The Little Prince is a children’s book with moral allegory, and possibly a spiritual autobiography by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
Synopsis and Parental Discussion: The story begins with the narrator detailing the difference between children and adults. He describes children as being open to the world and all possibilities, who can see beyond what is right in front of them. Adults are narrow-minded and can’t perceive things of importance, yet they always explain to children that what they are doing is of the utmost importance. To his dismay, the narrator becomes an adult. He becomes a pilot, crashes in the Sahara desert and meets The Little Prince. Over the next week, the pilot learns about The Little Prince and his life which consisted of maintaining his planet, particularly a rose. The Little Prince describes the rose as being vain, needy, demanding, and he must take care of everything for her. He gets dissatisfied with this life and starts a journey to find meaning. He travels to 6 other planets each inhabited by one adult.
Each adult is meant to represent the types of people in society: a king that issues orders, an egotistic man that must be admired, a drunkard who drinks to forget, a businessman who continuously counts his belongings, a workaholic who can’t stop working, and a geographer who only records things but never experiences anything. Each adult is convinced they are doing something of consequence and yet the prince sees all of them as ridiculous.
Ultimately this is a book about the search for meaning or the purpose of life. I recently have been thinking a lot about the goal of life, more specifically as it pertains to religion. This started because I trained in evangelization from a Christian organization where I volunteer. This training focused only on trusting Jesus. The main point is we must each recognize that we are sinners, the consequence for our sin is death, that Jesus died in our place, and that He resurrected. We need to realize that there is nothing we can do for our own salvation. All we have to do is trust in Jesus.
Back in the day, most Catholic children were taught the Baltimore Catechism which covers the purpose of life in Lesson 1 questions 3 and 4:
3. Why did God make us? God made us to show forth His goodness and to share with us His everlasting happiness in heaven.
4. What must we do to gain the happiness of heaven? To gain the happiness of heaven, we must know, love, and serve God in this world.
I don’t find either helpful, so I went searching for what Jesus said. He is just as cryptic, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Mt. 22:35-40).
I don’t like any of these answers. They don’t give the details on HOW to trust, know, love, or serve Christ with all your heart, soul, or mind. What does it look like every day?
The Little Prince, in his own way, struggled with the purpose of life. On earth, he finds a fox who is the only one to satisfy him. They create ties with each other and develop a friendship. The fox teaches the prince that the meaning of life is invisible as it is the love we have for others. The prince then realizes that he had everything he needed at home with the rose. He longs to go back home to the rose. A snake promises he can send him back by biting him and the prince agrees to the terms.
I love the ending of the book because it takes us back to the beginning where I clearly see the differences between children and adults. When I asked my daughter what happened to the prince, she believes he made it back home. I concluded that the prince committed suicide. I wish I had some of her child-like faith, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 18:3).
Where does that leave me in my search for meaning? How do I know, love, and serve the Lord? I think it must start like the fox and the prince, we need a relationship with Christ. We can’t proclaim trust, have love, or serve someone, without knowing the person. The Catechism of the Catholic ChurchThe explains that we need a “vital and personal relationship with the living and true God. This relationship is prayer” (CCC 2558). How do you start? “Humility is the foundation of prayer. Only when we humbly acknowledge that we do not know how to pray as we ought are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer” (CCC 2559).
Start small about 10 minutes a day and do what St. Therese of Lisieux said, “prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy” (CCC 2558).
Once we have this relationship with Jesus, we can trust, love, serve, and know Him. This takes time and patience as any relationship will.