By Rt. Rev. Mgr. Joseph Mullin
National Director of the Pontifical Society of the Holy Childhood
ON Friday next boys and girls of the 2.500 or so Catholic schools of England and Wales will be celebrating Holy Childhood Day, the world wide mission day for the schools, started by the Holy Father seven years ago. It is a day of prayer, and the Bishops have asked for arrangements to be made to have the special Holy Childhood Day ceremony either in school or, better still, in the church.
The children will be asked to pray for all the mission boys and girls, two-thirds of the children of the world, and especially for the boys and girls of the Church of Silence — China, Northern Korea and Northern Vietnam.
vEAR by year I am able to report to the readers of this paper that our Catholic boys and girls in these stricken lands are still standing firm under persecution.
There were the two Chinese schoolgirls, for example, who knelt unfalteringly for four hours on broken boards before a jeering crowd while Communists took turns beating them over the head. The girls were ordered to renounce the Church. They refused.
Knowing well that the same torture awaited them. the girls calmly returned to school the next day. Morning and afternoon they were tortured exactly as before. Both fainted, They were revived with water and the punishment continued. When the Communists realised they could not break their spirit, they drove the girls from the school.
IT is not only under persecution A that the children show their heroism. An altar boy serving Mass in a remote part of China suddenly fainted. He WAS carried out, and after Mass the priest went out to see him.
" How are you feeling, Viator?" " It's nothing. Father," he stammered, his eyes tilling up.
" What do you mean, nothing ? Don't be afraid to say what was up, Viator."
" Father, it's because 1 haven't had my breakfast, and it wasn't my turn for supper last night."
Not his turn for supper! And supper in this part would be just boiled grain. bad grain sometimes. The children of the world in the Holy Childhood help to feed starving boys and girls all over the mission world. But as far as the Communist territories go we cannot even smuggle their money in, let alone give it openly.
A LETTER HA PP I L Y not all the stories from the mission fields are of perse cution and suffering. There are flashes of humour and of the freedom with God that you expect from children and saints.
Children the world over (unlike some of the adults of one's acquaintance) arc not only willing to answer 'letters but even to set the ball rolling and write them themselves.
A Japanese schoolgirl showed her teacher a letter she had written to Maria Same, our Blessed Lady. She intended it as a sort of airmail to Heaven. " Do you think, Sister, the Good Lady will read my letter?"
Dear Maria Sama,
How is your noble health? I am not sick, but it seems that I am becoming a had girt Watch over me that I might always be good and please help me, because I have so mueh trouble to learn my lessons. Forgive rue for hitting my little brother the other day. Take me to Heaven with you some
Yukiko is still a pagan, hut her love for our Lady is genuine. She comes to church every Sunday, and is hoping to be baptised some day.
LINQUA. who also writes letters. is a young Hindu in an Indian
mission school. He got interested in stories of the Holy Family and soon decided that there was nobody like St. Joseph. So he made up his mind to drop him a note:
Dear St. Joseph,
From what I hear you are the Father of the Child Jesus, so you must be rather powerful. Well now listen. One of the Sisters in our school is sick. . It's up to you to cure her. If you don't, who's going to tell us stories about your family? Nobody at all, so we won't be able to learn the truth. I want you to send me eight annas, because I would like to go to the big feast day of our Blessed Lady at Kotagiri, and very humbls I ask your help.
I have told you what I want, but it's not what I want that matters. it's what Our Lord wants. So if you give me what 1 am asking, thank you very much, and if you don't. thank you even more,
1 wonder if any Saint could write a letter better than that?
Less edifying, 1 suppose, is the episode of the little girl called Anne (country and details not given) who ended up her night prayers with this: "Please, God. let there be vitamins in pie and cake as well as in spinach."
THIS work of the Holy See for the mission children is making good progress in the schools of England and Wales. One stumbling block is that in boys' schools, especially grammar schools, it is sometimes thought that the Holy Childhood is just a matter of rescuing babies and that our propaganda is not suited for, say. the 11 to 13 age group. As a result the Society is not allowed in the school.
This is completely against the ruling of the Holy See. In his address to the second world congress of Lay Apostles last year the Holy Father said that one aspect of the education of young Catholics which cannot be neglected is the formation of their apostolic spirit. And as the example of how this can be done he gave the Holy Childhood Society: " Movements like the Holy Childhood have been most successful in this direction."
For the Holy See then, this Papal Society is not just a collecting Society; it is an apostolate. And in every school. whether it be for boys or for girls. for younger children or for the 11 to 13 age group, the Holy Father has asked repeatedly that the Holy Childhood should he taken up with enthusiasm.
Quite apart from the fact that the older boys and girls are working in this Society for mission boys and girls their own age and older, they need the educational formation in the apostolic spirit. of which the Holy .Father speaks; and the Holy See expects this to be done, as far as the under thirteens are concerned. through the 'Holy Father's own Society of the Holy Ch ild hood.
Perhaps the most significant thing about this speech of the Holy Father's statement is that he was not speaking of foreign missions but of work for souls everywhere.
The first sentence in the Statutes of the Holy Childhood, it is worth noticing, says exactly the same thing: making apostles comes first, working for the missions comes second.
England and each' parish in it benefits from this apostolate if if is carried out in this spirit. Every school should grasp eagerly this instrument of apostolate which the Holy See has placed in its hands.