Parents hold great responsibility in forming faithful children

| Christine Codden | June 18, 2015 | 0 Comments

WMFlogoThe first commandment God imparted to us is in the book of Genesis: to be fertile and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it (Genesis 1:28). From the moment of creation, we have understood that marriage is not just a biological function, only to co-create with God the next generation. It is also meant to provide for the spiritual lives of our children, to bring them to holiness.

In marriage, this promise is stated on our wedding day as we declare our intentions. The presider asks each couple to affirm that they will “accept children lovingly from God and educate them according to the law of Christ and his Church.” From the moment of the assent to this intention, married couples begin to build their domestic church.

Since this is such an important job, great care is taken during marriage preparation to highlight steps and ideas on how to achieve this goal, among them: how to pray together, the importance of frequenting the sacraments, and being challenged to love as Christ does, — unconditionally, with trust in God, forming our consciences to the will of God.

This prepares couples to bring these practices to the next generation. In this way, they realize the great responsibility they have accepted to strive to meet their ultimate goal of forming their children with faith and fostering a deep relationship with God. In modern terms, we call this building up our “domestic church,” creating our homes as a school of faith, forming a community of life and love. While grandparents, godparents and others can assist in formation, it is the parents’ responsibility as primary educators of the faith to carry this out because children will not learn if they are not taught.

Pope Francis, in a general audience in May, said: “It is time that fathers and mothers return from their exile — because they have exiled themselves from the education of their children — and reassume fully their educational role. We hope that the Lord will give parents this grace: not to exile themselves from the education of their children. And only love, tenderness and patience can do this.”

As Pope Francis said, couples are not asked to do this in isolation. The community of believers — the parish — is also involved. That is why each parish is called a “family of families,” a place where the church of the home intersects with the world. It is in this way that each family can reach out to fulfill its baptismal call of hospitality and generosity. It is in the parish that the domestic church can fulfill its mission of service, sacrifice, trust and openness to God’s generosity.

A parish, to live out its role as “family of families,” is called to serve the family as the family is called to serve the parish. It is in these acts of service that the family grows and thrives. And it is in these acts of service through the local parish that parents teach their children how to be in the world without belonging to the world.

The relationship that is nurtured in the domestic church and in the “family of families” provides necessary balance. It allows families to open their doors to those in need, isolated or struggling, and to show Christ’s love and mercy. And it teaches children to embrace the values, virtues and character that are so needed in the world today.

Codden is director of the Office of Marriage and Family in the Diocese of St. Cloud.

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Category: World Meeting of Families