[People] Family makes us as we are, loved and forgiven (Part Two) By Fr. Shay Cullen

Family makes us as we are, loved and forgiven (Part Two)
Fr. Shay Cullen

When there is real mature family and parental love of children, there will be loads of affirmation, understanding, trust, encouragement and inspiration by the good example of the parents and older brothers and sisters. These will result into fulfilled and satisfied children with a sense of freedom and they will be constantly challenged to stand on their own feet, find their freedom through education and community involvement and mature friendships. They will be self-reliant and non-dependent. They will not be the rebellious, prodigal children that see their parents as the sources of money for personal gratification and selfish ambition.

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These are children who have a growing sense of community needs and a wider sense for the world outside of their own, safe community. When youth see the world as it is, they can aspire to ideals of service. Thousands choose a life helping others and sacrificing themselves. Aid workers, refugee helpers, human rights activists, pastors and missionaries give themselves to a life of self-giving, thinking more of the needs of others than their own needs and wants. When they reach this level of human development they are on the road to a meaningful and fulfilled life and a successful career, too.

As growing maturing children in a secure family, they will not need to be scolded, lectured, disciplined and reprimanded. When problems and disagreements arise, frank sharing and rational, caring discussion will help solve it. Children who feel cared for and supported, unless corrupted by outside influence, will have an open communication and sharing of daily experience of feelings, relationships and events in their lives with their parents.

Their enlightened parents realize that punishment is not a deterrent to negative behavior but that determined counseling and support works best. Then the children see their parents as their friends, counselors and advisors with whom they can share with easy communication and trust. This is what forges the bonding of a loving, lasting relationship in a family. It gives security and confidence and a profound sense of self-value and worthiness to growing children and youth.

Children that are given trust and freedom of choice and taught to choose wisely will resist and overcome the temptations of the world. They will continue to be idealistic and uphold the values they see in their parents and admire and love them. They are grateful for the friendship and what parents made possible for them to achieve and experience. Family love based on these values will never end.

Admiring, supporting and affirming children is essential for healthy mental development. Doing and teaching by example is the most important and long lasting character formation parenting that you can find. The children will be partners in a family team and act together in play, education and community action and service. If indeed it starts early in life the teaching by example will ignite their sense of respect for all equally without prejudice.

They will have a sense of adventure, volunteerism and a spirit of community service and family togetherness with loyalty and bonding. The inclusion, affirmation, encouragement and parental love create the atmosphere where stress-free fast learning and intelligence can grow. Happy secure families produce loving, honest intelligent children and wise servant leaders who care for others more than themselves.

Then there are the broken homes with lost sons and daughters who leave the family due to sad misunderstandings, overly strict parents, a Romeo and Juliet relationship, drug use or perhaps the excessive demands of the youth that parents can’t meet. There is no perfect family and striving for the ideal is indeed a struggle.

I am surprised how few have actually read and know the many important values in the story of the prodigal son in the Gospel of Saint Luke. The young man is clearly at odds with his father and elder brother. He demands his father to give him part of his inheritance that he would normally receive after the retirement or death of the father. Reluctantly, the father does so.

Soon the youth goes off into the world and spends it all irresponsibly but his pride could not let him accept that he had thrown away a great life of security and success in his family. When he was near starving he woke up to reality and decided to go home, admit his mistakes and ask forgiveness. His father’s servants, he realized, had a better life than he had. When he was still far from the house his father, waiting daily by the roadside, ran to welcome and embrace him. No reprimand, no scolding, no punishment. He asked just to be treated as a servant. In fact his father restored him to his status as a son.

The point of the story is that God our Father has such immense love of his children that when they stray and leave him, he still waits for them to realize their mistakes and loves and forgives them. It is a great happiness to live with the blessing of forgiveness than struggle with the burden of guilt.

Humans may not have this divine virtue of forgiveness and reconciliation but it’s a gift worth striving for. Family peacemaking needs both sides to accept faults and forgive each other. shaycullen@preda.org

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