By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The only way for parents to teach their children the beauty and importance of marriage and of accepting children as a gift from God is through their example, Pope Francis said.
Children “are immersed” in a media and cultural environment extolling virtues and practices that are “at odds with what, until a few decades ago, was considered ‘normal’ but is no longer the case,” the pope told members of the European Parents’ Association.
“Parents thus find themselves constantly having to show their children the goodness and reasonableness of choices and values that can no longer be taken for granted, such as the importance of marriage and the family, or the decision to accept children as a gift from God,” the pope told the group Nov. 11.
In his talk, Pope Francis reiterated the church’s strong support for the right of parents “to raise and educate their children in freedom, without finding themselves constrained in any sphere, particularly in that of schooling, to accept educational programs contrary to their beliefs and values.”
While the culture and its values change, “the needs of the human heart remain the same,” the pope said, and that is the place where parents must start in educating children to be good Christians and responsible citizens.
“God himself has planted in our nature an irrepressible need for love, truth and beauty, an openness to others in healthy relationships and an openness to himself as our creator,” he said. “These yearnings of the human heart are powerful allies of every educator.”
Parents must help their children recognize “the beauty of life in this world and grow confident and enthused about the prospect of embarking on the adventure of life, convinced that they too have a mission to carry out, a mission which will bring them great fulfillment and happiness,” Pope Francis said.
To instill that in children, he said, they must know that God loves them.
“When we realize that at the root of our being is the love of God our father, then we see clearly that life is good, that being born is good and that loving is good,” the pope said.
Firm in the knowledge that one is loved by God and is a gift to one’s family gives a person the strength he or she needs to avoid “a demeaning tendency to hoard material goods, a constant concern not to run risks, not to get overly involved, not to get our hands dirty.”
Instead, he said, they learn to see how “life blossoms in all its richness and beauty” when it is shared with others.
That Christian outlook, the pope said, is also the root of a healthy society because it trains young people “in sound and respectful relationships with others, a readiness to cooperate in view of a shared goal, forming them to take responsibility, a sense of duty and the value of sacrifice for sake of the common good.”