Bill Hodgson: Let the children come to me

Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14) What is the age of conversion? Sometimes we refer to an “age of reason,” the point in development where a child shows a sense of conscience.

It is not the same as the age of thinking. We can watch babies in action and know they are already thinking.

The time between these marvelous moments and developing a sense of right and wrong, sufficient for conversion, may well be a time of “pre-evangelization.”

If we think of the parable of the Sower and the Seed, this is something like preparing the soil to be good soil in advance.

I’ve seen times parents are hesitant to bring babies or toddlers to church thinking they might be a distraction.

Often, it may be a delight for older members who no longer have children at home. One thing we can be sure about is that these “little ones” are taking in all kinds of information while they are there.

Think of the earliest memories you may have of church, or prayer, or singing.

Mine are associated with Christmas. I remember going into the church where there was little light. The Christmas tree was lit up and there was a small light from a star over the Nativity scene. The sense of people gathering as some candles were being lit all gave me a sense of something about to happen when the music began. Without anything being spoken, I took in messages.

Returning home afterward, we settled into sleep to await “Christmas,” another surprise followed by the arrival of relatives. All of it was wrapped in a first impression of Christmas, and of Christ.

Later on, as I experienced the attraction of and call of the Gospel, these early memories were more than just a backdrop, but were still a dynamic early preparation for the full Gospel.

Welcoming a child into a church often opens the door to a youthful conversion that grows and becomes stronger along with the child’s natural growth.

As always, it is God who moves any human heart from sin to conversion and a life of perseverance in faith hope and love.

When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.

So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:11-13).

Pastor Fr. Bill Hodgson is the priest at St. Edward Catholic Church in Cassville. He may be reached at 417-847-4948 or stedwardcassville@