AN ITALIAN ADAGE SAYS, "GOD AND the child speak the same language." We often wonder what is happening inside young children with their relationship to God. Do they know secrets which we do not? Is it possible to discover or define their mysterious relationship? There are so many things we cannot know about young children, and this is a wonderful mystery of its own. There are things we are not meant to know with exactitude.
We can observe a tremendous amount of activity and formation taking place in young children from birth to 6 years of age. Astonishing leaps are made in the development of coordination, independence, and social skills. Children absorb an entire language system and internalize the culture in which they live by the age of 6. There have been many advances in child care and early childhood education aimed at the preschool child, and even infants, in order to meet their needs more fully.
There is, however, an aspect of children's development that is not given the same attention: their spiritual life. Dr. Sofia Cavalletti (see "Teaching Us the Source of Joy," page 23), to the "religious potential" of the child: The child is not only a being of movement, cognition, and language but also a spiritual being. If, as has been determined by so many educators and psychologists, the time from birth to 6 is such a profound period of growth, then it must also be a sensitive time in the spiritual formation of the child. We can presume the presence of God in a particular way during this special period of development.