by Fr. Gerreol Girardey
Through the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, God has given you the power to labor with Him in the procreation and formation of souls for heaven. He has entrusted to you this privilege and duty -- to instruct, correct, guide, encourage and console them in His name. God has given you the power to command and to teach. Be vigilant in warding off the evils which may prove injurious to any individual in the family or to the family as a whole. You must provide with tender solicitude for the spiritual and corporal needs of those whom God has entrusted to your care, securing the rights of each, and protecting the weak from the strong. You are to correct and punish leniently and charitably their faults and defects. What glory and honor for a man to be thus made God's helper and co-operate with Him in the salvation and sanctification of souls!
You are the parents of these souls, not the master of them. You must act as a kind physician, not as a tyrant. Treat them not as slaves, but as children. Be meek, affable, and condescending. Paternally reach out to each one with a loving heart. Your constant preoccupation must be to maintain within your family a spirit of unity, that sweet charity which causes the members to be of one heart and soul.
The government of souls is the art of arts, the science of sciences!
God has entrusted the care of the weak to you who also are weak. If you humbly ask for His guidance, He will bless and sanctify your labors. You must absolutely put all your trust in Him. The imperfections in your children serve to train you in the art of governing. As you correct, form, and bear with them, it is you who will grow in prudence, zeal, mild firmness and discretion, and the ways of God. Be full of charity and indulgence for your children and your neighbors, bearing with them in all kindness.
Noble, generous and solidly virtuous parents are rarely disheartened. Never make any correction in haste or in anger, but always with prudence and with patience. Weak persons tend to be naturally more domineering, more cruel and more severe than those who are strong. You cannot fail to notice that often the aged, the sickly, the sad, and the melancholy, the ill-humored, the full-blooded youth, and those having poor talents are prone to be more domineering in disposition.
A broad mind is indulgent in excusing, while overlooking and easily forgiving the faults of others. Be not narrow-minded; be not over-just; be not severe, or rigid, or hard toward others. Rather, be willing to excuse and forgive. Never measure the favors which you do for others, or keep count of the number of faults which you must daily pardon.
Prudence must be your compass. A lack of prudence will render you useless, and what is more, will be a positive evil to your family. A prudent parent is careful only to command what is just and easy to perform. He who wishes to secure perfect obedience should give but few orders. A wise guardian realizes that authority is conferred to edify and save, not to crush and destroy. Wisdom will inspire you to speak little and listen much.
The government of souls is a gift the Holy Ghost imparts to those parents who are most intimately united with Him in love and in constant prayer. Successful parenting is a mission beyond the power of even the holiest man, unless he is assisted by God!
The foundation of your office of parenting is piety and the spirit of prayer. Without God's help, you labor in vain. Your most important duties lie in giving instruction, giving good example, and praying. Such a parent wins the hearts of his children, and subjects their wills to his. It is charity and tenderness which make him singularly persuasive over his children, inducing them to love him, and increasing his love for them.
The office of a parent is not a rest, but a labor; not only an honor, but a burden; not a pledge of security, but a forecast of dangers. A parent will not be saved or lost alone. To fail to correct abuses of obedience and respect in the home is to authorize evil and open the door to every disorder. It is the ultimate ruin of peace. Good example is the shortest and most effective means of leading your children to God. A holy parent turns his home into a nursery of saints. A soul filled with divine love enkindles those souls among which it is placed.
A parent who is lacking piety and virtue is the scourge of his family. Parents, you must be holy in order to sanctify your children. You cannot impart to them what you yourself do not possess. You must hate and detest evil, inspiring your family with an aversion to sin, to vanity, and to all impurity. You must be detached from the goods and vanities of this world and filled with divine love. Holiness alone is able to captivate minds, move hearts, instill confidence, subject wills, and compel children to sweetness and to virtue.
You cannot rule the will of another unless you hold his heart in your hand.
But how are you to capture the hearts of your children? You must live as a saint. Be meek, kind and amiable, affable and obliging to all. Your charity must always be generous, essentially active, and manifest itself by works. If you must correct, it should be done with kindness, frankness and patience. The title of parent is in reality only a slavery. You must serve your spouse and your children with respect, with meekness and kindness, quickly forgiving and forgetting every fault committed against self.
Harshness, by embittering the heart, ruins everything and begets hatred. It is meekness which renders obedience easy, for we obey with pleasure the man who is meek and reasonable. A spirit of meekness is particularly divine. If God Who is infinitely wise and powerful, governs us with consideration and with respect, what parent dare to govern with haughtiness and severity! Entreat rather than command. The gentle dove coos sweetly, caressing with its wing him who strikes it, for it has no gall. Let us be as doves, yielding to the will of others in all that is lawful.
A vigilant parent is ever on guard against the ambushes of the enemy. He has been given the sacred duty of protecting the souls entrusted to him. Constant vigilance is essential to protect your family from evil. Watchfulness has two objects: to anticipate and prevent evil, and to do good.
Worry is weakness.
A good parent is attentive and watchful. He is not timid, easily alarmed, mistrustful, or suspicious. You must imitate God's large heart which bears without worry all idolaters, unbelievers, schismatics, and heretics -- all the sinners of the world, patiently awaiting their conversion. Perfection bears with imperfection. You cannot correct those at fault by repelling them. Receive them in a friendly manner, bear with them in patience, with gentleness and kindness. Be firm and clear in your correction. Bide your time till all are calm. Begin always with a prayer to God the Holy Ghost and to the Blessed Mother. The most profitable correction requires a calm heart and a tranquil mind, both by the one who receives it, and by the one who administers it. Do not reprove your child for every fault. Often repeated reproofs are worrisome. He who is too often reproved may become easily discouraged or grow reckless. Those who commit grievous faults should be treated with kindness.
The imperfections which may be found in every member of the family allow you to practice heroic virtue. Order and holiness are preserved only by continual combat. True virtue is deepened and strengthened by what is difficult. To be genuine, virtue must pass through the crucible of contradiction. Pray unceasingly and in a special manner for those children who are your incorrigible ones. Prayer is often the only means by which their souls can be won over to Jesus Christ.
Take up your cross!
Yes, the life of every good parent is a martyrdom! It is to drink daily from the chalice of Jesus Christ Crucified. To be good parents, you must have a deep and true love of the Cross. It is by changing serpents into doves and tigers into lambs that you will be representative of Christ the Good Shepherd, and prove yourself a worthy parent, a man fit to beget and save souls.