Monday, July 07, 2008

Note on Last Post

Beate wrote in the combox of my Sunday Links post that to Catholics, an "aversion" to God is considered a sin, in fact a mortal sin, since it is a voluntary choice.

Here is what the Catholic Encyclopedia says, which accords with what she said (and thank you Beate for bringing it out):

Mortal sin is defined by St. Augustine as "Dictum vel factum vel concupitum contra legem æternam", i.e. something said, done or desired contrary to the eternal law, or a thought, word, or deed contrary to the eternal law. This is a definition of sin as it is a voluntary act. As it is a defect or privation it may be defined as an aversion from God, our true last end, by reason of the preference given to some mutable good.
As Beate pointed out, to Catholics, by reason of baptism children are not in this state of "aversion" to God. In addition, children under the age of reason are incapable of a settled, voluntary aversion to things of God. It takes reason, a conscious choice of the will. From the Catholic Catechism:

Although it is proper to each individual,original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam's descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin - an inclination to evil that is called concupiscence.

Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ's grace, erases original sin and turns a man back towards God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle.
Beate went on to say that when you are around children you certainly don't see a state of aversion to God; quite the opposite, indeed. Children can show a remarkable degree of insight and love for the things of God. I agree. I have a five year old right now who is challenging me daily with the depth of his questions and thoughts about God!

Usually when I pick up on a dislike of some kind to religious things in a child, or remember such from what I remember in myself as a child, it is from a couple of causes:

  1. An inappropriateness in the teaching (making things of God seem boring, or scary, or wimpy, or a combination of the above).
  2. A certain consciousness of my own self-will and fallenness (I am sure I was not the only child to feel this way sometimes) which made me sometimes feel uneasy and challenged by the thought of a loving but all-Good, just and All-Seeing God. Like a loving parent, only more so!

Charlotte Mason particularly discussed the first one, under the topic of "let the little children come unto Me, and do not hinder them" because she thought that the way that religious things were discussed or taught by adults, even well-meaning ones, often had a chilling effect on the child's faith. I pray often that something I say does not have the effect of causing a misconception about divine things in one of my children. It is difficult, for children are very perceptive and honest, and sometimes they have a trust that I understand mysteries which are in truth more mysterious and deeper the more I ponder them. Sometimes my children's questions and thoughts make me realize how little I know, indeed.

The major note of Charlotte Mason's teachings was to do with the respect that is owed to children not merely as "small persons" but as those of whom Our Lord said:

"Let the little children come to me, and do not keep them away, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

"Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven."
She has been sometimes considered, from what I have read by some Catholics and Protestants to be too much in Rousseau's camp of considering children to be naturally "good" until they were spoiled by society. That was why I was quoting Art's post, because I thought he countered that view very well from CM's own writings. He showed that CM's understanding of human nature was deeply Christian. His whole post is sort of a meditation on Our Lord's call to the children, in particular. Another excerpt from his For Whose Sake?:

I am saddened as my mind and my heart turn to the story of our Savior in Matthew 19. As I read the story, I am one of those parents, jostling, stepping, reaching in hope. I have my children with me, my baby in one arm, my daughter's hand in the other. My oldest son stands before me. I see Christ, and I know that He is the answer, that He is the hope for my children. Will He be willing to "put his hands on them, and pray"? (Mt 19:13) ....

The disciples confirm my fears. They start to push me away. They rebuke me....

But Christ fixes His gaze on me and the other parents who want Him to touch our children. "Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me." (Mt. 19:14) In grateful obedience, I bring my children directly to Christ's feet. They hear His words, they see His loveliness, they feel His touch. I move to the side, I watch silently. My children discover, they wonder, they relate, they understand. "For of such is the kingdom of heaven." (Mt. 19:14)

In writing all this out, I feel I am getting into theological waters here where every word counts and I'm likely to say the wrong ones inadvertently. But I did want to bring out what Beate said, since I thought it was very true, but also clarify a bit what I meant when I posted the quote, and what I understood Art to be saying in his post.

There is something very privileged about being around children, of whom Our Lord said "Of such is the kingdom of heaven" and there is a high responsibility in teaching them. It is humbling to think about that and consider oneself with one's faults and limitations and failures. Yet certainly there is also something exalting about being allowed to raise and nurture one of these young souls. I often ponder Marie Bellet's song Ordinary Time:

He said “Who will feed my sheep? Who will heed their cry?”
I said “I am vain and weak But surely I will try."
Certainly the view we have of children will affect how we instruct and guide them, so it is of major importance to have that part of it straight. I hope this helps and does not hinder.


Stephanie said...

One of my regulars, Willa:

O Heavenly Father, I commend the souls of my children to thee. Be thou their God and Father; and mercifully supply whatever is wanting in me through frailty or negligence. Strengthen them to overcome the corruptions of the world, to resist all solicitations to evil, whether from within or without; and deliver them from the secret snares of the enemy. Pour thy grace into their hearts, and confirm and multiply in them the gifts of thy Holy Spirit, that they may daily grow in grace and in knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ; and so faithfully serving thee here, may come to rejoice in thy presence hereafter. Through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

And a quote I have liked lately (found in the front of Dorothy Sayers' _The Mind of the Maker_):

"In the case of man, that which he creates is more expressive of him than that which he begets. The image of the artist and the poet is imprinted more clearly on his works than on his children."

Makes sense, right? After all ... WE are not the makers of the children.

Willa said...

Yes, and so it should be, right? That is very interesting, Stephanie....something to think over. My children certainly aren't carbon copies of my husband or me.

I remember reading that in Christ, through baptism, our children are our brothers and sisters. That really struck me. This doesn't mean we aren't entrusted in a particular way with their education, but it does mean we aren't moulding them into OUR image -- we're helping them on the journey, and they help us, too.

Stephanie said...

yeah ... it has occurred to me lately that, yes, we are responsible FOR our children. Until they grow up, we are responsible FOR them. But mostly, we Christian parents are responsible TO our children. And that's a whole different ball o' wax.

Beate said...

So true. Walking the seemingly long way from the baptismal font to the altar with Emma 6 years ago I faced a really human struggle when the realization hit me - this child is not mine!! Years previously the Holy Spirit showed me without a doubt that children are not a part of us - they are most definitely their own person =D! I was so naive before becoming a mom ;-)