In my first two articles (see: part 1 and part 2) on this subject, I reminded readers we are called to love ourselves as Christ loved us on the Cross, and we are called to love our spouses as Christ loved us on the Cross.
Christ has always been exceptionally clear about His love for all of us. In Matthew 19:14, Christ made it abundantly clear His love extends even to the littlest of us, by instructing His disciples, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”
Everywhere we look, parents are inundated with messages that children should be seen and not heard, and we are expected to complain about parenthood at all times. Being a parent is hard, tiring, and many times feels thankless.
Parenting is also a rewarding path toward sanctification!
Sr. Lucia dos Santos, one of the visionaries of the apparitions from Our Lady of Fatima cautioned us, “The final battle between the Lord and the reign of Satan will be about marriage and family.” Something we overlook in today’s society, though, is not every battle will wage in courtrooms or on the news.
The battles can be waged in each family, as a parent begins to overlook their secondary vocation of parenthood, second only to marriage, and begin to allow bitterness, resentment, and envy to seep into their hearts. As parents begin to view their children in a manner which overlooks the child’s age and development, and overlooking the child’s dignity, parents begin to run the risk of forgetting just how much Christ loved all the children.
God the Father understood that we mere mortals would comprehend the depths of His love for us, when He gave His only Son to be sacrificed for our sins. In fact, perhaps the most memorized Bible passage is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
God knew we would understand the depths of His love for us, through the act of sacrifice of His Son!
As Christ died on the Cross, He despised the abuse that He knew some parents would carry out on their children.
He despised the way society would try to push children to the outer reaches, only wanting to embrace each other as adults.
He despised a culture which would seek to destroy a child’s life – both literally and physically – before that child had an opportunity to live and flourish.
As Christ died on the Cross, he made His sacrifice for our children as much as for ourselves.
As Christ died on the Cross, He loved the beauty and innocence that we see in all small children.
As Christ died on the Cross, He loved the little children.
Pope Francis has reminded parents about placing their children’s needs at the forefront, when he encouraged a breastfeeding mother to feed her young child. He reminded adults that the needs of small children should be met before the physical, social, and emotional needs of any adult.
Our needs, by virtue of parenthood, become secondary to the needs of defenseless, helpless creatures. And, while those small humans don’t remain defenseless and helpless for very long, their brains take longer to grow… meaning, they may look, act, and sound like an adult, but our needs are secondary to those who are still developing into adults.
Which makes the vocation of parenthood long and tedious. It is tough, in the midst of tantrums, in the midst of late nights and long days, in the midst of the latest round of supporting our children as they master their next developmental stage.
Like it or not, parenting is not about adults.
Parenting isn’t even about the children.
Parenting is about God – leading His little children to Him!
Perhaps, the most poignant words on parenting are found by St. Gianna Molla. Her gentle reminder about parenting is profound.
So, the next time you are tempted to lose your temper with your child, the next time you want to run away from your children, and the next time time you begin to doubt whether or not you are cut out for the role of parent, keep in mind St. Gianna’s words. You aren’t looking into the face of your child, or wanting to run away from your child, or doubting your ability to parent your child – you are looking into the face of Christ, wanting to run from Him, and doubting your ability to parent in His stead.
This is not to say there aren’t consequences for their actions!
Even our Ultimate Parent, God, gives consequences to us as petulant children. Instead, this is reminding all of us to approach parenting with a mindset which honors the dignity, worth, and beauty inherent in all children – to honor their worth and beauty…
…and to help it flourish.
Christ loved all of us, but perhaps held the most affection for children. As parents, we are called to remember His love, and to radiate His love for them, to them.
We are called to love our children as Christ loved them on the Cross.