Sunday, November 18, 2007

#2 Childlikeness- The Child as a Revelation of God

The child is a totally unique revelation of God. Here we have a term which cannot be so quickly exhausted. We want to distinguish: Every creature is a unique revelation of God, and each one of us is a unique revelation of God. If we call the child a unique revelation of God in this context, it is because we want to underscore a certain value. Please listen: Become what the child is! What am I called to become? What the child is by nature, imperfectly and in passing, you must acquire perfectly and perminantly!

This is the main outline point which you must keep in mind the whole day. It implies two tasks-- to study the unique revelation of God which the child presents to us, and then to say: this is what we must become!

What does this unique revelation of God look like which the child presents? I must generalize, for the time is unfortunately too short for me to depict all the many delicate and delightful features of the child. I ask you to do that for yourselves. If what I now give are a few metaphysical expressions, you can be certain that a great number of observations stand behind them. So what does this unique revelation of God look like? I will give three answers. The child is first of all a unique prophet of God; secondly the child is a unique reflection of God; thirdly, the child is in a unique union with God.

Unless you become like little children! Do you understand what this means? Unless you become like little children-- in a perfect manner-- and acquire as you perminant condition the state of being a unique prophet and reflection of God, and being in unique union with God, you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

When we think of being a unique reflection of God, then two great truths rise before us: the child is the unique reflection of the simplicity of the Father and the child is a unique reflection of the self-surrender of the Son. You will notice that all dogmatic teaching, all of psychology and philosophy stands before us.

The child is a unique prophet of God. Just think of what this means! The child points to God. Anyone with a keen eye for life and a down-to-earth sense of reality, or for that matter anyone who likes to be around children-- which should really be all of us, for the child belongs to the Child!-- knows what I mean. Let me summerize the main points in metaphysical terms. The child points to God, in part directly, in part indirectly. If I allow myself to observe the child, what does this awaken in me? Yes, a child spontaneously reminds us of two things: first of mankind's paradise and secondly of the paradise of our own life.

The child reminds us directly of the twofold paradise. Is this really true? Alban Stoltz* wrote that there are three things which remind us of paradise again and again. The stars, the flowers, and a child's eyes. The child's eyes point emphatically to the paradise of mankind:

"Child's eyes, diamonds
in earth's desert sands
Worlds of long lost happiness
radiate from your loveliness."

Is the poet right? Does a child remind us of paradise? Let me ask the philosophical and dogmatic question: What is the distinguishing feature of paradise? It is walking and conversing with God. Hence the child points directly to God. The child is a prophet of God.

A similar symbolism rings true when you realize that a child's eyes-- and the child himself-- quickly and easily transport us to the paradise of our own childhood. Is it not true? When we are tired, when life has tossed to and fro and then we stand before a child in the cradle, if we allow ourselves to be absorbed by the child's charm, does not everything quicken again in our soul? How many memories are stirred-- memories of a time when our passions were still in check, memories of our life's paradise! What is it that makes the life of a child, at least a Catholic child, akin to paradise? It was this simple carefree conversing with the Divine, with the angels. This is part of the essence of the child. The child expressly urges us back to God and to His realness in our lives.

The child is therefore a direct prophet of God, but is also and indirect one. Here I must enquire into my own experience. Is it not true that when I stand before a child and look into his wondering eyes-- that a child's eyes can really express wonder!-- I am fascinated and filled with joy? Do we not come away feeling how small the seperation is between God and us? Yes, let me appeal again to your own experiences and observations. When our retreat is over, stand in front of a baby carriage and begin to study-- to find out what we should be! We are called to become what a child is: a prophet of God!

It is true: in the pure eyes of a child we see reflected all the greatness the child sees in creation. This is what shines out to me when I look into the child's eyes. But it is not only that, or even the mirroring of things Divine, that we see. We spontaneously sense that there is only a thin veil, a thin partition-- and behind it is God! We therefore feel compelled to stand in awe before the eyes of a child.

