As my youngest child, little Mary Katherine Clark, walked out of Confession a few days ago, there could be no doubt: this was a wonderful event. Not only for her, but for her mom and dad as well.
Let me explain.
When Lisa and I were married, we promised (as all Catholics promise when they marry) that if God blessed us with children, we would raise them in the Catholic Faith. During our Byzantine wedding ceremony, the Bible was placed on a table and Lisa and I walked around it together. Thus, our first journey as a family centered on the Gospel, and served as a reminder that all our journeys as a family must center on the Gospel. And our promise was that we would help our children make this same journey.
As it turns out, Lisa and I were blessed with nine children on this Earth. And the world is indescribably richer for those nine additions, just like the world is indescribably richer for your children.
And now, all those children have been baptized and confirmed, received Holy Communion, Anointing of the Sick, and the sacrament of Penance. That is a cause for great joy—and not only on Earth.
There are milestones in the life of every parent—some of them we recognize at the time; some we don’t. But this one is easy to see. Each of our children has now received five sacraments, and this moment is pretty special. That journey around the Gospel continues, but whereas it was once traveled by two young adults, they are now followed by a parade of children.
The sacramental outpouring of God’s grace is a reminder of how much God loves Mary Katherine and how much He loves our family. It’s a reminder of how much God loves me; I deserve nothing, yet God has given me everything.
It has also helped me appreciate Fatherhood once again.
We live in a culture—in an age—in which people run from parenthood. Men and women spend considerable time, energy, and money in preventing motherhood and fatherhood. So as Catholics, we should take time out to do something that the world doesn’t do much: we must thank God for the role that we are allowed to play in the process. As Pope Saint John Paul II phrased it: “By virtue of their ministry of educating, parents are, through the witness of their lives, the first heralds of the Gospel for their children.”
(The writing of Pope Saint John Paul II is a treasure trove of wisdom. So many times, I turn to his writings about a particular subject and find something wonderful for my pilgrim journey. If you have not had the chance to read Familiaris Consortio, please take time to read it. It is a timeless handbook for good Catholic parenting.)
As parents, we sometimes look at teaching our children as drudgery. Educating our children is often considered something that we have to do, as opposed to something that we want to do. So it’s worth pondering Saint John Paul’s words. We are not simply teaching our children dry and unimportant facts. Like an angel from Heaven, we are the first heralds of the Good News of Jesus Christ. We have been chosen to announce the most wonderful news to those we love the most. Mary Katherine just reminded me of that.
As parents, we undergo some difficult moments. Let’s remember to celebrate the good ones. And if we feel like we aren’t getting anywhere—that we are just walking in circles—that’s OK.
Just keep the Gospel at the center.