The education of children as the natural vocation of the family was the theme of Pope Francis’ catechesis during a recent general audience in St. Peter’s Square.
The Holy Father, first citing the words of St. Paul to the Colossians: “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged”, emphasized the duty of parents to accompany their children step by step, without demanding the impossible, so as not to overwhelm them. He then went on to speak of the difficulties faced by mothers and fathers who often only have the opportunity to see their children in the evening when they return home tired after work – “those who are lucky enough to have work”, he added – and also referred to the even more critical situation faced by separated parents, inviting them to ensure that the conflicts between the couple do not have an impact on the children.
Francis also mentioned that the family has been accused of other things, including authoritarianism, favoritism, conformism, and emotional repression that generates conflicts. “In fact, a fracture has opened up between family and society, undermining mutual trust, and in this way, the alliance between family and society in the education of children has entered into a crisis”.
“There are many symptoms”, he continued. “For example, in schools this has affected relationships between parents and teachers. … On the other hand, there has been a proliferation of so-called ‘experts’ who occupy the role of parents even in the most intimate aspects of education … and parents are expected only to listen, to learn and to adapt. Deprived of their role, they often become excessively apprehensive and possessive with regard to their children, to the point of never correcting them. They tend to increasingly entrust them to ‘experts’, even in relation to the most delicate and personal aspects of their life, placing themselves in the corner. In this way, parents run the risk of excluding themselves from the life of their children”.
“How have we arrived at this point? Without doubt in the past parents, or rather, certain educational models, had certain limits. But it is also true that there are mistakes that only parents are authorized to make, as they are able to compensate for them in a way that is impossible for any other person. On the other hand, as we well know, life now spares us little time for speaking, reflection and exchange. Many parents are ‘kidnapped’ by their work and other worries, and they find themselves paralyzed by the fear of making mistakes. The problem, however, is not only about talking. … Let us ask ourselves instead: do we seek to understand ‘where’ our children truly are on their path? Where is their soul? … And above all, do we want to know?”.
Francis underlined that the Christian communities are called upon to offer support to the educational mission of the family. “At the base of everything there is love, that which God gives to us, that “is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”. Even in the best of families, there is much to be endured, and it takes a lot of patience. Jesus Himself experienced education in the family”.
“Even in this case, the grace of Christ’s love fulfils what is inscribed in human nature. How many excellent examples we have of Christian parents full of human wisdom! They show that good family education is the backbone of humanism. Its spread through society is the resource that allows us to compensate for the shortcomings, the wounds, the lack of paternity and maternity that affect the least fortunate children, and works true miracles”.
“I hope that the Lord may give Christian families the faith, freedom and courage necessary for their missions. If family education rediscovers the pride of its central role, many things will change for the better, for uncertain parents and disappointed children. It is time for fathers and mothers to return from their exile, and to fully resume their role as educators”, concluded Francis.