In an article titled "The Sixth Generation" (Latin Mass Magazine, Summer 2012), Fr. Chad Ripperger predicted that:
The generation is coming which will be the full inversion of the tradition passed on both in and out of the Church. However, God will not abandon man: Extraordinary graces appear to be given to the children of the younger generation which have rarely been seen.
That generation seems to be upon us; the children growing up in the current horrendous spiritual condition of society surely are vulnerable to a spirit of paganism due to the sexual depravity evident around us today. But Fr. Ripperger told me in a private e-mail that he has seen children with some of the extraordinary graces he mentions in the above quote, including the desire for martyrdom, the motivation for penitential fasting, and calls to religious vocations — all in young children.
A 10-year-old girl — I'll call her Jane — has come into my life recently, and while she doesn't seem to show the desire for anything quite as dramatic as martyrdom or fasting, she does seem to exhibit some of that extraordinary grace. Jane is almost completely unchurched, but she says she believes in God, and she seems to have a desire to know Him unlike any I have ever seen in a child. How had she come to believe in God? She told me:
I had a cat that was really special to me, and she died, and I was very upset. I got over it after a while, but it just made me wonder: What happens to us when we die? Do we just disappear? It seems like something else must happen. There just has to be something more after we die, so there has to be a God.
When Jane began to ask questions about "your religion," I saw quickly the need to know what she knew before I could begin to answer. When I asked what she knew about Jesus, she replied, "He has to do with a cross, right?" She didn't know much more than that. She had seen a Nativity scene, but wondered who "all those men" were — meaning the Wise Men. It was news to her that Easter was about the resurrection of Our Lord, and not about bunnies and eggs.
I felt almost at a loss as to how to explain Our Lord, His death and resurrection and salvation to Jane. I didn't become Catholic until late in the game, but I was raised in a Christian (Episcopalian) family, and I can't remember a time when I didn't know about Jesus. I found it difficult to explain to a little girl who knew nothing about Our Lord! I simply started to explain in general terms, and let her interrupt with questions that popped into her mind.
Moral issues came to the fore, too. I was surprised to find that Jane had never heard of abortion; she was horrified when I explained that it was the murder of an unborn baby in the womb. She exclaimed, "I thought that when a woman was pregnant and she didn't want the baby, she gave it up for adoption!"
Jane posed the question of gay "marriage" to me, explaining that she has two gay uncles; she thought everyone was entitled to be happy, and to live with the person they love. I asked her what could bring us the most happiness; with barely a moment's hesitation, she answered, "Heaven!" I was surprised — but then again, an untainted conscience does have the imprint of God! I explained that God does not permit homosexual behavior, and that we cannot go to Heaven if we displease God with our sin. She agreed that sexual behavior between same-sex people was wrong, because "sex is for making babies, and they ... can't!"
Basically, Jane knew, without any training, that God created us, that He loves us and wants us to be happy, that there are certain rules we should follow in order to treat others justly, and that true happiness is found in Heaven. One wonders why so many adults seem to have trouble grasping these concepts!
Since we live in the cathedral parish of our diocese, I gave her a tour of the cathedral. She gazed about, completely awe-struck, and asked questions in hushed tones. Then she suddenly asked, "Why are we whispering?!" and giggled a little. I said, "It just feels like a place where you should whisper, doesn't it?" She agreed, and I told her it was appropriate because God is present, that Jesus is in the Tabernacle, and we show respect with our quiet voices.
"It's so big!" she noted, looking up at the ceiling. "It makes me feel really, really small!"
Would that more of the adults in our parish experienced the same sense of God's immensity! She watched me genuflect before the Tabernacle, and when we stopped in front of a statue of Our Lord, she said, "So Jesus is our King, isn't He?"
I described the Stations of the Cross to her, and she was very touched. She was appalled at the description I gave her of the Crucifixion. It was clear she was both sad and horrified that such a thing could happen to anyone, let alone Jesus, Whom she recognized had done nothing wrong.
Jane gives me hope; a little girl with no religious upbringing just seems to "get it"! She refreshes my own sense of awe and reverence, and brings me back to my "first love." She reminds me of the joy I experienced when I was first learning about the beauty of our faith. I'm learning anew through the eyes of an unchurched but sensitive little girl!
Please pray for this child, and for all of the children growing up without spiritual sustenance. It seems likely there may be many seeking Our Lord!