One might be forgiven for assuming that Pope Francis knows little about the challenges Catholic parents face. After all, he may be infallible – but he’s also a lifelong bachelor.
That assumption would be a mistake, however, since our beloved pontiff has spoken often about parents and married couples as being the “hidden heroes” and “hidden saints” of today.
Indeed, according to a July 2015 story from the Catholic News Service, Pope Francis says regular men and women who care for their aging parents and young children, often go without a good night’s sleep, and still report to work faithfully every day are on the right path.
He prays these parents will help evangelize to other families so that they, too, can heal and embrace the faith that will touch their hearts and give them the strength to follow God’s will.
Despite (or maybe because) of his role as head of the Church, Pope Francis seems to understand that marriage and parenting are huge challenges even to those of us who have fulfilled and happy lives. In fact, he says, leaders and communities “should kneel before these families, who are a true school of humanity, who are saving society from barbarity” by staying together and safeguarding their bonds against difficulties, including crises like the current COVID-19 health scare, poverty, joblessness, and other difficulties.
“Parents need to consider what they want their children to be exposed to and this necessarily means being concerned about who is providing their entertainment, who is entering their rooms through television and electronic devices, and with whom they are spending their free time,” he writes in “Amoris Laetitia,” translated as “The Joy of Love.”
“Only if we devote time to our children, speaking of important things with simplicity and concern, and finding healthy ways for them to spend their time, will we be able to shield them from harm,” he continues. “Vigilance is always necessary, and neglect is never beneficial.”
In “Amoris Laetitia,” Pope Francis says parents are responsible for their children’s good habits, including developing kids’ sensitivities to the less fortunate. He instructs parents about correcting their children, saying children “need to be encouraged to put themselves in other people’s shoes and to acknowledge the hurt they have caused.” He says it’s important to train children to ask forgiveness and to repair the harm done to others.
I like to imagine Pope Francis sitting before a crackling fire in a cozy den with children and their parents at his feet, sharing his wisdom about the love our Father has for us. I can see the way his kind eyes embrace me and wrap me in the assurance that God loves me without end, that He understands the pain and joy in my heart as a mother, daughter, and wife.
It’s a comforting image and one that I am pondering as I spend time in my home attending Mass online and tuning into the “Abiding Together” podcast.
This Lent, I strive to live up to his words on passing the faith to our children. “In all families the Good News needs to resound, in good times and in bad, as a source of light along the way.
All of us should be able to say, thanks to the experience of our life in the family: We come to believe in the love God has for us.”