Front Row With Francis: The Joy of Youth


Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the GospelIn raising children, we rediscover the wealth in youth. On the most basic level, we re-learn the nursery rhymes, we re-memorize Dr. Seuss, and we are fascinated by door-knobs and blue skies and dandelion seeds. There is more to it than this, however. As Pope Francis notes, children are a gift because they witness to many truths, mentioning simplicity of heart, directness, spontaneous trust, and dependency. All of these are the wealth of youth that the old need to hear.

Why is that? Simply, as we continue to live, we continue to die. We are born flesh and blood, but we are constantly turning to stone. We smile artificial smiles, writes Pope Francis, and we can no longer cry. We hesitate to grasp out for our wants and needs, and we hesitate to ask for what we need from our parents. Children, for all their faults, do not have those faults.

In the life of faith, then, we should be like children. We should lean on God who is our father in absolute, unquestioning, unhesitating trust. We should not so much simply acknowledge our dependency but believe it. If we are caught forcing ourselves to simply acknowledge our dependency on God, do we really believe it? No! If we are dependent on God, the question does not even enter our minds. We simply ask. If we ask, we shall receive, at least if it would be good for us. This is why our trust must be spontaneous, for if it were not, would it really be the trust we owe God?

It is possible to answer here that it is the kind of trust we owe God. It is possible to mean such an answer. This is because there is no end to the depth of lie we tell ourselves. The more experience we have in the world, the more we are disposed to create around ourselves a kind of fiction. When we are asked what we feel, we no longer even know, so instead of saying that we do not know we invent some possible feeling that someone might have in our situation. We tell a plausible account rather than the true one. After years of wallowing in the world, we absorb and even embrace this duplicity. A child, in his directness, will not do this. He will say exactly what he’s feeling at any moment.

In our life of faith, we should not tell God as if we are talking to someone in a worldly way. In our prayer, we should tell him exactly how we feel at any moment. If we are tired, we say so. If we are happy, we say so. If we want to cry, we say so. God already knows, of course, but in the constant telling him of how we are, we practice that thoughtless directness of a child.

In telling God so directly, God creates in us the tenderness of a child, the ability to feel again, and mean it. Instead of being tossed about by the winds and waves of worldly concerns, we are instead aware of how we really are feeling, and therefore who we really are. Why should this surprise us, after all? Why should it seem odd that self-knowledge, the constant awareness of our inward states, ends in childlike behavior towards God? Aren’t we the children of God?

If we really knew we were the children of God, we would simply act that way, and all these words would be unnecessary. Just as a child sleeps soundly in his father’s arms, so we would die to anxieties, stop talking, and commend ourselves entirely to God.


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