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Catholic Activity: Self-Defense vs. Detachment


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Teach children that natural evils were not part of God's original plan for us, but were introduced to the world through Adam and Eve's sin.


Someone posed this problem, however. If you go too far with all this, wouldn't a child conclude that he must stand still and let a wild beast devour him because the beast is God's? But we are always permitted to defend ourselves. God gave Adam the animals and told him to "rule over them." So we are their masters, and they were made to serve us. If some of the saints, in perfect detachment, could walk with serenity into the jaws of wild beasts, we can only wonder at their abandonment and pray that we too may one day trust as they did. Lacking such trust (and it is a rare and wonderful gift), it is never a sin to kill a mad dog, or a poisonous snake, or even — and children will bring it up — swat a fly or kill a mosquito.

"Well, I wish they'd never committed original sin, and these darned mosquitoes wouldn't bite." And Jamie, scratching madly, begins to understand something of the nature of a fallen world when he applies it to mosquito bites.

St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans helps a great deal to explain to children about the world and its longing to be restored to harmony (although it has to be retold in words they understand). In it he wrote:

For creation was made subject to vanity, not by its own will, but by reason of him that made it subject, in hope, because creation itself also shall be delivered from its slavery to corruption, into the freedom of the glory of the sons of God. For we know that all creation groans and travails in pain until now.

Even the storms and tornadoes and earthquakes which seem so cruel and mysterious are the result of the fall. And St. Paul says this would not have happened if God had not made nature share in the punishment for man's sin. But in its way, nature too hopes for the day when harmony will be restored and it will be perfect again.

This is very comforting to a child who listens to hurricane warnings on the radio and asks: "Will there be a hurricane be cause God wants to show us His power?" He is not a cruel God. He is perfect and just. But He warned Adam not to disobey. It was Adam's sin that set in motion the cruelty in nature, and if Jesus had not consented to become Man and share these misfortunes with us, we would never know what to do with them. He turned punishment inside out for us, and gave us a way to use the sufferings we endure, from mosquito bites all the way up to hurricanes. We can pour them into the well of His own suffering and help Him redeem the world along with Him. And of course this is the only answer to natural disorders and afflictions which makes any sense. Many children learn it, while many "wise" men do not.

Activity Source: We and Our Children by Mary Reed Newland, Image Books, 1961

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