Today is the feast of Saint Agnes. Saint Ambrose (excerpt in today’s Office of Readings) says that Saint Agnes was in her twelfth year when she was martyred for the faith. It always strikes me as remarkable when some of the young saints are celebrated in the liturgy.
The only way Saint Agnes could die for the faith (which martyrdom presumes) is if she knew it and loved it; or to put it another way, she knew and loved Jesus to such an extent that she would allow nothing to come between her and him.
I think we often sell children short when it comes to the faith. Children who have attained the use of reason are capable of heroic faith. They are capable of sin, and therefore also capable of avoiding it. They are capable of self-sacrifice and service.
I would suggest that in our age, when an irreligious and often sacreligious culture is presented to children from an early age via movies, television and the internet, children should be fortified all the more with the teachings of the faith to help them navigate and evaluate everything that they see around them. Some people seem to adopt the attitude that some things (particularly things regarding faith and the moral life) should be taught to children later, “when they understand them more.” However, if we allow children’s values and morals to be shaped by the world around us we should hardly be surprised that, when they become young adults, they’re likely to have many views that do not sit easily with Christian faith and morals.
So, three cheers for those parents who are actively teaching their children the faith, and giving them all the resources and tools of the faith to make wise choices in the world. May God given wisdom to parents as they help their children to become saints.
Co-incidently, I saw this morning the following article: Bishop encourages children to become ‘little missionaries’.