The truth is plain. We were once children. The foreword to a recent edition of GK Chersterton's "St Francis of Assisi" tells of the world of children and the price of being an adult is never being able to re-enter that world, even in a dream. Not even for a memory since many adults only have a hazy recollection of childhood especially if it was a happy one. As Merlin played by Sam Neill in the Hallmark remake of the Arthurian legend says, "My childhood was so happy for it was over in a flash"
Too bad biology dictates that we end up as all adults. But the Gospel speaks of Christ telling the people that "they won't enter the Kingdom of God unless they become children once more." I have heard this in Church many many times since I was received in the Catholic Church during the feast of the Santo Niño 20 years ago. I was a young adult then and no longer a child. The Gospel reading was about Jesus after being found the the temple by his upset parents, grew up wise and was obedient to them. The Gospel reading really is for adults. We don't have any record whether Jesus was a hyperactive and naturally curious and pestering child. The writer of the Gospels missed out on what Warner Bros called "the Wonder Years".
A friend of mine Father Jett Villarin SJ, once director of the Manila Observatory and now Xavier University president writes his reflection for this Sunday of the Holy Child. He says we have to be curious once more. That is the only key we adults have left in order to re-enter the world of the child. The homilies I have heard through the years were delivered by theologically sophisticated priests who exhort us to be little children once more without telling us how. But Father Jett of course as an adult has forgotten how except that of curiosity. I'm not surprised for the Jesuit priest is a scientist and teacher too.
It said that teachers, especially science teachers are always young. That's why during alumni homecomings where teachers are invited, we are shocked to see that our teachers have aged in years. We are extremely saddened that some have passed away. But for those still alive and kicking, we are given the pleasure to know that they are as young in mind and spirit as when we first knew them as children. I never knew that until I became a teacher. In order to survive in this business one has to be extremely curious and pestering like a child is.
The shock of my teaching career is this. None of my academic superiors think I am a good one. Some students believe I am one. But only a nun who worked with disadvantaged kids in the Aussie outback SAYS I REALLY AM ONE! This kind Australian sister attended my PhD graduation and frankly told me that I am a good teacher. I asked why she thought so. She answered that "I can see the wonder in your eyes!"
I wonder if that wonder still exist in my eyes. But as the years pass and I bring students to nature trips and the sort, I realize that they are so disconnected with nature that they fail to appreciate the smallest beauty to be seen. It is my sense of wonder that seems to lift the boards off their eyes.
In this kind of work, it is Francis Bernardone of Assisi who is the poster boy. After all I wouldn't go as far as preach to the birds or tame the wolf. But the Poor Saint in doing this re-entered childhood and became closer to his Master who created them all. I have seen children talk to animals in zoos and aquariums as if they were doing a Saint Francis!
Catholic Philippines has great reverence for the Holy Child with each city having a carnival like Sinulog or a Dinagyang. Roman Catholics do not have a monopoly on the devotion. The Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) has the Holy Child as their patron. The IFI national cathedral is dedicated to the Holy Child. Filipinos have a natural patience for children and perhaps hold the keys to becoming one once more.