Vol. 167 No. 30 - July 23 - July 29, 2016
Parents' Day is generally associated with giving or sending parents flowers, a card, a suitable gift or felicitating them at a programme. Happily, many try to celebrate this day in a more deeply meaningful, fruitful and joyful manner. This happens when children truly cherish memories of average, good or even exemplary parents, expressing gratitude to them and to God, and also when parents consciously reflect on their style of parenting, and its impact on the lives and future of their children and on society as a whole. Then Parents Day becomes a celebration of happy experiences, as well as an impetus for better and more effective parenting in an increasingly pressured and challenging context of the twenty-first century.
There was a time when Catholic parents did their best to feed, clothe, protect, educate and impart the lessons of life to their children, following the pattern of their own upbringing. "Spare the rod and spoil the child" or some such folk saying, reflected their mentality and practices. Children and teenagers were generally respectful, obedient and properly behaved at home and at school.
The home and school scene is vastly different in contemporary Greater Mumbai, and even in smaller towns and rural areas. Parents, more particularly working mothers, experience manifold and enhanced pressures and problems. Now, parents must not only earn enough to provide for their family's basic needs. They also have to struggle to satisfy, limit or curb their kids' and teenagers' craving and demands for fancy and expensive toys, designer clothing and footwear, smartphones etc. Also, family prayer, discipline in homes and neighbourhoods, schools and colleges, and differences, strains and quarrels between spouses are now very difficult, problematic and stressful issues to effectively cope with and overcome.
Thankfully, all is not so bleak and hopeless. There are indeed many people, both young and old, who talk of their parents with appreciation and gratitude. At times, they tearfully narrate and describe the hardships and sacrifices their parents underwent to feed, clothe and educate them, care for them in times of sickness or big troubles, and how they instilled faith, discipline and values of life that still stand them in good stead. Children of loving, caring and effective parents generally turn out to be positive-minded, successful and happy persons, even in the face of great challenges and difficulties in life.
Sadly, there are also quite a number of persons for whom the word 'parents' brings back painful, and even bitter, memories. In their experience, one or the other parent was irresponsible, lacking in affection and care, intolerably dominating or smothering, nagging, abusive, or even physically violent, etc. Dysfunctional families, due to ineffective or bad parenting, are the breeding ground of attention-seeking, aggressive brat children or teenagers, juvenile delinquents, and negative, lonely or depressed adults who have very serious problems in their professional, social and family lives.
Catholic parents are indeed fortunate to have ready and reliable assistance to better cope with the challenges of parenting in our times. Personal guidance and counselling, couple or family enrichment sessions, effective parenting workshops etc. are available through Family Cells at the parish level, Family Service and Counselling Centres run by the diocese and religious congregations, as well as by movements and associations such as Marriage Encounter and Couples for Christ. Better coordination and cooperation on the part of these is the need of the hour. Most importantly, parents in need should proactively seek timely and competent assistance, make time, and wholeheartedly commit themselves to avail of the above means which are accessible, affordable and empowering.
* Presently Rector of the Holy Name Cathedral and Episcopal Vicar; Former Rector of the Seminary.
Joachim and Anne, the names of the parents of Mary, the Mother of God come to us from tradition. We have no historical evidence of any elements of their lives, including their names. Any stories about Mary's father and mother come to us through pious legend. We get the oldest story from a document called the Gospel of James; though in no way should this document be trusted to be factual, historical, or the Word of God.
The legend told in this document says that after years of childlessness, an angel appeared to tell Anne and Joachim that they would have a child. Anne promised to dedicate this child to God (much the same way that Samuel was dedicated by his mother, Hannah, in I Kings).
For those who wonder what we can learn from people we know nothing about, and how we can honour them, we must focus on why they are honoured by the Church. Whatever their names or the facts of their lives, the truth is that it was the parents of Mary who nurtured her, taught her, brought her up to be a worthy Mother of God.
It was their teaching that led her to respond to God's request with faith, "Let it be done to me as you will." It was their example of parenting that Mary must have followed, as she brought up her own son, Jesus. It was their faith that laid the foundation of courage and strength that allowed her to stand by the Cross, as her son was crucified, and still believe.
