Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Spiritual childhood is necessary to obtain eternal life

"Spiritual childhood is thus a necessary condition to obtain eternal life. What does that mean? Is it necessary to idealize childhood to the point of forgetting its defects and weaknesses? Is it necessary to become childish and lose the wisdom of adulthood? No, certainly not. On the contrary, we must put to work all of the faculties and aptitudes that God has given to us. It does not mean thinking, speaking, feeling and acting like a child. Saint Paul warns us about this: That henceforth we be no more children tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine... But doing the truth in charity, we may in all things grow up in Him who is the head, Christ (Eph. 4: 14-15). And again: Brethren, do not become children in sense: but in malice be children, and in sense be perfect (1 Cor. 14: 20). No matter how much the freshness of childhood moves us, we must not forget that its unfinished state calls for maturity. The emotional nature of the child is both tyrannical and selfish. The child seeks to control the beloved more than to give himself to the beloved, and thus does not offer a good example.

Our Lord desires something else when He asks us to become children again. The way of childhood, as Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus said, consists essentially "in a disposition of the heart, which makes us humble and small in the arms of God, conscious of our weakness, and confident even unto boldness in His fatherly goodness" (Novissima Verba). In the light of affirmations of the faith, it makes us conscious of reality: it is God alone who permits us to be, to love, to act, above all on the supernatural level. Our spiritual life cannot be an initiative on our part with respect to God: it can only be a placing of ourselves in the hands of Him who is infinitely good, who loves us freely, with a primary and creative love: For whosoever are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God (Rom. 8: 14).

This attitude recognizes a link of total dependence with respect to God, excludes the feeling of pride in oneself, the presumption of reaching a supernatural goal by human means, and the foolish wish of sufficing unto oneself at the time of peril and temptation. It makes us practice "humility, the kind and sincere humility of the heart, total fidelity to our duty of state, whatever it may be, in whatever sphere and at whatever level of the human hierarchy that God has placed us and called on us to work, a disposition to all sacrifices, confident abandonment in the hand and Heart of God, and above all true charity, the real love of God, true tenderness for Jesus Christ, answering to the tenderness that He Himself showed toward us, this charity that is benevolent, patient, always active and putting up with anything, prepared for self-sacrifice, even to give up one's life.... Spiritual childhood is accessible and necessary for everyone. As Saint Augustine observes, not everyone can preach and do great works. But who isn't capable of praying, of humbling oneself and of loving?" (Pius XI, February 11, 1923)."

--By Dom Antoine Marie, osb, Newsletter of 15 January, 1997

Reprinted with the kind permission of the monks at Clairval

1 comment:

kam said...

A beautiful post. My only issue; 'total fidelity to our duty of state, whatever it may be, in whatever sphere and at whatever level of the human hierarchy that God has placed us...' I am in a situation that I feel I cannot do again, (Grand Knight Council 1395, Knights of Columbus), but, being a Secular Franciscan, I feel most obligated, since they have asked me do do this twice now, and with no one stepping forward to take over in June, what shall I do? Much prayer has gone into this, and actual hours of sleeplessness at night. I feel called to pursue my life as a Franciscan more deeply, but feel I'm held back by the secularism of the K of C. Your posts always give me much to think about, as this one will also. Peace to you in the Octave of Christmas...k