In an address on Sunday, Pope Francis asked parents if they believed in the beauty of the love God gives to a man and a woman, and told them to make sure their children see this love in little signs of affection.
“God calls men and women to be parents who believe in love, who believe in its beauty,” the Pope said June 14.
“I want to ask you, do you believe in the beauty of love? Do you believe in the greatness of love? Do you have faith in this? This is a daily faith.”
The Pope’s words were addressed to the parents of communicants and confirmation candidates participating in the convention of the Diocese of Rome alongside the priests and catechists leading their formation.
In his address, the Pope said there is need for a “moral and spiritual rebirth” in the city of Rome, which he said has become subject to relativism and a destructive “ideological colonization” being pushed by schools and the secular society.
He reminded the parents that they are the first ones responsible for their children’s education, and should correct the “strange ideas” children are frequently subjected to in their classes or reading material.
Francis also spoke on different aspects of married life, specifically highlighting the vocation of parents, the communion of a married couple and the family, and the family’s mission.
To be a father and a mother is a call from God, he said, explaining that the way marriage mirrors God’s eternal love is a “mystery, but providence wanted to entrust it particularly to man and woman, called to love each other without reservation.”
The special love shared between spouses is not simply limited to feelings of passion or even an initial enthusiasm that might pass, but is rather founded on “the beauty of love, and this must be discovered every day.”
He said that it is a beautiful testimony for children when they see their parents make peace after a fight, and when they express their love through little caresses or kisses.
“Don't ever forget that your children are always watching you, and when they see that a father and mother love each other, children grown in an air of love, in happiness, also in security, because they know that they are safe in the love of their father and mother,” the Pope continued.
Francis also warned against the damage done to children when they see their parents fighting, insulting or even beating each other every day.
“When you fall into these sins, think that the first victims are your own children. Your own flesh,” he said, explaining that children are constantly “scrutinizing” their parents “to see if it's possible to be good and to see if reciprocal love can overcome every difficulty.”
Pope Francis then turned to the differences between men and women, saying that parenthood is founded on the complimentarily of men and women, as the Bible reminds us.
The Pope said that when engaged couples come to him and tell him they want to get married, he always tells the man that his vocation is to make his wife “more of a woman,” and tells the woman that her vocation is to make her husband “more of a man.”
Communion in marriage comes from this “handcrafted work” of learning to love each other in one’s differences, he said.
This complimentarily of spouses also helps children mature in their own identity when comparing the different ways their fathers and mothers love.
“Through the feminine figure we men learn to encounter in life the extraordinary beauty of women, and women (bring) similar things learning from the masculine figure that man is different, and has his way of feeling, thinking and living,” the Pope noted.
Francis then spoke about families that are separated, and lamented that in modern society such scenarios “seem inevitable.”
Even though parents have been separated due to wounds or problems, “the Church carries you in her heart, and your educative role is not interrupted,” he observed.
He encouraged parents in separations to collaborate and look for agreements rather than resort to fighting, so as to ensure the happiness of their children.
“Please, don't use your children as hostages!” the Pope said, explaining that “it does so much damage” to children when their parents speak badly about one another.
To do this “is terrible, because that child, that boy or girl, grows up with a tension that they don't know how to resolve and they learn the ugly path of hypocrisy, to say…Never, never speak badly about each other, never!”
Forgiveness is an essential aspect to every marriage, the Pope said, and is something that must be practiced every day in order to carry out the family’s mission of being collaborators in the work of the Holy Spirit.
The Pope then turned to the role of grandparents, noting that the elderly constitute a fourth of Rome’s population. Grandparents have a place of “dignity” in the family, and are a source of wisdom and memory, Francis said.
He noted that in many countries when practicing the faith was prohibited, it is the grandparents who have passed it on by teaching children prayers and taking them to be baptized in secret.
Instead of putting them in nursing homes, “don't be ashamed of grandparents! Don't be ashamed of the elderly,” Pope Francis said. “They give us wisdom, prudence, which help us a lot.”
He closed his address by encouraging spouses to deepen in their love for one another, and to always show their affection for each other, because it does their children good to see it.