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Spiritually Healthy Children View Comments
By Alicia von Stamwitz

DURING ART CLASS one day, a first-grade teacher noticed that one child was particularly engrossed in his drawing. She eventually wandered over and asked the child, “What are you drawing?”

“God,” he said, without looking up from his paper. The teacher said carefully, “But no one really knows what God looks like.”

“They will in a second!” he said.

I love this story because it captures something we all appreciate, but few of us think to nurture: the spiritual vitality and imagination of young children.

Most parents are keenly aware of their children’s social, emotional, intellectual and physical development. We record our children’s height with pencil marks on the kitchen wall and note milestones in photo albums and scrapbooks. We monitor their health and celebrate their achievements. As they grow older, we track their academic progress.

But how many of us track our children’s spiritual health and development?

In some ways, former generations had it easier. Spirituality was equated with religious practice. Those days are gone.

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Alicia von Stamwitz studied early childhood education at Tufts University in Massachusetts and journalism and communication at Washington University in St. Louis. She has taught middle school and preschool students and worked for Liguori Publications for 27 years. She is now an independent consultant and freelance author.

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Joseph Benedict Cottolengo: In some ways Joseph exemplified St. Francis’ advice, "Let us begin to serve the Lord God, for up to now we have made little or no progress" (<i>1 Celano, </i>#103). 
<p>Joseph was the eldest of 12 children. Born in Piedmont, he was ordained for the Diocese of Turin in 1811. Frail health and difficulty in school were obstacles he overcame to reach ordination. </p><p>During Joseph’s lifetime Italy was torn by civil war while the poor and the sick suffered from neglect. Inspired by reading the life of St. Vincent de Paul and moved by the human suffering all around him, Joseph rented some rooms to nurse the sick of his parish and recruited local young women to serve as staff. </p><p>In 1832 at Voldocco, Joseph founded the House of Providence which served many different groups (the sick, the elderly, students, the mentally ill, the blind). All of this was financed by contributions. Popularly called "the University of Charity," this testimonial to God’s goodness was serving 8,000 people by the time of Joseph’s beatification in 1917. </p><p>To carry on his work, Joseph organized two religious communities, the Brothers of St. Vincent de Paul and the Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul. Joseph, who had joined the Secular Franciscans as a young man, was canonized in 1934.</p> American Catholic Blog The image of God! This is what it means to be human! We are not just a bunch of cells randomly thrown together by some impersonal forces. Rather, we reflect an eternal God who knew us from before we were made and purposely called us into being.

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