Excerpt from "Childlikeness Before God- Reflections on Spiritual Childhood" pp. 62-64. Printed by the Schoenstatt Fathers 2001. Translated from the German by Fr. Jonathan Niehaus

*Fr. Alban Stoltz (1808-1883), German theologian and author

Saturday, November 17, 2007

#1 Childlikeness- A Core Statement

I will limit myself to a single saying of Our Lord, for it is truly so central that we have no need for any other core statements. It is: "Unless you become like children, you shall not enter the Kingdom of God" (Mt. 18, 3). We must hear this word and interpret it as if for the first time. It will be our faithful companion for the remainder of the retreat.

We begin by calling to mind the occasion on which Our Lord spoke these words. In Biblical scholarship a great deal depends on the situation in which the word was spoken.

It was probably at the end of Our Lord's activity in Galilee. He had already spoken of His impending passion twice, but, strangely enough, the disciples had not understood him (Mt. 16, 21-23; 17,22f).

If you can imagine the mentality of the countries around us, you will understand the mind-set of the disciples. They were convinced that our Lord was the great political Messiah. They were also firmly convinced that they would be appointed His ministers in the new kingdom. And just as in our neighboring countries* these positions were all decided before the revolution-- this one will take over foreign affairs, that one finance, etc.-- the disciples must have expected the same thing. So now Our Lord speaks of His suffering and death for a second time and the disciples do not understand Him. In fact, they misunderstand Him so totally that they begin to discuss who will take over what positions of power.

They may have acted this way because of their general misconception, but it was probably reinforced by two great facts. Christ had taken some of his disciples to the mountain where He was transfigured (Mt. 17, 1-9). What the disciples could now say about the radiance and glory of the God-man was naturally very alluring and intensified their expectations. Moreover, it was not long before this that Christ had solemnly appointed Simon Peter as the leader of the Twelve (Mt. 16, 13-20). He was to be the head of the new kingdom and the successor of Christ. Of course that must have caused the other disciples to ask, "What about us? What will my position be?" So they argued, discussing how the different posts would be distributed among them.

They now come to Our Lord. Christ knew at once that they were talking about their ambitions. He took them to task: "What were you discussing along the way?" (Mk. 9, 33). And now Christ begins to reveal to the disciples, his future leaders, a most unusual ideal. In education it is frequent practice to explain an ideal by using the example of some outstanding person. Typically, one takes the great men of world history and says: "You must become like them!" But what does Our Lord do? He takes a child and says: You who are so ambitious, who want to be the first in the "political" kingdom which I will never found, what should be your ideal? Unless you become like this child I will have little use for you in my Kingdom, to say nothing of you becoming its leaders.

Do you understand the situation? The ambitions of the disciples are immediately crushed! What does Christ demand? Unless you become like children! Unless we do this, we cannot even enter His Kingdom, much less be its strongest members!

I hardly think I need to say more about this core statement, at least for now. Becoming a child is simply the way to heaven.

Excerpt from "Childlikeness Before God- Reflections on Spiritual Childhood" pp. 52-53. Printed by the Schoenstatt Fathers 2001. Translated from the German by Fr. Jonathan Niehaus

*These series of talks were given in 1937 following the rise of fascist regimes in Germany, Italy, etc.

A Different Blog

It is very difficult for blogs with more "serious" content not to become absorbed with the idiosyncrasies and opinions of their authors. My first one was. Instead of trying to pontificate on topics I know very little about, this blog will be almost exclusively dedicated to posts of quoted material of Father Joseph Kentenich, founder of the Schoenstatt Movement within the Catholic Church. You see, he should be listened to. This is not theoretical philosophy, or psychology, or theology. It is as practical as the six months he spent in an SS prison, the three years he spent in Dachau concentration camp, or the fourteen years in exile in the United States as his Movement underwent intense scrutiny by Church authorities in his abscence. There are precious little of his writings in English online, so these little pearls are my small contribution to the capital of grace of my Mother Thrice Admirable. He was and is truly a Father to many, and as his tombstone inscription states; "dilexit ecclesiam", "He loved the Church".