"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

DAY IX: "Baby Knows Best" (JULY 26)

A la Pediatría desde el Arte. Niño cogiendo una fruta.
Mary Cassatt, c. 1893
Ninth Rule of the Discernment of Spirits: The principal reasons why we suffer from desolation are three:

The first is because we have been tepid and slothful or negligent in our exercises of piety, and so through our own fault spiritual consolation has been taken away from us.

The second reason is because God wishes to try us, to see how much we are worth, and how much we will advance in His service and praise when left without the generous reward of consolations and signal favors.

The third reason is because God wishes to give us a true knowledge and understanding of ourselves, so that we may have an intimate perception of the fact that it is not within our power to acquire and attain great devotion, intense love, tears, or any other spiritual consolation; but that all this is the gift and grace of God our Lord. God does not wish us to build on the property of another, to rise up in spirit in a certain pride and vainglory and attribute to ourselves the devotion and other effects of spiritual consolation. (SE 322)

God said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” Solomon answered: “O Lord, my God, you have made me, your servant, king to succeed my father David; but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act. I serve you in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong. For who is able to govern this vast people of yours?” (1 Kings 3:5, 7–12).

The story did not and must not end with Solomon. Wisdom after all was not Solomon’s exclusive privilege. For I found somebody in our midst, so much younger than he, who makes choices in life that looks far different from her older contemporaries. I would like to tell you about the baby girl in a epic children’s book entitled “Baby Knows Best” by Kathy Henderson and illustrated by Brita Granström. The author pokes fun at grown-ups who have the mould of showering children with a lot of worldly allurements, thinking they could make them happy. The book, with its 18 pages of colorful illustrations, can prove many of us wrong. (Click to read the abridged story All I Need To Learn I Learn From Children's Books)

In the story, the baby is given all sorts of toys that most parents are willing to buy no matter the tag price. But what does this baby want? Her attention is captured upon the sight and sound of the front door keys. Perhaps she might be wondering, “There is something about these shiny little stuff for they unlock in me joy.” Like music to her ears, the front door keys signal the arrival of her loved ones back home. They open up a spiritual house which many would call “home.” The baby, even if she could not talk, already speaks the language of the spirit. She sees and feels the color, texture and shape of it. All her loved ones are just deaf, blind and indifferent to its grandeur.

Next is the pile of cardboard picture books. But the baby does not like those because she prefers the newspaper that Daddy reads. The poor baby girl flounders around clumsily and helplessly to reach out to Daddy. I can imagine on some other occasion perhaps she will do the same to her brother and sister whose eyes are glued to their gadgets. It seems the baby is beginning to acquire ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) that is triggered by lack of attention.

When it comes to clothes, one wonders why she has accumulated more sets of clothes than anyone of us—clothes she does not even need. She feels more comfortable wearing what she had at birth—nothing at all! In the world-view of this child, “less” means “more” and “more” means “less.” She heralds the urgent call of Laudato Si'—"... a bold cultural revolution ... slow down and look at reality in a different way… recover the values and the great goals swept away by our unrestrained delusions of grandeur" [LS 114].

At the dining table, she is given a specially mashed up baby food. But what does she want to eat? What we have. That to me is the seed of togetherness and solidarity. It is meant to grow in each of us the moment we were born but the soil of allurement of the world has killed it. The sweet ending shows the protagonist rejecting carriage and crib, which are the modern-day symbols of alienation, secularism, and consumerism. Where in this world does the child like to sleep? Snuggled up in the arms of a mother. Early in life the baby already has to struggle and compete to bring Mommy and Daddy back home after a day’s work. She is after their warm presence and not those cold and devoid-of-spirit material presents. Indeed the baby knows much better than any of us combined. Without doubt we have found somebody greater than Solomon here.

The Pope’s Three Appeals To All Human Beings
In times like this, first we need to go back to the basics. Pope Francis is urging all human beings to “return to that simplicity which allows us to stop and appreciate the small things…to be spiritually detached from what we possess, and not to succumb to sadness for what we lack…” [LS 222]. The value of small things, that may seem useless, is key to making a difference in the world. We can start by taking baby steps towards unlearning what could still be unlearned. Cut down on our consumerist lifestyle when we can still do something.

However, baby steps are impossible to take without personal conversion or what we may call “pathways of hope.” Pathways towards a more sustainable way of living ought to be created if it can no longer be found amidst the giant leaps of human consumerism. What this world needs are people who could find a way against two real temptations: temptation to condemn God’s creation and temptation to despair. Pope Francis tells us that “all is not lost. Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good and making a new start… No system can completely suppress our openness to what is good, true, and beautiful. He makes the appeal to everyone throughout the world not to forget this dignity which is ours…” [LS 205]. Pathways are opened when one begins to accept that he or she has contributed, in one way or the other, to the destruction of our common home.

Finally, let us take the cue from the vulnerable, unprotected child in us. The baby is in control; she makes the key decisions in the family; she can command even just by being a baby in her vulnerable and little form. She has freedom, and hope and has not yet succumb to despair. She is in the in-between world, between weakness and strength, submission and possession, spiritual and material. Our world could be seen only through the eyes of childlike wonder and awe. It could be understood only through an understanding heart, a childlike heart. Fr. JM Manzano, SJ

Fifth day of our Novena of Grace in honour of St. Ignatius of Loyola
Repeat this prayer for nine successive days. The first novena happened between the Feast of the Ascension and Pentecost, when the disciples gathered in the upper room and devoted themselves to prayer.

Suscipe (Prayer by St. Ignatius)
Take, O Lord, and receive
all my liberty, my memory,
my understanding and my entire will. All I have and call my own. Thou hast given all to me, to Thee, O Lord, I return it. Everything belongs to Thee; do with it as Thou wilt. Give me only the love of Thee and with it Thy grace, that is enough for me. Amen.

With St. Ignatius we pray:
Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O Good Jesus, hear me.
Within Thy wounds hide me.
Suffer me not to be separated from Thee.
From the malignant enemy defend me.
In the hour of my death call me.
And bid me come unto Thee,
That with all Thy saints,
I may praise Thee
Forever and ever.

St. Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us.