Sister Denise Bérubé, C.N.D., teaching a group of children about prayer. Photos courtesy of Marywood Retreat Centre.
People make images of God, as they grow from early childhood to adulthood. Sometimes these images more accurately reflect the character of God, and sometimes they do not.
A few years ago, I heard this story: “A teacher asked her Grade 1 students to draw something or someone they loved. As she was walking among the students’ desks, she noticed one little girl who was drawing with much gusto. She asked her: ‘What are you drawing?’ The little girl answered: ‘God,’ to which the teacher replied: ‘But, no one has ever seen God.’ The little girl stopped her drawing, and looked up at the teacher, and said: ‘Well, they will when they see my drawing!’”
“What is God like?”
Scripture teaches us that people are made in the image of God. And people make images of God, as they grow from early childhood to adulthood. Sometimes these images accurately reflect the character of God, and sometimes they do not. If children are constantly presented with a vengeful God, a taskmaster God, a judging God, a God who keeps track of every wrongdoing and every mistake, they will grow to fear God, and to have very low self-esteem. But, if they are introduced early on to the God Jesus reveals to us—a God of love, a peaceful God, a forgiving God, they will grow to love God and to love themselves and others.
At Marywood Retreat Centre in Cranbrook, British Columbia, Jade Stuart, a participant in the children’s program, is shown praying.
The younger the children, the more they will absorb. God has given us as a Christian community the precious opportunity to teach our children to know God. Children can be taught that it is possible to have a personal relationship with God and that, actually, God desires to have a personal relationship with them, that God looks forward to having a chat with them through prayer.
Not only are young children able to comprehend things of the Spirit, they also seem to be better at being open and ready to hear the Good News and to “go out and tell” their friends, family and community members.
Through the Family Programs periodically held at Marywood, we offer a space for parents, grandparents, trusted adults and children to come together to discover who God is in their lives, how to pray, how to partner with God and with others in the building of the Kingdom of God.
In the words of an eight-year old girl at one of our sessions: “When Jesus loves you, He never lets you go, even when you hurt or are angry inside.” May we all be open to learn “What God is like” from the children around us.
Sister Denise Bérubé, a member of the Notre Dame congregation (C.N.D.), worked as co-director of Marywood Retreat Centre in Cranbrook, British Columbia, in the Diocese of Nelson.
Reprinted from Catholic Missions In Canada Magazine. (www.cmic.info).