We parent today in a strange world that tells us little things are everything and that truth, goodness, and faith are nothing. We parent today in a world that tells us to do our own thing, to fulfill our own needs no matter the cost to others, because we deserve it and we’re number one. When children get in the way of our plans, the Modern Parent is told to have a clear plan of action, to count to 10, and keep those kids in their place.
But what is on the hearts and minds of those children? Are they lonely, scared, confused, or angry? What does the intentional, conscious Catholic parent do in those moments when our culture bumps up against our Faith?
Our Church has always looked to the virtue of mercy in responding the chaos of others, whether its financial, social, or emotional chaos. These words, from our dear Pope Francis in his first Angelus Message, stay with me today, especially as I think of you parents who feel called to love your sweet babes with gentleness and mercy even in the face of cultural pressures to ignore, neglect, or even physically strike your children:
God’s face is that of a merciful father who is always patient. Have you thought about God’s patience, the patience that He has with each of us? That is His mercy. He always has patience, is always patient with us, understanding us, awaiting us, never tiring of forgiving us if we know how to return to him with a contrite heart. “Great is the Lord’s mercy,” says the Psalm. . . A bit of mercy makes the world less cold and more just. We need to understand God’s mercy well, this merciful Father who has such patience… (Emphasis mine)
You, Mamas and Papas, have a calling. I know it seems unlikely in the average moments of parenting, when your little one is crying for a second glass of juice or your big kid asks to have a body part pierced, but you are called to deliver to the world Christ’s message of love. The way we respond to our children in these very real moments will influence the world beyond our doors, because our children will go out and love the way they were loved.
When we love our children gently and mercifully, when we take those extra moments to understand their pain and fear, we are building up the Church. Don’t doubt it. Seek to know your children on a profound level. Look past their actions to their hearts. Seek to change their hearts first through mercy and love.