Written by, Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna
Lately I have contemplated the dignity of the child. Their is much talk about dying with dignity, but how do we teach our young to live with dignity despite difficulties and adverse situations. I strive to find ways to teach and guide the young that encourages their authenticity and honors (and perhaps hones) some of their impulses without resorting to anger, or frustration or shame.
Sometimes I forget to place myself in the shoes of the child, how are they seeing their world, experiencing it? If I fall into the mad dash of an adult driven world where my pace is hurried, do I expect them to fall in step? But what if their basic needs aren’t being met, their need for food, clothing, shelter, sleep, love, for exploration? How can I slow down to listen with not only my ears, but my heart and eyes too?
When I looked at the photo gallery of the Warm Clothing Give Away Party, my heart is drawn to the pictures of a dignified child beaming at the photographer, and the lesson that the Visitation Sisters are once again teaching me, that we do not give things to our children, we give our hearts to them. When we give our hearts to them dignity follows. When dignity follows, children blossom, and behaviors fall away to heartfelt, dignified responses. Thank you Sisters. Thank you children who are patient enough with us adults to endure and hold hope that we will see rightly once again.
From the St. Francis de Sales Association I found a guide towards holy dignity.
“Many Salesian followers begin each day with ‘the direction of intentions’: My God, I give you this day. I offer You, now all the good that I shall do and promise to accept, for love of You, all the difficulties that I shall meet. Help me to conduct myself this day in a manner pleasing to You. …”
“The following are some of the highlights from Salesian spirituality:
- God is love, and all creation is an outpouring of that love.
- All creation has been made for Christ, with Christ and through Christ.
- All creation should be treated with respect and care.
- Jesus is the model for all fully human living.
- You possess divine dignity and are worthy of profound respect.
- God has testified that you are good, worthy of divine love and mercy.
- Despite your weakness and sinfulness, God loves you so much that He sent His only Son to become human.
- You are called to be holy, that is, to grow in union with God.
- Pursuing a holy life is called “devotion,” that is, doing what is both commanded and counseled by God promptly, actively, and diligently.
- The pursuit of holiness must be practical. It must transform your attitudes, attributes, and actions.
- Acknowledge your sins and failing, learn from them, but do not dwell on them.
- God gives you talents and abilities, gifts that should be discovered, developed and used for the good of others.
- Relationships are essential to living a fully human, that is, a holy life.
- Each moment of each day comes from the hand of a loving God and is graced for your salvation.
- The only time you have is each present moment. Don’t live in the past; don’t dwell on the future.
- Living each moment to the fullest with an eye to loving God must lead you to show compassion for others.
- The challenge of each moment is discerning God’s will, that is, the particular, unique way that God may be calling you to love Him, yourself, and others.
- God’s will is frequently communicated through the events, circumstances, and relationships in which you find yourself.
- God seldom requires you to perform great or extraordinary feats, but He always challenges you to perform everyday actions with extraordinary attention and enthusiasm.
- The “little virtues” of patience, humility, gentleness, simplicity, honesty, and hospitality are powerful means for growing holy.
- All prayer and meditation must lead to action.
- The motivation with which you perform some action may be far more important and powerful than the action itself.
- Freedom is one of the most precious and powerful gifts that God gives you.
- You are to use that freedom to grow in conformity to God’s will.
- Intellectual learning, prayerful reflection, social interaction, work, play and all things creative should be valued as graced by God and viewed as means for growing into a fully human person.
- Each new day is a new beginning, a new opportunity for growing in holiness.
- Let your passion be disciplined.
- Let your discipline be passionate.
- Keep things in perspective.
- Develop a sense of humor.”
And with the teachings and guidance of St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal, I stand poised and dignified. May we stand dignified and gentle with our young.