Friday, April 25, 2014

Undertows and The Patron Saint of Fun

(photo taken by Abbey)

I was reading an article about Pope Francis a few days ago in our paper and Andrew was looking at the photos included and said, "When Pope Francis becomes a saint I think he should be the Patron Saint of Fun." I had to laugh at that one, and I think the Pope might like that.

There was an excerpt from a homily that Pope Francis gave last year included in this article, and it seemed that day, it was just what I needed to hear.  I had been feeling so overwhelmed, and angry, and discouraged all week-I had been feeling like it seems this might be one of the hardest cultures in history to raise children in truth.  Our children are fed lies constantly-lies about what happiness is, and how to achieve it.  The media feeds these lies, and politicians, and Hollywood culture, which markets directly to our children relentlessly, profits from these lies and this culture spreads from peer to peer.  It feels, and I know you readers probably feel the same, only because I've received many letters that have told me so, that it sometimes seems like a lonely job, being an intentional, present parent with a strong value system, more often that not.  And as my children have grown, especially into their teens, sometimes I feel like maybe I'm the crazy one-saying no to things (sometimes the craziest things that drop my jaw!) that other parents say yes to. Gosh, kids can't parent themselves, what the heck?  It's our responsibility.  Love them, and say no!  No, no, no, no.  It's a word that rolls of my tongue easier, for sure, as I see more and more what's out there, what our children battle every day against.

And sure I have felt bad for saying it, sometimes I have given in to that feeling of not wanting to displease, of not wanting the tears, or the anger, or the discomfort.  I have learned, and still am learning, that parenting today requires us to be so so discerning.  To grow a backbone, a strong one, to conserve that energy (so much energy!) to swim against the tide, the undertow is strong, it's strong always, it never seems to let up.

I have found that it is worth the time to hunt out those families (you will find them) that have the same strong feelings and passion for parenting that we do, who strive to remember the way things used to be, when children of all ages were protected because of their vulnerability while growing into adulthood.  I recently asked one of my veteran mom friends (kids mostly grown, some still teenagers) what her rules were about this or that and she told me and then said, "Sarah, remember that the important thing is to just say no and don't waver!  Decide your rules, whatever they may be and say no with conviction and without apology." She also talked about using the reasoning of purpose (something my mom talks about a lot also.)  What is the purpose of this or that from cell phones to dating-whatever it is, and if you can't come up with a really really good one, then it's not worthy of a yes, it's not worthy of the exertion of money, time and energy.

Another veteran mother who has raised great kids with very strong values told me that her older now grown adult children once said to her, "Mom, for as strict as you and Dad were, and as many times as you said no, and we were the only ones not allowed to do this or have that, you could have said no even more!  It's that bad out there!"  They thanked her, years later.

And strong family life-I am convinced that is where it's all at when it comes to the goodness, for us, and for our children and our children children's-(maybe this is what "eternal life" really means?). Parents who want to spend most of their time with their children.  Parents who require their children (that means teens too) to spend most of their time with their families.  Parents who are deliberate about fighting that tide, and teach actively good morals and values-who live them, which is the best way to teach them.  I think the home needs to be an oasis, a retreat, an example-that beautiful island to land in the midst of swirling undertows.  I am convinced if this would happen-if home life were strong across this country, with a mother and father at the helm, in a loving dedicated marriage, the tide would turn.

Here is the Pope's hopeful message, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

"How many difficulties are present in the life of every individual, among our people, in our communities; yet as great as these may seem, God never allows us to be overwhelmed by them.  In the face of those moments of discouragement we experience in life, in our efforts to evangelize or to embody our faith as parents within the family, I would like to say forcefully: always know in your heart that God is by your side; he never abandons you!  


Let us never lose hope! Let us never allow it to die in our hearts! The "dragon", evil, is present in our history, but it does not have the upper hand.  The one with the upper hand is God, and God is our hope! 


It is true that nowadays, to some extent, everyone, including our young people, feels attracted by the many idols that take the place of God and appear to offer hope: money, success, power, pleasure.  Often a growing sense of loneliness and emptiness in the hearts of many people leads them to seek satisfaction in these ephemeral idols.  


Dear brothers and sisters, let us be lights of hope! Let us maintain a positive outlook on reality.  Let us encourage the generosity that is typical of the young and help them to work actively in building a better world.  


Young people are a powerful engine for the Church and for society. They do not need material things alone; also and above all, they need to have held up to them those non material values that are the spiritual heart of a people, the memory of a people."