Suffer the Little Children

Francesco Marto died on this day, April 4th, in 1919, a year before his sister and fellow visionary, Jacinta, followed him the following February, 1920, both succumbing to what is inaccurately known to history as the ‘Spanish Flu’. Fitting intercessors for all children. One of my own nephews turns five on this day, half Francesco’s age when he entered eternity, and I’m glad he has both Isidore and the Fatima seers to help guide him on his own way towards heaven.

A half-century on, a Hercules transport plane, carrying orphans out of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam war, crashed in a rice paddy after a rear door blew off, killing 172; of the victims, 78 were children.

This is but one example I came across today, amongst any number we might recount: child victims of wars, past and present, disease, neglect, abortion, infanticide…

Why God allows the suffering of children – the innocent who know no sin – is one of those difficult mysteries of our Faith, scandalizing many. But we trust that in some way, in His infinite mercy, He brings them to salvation and eternal beatitude. Pope Saint John Paul wrote to mothers who had their children aborted, and his words may extend to all those who have lost little ones: To the same Father and his mercy you can with sure hope entrust your child. 

What is more, Saint Thomas states in his question on Confirmation, that ‘age of body does not equal age of soul‘, for the soul does not get ‘old’ with time, and God can bring any of us to full fruition through His grace. It is not as though we will all be the same age in heaven; rather, we will have no age, in that eternal spiritual ‘youth’ – if we must use earthly analogies – that is the fruit of beatitude, as the glory of the soul redounds upon the body.

I just listened to this podcast on the art of raising money for hospitals (I was surprised to hear that JFK had been given the sacrament of Extreme Unction, or Anointing of the Sick, five times). You might enjoy also the story of actor Danny Thomas and his promise to Saint Jude, and, towards the end, the ad campaign for Sick Children’s Hospital in Toronto, where someone near and dear to me had once spent a significant amount of time, and whose life they saved. (I won’t delve now into the not-so-good things they have supported – another time, perhaps).

Of course, we should do what we can to protect and heal children, but, even with our best efforts, they will suffer the wages of suffering and death, as will we all, until Christ returns. This life is a risky one, and we are prey to its vagaries. The only way we can make sense of what otherwise would be but tragic, even nihilistic, is to see all things sub specie aeternitatis – under the aspect of eternity, where, as Pope Leo XIII declared, we will truly begin to live. How many years we are given in the labyrinth of this transitory life is up to God, whether we take the long route of four score and twenty, or the short and more direct one, with but a few days in this mortal coil.

We might pray to all those children, known and unknown, whose lives were but brief arcs in this vale of tears, that they intercede to defeat the culture of death that so shrouds our world.

Ad vitam! +