes the child unique in the world of skeptical, distrustful human beings is rooted in his youthful innocence and sinlessness.

He is a little like our first parents before they came to know the bitterness of sin, the brutal blows of unleashed nature, the treachery of their own souls, and the cruelty of even their sons and daughters.

Gladly Heard

Now the saints heard Christ’s command with gladness. Did He bid them be like little children? Splendid! That was a dear command and a precious one, and they gladly obeyed. For with the brilliant intuitions that distinguished them, the saints realized clearly that Christ intended them to copy all the characteristics that make life in childhood’s day so beautiful and good.

Did Christ wish them to be joyful? Why then they would be joyful. They would leave tears and sorrow to sinners. Even on the gridiron of St. Laurence they would laugh and jest. Dragged before the statues of false gods, they would jestingly breathe upon them and laugh as the statues tumbled to earth.

Why shouldn’t they be happy? Hadn’t their Father made them because He loved them? Weren’t they redeemed by the blood of God the Son? Weren’t they surrounded with all the protection He had decreed for them: the angel that walked, at their side, not always visible, as he was to Cecilia, but staunchly, reassuringly protecting? the warm arms of Christ’s Church holding them safe?

Saints Laugh

Weren’t they moving steadily along the pathway of grace straight into the presence of eternal truth and beauty? And if the executioner did strike them with his sword, what did it matter? The blow of the steel was only a swift stroke that cut short their life of trial and released them into a life of blissful happiness.

So they laughed and sang, as did Francis of Assisi, the man most like Christ, who became God’s Troubadour and felt he served the Lord best with song and cheerfulness.

Martyrs smiled as they went to death. Virgins wore their innocence with a glad grace never before seen in all history. Grave doctors paused in their learned discussions to sing hymns to God’s mother. And Luke the physician took the time to paint the lovely features of the first Madonna.

And cheerfulness filled the Church, and the Mass moved forward to music and lights and sweet incense and the glory of the liturgy. And within their Father’s house God’s children were happy.

Trust

All this youthful gaiety was of course soundly grounded in the faith that the saints had in other men. The saints knew that Christ had said that their Father was in heaven. Why then if that was true, they were God’s little children. They were in dear reality His sons and daughters.

A glance at the lovely, well-stocked earth showed them how exquisitely their Father cared for the lilies of the field, the birds of the air, and these His beloved little ones. That glorious relationship made Christ their elder brother; and it was not surprising, though not less glorious, that an elder brother should die for his younger brothers and sisters.

That placed over them the dear protection of a mother who was God’s mother. With a sharp sense of joy men realized that they were not cast adrift to struggle with the animals for possession of the earth. Men and women were of God’s household, the sons and daughters of the Almighty Father, blood brothers of the Savior, the sweet offspring of the Virgin Mother.

Always a Child

It followed then that no matter how old or learned a man might be, no matter what the weight of wisdom or of years, he was always God’s beloved child. There might be wrinkles on the woman’s face; she might have many grandchildren; she was still in God’s eyes only His little daughter.

Out of this came the most astounding change in men’s whole viewpoint toward their fellow men. They were not strangers and enemies; they were members of the same human family. One could hope for high things of men, who had been created out of the love of Almighty God, adopted by God’s own Son, and mothered by the Queen of Heaven.

So Christianity taught men to believe splendid things of men: that they could clearly know the truth, could bravely carry on the work that the Incarnate God had begun, could use earth as a take-off for heaven.

“It is our solemn duty as Catholics, therefore, to be conscious of our duty to America, and to preserve its freedom by preserving its faith in God. . . But as we talk about patriotism, it might be well to remind ourselves that in a crisis like this even devotion to the stars and stripes is not enough to save us. We must look beyond them to other stars and stripes, namely the stars and stripes of Christ, by Whose stars we are illuminated and by whose stripes we are healed!”

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