As usual, Deacon invited all the younger kids to gather at the front of the Church at the beginning of Mass. From there the kids go downstairs and learn about Sunday’s readings in a manner suitable to them. It always makes me smile when I watch them go up. Some are bold, some tentative. Most gravitate towards friends or other children they know. This gathering of kids is a representative microcosm of the future. It illustrates for me the hope for tomorrow’s world. These are the children who will grow into adults and take charge of laws, social conscience, and care of those on earth. It is into these hands that we will pass responsibility for human dignity and care. This week watching them prompted in me a reflection. What is it that we need to give our children? What do they long for? What do they need to be complete? These questions became my world when I first became a parent. Now that my kids are college age and up, it is good to reflect back on the same questions with the benefit of experience. The obvious answers are for us to provide food and shelter. That is basic, and sadly many children do not have that (did you know the average age of a homeless person in Columbus is 7 ½ years old?). Being responsible for another human being’s growth I know that just those basic needs are not enough. Our role is to fill the person. Our charge is to do our part to develop a complete foundation within the person; mind, heart, and soul to the fullness of that child’s capacity. In these times, our society places a preponderance of emphasis on the physical, the here and now. No question the physical is important. Our body is an environmental protection unit, without which we can not live within the physics of this earth. However to put it in context, think of the vastness of our known universe, the physical cosmos we know exists around us. The percentage of space in which our bodies allow us to survive is astronomically small. Our bodies wear out and die, then what is left? What can possibly survive outside of the physics of earth but our spirit, our soul. Therefore then development of the complete person must include the development of spirit.
Through the lens of experiences and the benefit of time, we plainly see consequences, good and bad, of a soul’s development. Everyone human being, bar none, has an innate need to search for something that fills them. This is so clearly evident in the teen years. Every child will search for fullfillment, for meaning, for direction. It is incumbent upon us to give each child the best possible platform from which they can develop. If we ignore or are lax on the spirit, our children will fill in the gaps without guidance. It is tough enough even with the best of foundations to find peace. I was raised well physically, emotionally and spiritually, and still there have been times when I strayed via selfishness off the path of peace. Our children, without the advantage of experience, will normally focus on the material and short term. Spiritual neglect opens the person to greater risk of trying to satisfy the spiritual search with material objects and behaviors. Each child turns into an adult, making and guiding their own path as it should be. There are inevitable bumps and detours along the way, our charge is to position our youth for the best chance of success in reaching peace within themselves, which translates to happiness.
Know that while I speak of children, I speak also of ourselves as grown adults. Experience tells me at anytime in this life events can push and prod me to veer off the one straight path that leads us all to peace. If I am not vigilant I can fall prey to the many dead end paths. It is imperative for me to continually develop my own spirit. Thankfully, our Creator is merciful and offers forgiveness if we seek it and always has His hand out to help us get back on the path of peace. As an adult I have seen many times when the act of a relative, friend or even stranger makes an immediate and profound impact on a child. Raising a child is not confined to a parent. All are responsible directly or indirectly. I must tend to my own spirit, complete myself. Then I can help to complete our children, the next chapter of the body of God’s Church.