A place to pray – 4 February 2019
In the corner of a French church a little girl prays. She is maybe seven or eight years old. She kneels in front of a side altar, tucked into a corner of the church, before a niche containing a statue of the Virgin Mary and her child. Displayed on the altar are flowers made of beeswax displayed in bell jars. The girl has brought real flowers, gathered from a garden or hedgerow. Her prayers are sincere, offered when no one is watching.
This painting (from 1914) is by Milly Childers, a British artist who painted many church interiors. In this picture the humility of the little girl is emphasised by placing her a little off centre, towards the bottom of the painting. In contrast, to the right we see a prayer stall for an adult, where no one is praying. To the adult viewer the picture is both a reproach for abandoning prayer and an invitation to come and kneel alongside the girl.
The Light and the Shadow whisper together,
The lovely moment grows,
Ripples into the air like water
Away and away without sound,
And the little girl gets up from her praying
On the cold ground.
Katherine Mansfield, from A little girl’s prayer
The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
Jesus said: Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.