I Like Youngsters: Revisiting Michel Quoist

I’ve been enjoying a book that was a big bestseller back in the 1960’s: Prayers by Michel Quoist.

In plain colloquial language, Quoist bares his heart to God in a way that we can all listen in on and identify with. But be warned: Like a swimming pool, this book has a shallow end and a deep end. The last third is the deep end: Don’t go there without your water wings! 

Here’s an excerpt, from the beginning of the book. 

God says, I like youngsters. I want people to be like them.

I don’t like old people unless they are still children. I want only children in my kingdom; this has been decreed from the beginning of time.

Youngsters—twisted, humped, wrinkled, white-bearded—all kinds of youngsters, but  youngsters.

There is no changing it; it has been decided, there is room for no one else.

I like little children because my likeness has not yet been dulled in them. They have not botched my likeness. They are new, pure without a blot, without a smear.

So, when I gently lean over them, I recognize myself in them.

I like them because they are still growing, they are still improving. They are on the road, they are on their way.

But with grown-ups there is nothing to expect any more. They will no longer grow, no longer improve. They have come to a full stop.

It is disastrous: grown-ups think they have arrived. I like youngsters because they are still struggling, because they are still sinning.

Not because they sin—if you understand me—but because they know that they sin, and they say so, and they try not to sin any more.

But I don’t like grown-ups, because they never harm anyone, they have nothing to reproach themselves for. I can’t forgive them. I have nothing to forgive. It is a pity. It is indeed a pity, because it is not true.

Above all, I like youngsters because of the look in their eyes. In their eyes I can read their age. In my heaven, there will be only five-year-old eyes, for I know of nothing more beautiful than the pure eyes of a child.

It is not surprising, for I live in children, and it is I who look out through their eyes.

When pure eyes meet yours, it is I who smile at you through the flesh.

But on the other hand, I know of nothing sadder than lifeless eyes in the face of a child. The windows are open, but the house is empty. Two eyes are there, but no light. 

And, saddened, I stand at the door, and wait in the cold and knock. I am eager to get in.

And he, the child, is alone. He fattens, he hardens, he dries up, he gets old. Poor old fellow!



Open, all of you, little old men!

It is I, your God, the eternal, risen from the dead, coming to bring back to life the child in you.

Hurry! Now is the time. I am ready to give you again the beautiful face of a child, the beautiful eyes of a child.

For I love youngsters and I want everyone to be like them! 

Next Post:  Zorba the Greek & Me: An Answer to Prayer

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