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Parents: Don’t be overprotective because God isn’t, says Pope

10th World Meeting of Families

Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

Kathleen N. Hattrup - published on 06/26/22

Let us take marriage as a mission, the Pope encourages.

Concluding the World Meeting of Families on June 25, 2022, Pope Francis encouraged moms and dads to learn to parent by reflecting on how God acts. “God is not anxious and overprotective,” he emphasized, and the Lord “trusts young people.”

The Pope urged parents to help children embrace their own lives and vocations, urging those in charge of teaching youth to live their own call from God with faithful love, and thus give witness to young people.

Struggles will come, he assured, just as they came for Jesus, but “the Church is with you; indeed, the Church is in you!”

The Mass was presided over in Francis’ place by Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for the Family, Laity and Life. The Pontiff, still suffering from his knee injury, sat to the right of the altar. He was not in a wheelchair and was able to stand several times, leaning on a cane.

The Irish-American cardinal announced at the end of the celebration that the “next gathering of families with Pope Francis” would be a “Festival of Families” celebrated in Rome during the Jubilee of 2025. The next World Meeting of Families, then, will take place in 2028.

Here are excerpts from the Pope’s homily, emphases ours.

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How important it is for parents to reflect on God’s way of acting! God loves young people, but that does not mean that he preserves them from all risk, from every challenge and from all suffering. God is not anxious and overprotective.

Think about it: God is not anxious and overprotective; on the contrary, he trusts young people and he calls each of them to scale the heights of lifeand of mission. We think of the child Samuel, the adolescent David or the young Jeremiah; above all, we think of that young sixteen or seventeen year old girl who conceived Jesus, the Virgin Mary. He trusts a young girl.

Dear parents, the word of God shows us the way: not to shield our children from the slightest hardship and suffering, but to try to communicate to them a passion for life, to arouse in them the desire to discover their vocation and embrace the great mission that God has in mind for them.

Marriage as mission

Dear parents, if you help your children to discover and to accept their vocation, you will see that they too will be “gripped” by this mission; and they will find the strength they need to confront and overcome the difficulties of life.

I would like to add that, for educators, the best way to help others to follow their vocation is toembrace our own vocation with faithful love. That is what the disciples saw Jesus do. Today’s Gospel shows us an emblematic moment when Jesus “set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Lk 9:51), knowing well that there he would be condemned and put to death. On his way to Jerusalem, Jesus met with rejection from the inhabitants of Samaria, which aroused the indignant reaction of James and John, but he accepted that rejection, because it was part of his vocation.

He met rejection from the very start, first in Nazareth – here we think of that day in the synagogue of Nazareth (cf. Mt 13: 53-58) – now in Samaria, and he was about to be rejected in Jerusalem. Jesus accepted it all, for he came to take upon himself our sins.

In a similar way, nothing can be more encouraging for children than to see their parents experiencing marriage and family life as a mission, demonstrating fidelity and patience despite difficulties, moments of sadness and times of trial. What Jesus encountered in Samaria takes place in every Christian vocation, including that of the family. We all know that there are moments when we have to take upon ourselves the resistance, opposition, rejection and misunderstanding born of human hearts and, with the grace of Christ, transform these into acceptance of others and gratuitous love.

Lively, unpredictable, and marvelous

Immediately after that episode, which in some way shows us Jesus’ own “vocation,” the Gospel presents three other callings on the way to Jerusalem, represented by three aspiring disciples of Jesus. The first is told not to seek a fixed home, a secure situation, in following Jesus, for the master “has nowhere to place his head” (Lk 9:58).

To follow Jesus means to set out on a never-ending “trip” with him through the events of life. How true this is for you married couples! By accepting the call to marriage and family, you too have left the “nest” and set out on a trip, without knowing beforehand where exactly it would lead, and what new situations, unexpected events and surprises, some painful, would eventually lie in store for you.

That is what it means to journey with the Lord. It is a lively, unpredictable, and marvelous voyage of discovery. Let us remember that every disciple of Jesus finds his or her repose in doing God’s will each day, wherever it may lead.

Dear families, you too have been asked not to have other priorities, not to “look back,” to miss your former life, your former freedom, with its deceptive illusions. Life becomes “fossilized” when it is not open to the newness of God’s call and pines for the past. Missing the past and not being open to the newness that God sends always “fossilizes” us; it hardens us and does not make us more human. When Jesus calls, also in the case of marriage and family life, he asks us to keep looking ahead, and he always precedes us on the way.He always precedes us in love and service. And those who follow him will not be disappointed!

It is not an easy journey

Dear brothers and sisters, providentially, the readings of today’s liturgy speak of vocation, which is the theme of this Tenth World Meeting of Families: “Family Love: a Vocation and a Path to Holiness.

Strengthened by those words of life, I encourage you to take up with renewed conviction the journey of family love, sharing with all the members of your families the joy of this calling. It is not an easy journey: There will be dark moments, moments of difficulty in which we will think that it is all over. May the love you share with one another be always open, directed outwards, capable of “touching” the weak and wounded, the frail in body and the frail in spirit, and all whom you meet along the way. For love, including family love, is purified and strengthened whenever it is shared with others.

Be courageous!

Betting on family love is courageous: It takes courage to marry. We see many young people who do not have the courage to marry and many times mothers say to me: “Do something, speak to my son, he will not marry, he is thirty-seven years old!” – “But, madam, stop ironing his shirts, start to send him away little by little so that he will leave the nest.”

Family love pushes the children to fly; it teaches them to fly and pushes them to do so. It is not possessive: It’s always about freedom. In the moments of difficulty and crisis – every family has them – please do not take the easy way: “I am going home to mommy.” No, move forward with this courageous bet. There will be difficult moments, there will be tough moments, but always move forward. Your husband, your wife, has that spark of love that you felt in the beginning: release it from within and rediscover love. This will help in moments of crisis.

The Church is with you; indeed, the Church is in you!  For the Church was born of a family, the Holy Family of Nazareth, and is made up mostly of families. May the Lord help you each day to persevere in unity, peace, joy, and in moments of difficulty, that faithful perseverance, which makes us live better and shows everyone that God is love and communion of life.

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