Parents are the foundation and fountain of our life. It is they who inculcate the values and virtues of life and teach us to pray and play. It is they who instill in us the self-confidence and trust in God, and make our world a beautiful place to live in.
On July 26, the Church commemorates the feast of the parents of the Virgin Mary, Saints Joachim and Anne. Joachim and Anne began to devote themselves to rigorous prayer and fasting, in isolation from one another and from society. They regarded their inability to conceive a child as a surpassing misfortune, and a sign of shame among the tribes of Israel. The couple's faith and perseverance brought them through the sorrow of childlessness, to the joy of conceiving and raising the immaculate and sinless woman who would give birth to Christ, the saviour of the world. Today, we come across so many couples who long for children and like Sts Joachim and Anne, they too have persevered in their prayers. Pope Francis says, "Children are the fruit of their parents' love and a gift of God, whose own infinite love bestows inviolable dignity and worth upon each person who comes into the world. A child is loved for being a child and not because he or she is beautiful or healthy." Therefore, it was the faith of Joachim and Anne that laid the foundation of courage and confidence in God, that allowed Mary to stand in faith at the foot of the Cross.
We all remember the day we realised we were going to be parents. The pregnancy test kit allayed our innermost joy, the gynaecologist confirmed it, and months later, we are proud parents.
Yes, we have had those tense moments at the time of the delivery of our child or in the hospital, when we knocked on heaven's door, because our child's fever refused to come down, we have wondered how will we pull along, and where will the money come from?
We often ask ourselves: am I a 'good' parent? Each parent develops his/her methodology to achieve the best for their children. We toil for our children from the break of day till late into the night. The demands are numerous, but somehow they are met. We have a secret blueprint for our children. We want to make them 'something' and want them to stand on their own feet. Despite our circumstances, we want them to carry on the family name and be achievers.
No parent can be described as a 'bad' parent. Yes, the media keeps reporting incidents of how a mother has the heart to throw her newborn baby into a dust bin, because it is not a male child, or from a terrace because of alleged differences with in-laws, or pours hot oil onto the child to disfigure the child for life, or how a father rapes his own daughter. But these are parents that are in urgent need of psychological treatment. Such parents are defeatist and cynical in nature. They have failed to tackle stress, and be role models to their children.
Honour your Father and your Mother, that your days may be long, in the land which the Lord, your God, gives you. (Exodus 20:12, Deut 5:12)
He was obedient to them (Luke 2:51). The Lord Jesus Himself recalled the force of this "commandment of God" (Mark 7:8-13). "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honour your father and mother." This is the first commandment with the promise "that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth." (Deut 5:16).
The fourth commandment opens the second table of the Decalogue. It shows us the order of charity. God has willed that, after Him, we should honour our parents to whom we owe our life and who have handed on to us the knowledge of God. We are obliged to honour and respect all those whom God, for our good, has vested with His authority. (CCC 2197)
This commandment is expressed in positive terms to be fulfilled. It introduces the subsequent commandments which are concerned with the particular respect for life, marriage, earthly goods and speech. It constitutes one of the social doctrines of the Church. (CCC 2198)
July is an extraordinary month for us - the Society of the Helpers of Mary - as it is the month we remember our founder Mother Anna Huberta who spent her life 'living for love'.
Mother Anna Huberta, as she was fondly known, was born Gertrude Roggendorf on July 31, 1909 at Mechernich, Germany. Her pious parents, Hubert and Anna, brought up their eight siblings in the Christian faith. As a young girl, God called Gertrude to join the Daughters of the Cross. Fired with a missionary zeal to work for the poor and downtrodden, she arrived in India, at Bandra, on December 1, 1932. She took her Final Vows in 1934, and continued to live out her consecrated life with great love and dedication, till the very end.
In 1938, she was appointed Superior at St Catherine's Home, Andheri. She ardently devoted herself to caring for children, abandoned babies, orphans, widows and helpless mothers. At that time, St Catherine's Home could accommodate only 100 children, so she added more cottages, and the number increased to 900. Even though the home was crowded, she kept the door of her heart open for the poor and needy. There were no savings, and as the numbers added up, and children had to be fed and provided for, the times were hard. In her letters, she writes of her astounding experiences: "Was it not like a miracle? A few days ago, we took in three babies who had been found somewhere in the streets of the city.
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