When children are petulant they are reflecting in public the inner selves of adults. Of this I am sure. God has ways of permitting things to come to light which people are all too deft at keeping under wraps. This keeping things under wraps is twofold, in that one also believes "I am this" or "I am that". And there is nothing like children to tear this down. He uses the small to confound the proud and the conceited. Maybe that's one reason for the couples who decide to be childless forever. Though more so than not, I think the petulant children are reflecting the inner selves not of the parents, but of strangers or onlookers or observers or those thinking to themselves, "I'm such a saint for not being bothered by that petulant kid."
But how impoverished we are to not take a lesson - in fact, the only reason - from unflattering realizations about ourselves, by which we can mean: lies we've told about ourselves. Adults are way too good at control - at manipulation. We begin this manipulation in a sense on ourselves, when Christ wishes to free us from this. Interestingly, Jesus did not say control yourself, but deny yourself.
I've always loved the saints who did not have a whole lot to say, but whose lives say everything. St. Charbel is one of them. St. Thomas Aquinas is another. That one wrote volumes and the other wrote nothing is really irrelevant. What both had in common was the absence of what we call "self regard". Their lives were journeys.
Everyone has something of a deathbed lesson they would like to yell at the world; a lesson they've learned that they would have as their "if you had one thing to say to everyone else before leaving this earth, what would it be". I'm not really sure, but I think mine would be something like, "You do not know yourselves all that well. Don't jump the gun on yourselves. Christ knows how to deal with you; He knows how to identify Himself with your most vulnerable being; let Him form you."
Pope Francis would say, "Let Him love you." Which is a way better way of putting it. To let Him love you is intrinsically to deny yourself. An interesting paradox.
Something to avoid, by tending to the present moment with care and attention, is the typically American pathology that's always harping to supply oneself with one's own authenticity (and thus to be sealed in a world of mirrors). It does tend to be a libertarian disease, but not by any means is it limited to libertarianism. Nor does it stem from that in particular; rather libertarianism seems more like a willing host. It probably comes from the French Revolution. And Thoreau. LOL.
One sees this pathology spring up fairly consistently in the full range of subjects that people talk about; you see it when people talk about liturgy, for instance, and the banal dissatisfaction with banal parishes. It seems to get conflated with, and take the place of, the life of faith, even while recognizing the need for that which objectively feeds and nurtures. To everything that is ever said there is something else under it also being said; and the Authenticity that's kissing cousin with Americanism speaks quite frequently from under the orthodox words of the Holy Remnant. Our father is Abraham, and so forth.
The strain for Authenticity in today's climate pretty much equals Absolution - and damn the penance. Authenticity wipes away every tear. Damn responsibility. We have twelve kids: that mere fact alone must make us an Authentic Catholic Family. Don't insult us with your talk about responsibility; because we're Authentic. Because who ever heard of a pope speaking to parents about being responsible to their children which came from God? Our children are there to prove how Authentically Catholic we are! But those who have four kids are only one third Authentic. And those who have two? Totally cafeteria! And those who have none? Totally pagan! See first paragraph of this post. Do I contradict myself? Well then, Walt Whitman is also to blame for the disease of Authenticity. LOL.
All kinds of crimes and sins are excused or overlooked or even praised if the perpetrator is somehow deemed Authentic by a culture that knows nothing about virtue, purity and innocence. Committing sodomy, one is being Authentic. One feels inclined to commit adultery, then the self which feels this inclination must be one's most Authentic self. One must have incessant gore graphically depicted in films and get the audience more and more to inflict it with the co-op of their imaginations in order to be Authentic. It would seem today that one is not truly authentic until one is inside a hand basket and being thrown into hell.
There is under this, of course, the cynical and jaded attitude towards virtue and its practice. More commonly, this strain for Authenticity in practice is a hazy sort of ingratitude and the assuming of powers to oneself that one does not in fact possess. As though one could dig into oneself and bequeath oneself with one's own root system (or children). But we all know that parable about the stupid kids who pulled up the plants by the roots to check to see how the roots were growing, don't we?
There is a basic humility that is at the same time a basic self-respect, and it starts not by saying "I am this" or "I am that", but that I am a mystery to myself.
I was noticing some weeks back the "skunk cabbages" (I don't like that name; they should be called something better) starting to poke out from the muck of a swamp with their bright yellow-green leaves, and I was struck by how those tubers remain submerged in all that rank sludge, forgotten. The thought struck me as to how much we are like that. Call it a cliche, but the reality of the skunk cabbages is there, every late winter, to teach us. Our beginning is invisible to us (to borrow from St. Pope John Paul the Great).
Not that we are sludge. It's an analogy. The real point is that there is so much about us that is already established, of which we are frequently unaware, while our mind's occupations, though seemingly of the greatest substantiality and importance, can be quite ephemeral. Our roots grow in the dark, and in a way it is more accurate to speak of our tip-most blossoms as though they were attached from without, like the way a flower is placed in a woman's hair. For their ultimate end is out-bearing and giving, fructified by pollination that did not come from ourselves.
True faith consists in virtuous practice. The greatness or degree of faith is in the steady regard for how the smallest things and the smallest acts are never too small for God, and thus making it not too small for you and me.
We are not here to be authentic. We are here to move mountains. Not in the sense that we are heroes, (like the critics of Pope Francis who are so Super Catholic that they're Protestant) but in the sense that since the death of Christ and His resurrection, that is what there is to do, if you think about it. The mountain of our hard hearts; the mountain of our habitual sins; the ponderous, stupid blind mountain of pride; the mountain of self-esteem; the mountain of personal opinion. The mustard seed that says to the mountain...
The foot of the cross penetrates into the earth, causing cracks to run every way through the strata. The blood of Christ flows down into the cracks.
End note: being responsible does not permit the use of birth control devices or pills. The Church forbids these as intrinsic evils. What it does mean is self-control, which ultimately means self-denial.