All You Need is Love
The secret to discipleship and raising children
By Dave Myers
Southwest Kansas Catholic
“As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” — St. John Paul the Great
Being a parent of young children would be a lot easier if the job came with a survival manual.
Fortunately, one exists. Well, not a manual so much as a plan. A method. It’s called “discipleship,” a method first introduced by the Son of God, and then shared with participants at the annual Stewardship Conference in August.
When Janeé Bernal, Director of the Matrimony, Family Life and Natural Family Planning office, began her presentation, “How to be a Disciple While Parenting Young Children,” one of the first things the audience learned is that the married mother of three loves the Beatles.
Each “chapter” of her presentation was headed with a theme taken from a Beatles song.
ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE
“Ahh, isn’t this a nice thought?” she said. “It made a great song back in 1968 by the Beatles. Is this reality in the world we live in today? Is discipleship really that easy?”
According to Pew research, parents spend a mere 20 minutes a day interacting with their children. This includes “Get your coat,” “Where are your shoes?” “Go brush your teeth,” and a host of other parental requests/demands.
“I thought, Only 20 minutes?! That can’t be right,” Bernal said. “But then I really started paying attention to how we operated within my own family. After working all day and running kids here, there, and everywhere, by the time we get home, make dinner, take baths, and do homework, then it’s time for bed! Looking at our schedule, I believe that I, too, fell into the trap and only engaged in 20 minutes of meaningful conversation with my children. I had to change that - so I started studying.”
She learned that she and her husband, Jesse, need to be a positive example for their three children. She learned that they need to deepen their faith life. To pray together.
“Pope Francis has urged mothers and fathers to remember the weight of their example in forming their children in faith, reminding them that whether praying or arguing, ‘your children are always watching you.’ How many times have my children seen their father and I argue? How many times have I lost my patience and been completely at a loss in handling a situation at home? Has this severely damaged the kids?
“So, now I’m at the point where I know we need to pray together more as a family,” she said. “But surely there is more that I need to know about how to be a disciple while parenting my children. I turned to our friend Pope Francis. At the World Meeting of Families in 2017, he held up the family as vital to building the church for the future. He said love must be freely shared for faith to grow. ‘That is why our families, our homes, are true domestic churches. They are the right place for faith to become life, and life to become faith,’ he said. ‘Little gestures’ of love exist daily in the lives of family and serve to carry on God’s love as well, Pope Francis explained. ‘These little gestures are those we learn at home, in the family. They get lost amid all the other things we do, yet they do make each day different. They are the quiet things done by mothers and grandmothers, by fathers and grandfathers, by children. They are little signs of tenderness, affection and compassion,’ he said.”
“I was beginning to understand that our family needed to …
“One way that we can witness to our children, no matter their age, is to work, play, talk, and pray together every day,” Bernal said. “We must use those gifts God has given us to better our home and family. When it comes to working, our family usually empties the dishwasher together or we pick up the living room together. The children see that when we all work together it goes very quickly and sometimes it’s me standing there telling them exactly where to put something, but after doing these kind of jobs together everyday, our children are beginning to see that this is a way to serve God.
“After we do our ‘work’ then we take some time to play together. It might just be putting on a silly Youtube video and having a 30 second dance party. Or it could be playing a game all together. The most important one, I believe, is talking together. This is difficult because you want to have meaningful conversation with everyone. Not just a ‘How was your day?’ ‘Fine’ type of conversation. This has led me to figure out new ways to ask my children what is going on in their lives.
WE CAN WORK IT OUT
“Sometimes the plates will fly,” Bernal said, quoting Pope Francis. But “after the storm has passed,” things have to be worked out as soon as possible, “with a word, a gesture,” so no one ends up “isolated in this bitter broth of our resentment.”