Spiritual Childhood, Part 2

The following is part two in a two-part series. Read part one here.

Knowledge of God's merciful love is what enabled St. Therese of Lisieux to have childlike trust in God. She wrote in her autobiography, Story of a Soul:

Even though I had on my conscience all the sins that can be committed, I would go, my heart broken with sorrow, and throw myself into Jesus' arms, for I know how much He loves the prodigal child who returns to Him. It is not because God, in His anticipating Mercy, has preserved my soul from mortal sin that I go to Him with confidence and love.

Confidence and love in Divine Mercy is the foundation of her relationship with Jesus Christ: "When we keep little we recognize our own nothingness, and expect everything from God just as a little child expects everything from its father. Nothing worries us." It's interesting that in heaven, the love of God goes out to those who are most like Himself - the saints, Our Lady, the only-begotten Son. But on earth, His love goes out to those who are farthest off - the weak, the outcast, and the sinful.

Jesus, The Divine Mercy Himself, taught Saint Faustina about spiritual childhood. He often appeared to her as a little child in order to teach her simplicity and humility:

Once, when I saw Jesus in the form of a small child, I asked, 'Jesus, why do you now take on the form of a child when You commune with me? In spite of this, I still see in You the infinite God, my Lord and Creator.' Jesus replied that until I learned simplicity and humility, He would commune with me as a little child" (Diary, 335).

She sometimes even saw the Child Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. The Lord Jesus Christ taught both St. Faustina and St. Therese that God communes with those who are little and have a childlike spirit. A little child does not complicate things like adults do or worry about needless things. It is why adults love being around little children, because they appreciate and take joy in the simple things of life. However, to be childlike does not mean to be childish, immature, or selfish.

Like St. Therese, St. Faustina often talked about being like a little child who throws herself into the father's or mother's arms. As little children then, we must throw ourselves into the arms of God's mercy:

Write this for the benefit of distressed souls; when a soul sees and realizes the gravity of its sins, when the whole abyss of the misery into which it immersed itself is displayed before its eyes, let it not despair, but with trust let it throw itself into the arms of My mercy, as a child into the arms of its beloved mother" (Diary, 1541).

Saint Therese told a similar story about two little girls who had done something naughty. When their father came home, one of the girls immediately hid herself from him. The other one ran to him saying what she had done wrong and asked her father for his forgiveness. That is the type of relationship we should always have with God the Father - we must trust in His mercy.

Another trait of spiritual childhood is not worrying about the past or the future but living in the present moment. As adults, we worry about what we've done or haven't done in the past, and we worry about what may or may not happen in the future. We need to be like little children and just live in the present moment. Have you ever watched little kids at play and how they are just caught up in the moment? They live in the here and now. It's similar to what actors describe when they're acting, of being "in the moment." If you look at the lives of the saints, they always lived in the present moment.

From what we've learned about spiritual childhood from St. Therese and St. Faustina, how can we practice it in our own spiritual lives? It comes down to the following six points:

* We must become like little children and be totally dependent on God the Father for everything in our lives - to lead a life of trust and complete self-surrender.

* We need to be little and accept being little - to let God carry us to the heights of holiness. Saint Therese said, "What pleases Him [God] is that He sees me loving my littleness and my poverty, the blind hope that I have in His mercy."

* This childlike trust is only made possible by God's merciful love towards all sinners. His mercy is bigger than any sins we may have committed. Always approach God with love and confidence in His mercy.

* To be a little child means to live in simplicity and humility. This means prioritizing one's life and getting rid of those things which draw us away from God.

* Like little children, when we've done anything wrong, we must throw ourselves into the arms of God's mercy. That is the beauty of the sacrament of reconciliation. God always waits for us with open arms.

* Learn how to live in the present moment. A lot of our anxiety is caused by worrying about needless things. There is much joy to be found by living in the here and now.

As we follow the path of spiritual childhood, the most important prayer each of us needs to learn is made up of only five words - JESUS, I TRUST IN YOU. When Jesus asked St. Faustina to have the Divine Mercy image painted, He clearly asked her to place these words at the bottom of the painting. He told her that what wounds Him the most is the lack of trust by those who are closest to Him. Thus, our trust is what consoles the Sacred and Merciful Heart of Jesus the most. JESUS, I TRUST IN YOU. JESUS, I TRUST IN YOU. JESUS, I TRUST IN YOU. We must not only say this all the time but also put it into action in our daily lives.

Father Angelo Casimiro, MIC, is the postulant director at the Marian House of Studies in Steubenville, Ohio.


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