Dear Member of the De La Salle Community:
Children are one-third of our population and all of our future.
(John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States of America)
On Friday, November 20th, the International Day of the Child is acknowledged around the world. To prepare ourselves for this important day and to enter into its spirit, I thought it appropriate to share with you a letter written by St. John Paul II in 1994 at Christmas time. He addresses his message to all children. Here are a few excerpts from the letter, which I hope you find appropriate as Christians bring a much-needed perspective to this international observance.
In the child whom you look at in the Christmas manger, you must try to see also the twelve-year-old boy in the Temple in Jerusalem, talking with the teachers. He is the same grown man who later, at thirty years old, will begin to preach the word of God, will choose the Twelve Apostles, and will be followed by crowds thirsting for the truth. And every step, he will confirm his extraordinary teaching with signs of divine power, he will give sight to the blind, heal the sick, and even raise the dead. Among the dead whom he will bring back to life, there will be a twelve-year-old daughter of Jairus, and the son of the widow of Nain, given back to him alive to weeping mother. It is really true, this child now just born at Christmas, once he is grown up, as teacher of divine truths, will show an extraordinary love for children. He will say to the Apostles: "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them," and he will add, "for to such belongs the Kingdom of Heaven" (Mark 10:12). Another time, as the disciples are arguing about who is the greatest, he will put a child in front of them and say: "Unless you try to become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven" (Matthew 18:3). On that occasion, he also spoke harsh words of warning: "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believes in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone thrown around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea" (Matthew 18:6). How important children are in the eyes of Jesus! We could even say that the Gospel is full of the truth about children. The whole of the Gospel can actually be read as a Gospel of Children.
Down the centuries, up to our times, there are many boys and girls among those to be declared by the Church to be Saints or Blessed. Just as Jesus and the Gospel show special interest in children, so his Mother Mary, in the course of history, has not failed to show her motherly care for these little ones. Think of Saint Bernadette of Lourdes, the children at Lasalette and in our own century Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta of Fatima.
Early on, I was speaking to you about the Gospel of Children. God loves you, dear children. I hope you will have a more intense experience of the love of your parents, of your brothers and sisters, and of the other members of your family. This love must spread to your whole community, even to the whole world, precisely through you, dear children. Love will then be able to reach those who are most in need of it, especially the suffering and the abandoned.
We do well also to remember children who in many parts of the world work in deplorable conditions or who are used in the sex-trafficking industry. The places where young girls are still denied equal access to quality education. Poor children of all creeds and colour continue to be denied sound education, ethics and a stable family life. Children in affluent situations live in the impoverishment of materialism and confused values.
Finally, I cannot imagine a day dedicated to the welfare of children whereby we fail to recognise the plague of abortion so commonplace and routine in our society. The souls of children eliminated through intentional abortion are most deserving of a share in this day. No truly just and humane society which does not respect the sanctity of life from conception to natural death is worthy of the human being made in the image and likeness of the Almighty.
Let us pray and do our duty to the children entrusted to us as fathers and mothers, grandparents, teachers and mentors. Children are indeed our most precious gift and our hope for a better future.
He who welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. (Matthew 18:6)
Brother Domenic, fsc