During a recent visit to a parish on the outskirts of Rome, Pope Francis revealed that if he had the power to perform one miracle, it would be to heal suffering children. The Pope was visiting a parish to celebrate the sacrament of confirmation. One of the teenagers who was being confirmed asked him what miracle he would perform if he could.
Pope Francis’s answer was: “To heal children, because it pains me to see children suffer.” He greeted the sick people at the parish one by one, embracing them with a smile and sharing words of comfort. Some wept for joy at seeing him.
Linda Barnes in Pediatrics Journal
A child’s sense of spirituality and/or engagement in a religious community may provide a structure for positive coping strategies. For example, different traditions offer different interpretations of suffering and illness, as well as related means for feeling supported in the midst of difficult experiences. Such resources may provide a child with the sense of having added assistance in coping with difficult circumstances, including illness. Instances in which spirituality and coping may intersect for children include night-time fear,psychiatric problems,suffering,hospitalization,disability,cancer,and terminal illness.Children also find meaning in spirituality when facing substance abuseor acquired immunodeficiency syndrome in other family members, as well as the critical illness of a sibling,or the death of a family member. Although little of the resilience literature directly examines the role of spirituality, that which does suggests that spirituality and involvement in a faith community can serve as protective factors.
Spirituality and religious involvement can also help children withstand the emotional assaults of sexual abuse,racism,cultural destruction,and the traumas generated by refugee experience and life in the disenfranchised urban neighbourhoods. Such experiences may represent spiritual crises in the lives of children.Spirituality in these cases may contribute to a stronger sense of cultural identity.
Religious engagement can contribute to children’s pursuit of health-promoting and preventive health behaviors. A study of 5000 high school seniors related religiosity to health-promoting behavior.Religiosity can also be linked to better adolescent decision-making and well-being, less violence, and fewer high health risk and problem behaviors.Low religiosity also tends to be related to higher rates of smoking, drinking, drug use, and adolescent pregnancy.Male teens with close ties to churches are less likely to show sexual aggression.Church attendance may also contribute to lower levels of distress and worry, better adjustment, higher life satisfaction, lower risk delinquency and drug/alcohol abuse, increased academic and social competence, and lower suicidal ideation.Religious communities may also provide social support….
Spirituality and religion can serve as key organizing principles in the lives of children and their families, particularly in relation to children’s illness, health, and healing. The topics of spirituality and religion have slowly gained currency in relation to biomedical practice, but many pediatricians have not felt comfortable addressing these matters. Few feel prepared to do so, which increases the chances of potential misunderstanding, and obstacles to coordinated care.… Through enhanced skills in clinical practice, developing health policy and curricula, and pursuing a research agenda to support the inclusion of spirituality and religion in relation to paediatrics, it will be possible to link the best scientific practice with attention to the spiritual and religious needs of children and families as an integral part of good paediatric care.