The first place children learn the faith is in the home, following the good example of their parents, Pope Francis said during a meeting with newly-wed and engaged couples in Ireland.
“The first and most important place for passing on the faith is the home, through the quiet daily example of parents who love our Lord and trust in his word,” the pope said Aug. 25.
Offering examples of what to do, he urged Catholics to “pray together as a family; speak of good and holy things; let our Mother Mary into your family life. Celebrate the feasts of the Christian people. Live in deep solidarity with those who suffer and are at the edges of society.”
Francis spoke during an encounter in Dublin’s St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral for the World Meeting of Families, following a question from a recently married couple who asked for advice on how to teach the faith to the children they hope to have in the future.
He said in the family — the “domestic church” — is where children learn integrity and sacrifice. They learn from watching their father and mother how to love God and the Church.
“In a word, your children will learn from you how to live a Christian life; you will be their first teachers in the faith,” he stated. “The faith is passed on ‘around the family table,’ in ordinary conversation, in the language that persevering love alone knows how to speak.”
The pope acknowledged that this may seem obvious to some, but that people can forget.
In answer to a question from an engaged couple on how to show the value of the life-long commitment of marriage, particularly of the sacrament, Francis said that when a man and woman enter into the bond of matrimony, it is God’s grace that enables them to freely promise to one another “an exclusive and enduring love.”
It is true that today, our society is not used to things which last, he said. How in this provisional culture, can we create something that lasts? he asked. It is not just about being in love, but about making a commitment to grow that love for the whole of life.
“Because love is not temporary. Enthusiasm might be temporary, being enchanted. But love, real love, is final,” he said.
Speaking about the vocation of marriage, he said, “marriage in the Church, that is, the sacrament of matrimony, shares in a special way in the mystery of God’s eternal love.”
“Of all the kinds of human fruitfulness, marriage is unique. It is about a love that gives rise to new life. It involves mutual responsibility for the transmission of God’s gift of life, and it provides a stable environment in which that new life can grow and flourish.”
Francis recalled a time when he was a young child and he saw his father kiss his mother after he returned home from work. “What a beautiful thing! May your children see you like that, kissing, embracing. This is how they learn,” he advised.
At the beginning of the encounter, a couple that has been married for 50 years offered a brief witness, saying they wanted to tell young people that though family life is challenging, it is worthwhile.
This is wisdom that young people need, Francis answered, encouraging young couples to listen to the advice of their grandparents and other married couples. Even mothers-in-law have wisdom, he teased.