Last week I said I would try and bring some practical insights to various extracts from the apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia.
Early on in the document the Pope states that he envisages it will “aid reflection and dialogue” (para 4) on the role of marriage and family in the Church and world. It is certainly stimulating such a huge amount of seemingly endless debate and continuous commentary that one cannot keep up. However, in all of the running commentary I have yet to see any significant attention being given to the absolute rights and duties of parents to create the home that they want and that they know best will maximise the formational and educational environment for their children. To this end I do encourage you to read and re-read paragraphs 84-85. They are for me the hinge upon which the whole document swings. More on this another time.
Pope Francis is equally emphatic about the role of parents as primary educators and, much later in the document, develops this point at some length on how parents should set out to form their children morally:
264. Parents are also responsible for shaping the will of their children, fostering good habits and a natural inclination to goodness. This entails presenting certain ways of thinking and acting as desirable and worthwhile, as part of a gradual process of growth.
This should include and indeed, start with very simple things like courteous manners.
266. Good habits need to be developed. Even childhood habits can help to translate important interiorized values into sound and steady ways of acting. A person may be sociable and open to others, but if over a long period of time he has not been trained by his elders to say “Please”, “Thank you”, and “Sorry”, his good interior disposition will not easily come to the fore.
267. Freedom is something magnificent, yet it can also be dissipated and lost. Moral education has to do with cultivating freedom through ideas, incentives, practical applications, stimuli, rewards, examples, models, symbols, reflections, encouragement, dialogue and a constant rethinking of our way of doing things; all these can help develop those stable interior principles that lead us spontaneously to do good.
Earlier this week, as if to bring the points the Holy Father makes even closer to home, I read about and took part in this simple but highly informative survey from the Home Renaissance Foundation about the importance of keeping, running and maintaining a home – in short, chores, household chores and lots of them and why they are important especially in helping our children to participate in them. The fuller article about this initiative and piece of research is here. The actual survey (which is well worth completing and will only take a few minutes over the weekend I promise!) is here and they provide immediate feedback and conclusions to your replies on improving the quality of your home and family life. Of course it’s not just about chores, but a whole range of things which if we give truly honest answers to in the questions will both encourage as well as challenge us to “go the extra mile”, in “seeking the higher gifts.” In other words, sacrifice and sanctification, if you like. And isn’t that what family life is really all about in the end?