Pope Francis at General Audience: Nurture your children's faith
Before going to the Square, the Pope met with the sick and disabled gathered in Paul VI Hall.
In his address in Italian, the Pontiff continued his meditation on the subject of the family and spoke of the promises made to children (Matthew 18:7-8.10).

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

As the weather forecasts were rather uncertain and rain was expected, today this Audience is made contemporaneously in two places: we, here, in the Square and 700 sick in Paul VI Hall, who are following the Audience on a giant screen. We are all united and we greet them with applause.

Jesus’ word is strong today: “Woe to the world because of scandals.” Jesus is realistic and he says: It is inevitable that scandals come, but woe to the man who causes the scandal. Before beginning the catechesis, in the name of the Church I would like to ask you for forgiveness for the scandals that have happened in these recent times, whether in Rome or in the Vatican, for which I ask forgiveness.

Today we will reflect on a very important theme: the promises we make to children. I am not speaking so much of the promises we make here and there during the day to make them happy or to make them be good (perhaps with some innocent gimmick: I’ll give you a sweet and similar promises), to entice them to be committed in school or to dissuade them from some whim. I am speaking of other promises, more important promises, which are decisive for their expectations in situations of life, for their trust in dealings with human beings, for their capacity to conceive God’s name as a blessing. They are promises we make to them.

We, adults, are quick to speak of children as a promise of life. We all say: children are a promise of life. And we are also easily moved, saying to young people that they are our future, it’s true. However, I sometimes wonder if we are as serious with their future, with the future of children and the future of young people! A question we should ask ourselves more often is this: how loyal are we with the promises we make to children, making them come into our world? We make them come into the world and this is a promise — what do we promise them?

Acceptance and care, closeness and attention, trust and hope, are as many basic promises, which can be summarized in a single one: love. We promise love, namely, love that is expressed in acceptance, in care, in closeness, in attention, in trust and in hope, but the great promise is love. This is the most just way to receive a human being that comes into the world, and we all learn it, even before being conscious. It pleases me so much when I see fathers and mothers, when I go among you, bringing me a small boy or girl and I ask: “How old is he/she?” “Three weeks, four weeks … I ask for the Lord’s blessing.” This also is called love. Love is the promise that man and woman make to each child: from the moment he or she is conceived in thought. Children come into the world and expect to have confirmation of this promise: they expect it in a total, confident, vulnerable way.

Suffice it to look at them: in all ethnic groups, in all cultures, in all conditions of life! When the opposite happens, children are wounded by a “scandal,” by an unbearable scandal, all the more grave when they do not have the means to decipher it. They cannot understand what is happening. God watches over these promises from the first instant. Do you remember what Jesus says? The children’s Angels reflect the look of God, and God never loses sight of the children (cf. Matthew 18:10). Woe to those who betray their trust, woe! Their trusting abandonment to our promise, which commits us from the first instance, and judges us.

And I would like to add something else, with much respect for all, but also with much frankness. Their spontaneous trust in God must never be wounded, especially when that happens because of a certain presumption (more or less unwitting) of substituting ourselves for Him. The tender and mysterious relation of God with children’s souls must never be violated. It is a real relation, which God wishes and God protects — from birth the child is ready to feel loved by God, he is ready for this. No sooner a child is able to feel that he is loved for himself, he also feels there is a God who loves children.

As soon as they are born children begin to receive as a gift, together with nourishment and care, the confirmation of the spiritual quality of love. Acts of love pass through the gift of the personal name, the sharing of language, the intentions of looks, the illuminations of smiles. Thus they learn that the beauty of the bond between human beings points to our soul, seeks our freedom, accepts the difference of the other, recognizes and respects him as interlocutor. A second miracle, a second promise: we — father and mother — give ourselves to you, to give you to yourself! And this is love, which brings a spark of that of God! However, you, fathers and mothers, have this spark of God that you give to the children, you are an instrument of the love of God and this is beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!

It is only if we look at children with Jesus’ eyes that we can really understand in what way, by defending the family, we protect humanity! The point of view of children is the point of view of the Son of God. In Baptism, the Church herself makes great promises to children, with which she commits the parents and the Christian community. May the Holy Mother of Jesus — through which the Son of God came to us, loved and generated as a child  — make the Church capable of following the way of her maternity and her faith. And may Saint Joseph – just man, who received and protected, and honored courageously the blessing and promise of God — make us all capable and worthy of receiving Jesus in every child that God sends on earth.