As we grow older, we concern ourselves more with facts and science and fail to see the beauty around us.
Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Luke 18:17). The meaning of Jesus’ words has fascinated Christians for centuries and many have pondered over what Jesus meant that we need to be like children.
One possibility that some have expressed is the child’s ability to wonder and find excitement in the created things of this world.
Sofia Cavalletti, biblical scholar and founder of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, discovered this ability in children and made it a central focus of her apostolate. Cavalletti explains in her book, The Religious Potential of the Child, how “it has been observed that ‘early childhood develops under the sign of wonder;’ for the child everything is a source of wonder because everything is new. Wonder is an exceedingly important stimulus for the human spirit, so much so that Plato said: ‘This sense of wonder is the mark of the philosopher. Philosophy indeed has no other origin.”
For ancient philosophers, their knowledge of the world began with wonder. They saw creation and simply started to “wonder,” asking the deepest questions about life before going into any scientific study.
In a particular way Cavalletti links wonder with contemplation, showing the similarities between the two concepts. She adds that, “when wonder becomes a fundamental attitude of our spirit it will confer a religious character to our whole life, because it makes us live with the consciousness of being plunged into an unfathomable and immeasurable reality.”
Children find wonder in everything, from the smallest acorn, to the largest mountain. As we grow older, our ability to wonder at the simplest things is diminished if we do not actively cultivate it. We become more “scientific” in our view of the world and only focus on the “facts” that will get us to our next milestone at work. The world and all it contains is not viewed as a work of beauty, but as a list of resources we can use to achieve our goals.
Writer Veronica Arntz wrote an article for the Cardinal Newman Society, where she explains a key to recapturing our ability to wonder.
Wonder is the beginning of learning for children and for adults. What, then, is a good way to cultivate the experience of wonder in our modern society? Aristotle has already given us an indication: The ancients began looking at the moon and the sun, and then to the ultimate genesis of the universe. In other words, nature inspired wonder within the souls of the ancients.
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She goes on to add, “Nature, God’s great creation, is a profound teacher. We live in a world that is mechanized and virtual; the number of children who have never seen a real cow or experienced the songbirds because of living in a city is astonishing. Yet we are meant to live in harmony with nature…Here is where wonder begins: looking at the intricacies of a fern leaf, listening to the linnet sing, admiring the magnificence of an oak tree.”
If we can only attain the Kingdom of God by being like a child, let us start with wonder and look at the created world in a new way. By doing so, we will recognize the awe-inspiring work of our Creator and see how everything is “charged” with the Glory of God.