Each year we celebrate Mother's Day and Father's Day. More than just a Hallmark holiday whereby we send cards of greetings, these special Sundays hold great meaning to parents and children alike. It is a way to honor those who give life.
It is within the family unit that children first experience love and learn to love themselves and others. Pope Francis emphasized this when speaking with a group of parents in Rome recently. "Dear parents, your children need to discover by watching you that it is beautiful to love another," he said.
We can agree that the American family has changed profoundly in recent decades. What constitutes a family? A mom, dad and children? Multi-generational family structure? Single parenthood? Today, even if the household is comprised of two parents, it can be tough. Work schedules often compete with family needs. Parents striving to provide for their families, while remaining present to their children, are working against the clock. Both employer and employee must value family time: meaning that a balance must be reached in agreed importance and financial compensation.
The challenge of single parenting is compounded by the demand that all responsibility will be provided by a single person. Routine tasks and day-today obligations can become overwhelming. Doing it all requires great love.
Many families rely on childcare providers to offer a safe environment for their children. Be it full-time, part-time, afterschool centers, these are the places where children form friendships within a family-like atmosphere. In order for daycare centers to be outstanding places for children to develop socially, providers must be appreciated and compensated.
Today's families experiencing the stress and strain around issues of time, childcare, finances can take great solace in the example of the Holy Family. The family actually started with an out-of-wedlock pregnancy "conceived by the Holy Spirit." There was an extended separation while Mary visited and cared for Elizabeth; a period of homelessness and economic uncertainty in Egypt, a trip back to Nazareth and even a 12-year-old Jesus apparently lost. We can ask the Holy Family for help and intercession as we deal with serious struggles today.
In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, let us each show appreciation and respect for all of those who are raising the next generation–parents, teachers, coaches and others. Let us also be aware and inclusive of those who need our help but are often without a voice. Consider volunteering in your parish, school, local hospital or other organization dealing with children and their needs. Your gifts are needed. Ask for the Lord's guidance as to how you might be able to help in these others by demonstrating mercy and compassion.
Deacon Pete Gummere, M.S., M.A. serves at Corpus Christi Parish. He is a bioethicist and an adjunct faculty member at Pontifical College Josephinum, where he teaches courses in medical morality and moral theology in the Josephinum Diaconate Institute.