A Parent’s Perspective
A quote I saw on Pinterest says: “Dear God, I’m placing 2020 in your hands.” I’m not sure if it was written at the start of 2020 or as the year progressed but, it’s a very good prayer for what was a strange, strange year. As we head into 2021, we have high hopes for better days ahead. One very important thing for Catholics to consider and focus on is the comfort of knowing that our hope and joy is not decided by external circumstances, no matter how painful or challenging. St Francis of Assisi spoke of hope and how it gets us through: “The hope that I hope for is so great that every suffering becomes for me a pleasure.”
This year, I want to encourage New Year’s resolutions in the family that are inspired by the central themes of Catholic social teaching”
The hope we have in our hearts is more than a vain hope that the next year will be better than the last one; it’s a hope in God that sets our hearts on fire and keeps us safe from discouragement and dejection.
After the year that we’ve just endured, we may feel that 2021 is the year to treat ourselves well to make up for what we’ve missed. A conversation on the social platform, Reddit, asked people what they would most like to do when the pandemic is over. Answers included what you’d expect; most wanted to travel, hug friends, go to the gym or go on a date. One respondent couldn’t wait to walk through his local zoo, excited about seeing a new baby elephant. Then there was the response we can all identify with – “Cry tears of joy”. The Christian response wouldn’t reject the very natural desire to rush out and sample a little of the good things we’ve been denied, but that should be a secondary concern. The mission of the Catholic is less about what we’ll be doing for ourselves and more about how we reach out to others and work for the common good of all. A novel start to the year would be to throw out the tired old lists with unrealistic plans centred on becoming “the new you” and to become the better person you dream of being by working on giving.
This year, I want to encourage New Year’s resolutions in the family that are inspired by the central themes of Catholic social teaching. This teaching is a great treasure of wisdom which is about protecting and promoting the dignity of every human being. The principles flow from that basic belief in the value of each human life from conception to natural death. Resolutions based on this principle could be something very practical like volunteering for an organisation like Gianna Care which provides support to mothers with unexpected pregnancies. Younger children can help out, buying nappies and supplies to donate, teaching them how respecting every human being calls for practical action. The topic of assisted suicide and euthanasia is in the news. An undertaking to contribute positively to the debate could include a weekly or fortnightly letter to the papers or texting or ringing into a programme. The call to family, community and participation is another theme that can be translated into so many positive actions like resolving to assign a few hours a week to family fun activities or trips, while the call to be a loving face of Jesus in society challenges us to go further. Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) talks of “responsible citizenship as a virtue”. During 2020, we got used to staying at home but the normal state for Christians is not hiding away but actively participating in wider society. Ask children to think of new ways of participating in their community. Older children can commit to this year being the year to jump into local or national politics. Catholics have a duty not to just sit on the sidelines but to contribute in all fields.
In the area of rights and responsibilities, the Church is the trailblazer in working to protect human dignity. With the right to life comes the right to everything necessary for human flourishing. Children understand the injustice of people living in luxury while others don’t even have the basics like a roof over their head or a hot meal. Every Catholic should read Pope Leo Xlll’s amazing encyclical Rerum Novarum on the plight of workers. It rejects socialism and class wars and urges us to “strive to secure the good of the people” emphasising that “the happy results we all long for must be chiefly brought about by the plenteous outpouring of charity”. This is intimately connected to the social justice option for the poor and vulnerable which asks Catholics to look first to those who are in greatest need. Respect the dignity of work and the rights of workers and demonstrate a strong sense of solidarity with all our brothers and sisters of every colour or creed. We are the stewards of God’s creation and have a responsibility to look after the goods we’ve been given.
So, in 2021, look outwards – volunteer at that soup run, write that letter to a local publication, get involved. See the person beyond the problems, join the local community outreach programme, smile at your neighbour. Sit down with your family and choose two or three concrete changes you can make to increase human dignity and work for the greater good of every member of our society. Be the face of Christ in a weary world. Happy New Year!