(Vatican Radio) Continuing his catechesis on the family this Wednesday Pope Francis spoke about the joy of children in family life and how the choice to have children is not irresponsible but vital for a healthy, happy society.
Below a Vatican Radio translation of the Holy Father’s Catechesis
Dear brothers and sisters,
After reflecting on the figures of mother and father, in this catechesis on the family I would like to mention the child or, rather, the children. I draw inspiration from a beautiful image from Isaiah. The prophet writes: "Raise your eyes and look about; they all gather and come to you— your sons from afar, your daughters in the arms of their nurses. Then you shall see and be radiant, your heart shall throb and overflow"(60, 4-5a).
It is a beautiful image of the happiness that is realized in the reunion between parents and children, walking together towards a future of freedom and peace, after a long period of deprivation and separation.
In fact, there is a close bond between a people’s hope and the harmony between generations. There is a very close link between a people’s hope and inter-generational harmony. The joy of children makes their parents hearts throb and reopens the future.
Children are the joy of family and society. They are not a problem of reproductive biology, or one of many ways to realize oneself in life. Let alone their parent’s possession. Children are a gift. Do you understand? Children are a gift!
Each is unique and each is unrepeatable; and yet unmistakably tied to his or her roots. Being a son or daughter, according to God’s plan, means carrying within the memory and the hope of a love that has realized itself in lighting up another original and new human being. And for parents every child is different, is an individual…
Allow me to share a childhood memory, my mother would always say – there were five of us in our family – when asked which one was her favorite, she would say ‘I have five children like I have five fingers…if they beat one of my fingers all five hurt…all of my children are mine, but each one is different, just like my fingers…this is the way it is in the family, all children are different but all children…
You love your child because he is a child, not because he is beautiful, healthy, and good; not because he thinks like me, or embodies my desires. A child is a child: a life created by us but destined for him, for his good, the good of the family, society, humanity.
This is where the depth of the human experience of being son and daughter comes from, which allows us to discover the most gratuitous dimension of love, which never ceases to amaze us. It is the beauty of being loved before:
How often I meet mothers here [the Holy Father indicates the Square] who show me their pregnant bellies and ask me to bless them, because these children are loved before coming into the world!
Before we have done anything to deserve it, before we can speak or think, even before coming into the world!
Being a child is the fundamental condition to know God’s love, which is the ultimate source of this real miracle. In the soul of every child, not matter how vulnerable, God puts the seal of this love, which is the basis of his or her personal dignity, a dignity that nothing and no one can destroy.
Today it seems more difficult for children to imagine their future. Fathers - as I mentioned in the previous catechesis - have perhaps taken a step back and the children have become more uncertain in taking their steps forward. We can learn about good inter-generational relations from our Heavenly Father, who leaves us each of us free but never leaves us alone. And if we fail, He continues to follow us patiently without diminishing His love for us. Our Heavenly Father never takes a step back, Our Heavenly Father never takes a backward step in His love for us never, he always moves forward and waits for us, but never, ever backwards; He wants his children to be brave, He wants us to progress.
The children, for their part, should not be afraid of the commitment to build a new world: it is only right that they should want to improve on what they have received! But this must be done without arrogance, without presumption. We must know how to recognize a child’s worth, and children should always honor their parents.
The fourth commandment asks children- and we all are children! - to honor their father and mother (cf. Ex 20:12). This commandment comes right after the ones concerning God Himself. After the first three about God we have this fourth one. In fact it contains something sacred, something divine, and something that is at the root of every other kind of respect among men. And the biblical formulation of the fourth commandment adds: "That you may live a long time in the land the LORD your God is giving to you gives you”.
The virtuous link between generations is a guarantee of the future, and it is a guarantee of a very human story. A society of children who do not honor their parents is a society without honor, when you do not honor your parents you lose your honor! It is a society destined to fill itself with arid and greedy young.
However, even a society with a greedy generation, that doesn’t want to surround itself with children, that considers them above all worrisome, a weight, a risk, is a depressed society.
Just think of the many societies we know here in Europe. They are depressed societies because they don’t want children, they don’t have children. The birth rate doesn’t even reach 1%, why? Everyone should think about that and answer it personally.
If a generous family of children is viewed as if it were a burden, there is something wrong! As the Encyclical Humanae Vitae of Blessed Pope Paul VI teaches, but having more children cannot be automatically viewed as an irresponsible choice. The choice to not have children is selfish. Life rejuvenates and acquires energy when it multiplies: It is enriched, not impoverished! Children learn to take charge of their family, they mature in the sharing of sacrifices, and they grow in appreciation of its gifts. The experience of joyful fraternity animates the respect and care of parents, who are due our gratitude.
Many of you, here, have children. And we are all children. Let’s do something, it won’t take long. Let each one of us think, privately, about your children – if you have them – and about our parents, and let us thank God for the gift of them…[followed by a lengthy pause]
May the Lord bless our parents and your children.
Jesus, the eternal Son, made child in time, help us to find the way of a new outpouring of this human experience so simple and so great that is being children. In the multiplication of generations there is a mystery enrichment of life for all, which comes from God Himself. We must rediscover it, challenging prejudice; and live it, in faith, in perfect joy.
And let me tell you how beautiful it is to pass among you and see the Dad’s and Moms who lift up their children for a blessing, it is an almost divine action! Thank you