Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Innocence of Childhood and The Poetic Mode

Today, the VIS (Vatican Information Service) posted an excerpt from Pope Francis' Wednesday Catechesis marking the World Day Against Child Labour.  I'll post their article, then thoughts I have on the topic:  

Wednesday, June 12, 2013
FRANCIS: SERENE CHILDHOOD IS A RIGHT AND OUR DUTYVatican City, 12 June 2013 (VIS) – At the end of his catechesis, the Holy Father launched an appeal for the protection of children, noting that today marks the World Day Against Child Labour, which is focusing particular attention on the exploitation of children in domestic work, a deplorable situation that is constantly increasing, especially in many of the poorest countries. The Pope called upon the international community to take more effective measures against “this real plague”.

“There are millions of children,” Francis said, “mostly girls, who are victims of this hidden form of exploitation that often involves abuse, mistreatment, and discrimination. It is real slavery. … All children should be able to play, study, pray, and grow, in their own families and in an atmosphere of harmony, love, and serenity. It is their right and our duty. A serene childhood allows children to look with confidence towards life and the future. Woe to whomever stifles within them their joyful enthusiasm of hope!”

In his final greetings, the Holy Father addressed members of the International Committee of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul who were present in the Square. They are celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of their founder, Blessed Frederic Ozanam. “God is stronger than evil,” Francis told them. “In a world that is difficult at times, be bearers of God's hope and love.”

This I think speaks to a larger issue at the fore that goes beyond just child labor and is captured, in essence, in the title of the article- "Serene Childhood".

In the Poetic Mode of learning and education, children are able to discover nature through wonder.  This "mode" of learning incites wonder about the nature of people, creation, and ideas or concepts.  So much of what "today's child" is taught to need is intrusive, abrasive, disjointed, and confronts the natural senses with an inundation of information, technology, and general white "noise".  This, to me, is an affront to a "Serene Childhood".  

When Pope Francis says, "All children should be able to play, study, pray, and grow, in their own families and in an atmosphere of harmony, love, and serenity" he is getting at a larger idea than just a lowest common denominator of not being sold into slavery or child labor.  He is speaking to what is at the heart of what God created a family to be- a physical reality of an unseen truth- the Trinity.  

Our final end with God is to contemplate Him.  The pre-cursor to contemplation is knowledge, and the pre-cursor to knowledge is wonder.  This gets to the very heart of what it means to engage a child in the Poetic Mode.  It is to star gaze, walk among forests, explore stories and unfold them in the mind through talking about them, hear a sonnet and think about it or learn it by heart, or just sing a song for the love of singing.

This mode cannot be found within a smart phone, laptop, television, or email address.  The only things to be found in these places is constant streams of information, and un-real communication that misses the key element- the other person.

The Poetic Mode requires interaction with everything that is real, true, good, and beautiful.  Nature shows the grandeur of God all on it's own in every form.  Children only need be led to it and then taught to wonder, and carry that wonder in their heart and mind with them all day long.    In short, to "waste time" (so to speak) and give them avenues to get lost in a story, nature walk, nighttime sky, or a poem is to give them what is "pre-moral" and the stage before knowing right from wrong, good from bad, and so on.

Here are a couple fantastic links to read further on this topic:

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