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At the General Audience Francis asks that fathers and mothers take back their full role as educators

At the General Audience Francis asks that fathers and mothers take back their full role as educators

is time for fathers and mothers to return from their exile – for they have
exiled themselves from bringing up their children – and to fully resume their
educational role”. This was the Pope’s declaration at the General Audience on
Wednesday morning, 20 May. Continuing his series of catecheses on the family,
he spoke to the crowds – many of them families – about the importance of
parents as educators. The following is an English translation of the Pope’s
catechesis which was delivered in Italian.

Today, dear brothers and
sisters, I would like to welcome you because I saw among you many families,
Good morning to all the families! Let us continue to reflect on the family.
Today we will pause to reflect an
essential characteristic of the family, the natural vocation to educate children
so they may grow up to to be responsible for themselves and for others. What we
heard from the Apostle Paul, at the start, is very beautiful: “Children, obey
your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke
your children, lest they become discouraged” (Col 3:20-21). This is a wise
rule: children should be raised to listen to their parents and obey their
parents, who, in turn, should not order
them around in a negative way, so as not to discourage the children. Children,
indeed, must grow without becoming discouraged, step by step. If you parents
say to your children: “Let’s climb this
ladder” and you take them by the hand and step by step help them climb, things
will go well. But if you say: “Go up!” –
“But I can’t” – “Go!”, this is called provoking your children, asking them to
do things they don’t have the ability to do. That is why the relationship
between parents and children must be one of wisdom, of a great balance.
Children, obey your parents, this pleases God. And you parents, don’t provoke
your children by asking of them things they can’t do. And this needs to be done
so that children can grow up to be responsible for themselves and for others.

It would seem like an obvious statement, there are difficulties still in our times. It
is hard to educate when parents only see their children in the evening, when
they come home tired from work. Well, those who are fortunate enough to work!
It is even more difficult for parents who are separated, who are weighed down
by their condition: the poor dears, they have had real hardships, they have
separated and frequently the child is taken hostage and the father speaks ill
of the mother and the mother speaks ill of the father, and so much harm is
done. But I say to separated parents: never, never, never take your child
hostage! You separated because of many
difficulties and reasons, life has given you this trial, but the children
should not be the ones to carry the weight of this separation, they should not
be used as hostages against the other spouse, they should grow up hearing their
mother speak well of their father, even though they are not together, and the
father speak well of their mother. For
separated parents this is very important and very difficult, but they can do

Above all, the question is: how should we educate?
What tradition do we have today to pass on to our children?

Intellectual “critics” of every kind have silenced
parents in countless ways, in order to
protect the younger generations from the damage – real or presumed – of family education. The family stands
accused, among other things, of being authoritarian, of favoritism, of
conformism, of the emotional repression that generates conflict.

In fact, a rift has opened up between the family and society,
between the family and school, the educational pact today has been broken; and thus, the educational alliance between
society and the family is in crisis because mutual trust has been undermined.
There are many symptoms. For example, at
school relationships between parents and
teachers have been compromised. At times there is tension and mutual distrust;
and naturally, the consequences fall on the children. On the other hand, the
number of so-called “experts” has multiplied, and they have assumed the role of
parents in even the most intimate aspects of education. With regard to
emotional life, personality and development, rights and duties, these “experts”
know everything: objectives, motivations, techniques. And parents must simply
listen, learn and adapt. Deprived of their role, they often become overly
apprehensive and possessive of their children, to the point of never correcting
them: “You cannot correct the child”.
They tend to entrust them more and more to the “experts”, even in the
most delicate and personal aspects of their lives, putting themselves alone in
a corner; and thus parents today run the risk of excluding themselves from the
lives of their children. And this is very grave! Today there are cases like
this. I am not saying that it always happens, but there are cases. The teacher
will admonish the child at school and send a note to the parents. I remember a
personal anecdote. Once, when I was in the fourth grade, I said a bad word to
the teacher and the teacher, being a good woman, called my mom. She came the
next day, they spoke together, and then I was called. And my mother explained
to me in front of the teacher that what I had done was bad, that I shouldn’t
have done it; but my mother did it with such sweetness and she asked me to
apologize to the teacher in front of her. I did it and then I was glad that I
did: the story had a happy ending. But that was only the first chapter! When I
got home, the second chapter began… Imagine today if a teacher were to do
something of the kind, the next day the parents or one of the two will seek to
admonish her, because the “experts” say that children should not be reproached
like this. Things have changed! That is why parents should not exclude
themselves from the education of their children.

