Pope Francis: Parents, "don't give up wasting time with your kids"

The Pope signs the panel of the center "House of Joy" during the visit to the parish of the Blessed Sacrament in Rome

Pope Francis: Parents, "don't give up wasting time with your kids"

By Salvatore Cernuzio/ lastampa.it

"Holy Father!", "Francis!", "ah Francé! (Italian Roman dialect). People screaming and chanting at the arrival of the Pope in the parish of the Blessed Sacrament, in the working-class district of Tor de' Schiavi. Bergoglio arrives by car just before 4 p.m. and is welcomed by Cardinals Chavez and Tagle and by the parish priest Don Maurizio Mirilli who escorts him in the midst of the joyfully noisy crowd waving smartphones and signs in the courtyard of the church.

Bergoglio tries to greet everyone and to satisfy every request: the blessings, the hugs, the photos... he caresses the children held up to him by their parents, even those just a few months old like Charlotte to whom he pretends to steal the pacifier; he jokes with the children of the oratory: "Are you good at school? "he asks one of them. "so so," he replies, making him smile.

The first stage of Francis' pastoral visit to this community on the eastern outskirts of Rome, is a heart to heart with four representatives of the oratory. The first is Mauro who presents himself as a member of an "irregular family", which however has not prevented him from fitting into the parish social fabric. Indeed, Mauro was among the leaders of the oratory and his worry was: "How can we make parents understand not to leave their children alone?”

"You've touched a wound, the children", the Pope replies, "the children who grow up but without the family at home because the father works up his ears, the mother too, those children end up growing up often alone, sometimes there is the grandmother, who helps out a lot, the grandparents are a treasure" (a pity that they are often included in the "list of discarded" and asked for "only when they get their pension", the Pope notes with bitterness).

Unfortunately, this is hoe the world goes round: "Work is important". And "this culture is a tyrant". The problem, however, the Pope points out, is that "when children grow up alone, without a dialogue with their parents" they risk losing the "great values of life", starting with faith, which "are transmitted only "in dialect". That is, through that language typical of every family in which wisdom and love come together. "Good things, basic values are learned in dialect," so every parent must find a way, helped by grandparents, to be present for their children. Otherwise "they will grow weak, it is a vitamin problem that the family can give you and that makes you grow strong," the Pope says. It's okay even to play just in the evening, when they are back from work: "But father I'm tired, I want to watch TV ...". "No!" It is fundamental to "know how to waste time with your children" and to speak with them this "dialect of love", Bergoglio points out. Because "what you don't learn in the family, most likely you won’t learn outside".

With the same closeness the Pope responded to Simona, of the youth group of the parish, who denounced a lack, at times, of demonstration of love on the part of the pastors. "But do they really love us? "According to your question my answer should be to strike them with a stick, the priests and bishops and even the sisters," Francis laughs. He then invites everyone - priests, nuns, religious, bishops, cardinals and even Popes - to "good testimony" and "consistency" because that is what gives "good air" to a parish. It is also important to have the "virtue" of "closeness": "The Gospel is not preached with words, with arguments, but with closeness, consistency, witness". Otherwise, there is the risk of "having a lukewarm, functional parish, where everything is fine except the heart. A "heartbroken parish".

The Bishop of Rome continues to speak of "witness" even with Beatrice, a 15-year-old orphan of father who, just after this grave grief, approached the Church rediscovering in it "a place of love". "For many of my peers this is not the case. It's boring, what should I do?" she asks the Pope. He answers with humour and realism: "Your friends are right. Often, some shepherds, laity, nuns are really boring. Their face is like that of a funeral vigil. Instead "the Gospel always brings joy". It is not a matter of having an "artificial smile", like that of "people who have to do so otherwise they’ll lose their job”, but to transmit a genuine joy "which is the gift of the Risen Jesus".

This is how the Church grows: "Through attraction and not out of proselytism", the Pope repeats once again. And this is true for everyone, even for the laity "who I found at times even more bitter, with the face of vinegar compared to priests or nuns. When a layperson doesn't fit well into a parish, they begin a sort of power game, an internal struggle ... and sometimes you find people who, yes, are good, they work at Catholic Action, at Caritas but they are always so tense, they are not free, I don't know, perhaps they might be looking for some kind of promotion. Good people but without the freedom of the joy of the Gospel", the Pope notes. Joy, he insists, is therefore not an optional, but "a condition". And "If any of those who work in the parish are used to having breakfast with vinegar then change, have some coffee and milk, that will do much better".

The last exchange takes place between the Pope and Mattia, a 10-year-old scout child who asks for prayers for his mother who will have to undergo surgery. "What Matthias did is something that you, boys and girls, must always do: pray for your parents. They pray for you, but do you pray for them? Or do you pray only in the hope that they will give you a present?", question Francis. "Parents need your prayer, and when they have a problem, a disease, you need to pray even more”.

Pope Francis then moved to the parish hall to embrace the elderly, the sick and the parish realities linked to charity. The next stop is in the attic of the Church of the Blessed Sacrament: there, in what used to be just a warehouse, thanks to a group of mothers and a project supported by the Vicariate of Rome, the "House of Joy" centre was set up to assist the disabled. Currently there are seven sick children who with two religious and one lay woman housed in the center as from today; Francis greets them, talks with them and their families, blesses the rooms and leaves his signature on the panel on display at the entrance.

Then he goes back to the parish to confess three faithful and celebrate mass, during which he imparts Confirmation to Maya, a 12-year-old girl suffering from mitochondrial disease, and her mother.

In his homily the Pontiff speaks of love, beginning with Jesus' recommendation to the disciples: "Stay in my love". But what kind of love is it? Certainly not that of the "couples" or that of the "films" and "tv shows"; "love is something else: it is taking care of others, it is not playing the violins, it is work", says Bergoglio. "You are mothers, how did you love your children when they were little? With work! Comforting them when they cried, feeding them, changing them... Love is working for others, love is seen in deeds and not in words. Remember that song: "Words, words, words"?

And love, the Pope adds, is certainly not "chatter". "No, badmouthing people is not love. "But I love God, I make five novenas a month. Yes, but how is your tongue? The touchstone for seeing love is to ask oneself: how is my tongue? That measures the temperature of your love and will tell you if it's true love or it's just paint outside. "If this parish managed to never speak badly about others it would be canonized," Francis adds amid a general laughter, "at least make the effort not to skin others, not to badmouth them... "But Father give us a remedy! It's easy, anyone can do it - the Pope replied - bite your tongue, it will swell but you'll keep quiet".

Mon, 05/07/2018 - 12:53
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