I recently read the message to children given by Pope John Paul II in 1994.
In it he tells us the whole of the Gospel could be understood as the “Gospel of children” and how important children are in the eyes of Jesus.
He also said, “we could even say that the Gospel is full of the truth about children”.
So in our busy lives with children, school, church and extra activities what are the visible signs that our children are actually engaging with the Good News?
How do you know if your child is understanding you?
My son has just turned seven.
It is hard to get good conversation generating about the Church and faith with him.
He is a deep thinker and strong-willed.
So when I try and engage with him I get a hit-or-miss reaction.
Despite this, my resolve is to keep trying and never give up.
It might not reflect every boy out there but one thing we noticed about our son is that he is hard to teach.
I think this is because he is always intensely learning on auto-pilot.
When my husband and I approach him with an agenda to get him to learn something, it usually ends poorly because he sees us as an intrusion on his train of thought and he responds with questions like, “What are you trying to say?”
The best learning he does is when he is having a reaction to something or if he is asking a question.
Recently our son had a big reaction.
To stimulate some conversation I pinned up some one-line biblical “commands of Jesus” on the bathroom wall.
One of the scriptures is, “Love your enemies” from Matthew 5:44.
He surprised us as he burst out of the back door shouting, “What! Mum, this is crazy! We’re not meant to love our enemies, we’re meant to fight them”.
In his seven-year-old mind the command seemed illogical.
His reaction was large and disruptive.
We welcome this sort of commotion as this is where we find a place to share the Good News with him.
This is an encouragement for us to expect surprises from our children about their encounter with the Gospel and to not reserve this for Sundays only.
Just recently our son was going to bed and I had been intentionally sowing seeds about his preparation for the sacraments.
I had said things like, “At the age of seven and eight, children are starting to become more of who they are and not just copying Mummy and Daddy; you can start making some of your own decisions”.
He listened to me carefully and then asked me, “Mum, what does it feel like to grow up?”
We enjoyed an honest chat about it all.
My son admitted, that he “doesn’t want to grow up, it’s just so much fun being a kid”.
I find I am always looking for ways that the kids are growing in the Good News.
I will name three that I use.
Signs of increase in fruits of the Holy Spirit in their lives – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Secondly, they trust us with further questioning and thirdly they feel free to react in their unique way without pretence.
St John Paul II encourages us to trust in our children: “Just as Jesus in the Gospel shows special trust in children. What enormous power the prayer of children has!
“This becomes a model for grown-ups themselves: Praying with simple and complete trust means praying as children pray”.
JPII finishes with a strong message for our children: “Pray, dear boys and girls, that you will find out what your calling is and that you will then follow it generously”.
It’s our responsibility to set an example and impart this invitation to the younger members of our Church; we need to pursue the hearts of our children.
The biggest encouragement I have for parents of young children out there is, don’t give up, persevere in creating a home full of the Gospel.
Keep scattering the seeds and trust that the kingdom will grow.
Put it on your walls, on your fridge, in the garden, in your reading time, in your conversation.
Be encouraged, keep praying and expect surprises from your children.
By Carrie McCormack