UPDATE 2: Mike Lewis of Where Peter Is sheds positive light on the Catholic youth gathered for the pre-synod meeting. “Among them were singles, those discerning a vocation, married people, seminarians, and those in religious life,” Lewis states.
UPDATE: Mary Pezzulo has weighed in at Steel Magnificat.
My first exposure to French priest, writer, and evangelist Fr Daniel-Ange was through his book Ton enfant, il crie la vérité. Subtitled “Catechism for Theologians,” the book’s title translated into English as “Your child, he screams the truth.” I had no idea what to expect when I picked up this book from Suzanne’s estate. Even into her 70’s, Suzanne had never lost her youthful passion for the Catholic Faith. At the time of her death, I was pursuing graduate studies in canon law. She thought I might appreciate this book.
It only took a few pages before I understood the message Suzanne was sending from her side of Eternity. Fr Daniel-Ange addresses adults and scholars–including not a few bishops and learned theologians if I recall correctly. Somewhere in their intellectual pursuits these learned adults had lost their Catholic faith. Against various statements of the adult intellectuals Fr Daniel-Ange juxtaposed simple faith-affirming words of children.
I recall thinking Fr Daniel-Ange was a spiritual genius. A theologian with a powerful intellect in his own right, Father easily could have parsed and refuted “the intellectual experts” doubting clear Catholic teaching. Instead, Father appealed to Christ’s example in Matthew 18. When faced with apostles squabbling over who was the greatest, Jesus invited a little child to join them.
“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven,” Jesus said.
Father’s child co-authors expressed humble trust in God. Each child also expressed heartfelt love for God and for neighbour, and for doing kindness onto others. This is the theological core of the two greatest commandments, as proclaimed by Our Lord. This is also the faith of children that Christ demanded his squabbling apostles emulate.
Fr Daniel-Ange’s young co-authors come to mind as I reflect upon the latest Catholic controversy surrounding Raymond Arroyo, America’s favourite celebrity Catholic since the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy. As a New York Times’ bestselling author and the host of EWTN‘s The World Over, one can be forgiven for believing Mr Arroyo is an expert in the Catholic faith. Some even argue Mr Arroyo is a greater expert in Catholic teaching than is Pope Francis as St Peter’s successor.
Mr Arroyo’s latest upset appears to be as follows: Pope Francis and the Church are listening to children like that gathered by Jesus or those quoted by Fr Daniel-Ange. Obviously, Pope Francis and the Church ought to be listening to experts like him. “Why are we listening to young people, who really have not experienced a lot of life? Or of God frankly?” Mr Arroyo objects. Pat Neve has the twitter clip here:
— Patrick Neve (@CatholicPat) April 13, 2018
Why should the Church listen to young people despite their lack of experience in life and in Church politics? I would think the answer is clear. At least for any Catholic who mediates upon the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ quoted above. Because Jesus said so.
And why does Jesus say so? Because humility and simplicity of faith before God makes young people the Church’s greatest theologians.
As my own personal experiment, I asked my youngest daughter (age 9) why the Church should listen to little people like her.
“Because Jesus loves kids,” she replied. “And I really like to lead the rosary.”
As a Byzantine Catholic, her answer irks me a tad. Obviously she prefers the Latin rosary over traditional Eastern devotions to the Theotokos. (She is the most Latin of our seven children in other ways as well–the only one to prefer to Latin rite.) Yet in her innocence before God she herself does not worry about such adult theological concepts as Latinization. She simply trusts in the love of Christ. And in her simple devotion to the Mother of God.
If Christ were standing here today amidst Mr Arroyo, my daughter, and myself, I imagine He would instruct the two adults present to listen to her. (That is if you can count me as an adult.) And my friend Suzanne, smiling from Heaven, would be proud of her.