Pope Francis urged parents on Wednesday never to condemn their children.
At his Jan. 26 general audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, the pope encouraged parents to turn to St. Joseph for help, including those whose children are of “different sexual orientations.”
He said: “I am thinking at this moment of so many people who are crushed by the weight of life and can no longer hope or pray. May St. Joseph help them to open themselves to dialogue with God in order to find light, strength, and peace.”
Speaking off the cuff, he added: “And I am thinking, too, of parents in the face of their children’s problems: Children with many illnesses, children who are sick, even with permanent maladies — how much pain is there! — parents who see different sexual orientations in their children; how to deal with this and accompany their children and not hide in an attitude of condemnation.”
“Parents who see their children leaving because of an illness, and also — even sadder, we read about it every day in the newspapers — children who get into mischief and end up in a car accident. Parents who see their children not progressing in school and don’t know how... So many parental problems. Let’s think about it: how to help them.”
“And to these parents I say: don’t be scared. Yes, there is pain. A lot. But think of the Lord, think about how Joseph solved the problems and ask Joseph to help you. Never condemn a child.”
The pope dedicated his live-streamed general audience to “St. Joseph, a man who ‘dreams,’” in the ninth installment in his cycle of catechesis on Jesus’ foster father, which he launched in November 2021.
He emphasized the saint’s sensitivity to dreams, which he said were “considered a means by which God revealed himself” in biblical times.
“Joseph demonstrates that he knows how to cultivate the necessary silence and, above all, how to make the right decisions before the Word that the Lord addresses to him inwardly,” he said.
The pope recounted the four dreams of St. Joseph described in the Gospel of Matthew. In the first, an angel told the saint not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife.
“Life often puts us in situations that we do not understand and that seem to have no solution,” he said.
“Praying in these moments — this means letting the Lord show us the right thing to do. In fact, very often it is prayer that gives us the intuition of the way out.”
“Dear brothers and sisters, the Lord never allows a problem to arise without also giving us the help we need to deal with it.”
In the second dream, Joseph grasped that the Infant Jesus was in danger and the Holy Family needed to flee to Egypt.
“In life we all experience dangers that threaten our existence or the existence of those we love,” the pope reflected. “In these situations, praying means listening to the voice that can give us the same courage as Joseph, to face difficulties without succumbing.”
In the third dream, St. Joseph heard that it was safe to return home and, in the fourth, that he should settle in Nazareth, away from Archelaus, the son of Herod.
“Fear is also part of life and it too needs our prayer,” the pope commented. “God does not promise us that we will never have fear, but that, with His help, it will not be the criterion for our decisions. Joseph experiences fear, but God also guides him through it. The power of prayer brings light into situations of darkness.”
The pope underlined that prayer was an active practice, always connected to charity.
“Prayer, however, is never an abstract or purely internal gesture, like these spiritualist movements that are more gnostic than Christian. No, it’s not that,” he said.
“Prayer is always inextricably linked to charity. It is only when we combine prayer with love, the love for children in the cases I just mentioned, or the love for our neighbor, that we are able to understand the Lord’s messages.”
“Joseph prayed, worked, and loved — three beautiful things for parents: to pray, to work, and to love — and because of this he always received what he needed to face life’s trials. Let us entrust ourselves to him and to his intercession.”
After the address, a precis of the pope’s catechesis was read out in seven languages and he greeted members of each language group.
Speaking to English-speaking Catholics, he highlighted the day for prayer for peace in Ukraine on Jan. 26, which he announced at last Sunday’s Angelus.
He said: “I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s audience, particularly those from the United States of America. Today, I especially ask you to join in praying for peace in Ukraine. Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke the Lord’s blessings of joy and peace. God bless you!”
The pope also highlighted International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is observed on Jan. 27.
He said: “It is necessary to remember the extermination of millions of Jews, and people of different nationalities and religious faiths. This unspeakable cruelty must never be repeated.”
“I appeal to everyone, especially educators and families, to foster in the new generations an awareness of the horror of this black page of history. It must not be forgotten, so that we can build a future where human dignity is no longer trampled underfoot.”
The pope told pilgrims that he was unable to move among them at the end of the audience because of a temporary “problem with my right leg.”
He said: “A ligament in my knee is inflamed. But I will come down and greet you there [at the foot of the stage] and you will be able to pass by to say hello. It’s a passing thing.”
With a smile, the 85-year-old added: “They say this only comes to old people, and I don’t know why it has come to me, but... I don’t know.”
Pope Francis has suffered from sciatica for many years. He spoke about it shortly after his election in 2013, saying it was “very painful” and “I don’t wish it on anyone.”
He suffered a resurgence of the condition at the end of 2020 and start of 2021, which forced him to cancel public appearances.
The pope ended his general audience address by reciting a prayer:
St. Joseph, a man who dreams, teach us to recover the spiritual life
as the inner place where God manifests Himself and saves us.
Remove from us the thought that praying is useless;
help each one of us to correspond to what the Lord shows us.
May our reasoning be illuminated by the light of the Spirit,
our hearts encouraged by His strength
and our fears saved by His mercy. Amen.