Out of the mouths of babes comes… what? Cute things? Gibberish? Wisdom?
Actually, all three. Not everything a child says is wisdom from on high. After all, kids are prone to whining and confusion and general silliness. No one is surprised when a child gets upset because his sibling is "looking at him." And the percentage of young children who talk to their dolls and stuffed animals — believing them real — is probably quite high. Yet, there are those very special moments when we as adults are humored, mystified, humbled, or filled with awe at the words that come forth from innocent mouths.
In their innocence, children often cut through civilized standards for expressing one's self. For instance, a child who points and announces, "That lady has a mean face," would immediately be told to hush. And rightly so. Maybe the lady is a nasty woman whose frown belies an angry heart. But who are we to publicly humiliate her? And perhaps the lady is actually burdened with a facial disfigurement or simply looks stern. Regardless, childhood is a time of learning discretion and realizing blunt and brutal honesty is not usually the best policy.
Children are not aware of all the rules yet. Cynicism and doubt are not a natural part of their spirit either. Instead, purity and closeness to the Divine is what comes naturally. Children, before the age of reason, are not even truly capable of sin. Tantrums, yes; but real sin, no. And even after crossing that line of demarcation, children live in a world where belief in God is uncomplicated. It is a precious time for them to learn and experience their faith because it so easily embraced.
Children and Scripture
A child's openness to what he is taught makes him fertile ground for handing down a strong faith. It is this openness that warranted Christ's warning to anyone who would lead a child astray: "It would be better from him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin." (Luke 17:2)
Scripture lets us know that children are special beyond cuteness and carrying on the next generation. "The children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said, "Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (Matt 19: 13-14)
Children are obliged to obey and honor their parents. We are the leaders, not them, in a rightly ordered household. But Jesus also taught us to be like little children. "Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me."
In addition to our God-ordained responsibility to lead our children, God gives us the opportunity to grow through them. When couples discuss the possibility of being open to the life of a child whether naturally, through adoption or foster care, this passage is worthy of reflection: "And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me."
The very words "out of the mouths of babes" come from scripture. In Psalm 8:3, which praises our Lord for His majesty, it is written "Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have drawn a defense against your foes…" Then, in Matthew 21:16, when Jesus is cleansing the temple, He says, "…have you never read the text, 'Out of the mouths of infants and nurslings you have brought forth praise'?'"
Words of Wisdom
Although we are in authority over our children, sometimes it is they who lead us closer to God. Anyone who has children, or who has been around them, can tell of times when a child sees things we do not. Once, my Dad took one of his grandsons, Phillip, who was around seven at the time, to church with him. When the collection basket was passed, my dad pondered silently if he should grab a few dollars out of his wallet or just not bother since it was not his own parish. "Grandpa," Phillip whispered, tugging at my Dad's shirtsleeve, "put some money in the basket." A light went on for my Dad as he realized he should give freely to any church where he attends Mass.
During the writing of my first book, I sat at the computer typing prayers for the last chapter. My three-year-old daughter, Teresa, sat in the room with me, happily paging through the pile of children's books I had put before her. I typed the prayers of the rosary, the Chaplet of Mercy and a number of others. Then, I considered the Stations of the Cross. I was feeling rather tired and considered the fact that it would be a long and arduous prayer to include. No one will miss it, I decided. At that exact moment, Teresa was at my side saying, "Here Mom, you need this." There in her outstretched hand was The Children's Stations of the Cross. I was in awe.
"What did you say?" I asked incredulously.
Teresa repeated, "Here Mom, you need this." Then, she handed me the book before returning to her spot. Teresa did not ask me to read it to her or look at it; she told me I needed it. When the goose bumps faded, I immediately put in the prayers directly from the book.
For an upcoming book in the Amazing Grace series, Catholic writer Christine Trollinger shares the experiences of a cousin's daughter, Sadie. This six-year-old child once took on as a cause the life-threatening injuries of an older cousin who had been in a car accident.
"Through all the weeks of Kelly's coma, Sadie made it her project to pray to for the intercession of St. Theresa the "Little Flower." Sadie was adamant that Saint Theresa would gain a miracle for Kelly. She knew her cousin would be well again, because she said, "St Theresa told me so." Sadie's prediction proved true and her cousin made a remarkable recovery. Later that summer, Sadie herself needed to go to the hospital to have her tonsils removed.
After a post surgery check-up, Sadie was taken shopping with her mom and sister. The girls kept finding rose petals everywhere they turned. Sadie was sure St. Theresa had sent her rose petals for being such a good patient.
That evening, the girls played together in their playroom until bedtime. Sadie drew pictures for her Mommy and Daddy. Tragically, during the night, Sadie's scab fell off and she bled to death. Her parents learned only later that a carotid artery had been accidentally cut and lasered shut during the routine tonsillectomy.
The grief at losing their beloved little girl was indescribable, but the trust and love for God Sadie had during her short life helped those she left behind keep going. Just before the funeral, a picture Sadie had drawn the night before she died was discovered. There on the play table was Sadie's last drawing on this earth. It was a picture of her with angel's wings. It was covered with those same mysterious rose petals and it was signed, "Sadie– I am so happy. Jesus Loves Me!" The prophetic picture of this young child said it all and helped soothe the pain. Sadie was ready to meet Jesus and was happier now with him than she could ever be in this world.
Our children teach us how we should respond to God because Our Father in heaven wants the same thing for all His children as we want for ours. Like Him, we want them to trust us and obey us. We want our children to be good and kind and to love their brothers and sisters. We teach our children to appreciate all we do for them. We want them to treat us with respect and even when they get older, we want them to stay close and keep in touch. Most of all, we want our children's love and for them to ultimately reach heaven. Because we are children of God, seeing children through the eyes of a parent helps us to understand how deep love can go.