VATICAN CITY – The forecast in Rome on Sunday called for rain, but the only things descending on the Vatican were crowds of families for the opening of the Ecclesial Congress of the Diocese of Rome, where Pope Francis encouraged parents to remember their essential role as the primary educators of their children, making sure to educate them against the cultural ideas destroying the family.
“Yes, it’s true, there is a rain of families in Saint Peter’s Square,” said Pope Francis as he joyfully greeted the crowds. The Holy Father thanked parents for joining him and for their willingness to be examples of the moral and spiritual life for their children. He stated that the educational task of parents is becoming especially difficult in an increasingly relativistic and secular world.
Pope Francis illustrated his point with a personal story:
Two weeks ago a person, a very Catholic, good, young man said to me that his kids were in first and second grade and that in the evening he and his wife so often had to “re-catechize” the children, the kids, because of what they reported about some of the teachers in the school or because of what the books said that were given there – these ideological colonizations, that do so much harm and destroy a society, a country, a family. Therefore we are in need of a true and proper moral and spiritual rebirth.
The Holy Father lamented the fact that so many children do not yet experience the beauty of the Catholic faith. “[I]t seems that everything is the same, that everything is relative; that the Gospel is a lovely story of beautiful things, that it is good to read it, but it remains there, an idea,” he said. “It does not touch the heart!”
However, the key to the Gospel touching the lives and hearts of young people, Pope Francis noted, lies in the education and example coming from their parents. “With your conjugal relationship, exercising paternity and maternity, you give your life and are proof that it is possible to live the Gospel: it is possible to live the Gospel and it renders one happy,” Pope Francis added, “but it is done in the family.”
“And this commitment is all the more important when we speak of the education of kids and young people, who begin to hear these strange ideas, these ideological colonizations that poison the soul and the family: one must act against this,” urged Pope Francis.
Warnings against cultural ideologies, particularly those which endanger the family, has been a major theme of Pope Francis’s pontificate from early on, leading to the upcoming World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September and a Synod on the Family in Rome in October.
“The family is also threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life,” he said to families during his recent visit to the Philippines. The Pope also warned the faithful against the dangers of gender theory and abortion.
Issues concerning Catholic education, same-sex marriage, religious freedom, and forced coverage for abortion and contraceptives are hot-button topics currently in the United States, and it awaits to be seen if and how Pope Francis will address these issues during his upcoming visit.
In the meantime, many U.S. bishops and families have come out in support of faithful Catholic education in light of the attacks on Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco and his defense of Catholic identity in his schools.
The Cardinal Newman Society has conducted a series of conversations with U.S. bishops regarding Catholic education, including Bishop David Ricken, who chairs the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops, Archbishop John Nienstedt, Bishop David O’Connell and Bishop Richard Lennon.
The bishops all agreed that Catholic education is a mission worth fighting for and that parents and teachers therefore play an indispensable role in the moral and spiritual formation of children.
“In October we will hold a Synod on the Family, to help families to rediscover the beauty of their vocation and to be faithful to it,” said Pope Francis. “And the gift of marriage, which is so beautiful, is also a mission. A mission that is very important.”
“Be missionaries of your children. They will learn from your lips and from your life that to follow the Lord gives enthusiasm, the desire to spend oneself for others, it always gives hope, even in face of difficulties and sorrow, because one is never alone, but always with the Lord and with brothers,” Pope Francis stated. “This educational intention is beautiful, it is an important quality to cultivate and to protect.”
“However, always think of the children, always think of the children!”
Published with permission