As adults we sometimes ask ourselves fundamental questions: Who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose on earth? Children ask the same questions, too, but often we don’t pay attention to them. Often their deepest concerns and secrets are known only to themselves. Perhaps that’s because they’re spoken in a different language, if they’re spoken at all. Sometimes it’s simply a look in the eyes or a turn of the chin that tell us something transcendent is at work inside a young person.
How is it that some very special little ones have a remarkable kinship with God? It’s as if they are born knowing more, perceiving more than what we think of as ordinary. Does the Holy Spirit whisper to them while they’re still in the womb? I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know that children, especially very little children, at times seem to retain a tie with the heavenly kingdom from which they came. Looking into the eyes of a newborn baby, straight from the hand of God, can be a holy experience.
So, under the veneer of an ordinary boy with a scraped knee and runny nose, can Dominic Savio, a child saint of the 19th century, emerge. A student of St. John Bosco, he died at the age of 14 and was canonized owing to the heroic virtue he practiced in everyday life. Or consider two impoverished peasant children, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, who rose up as saints. Despite their poverty and ignorance, Our Lady of Fatima chose them to give her crucial message to the world.
And then there is a little 11-year-old
nameless Chinese girl,
who gave up her life
for the love of Jesus in the Eucharist.
Her dramatized story is told in my book,
We don’t know her name,
but we do know of her extreme virtue
and willingness to risk everything for her Lord.
I believe that little saints are out there, in our world. They may be wearing jeans and ponytails, but we can’t let their outer trappings fool us. Given proper nurturing, who knows who might rise up in our own century? We need to do our part to encourage our children, instill the love of God in them, and show by our own actions that closeness to God, as well as virtue, are still possible in a world that too often ignores him.
by Ellen Lucey Prozeller, author of 32 Days A Story of Faith and Courage