“I would like to know more about Jesus Christ. How did he walk on water?”
Eight-year-old Natasha, from Kenya, poses this question to Pope Francis on Page 8 of the new book from Loyola Press, “Dear Pope Francis: The Pope Answers Letters from Children Around the World.” Her letter is beautifully decorated with aqua water, tropical fish, a brilliant sun and a tall-crowned-bedecked Jesus balancing atop the waves.
How many times have grown-ups wondered the same thing — with a little less imagination?
Pope Francis answers Natasha’s question simply, truthfully, and with great humor: “… He did not fly over the water or turn somersaults while swimming .... He walked, one foot after the other, as if the water were land .... God cannot sink, you know!”
Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, director of La Civiltá Cattolica, spent an afternoon with Pope Francis, sharing letters and drawings from children at Jesuit ministries all over the world with the pope and recording his answers. “But these are tough questions!” Pope Francis said to Spadaro after looking through the stack. Luckily, this did not deter the pontiff from taking on the challenge.
More than 250 letters were received in preparation for the book, from 26 countries and eight continents, and in 14 languages. The children’s letters, with illustrations, are reproduced on the left-hand side of each two-page spread, along with a picture of the child and an English translation of the question. On the right-hand side is Pope Francis’ response to each child.
Ryan, age 8, from Canada, asks a question many people ask after reading the Book of Genesis: “… what did God do before the world was made?” Ryan’s picture is of Jesus standing atop a blue and green Earth with stars scattered all around, his arms spread wide. Pope Francis tells Ryan that God not only created time, “the before and after,” but that “before creating anything, God loved … God always loves. God is love.”
Some of the children’s questions are practical, and the pope replies with straightforward answers and, again, much humor. Josephine, age 8, from the United Kingdom, asks, “… where is your favorite place to pray and why?” Pope Francis tells Josephine that he likes “to pray everywhere,” even “while walking, or even when I go to the dentist.” That’s advice anyone can use.
As the book’s title tells us, the questions are from children around the world, but what’s striking is the shared practical nature of the queries and the artistry of the pictures, which would look at home gracing the refrigerators or bulletin boards of parents and grandparents of any country.
In Matthew 18:3, Christ says to his disciples, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Reading this child-inspired book — perhaps even with a child — could very well help you on this path.
Cathy Dee is social media editor of Our Sunday Visitor.