In his general audience, Pope Francis is asserting the importance of family life, repeating his exhortation to parents, and particularly fathers, to “waste time with your children.” One even more remarkable statement he made was that too many children are “orphans within the family.”
“Even as bishop of Buenos Aires,” the Pope recalled, “I warned of this sense of orphan-hood that children live today. And I regularly asked fathers if they played with their children; if they had the courage to have the love to waste time with their children. The answer wasn’t good, eh! The majority would say: ‘But, I can’t because I have so much work to do…’ And the father was absent from that child that was growing up and didn’t play with him, he didn’t waste time with him.”
The 78 year old Pontiff called on the Christian community to be more attentive to their children, saying that the absence of the father causes gaps and wounds that, over time, can become very serious.
Continuing his catechesis, Pope Francis continued to explain detrimental effects that a father’s absence can have on children. Due to this absence, children at times are like “orphans but within the family.”
Pope Francis highlights a problem Lisa and I speak about regularly on our radio program, the tendency for families to be little more than collections of individuals living under the same roof and sharing a data plan. Family life has to be more than just the things that happen in the five minutes between all the other activities we’re involved in. As a culture, we have completely lost the sense that marriage and family life are their own activities that require us to devote specific time to them. Marriage and family don’t just happen because you occupy the same space. Husbands and wives, parents and children need to make a special, specific, concerted effort to create rituals of connection that give them regularly scheduled, daily and weekly, times to work, play, talk and pray together. This is what Pope Francis is calling families to–basic family life.
Evangelizing the culture doesn’t require much these days. Simply by making time to be a family–and especially if dad leads the charge on this–will make your family a radical witness in the world and a light to all the other families you know. Evangelize the culture! Take up Pope Francis’ challenge to “waste time” with the people you love, so that the people you love don’t become orphans in your midst.
For more ideas for creating rituals of connection in your family, check out Parenting with Grace: The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising (almost) Perfect Kids and Then Comes Baby: The Catholic Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the First Three Years of Parenthood.