A few weeks ago, on a whim, our oldest son asked everyone in the family how many nursery rhyme figures they could name from a collection of pictures in the front of one of our Mother Goose books. There were eight characters, each from a different standard rhyme. While generally we avoid 'testing' in such a manner, it was an enjoyable and telling exercise. The exam giving son scored perfectly, and others fared well - the highest score was seven out of eight and one person didn't fare well at all, guessing correctly only one and a half out of eight (we generously gave a little credit for a very near right guess). This person hung his head rightfully in shame! The lesson, especially given who we are and all that we've given our time and energy to these last forever years, was that it would be good to brush up on our nursery rhymes more or less, for in this family it behooves us to get a perfect score on such a test! But this is easy, since we all like to read and to be read to.
Why, though? Do nursery rhymes really matter? We think, yes. More than ever it seems clear that immersion in the lovely and simple foundational music of childhood matters. Nursery rhymes and fairy tales, fables and children's poetry, nurture wonder and reveal the fundamental realities of our existence. Without meaning to exaggerate their importance, good stories, songs, and poems teach us what really matters in life, with strict rules of good and evil, virtue and vice, wisdom and folly. Good art, after all, gives glory to our Maker and reflects His order in the created universe, drawing out the wonders of the natural world and teaching (subtly, naturally, not necessarily overtly) the compelling common experiences and struggles, joys and sufferings, of the most elevated of all His creatures - man.
It very much matters what music animates the soul and compels the will. At the end of the day, every man's yearning for peace is rooted in our restlessness until we rest in Him, and nothing else. And we can be consoled that from before we were born God reveals Himself in signs and wonders and immutable laws, evoking and drawing us to Himself before we can even understand. Akin to the prayers learned at the earliest ages around the table, before the hearth, at Mass, music, stories, and poetry feed the soul and shape the mind. Moreover, beautiful words evoke beautiful images - and revelations of truth, even when it is hard truth, inspire and move one to the better path with an understanding of what to seek and what to avoid. Children are keen in their understanding of what can sometimes seem to us complicated, since they accept mystery so wholeheartedly and without anxiety, and can intuit the supernatural invisible realities that inform our everyday, material existence - without needing to articulate it. Unsullied hearts informed by the universal themes of life grow up with a sense of what is good, true, and beautiful, and are drawn to those objective realities - to goodness, truth, and beauty - with a will to avoid what contradicts or disorders them. We have found that older children, and adults too, reap endless fruits from what is truly remedial education - getting back to basics and, yes, feeding the imagination with simple nursery rhymes and good old tales and folk tunes. Taking a break from the cares of the world, walking in the woods, watching the sun rise, gazing at the stars - what music flits across the mind? What poem wells up from the heart? Like children, we should want our quietude filled by lovely, wonderful things that draw us to our final end! May He guide and inspire us each day on our pilgrim way!
On this little homestead our family aspires to work the land and hand on the Catholic Tradition, walking in wonder and learning to live by the fruits of our labor, in honor of Our Lady of Fatima, who guides us to Him.