Issue nº 58

The third passion  |  The soldier in the forest

The soldier in the forest

     Climbing up a track in the Pyrenees in search of somewhere to practice archery, I came upon a small French army camp. The soldiers looked at me, I pretended that I could see nothing (we all have a little of this paranoia of being seen as spies ...) and carried on my way.
     I found the ideal spot, performed my preparatory breathing exercises and then saw an armored vehicle approaching.
     I immediately put myself on the defensive and reviewed all the possible answers to the questions I would be asked: I have the permission to use a bow and arrow, the spot is safe, any word to the contrary is the responsibility of the forest keepers, not the army's, and so on. But then out of the car jumps a colonel who asks me if I am the writer and offers me some interesting information about the region.
     And then, getting over his almost visible shyness, he tells me that he too has written a book and begins to tell me the curious genesis of his work.
     He and his wife made donations for a leper child who originally lived in India but was later transferred to France. One fine day, curious to meet the little girl, they went to the convent where the nuns took care of the child. They spent a lovely afternoon and towards the end of their visit one of the nuns asked if he would help in the spiritual education of the group of children who lived there. Jean Paul Sétau (the officer's name) said that he had no experience teaching the catechism but that he would give it some thought and ask God what he should do.
     That night, after saying his prayers, he heard the answer: "instead of offering answers, try to find out what the children want to ask."
     From then on Sétau had the idea of visiting several schools and ask the pupils to write everything they would like to know about life. He asked for the questions to be put in writing, so that the more timid among the pupils would lose their fear of exposing themselves. The result of his work was gathered together in a book - " The child who wants to know everything" (Ed. Altess, Paris).

     Here are some of the questions:

     Where do we go after we die?
     Why are we afraid of strangers?
     Are there Martians and extra-terrestrial beings?
     Why do accidents happen even to people who believe in God?
     What does God mean?
     Why are we born, if in the end we die?
     How many stars are there in the sky?
     Who invented war and happiness?
     Does the Lord also listen to those who do not believe in the same (Catholic) God?
     Why are there poor and sick people?
     Why did God create mosquitoes and flies?
     Why isn't the guardian angel close by when we are sad?
     Why do we love some people and hate others?
     Who gave names to the colors?
     If God is in heaven and my mother is up there too because she died, how can He be alive?

     I hope that some teachers or parents who read this column feel stimulated to do the same thing. In that way, instead of trying to impose our adult understanding of the universe, we will end up remembering some of our questions as children - and which were never really answered.

Issue nº58