It is clear that this approach is not good: it is not
harmony, it is not dialogue, and rather than fostering cooperation between the
family and other educational agencies, schools, gymnasiums… it counteracts

How did we get to this point? There is no doubt that parents
or, better yet, certain past educational models had their limitations, there is
no doubt. But it is also true that there
are mistakes that only parents are allowed to make, because they can compensate
for them in a way that is impossible for anyone else. On the other hand, as we
well know, life has become stingy with the time for talking, reflecting and
facing oneself. Many parents are “sequestered” by work – mom and dad have to
work – and by worries, uncomfortable with the new needs of their children and
with the complexity of modern life – which is the way it is and we must accept
it as it is – and they find themselves as if paralyzed by the fear of making a
mistake. The problem, however, is not just talking. Superficial “dialogue” does not lead to a
true meeting of mind and heart. We ask instead: do we seek to understand
“where” our children really are in their journey? Where is their soul, do we
really know? And above all: do we want to know? Are we convinced that they, in
reality, aren’t waiting for something else?

Christian communities are called to offer support to the
educational mission of families, and they do this first of all with the light
of the Word of God. The Apostle Paul recalls the reciprocity of duties between
parents and children: “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this
pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become
discouraged” (Col 3:20-21). At the foundation of everything is love, that which
God gives us, which
“is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not
irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but … bears all things,
believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1Cor
13,5-7). Even the best families need
support, and it takes a lot of patience to support one another! But such is
life. Life is not lived in a laboratory, but in reality. Jesus himself
experienced family upbringing.

Also in this case, the grace of the love
of Christ leads to the fulfillment of what is inscribed in human nature. How
many astounding examples we have of Christian parents filled with human wisdom!
They show that a good family upbringing is the backbone of humanity. Its
radiance in society is the source that allows us to fill in the gaps,
wounds and voids in parenthood that affect less fortunate children. This
radiance can work real miracles. And in
the Church these miracles happen every day!

I hope that the Lord bestows on
Christian families the faith, freedom and courage necessary for their mission.
If family education rediscovers the pride of its leadership, many things will
change for the better, for uncertain parents and for disappointed children. It
is time for fathers and mothers to return from their exile – for they have
exiled themselves from bringing up their children – and to fully resume their
educational role. We hope that the Lord gives this grace to parents: not be to
exile themselves from the education of their children. And this can only be
done with love, tenderness and patience.

Day of prayer
for the Church in China (24 May 2015)

On the
24 May, the Catholics in China will implore with devotion Our Lady Help of
Christians, venerated in the Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai. In the statue,
which towers above the Shrine, we see Mary who holds her Son high, presenting
him to the world with arms opened wide in a gesture of love and mercy. We too
will ask Mary to help Catholics in China to be always credible witnesses of
this merciful love among their fellow citizens and to live spiritually united
to the rock of Peter upon whom the Church is built.

The Italian Bishop’s
Conference has proposed through out the dioceses, on the occasion of the eve of
Pentecost, remembrance of our many brothers and sisters who have been exiled or
killed for the sole fact that they are Christian. They are martyrs. I hope that
this moment of prayer increases awareness that religious freedom is an
inalienable human right, and increases sensitivity for the drama of persecuted
Christians in our time and that there be an end to this unacceptable crime.

greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s
Audience, including those from Great Britain, Finland, Norway, South Africa,
China, India, Korea, Canada and the United States of America. In a special way,
I great these young musicians, you played well! Upon all of you, and your
families, I invoke an abundance of joy and peace in the Lord Jesus. God bless you all!

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