Update : Let The Children Come To Me, Saturday 26th February 2011 Saturday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time,

Today's Mass Readings are here

My post for this Sunday 8th Ordinary Time is here

Gospel Mark 10 : 13-16
People were bringing children to Jesus that he might touch them,
but the disciples rebuked them.
When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them,
“Let the children come to me; do not prevent them,
for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
Amen, I say to you,
whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child
will not enter it.”
Then he embraced the children and blessed them,
placing his hands on them.

We invest so much in children, the child carries so much of our own longings for what life should be as if we know that it is a state of being that should be innocent and full of wonder. 

In a child is our recognition of what trust and love and belonging should  mean in a deep sense of being human how is it then  that there is still so much abuse and exploitation of children in this world ?

It reflects our human condition at its worst. 

This a link to a transcript of  a wonderful radio interview (in 2006 but still relevant), which examines the subject of spiritual development in children and also considers how forces at play in the wider world can shape, and often thwart, children's spiritual lives.
The audio version is here. 

Below is an excerpt from one of the contributors:

One of the contributors is Dr Peter Benson who apart from being a doting grandparent also has an extensive background in developmental psychology, and is President of the Search Institute in Minneapolis, an independent research body that focuses on promoting healthy development in children. 
Recently, the Institute launched its Centre for Spiritual Development in Childhood and Adolescence. 
 This is an extract from the above radio interview : 

"There are times when many of us have been captivated by a child's special relationship with the world around them.

Dr Peter Benson: "I have a three and a half year old grandson, who lives only ten minutes from my house so he's in my life a lot. And you see a lot of things in a grandchild that you're too busy to see in your own children, or maybe I just forget.

But, to watch this little person's entry into the world, his embrace of the world, his embrace of nature, his eagerness to be in the world, his unwavering sense that life is an exciting enterprise. He's got a spark - he sparks all the time. 

He lives in the moment; he's unburdened by his perception of the past or unrealistic expectations about the future. He's in a wonderful place in the life cycle. To be three is a great place to be.

What happens developmentally, it is said that young children ages one, two and three, very naturally as they enter life are in fact connected to parent, to caregiver, to people, to nature and the world - there's very little distinction between the self and that which surrounds the self.

There's a kind of a natural unity or an oneness. And then what we do developmentally, just about everywhere, we start to break down that web of connectedness - we differentiate the self - so now the self becomes something of an island. 

And spiritual development, in some sense, is the process of recapturing what we may have had when we were born but we lose. That is, we are motivated in a very profound way to connect to a way, a people, a tradition, that gives meaning, direction and coherence to our lives. But it is a universal stream of development, we would argue, this seeking to connect the self to something greater."

Carmel Howard:'Spirituality' can be difficult to define. It becomes more difficult as the terms 'spirituality' and 'religion' are often used interchangeably - including, at times, among speakers in this program. 

For Dr Peter Benson, it's important to distinguish between these terms. He suggests that spiritual development is the intrinsic human capacity and yearning to embed the self in something greater than the self. In contrast, religions are the cultural mechanisms that can provide rituals and beliefs to aid this process. "

Dr Peter Benson:"People who study how human beings develop have been pretty resistant to this territory - it's so easy to confuse spiritual development and religion. 

Academics in a lot of universities are so skeptical of religion that they accidentally throw out what we think is a critical stream of human development.

And so, it is pretty clear when you look at a textbook in child development, adolescent development, you will see those chapters on cognitive development, and moral development, emotional development, social development, personality development, and very rarely anything on this territory of spiritual development. 

We've done some publishing on how rare it is in the developmental sciences to ever do a peer-refereed journal article that mentions the word 'spirit', 'spiritual', 'spirituality', 'religion', 'religious.' 

Less than one percent of the articles in the six most important developmental journals in the world - less than one percent over the last twenty years mention any of those terms. 
And so we've to figure out what's gotten in the way of studying this important territory of spiritual development."

Below is an extract taken from an essay on childhood from Anthony de Mello.

"How sad if we pass through life and never see it with the eyes of a child. This doesn't mean you should drop your adult concepts totally; they're very precious. Though we begin without them, concepts have a very positive function. Thanks to them we develop our intelligence.

We're invited, not to become children, but to become like children. We do have to fall from a stage of innocence and be thrown out of paradise; we do have to develop an "I" and a "me" through these concepts. 

But then we need to return to paradise. We need to be redeemed again. We need to put off the old man, the old nature, the conditioned self, and return to the state of the child but without being a child.
When we start off in life, we look at reality with wonder, but it isn't the intelligent wonder of the mystics; it's the formless wonder of the child.
Then wonder dies and is replaced by boredom, as we develop language and words and concepts. Then hopefully, if we're lucky, we'l
l return to wonder again.

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