“How can we help our family be happy? How can we ensure that our family is doing God’s will?” These are two common questions asked at almost every presentation that I give. Parents today are very concerned that their family is going to fall prey to the wicked and immoral ways of the world. They feel almost powerless in their attempts to thwart the pressures of society. They are worried. That is why they are turning to our office asking for direction. They want solid guidance that they can count on.
We are so blessed to share a message from Pope Francis that was given to us during his homily at the concluding mass for the World Meeting of Families. Pope Francis had this practical advice for families. “Happiness and holiness (in your family) are always tied to the little gestures,” he said.
This brief and powerful quote should calm the hearts of parents because it proclaims such a simple and lasting truth. It is the small things that we do as family that make all of the difference. While it is true that we may easily remember the big events celebrated by our family, it is the tiny ones – the simple ones that bring us the greatest contentment.
I know this was true for me. When I was a child my mother’s smiling eyes and my father’s boisterous bear hugs assured me of their love. It was my sisters’ giggles and my brothers’ shoulder bumps that created a sibling bond. It was the silent presence of another family member during a thunderstorm that slowed my heart rate and breathing. Just being there meant something.
At that closing mass, the Pope told us, “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. Like the warm supper we look forward to at night, the early lunch awaiting someone who gets up early to go to work. Family gestures. Like a blessing before we go to bed, or a hug after we return from a hard day’s work.”
He’s right, isn’t he? A family’s joy really is found in its gestures. When the gestures communicate manners and civility and respect, the family members sense contentment and security. Smiles rest easy on their lips; hands remain open not fisted; the collective blood pressure in the home is low and steady. Serenity settles into all of the nooks and crannies of the home. Even if everything is crazy in the world, all is right within the family.
The Pope also said to us: “Love is shown by little things, by attention to small daily signs which make us feel at home. Faith grows when it is lived and shaped by love. 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.”
Once again, I marvel at the wisdom of this man. He gets that faith – a belief in God – can only flourish when love is part of one’s daily life. When family members a bond of simple kindness, they open their hearts to the goodness and beauty that God intends them to have and they protect themselves from the wickedness and snare of the devil who is searching for souls to harm.
Pope Francis’ message on gestures of love is uncomplicated and easy. It provides hope and soothes the worries of many parents. It brings the Gospel on the family down to a single common denominator; be kind to each other.
by Alice Heinzen