A devotion I feel more and more called to is that of the Child Jesus. This devotion celebrates the mystery of Christ’s Incarnation, the almost unbelievable reality that God became a baby, needing all the care and love human babies need to survive. Yet at the same time, He remained a Divine king and was worshipped as such from the time of His birth. Wise men and lowly shepherds recognized this. So too have saints in every age. To domesticate this truth, to strip it of its radicality, is to gut our faith.
St. Thérèse, the Little Flower, also had a devotion to the Child Jesus. This should come as no surprise given how she conceived of herself as humble and meek, needing God’s care at all times and in all things. In her spiritual autobiography, she likened herself to a toy for the Child Jesus: He could use her when and where He would, finding pleasure in what she had to offer back to Him. She could be herself with this accepting Child. I want to stress that this acknowledgment of her reliance on God did not lead her to laziness or childish reliance on others. Quite to the contrary, Thérèse strove to fulfill the hardest, most mundane duties of Carmel such as washing clothes and mopping floors. But she didn’t have the world-weariness with which adults clean the house while distractedly thinking of bills or sickness or work. Her devotion to the humble, kind, unassuming Christ Child infused her work with the strength, simplicity, and vitality that children bring to play. It made her present to her work and those most in need around her. She was joyful throughout even the most dreaded tasks and while in the company of the most disliked nuns. She truly was poor in spirit like the little Christ Child she considered her playmate.
A follower of Thérèse’s Little Way, Servant of God Dorothy Day, showed her readers just how powerful a witness the spiritual poverty of children can be. In a 1953 article called “Poverty is the Pearl of Great Price,” she wrote, “We are told to put on Christ and we think of Him in His private life, His life of work, His public life, His teaching and His suffering life. But we do not think enough of His life as a little child, as a baby. His helplessness. His powerlessness. We have to be content to be in that state, too. Not to be able to do anything, to accomplish anything. One thing children certainly accomplish, and that is that they love and wonder at the people and the universe around them…They see people at the moment and love them and admire them. They forgive and they go on loving” (https://catholicworker.org/172-html/) . Though they may not “be able to do anything, to accomplish anything” in the eyes of the world, children can be present to and love even the most difficult people. They can forgive and make friends. This is the heart of our faith. This is how we are called to treat others. We must embrace the poverty of the Christ Child who could do nothing but love in order to live out this Mystery of the Incarnation in our day-to-day lives.
Discover the Novena to the Infant Jesus of Prague: https://infantprague.org/novena-prayer-to-the-infant/ Finish in time for Christmas (the Feast of the Incarnation) by starting on December 16.
Who is one person in your life that needs forgiveness? Can you turn this over to the Infant Jesus this Advent season?
Image of Adoration of the Shepherds can be found here: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/18/Adoration_of_the_Shepherds%2C_Murillo_%28Prado_Museum%29.jpg