The story of Christ blessing the children is found in three of the gospels (Matthew 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17). It reveals Christ’s positive attitude towards children, encourages adults to trust in God and is one of the reasons that the Church baptises newborns.
Given his popularity, one day some people brought their children to see Christ. They wanted him to bless their sons and daughters. However, some of his disciples tried to prevent this and criticised the parents for bothering him. This did not go down well with Christ at all.
As Pope St John Paul II explained: “When they tried to turn away the little ones who were pressing in upon him, he said indignantly: “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the Kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Mark 10:14-15). Jesus thus turned around our way of thinking. Adults need to learn from children the ways of God: seeing children’s capacity for complete trust, adults can learn to cry out with true confidence, “Abba, Father!””
The pope added: “To become like a little child — with complete trust in the Father and with the meekness taught by the Gospel — is not only an ethical imperative; it is a reason for hope. Even where the difficulties are so great as to lead to discouragement and the power of evil so overwhelming as to dishearten, those who can rediscover the simplicity of a child can begin to hope anew.”
Due to the Church’s traditional focus on family life, infant baptism and the general education of children, the story of Christ blessing the children is a common stained glass scene. In this example, the window is located in the former baptistery of the church. Parents bringing their children for baptism would therefore be reminded of the story and of Christ’s love for their children.
The memorial window is by the Lavers & Westlake firm and dates to 1926. The caption, Suffer the little children to come unto me, is taken from Mark 10:14. This is the traditional title for the scene; ‘suffer’ means ‘allow’ in older forms of English. St Peter, St James Major and St John (with the red halo) stand on the left. Another of the apostles is seen on the right, behind Jesus.
In the middle, Christ is blessing a group of children who are being presented by their mother. With his right hand, he is making the same gesture that a priest does when he is giving a blessing. Despite the fact that some of the disciples tried to stop the children approaching Christ, the figures in this scene seem to have made their peace with it.
The window brings the gospel scene to life through a number of creative touches. The girl with the beaded headband is presenting flowers, while also encouraging her sister. Christ’s robe includes the letters of his name in Greek (IHS) and a small house, possibly belonging to the family, is also seen in the background.
See the full image:
Where to find this work of art
Our Lady of the Holy Souls, Kensal New Town
Read the relevant passage