I had a wonderful experience last Thursday visiting one of our Primary Schools. It was a time of Q & A with the Year 5 and 6 children of the school. I felt very much like a grandfather spending time with grandchildren.
The questions ranged on many topics, such as ‘who was my first girlfriend’, to which I replied ‘Carol and I was four years old’. They laughed. I was asked why I wanted to be a priest and what I enjoyed most being a priest. I answered ‘helping people to be who God wants them to be, since that is what is best for them’.
In answer to other questions I spoke about my family and my faith journey. I went away much enriched by the encounter.
I have vivid memories of my grandmother taking me to Mass with her, giving me lollies so that I would not get too fidgety. I remember her telling me stories and spending time with her. I can still remember her voice. I do not remember many things that she said, but I do remember her sharing unconditional love with me. I was 5-1/2 years old when she died.
I remember my mother and father sharing stories with us, stories about their families and experiences during the war. Faith stories and prayers.
I am told that part of our brain does not develop if children do not hear meaningful stores (such as Bible stories) in the very first few years of their life.
I hear of families spending more time together as a result of the Corona virus in the last few months. What a privilege we have to share life with children. What a sacred responsibility we have of passing on life skills and wisdom and spiritual values to them.
All human societies have had rites of passage for children at various stages of their life. We can keep children amused by technology of various types, TV, video, etc.
Are we prepared for children to pick up values which are sometimes distorted or opposed to what we would like them to have?
There are no short cuts. We need to spend time with children. ‘Nature abhors a vacuum’. If we do not share the greater good, the deep wisdom, the message of God’s unconditional love with them, someone else will share other information and values. Is that what we want?
Some phrases of Jesus come to mind:
Woe to the one who gives scandal to children, or hurts them.
Let the children come to me.
Unless you become like little children, you will not be able to enter the Kingdom of God.