Dear parents, children are the most precious gift you have ever received.
Pope Francis stressed this when receiving members of the Italian Parents’ Association (AGE), in audience this morning , Sept. 7, 2018, in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, on the 50th anniversary of its founding.
In his address, the Pope stressed how great a gift it is to have children and how it is important to cooperate with all the other structures and people them in their schooling and upbringing.
“Dear parents, children are the most precious gift that you have ever received,” Francis said, advising: “Know how to protect them with commitment and generosity, leaving them with the freedom necessary to grow and mature,” in a way that eventually they themselves too ” may be open to life.”
“The attention with which, as an association, you safeguard from the dangers that enter into the lives of the youngest, may it not impede you from looking forward with trust toward the world, knowing how to choose and indicate to your children the best occasions for human, civil and Christian growth.”
The Pope expressed appreciation for their commitment to also support education efforts and initiatives. The Holy Father lamented that teachers are no longer appreciated as they used to be in the past, and noted that they deserve to be appreciated for their precious contributions.
An Anecdote, If I May
The Pope deviated from his remarks to recall when he misbehaved in school and got in trouble for saying something bad to the teacher.
“If I may, I will tell you an anecdote,” he said, explaining: “I was ten years old, and I said something unpleasant to the teacher. She called my mother. The day after my mother came to school, and the teacher went to receive her; they spoke, then my mother called me, and in front of the teacher she rebuked me.
The Pope noted how his mother told him to apologize to the teacher and kiss the teacher, and he obeyed. “I did [both], and then I returned to the classroom, happy, and the story was over.”
“No, it wasn’t over,” he stressed, “The second chapter was when I returned home… This is ‘collaboration’ in the education of a child: between family and teachers.”
“Without them, you risk remaining alone in the your educational action and to be less and less able to face the new educational challenges that they come from contemporary culture, from society, from mass media, from new technologies. The teachers are like you, engaged every day in the educational service to your children.
Can Complain, But Recognize Precious Allies
“If it’s right to complain about the limits of their action, it is a duty to esteem them as the most precious allies in the educational enterprise that you bring forward together.”
Pope Francis concluded, thanking them for the meeting and saying he “warmly blesses” them, their families and the association. He also assured them of his prayers and asked them to pray for him.
Here is the Vatican-provided text of his address to those present:
I am pleased to welcome all of you, representatives of the Associazione Italiana Genitori (AGE), the Italian Parents’ Association, which celebrates its fiftieth birthday this year. An important achievement! It is a valuable opportunity to confirm the motivations of your commitment to the family and education: an effort you make in accordance with the principles of Christian ethics, so that the family may be an increasingly recognized subject and protagonist in social life.
Many of your energies are dedicated to accompanying and supporting parents in their educational task, especially with reference to school, which has always been the main partner of the family in the education of children. What you do in this field is truly meritorious. Today, in fact, when we talk about an educational alliance between school and family, we talk about it mainly to denounce its disappearance: the educational pact is in decline. The family no longer appreciates the work of teachers – often poorly paid – and the latter perceive the presence of parents in schools as an annoyance, ending up keeping them at the margins or considering them adversaries.
To change this situation, someone needs to take the first step, overcoming fear of the other and reaching out their hands generously. For this reason I invite you to cultivate and always nurture trust in school and teachers: without them you risk remaining alone in your educational activity and being less able to face the new educational challenges that come from contemporary culture, from society, from mass media, from new technologies. Teachers, like you, are engaged every day in educational service to your children. While it may be right to complain about the possible limits of their action, it is our duty to esteem them as the most precious allies in the educational enterprise that you carry forward together. If I may, I will tell you an anecdote. I was ten years old, and I said something unpleasant to the teacher. She called my mother. The day after my mother came to school, and the teacher went to receive her; they spoke, then my mother called me, and in front of the teacher she rebuked me and said to me, “Apologize to the teacher”, which I did. “Kiss the teacher”, my mother said. And I did, and then I returned to the classroom, happy, and the story was over. No, it wasn’t over… The second chapter was when I returned home… This is “collaboration” in the education of a child: between family and teachers.
Your responsible and willing presence, a sign of love not only for your children but for the good of all that characterizes school, will help to overcome many divisions and misunderstandings in this area, and to ensure that families are accorded their primary role in the education and instruction of children and young people. In fact, if you as parents need teachers, the school too needs you, and cannot achieve its goals without engaging in constructive dialogue with those who have the primary responsibility for the growth of their pupils. As the Exhortation Amoris Laetitia points out, “Schools do not replace parents, but complement them. This is a basic principle: all other participants in the process of education are only able to carry out their responsibilities in the name of the parents, between the family and society, with their consent and, to a certain degree, with their authorization” (84).
Your associative experience has certainly taught you to trust in mutual help. Let us remember the wise African proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child”. Therefore, in school education, collaboration between the various components of the educational community must never be lacking. Without frequent communication and without mutual trust, community is not built and without a community it is not possible to educate.
Helping to eliminate the educational solitude of the families is also the task of the Church, and I invite you always to feel that she is by your side in the mission of educating your children and making the whole of society a family-friendly place, so that each person may be welcomed, accompanied, guided towards true values and enabled to give the best of his- or herself for the growth of all. So you have a double strength: the one that comes from being an association, that is, people who unite not against someone but for the good of all, and the strength you receive from your bond with the Christian community, where you find inspiration, trust, and support.
Dear parents, children are the most precious gift you have received. Know how to safeguard this gift with commitment and generosity, leaving them the necessary freedom to grow and mature as people who in turn will one day be able to open themselves to the gift of life. The attention with which, as an association, you keep watch over the dangers that threaten the lives of children does not stop you from looking confidently to the world, knowing how to choose and indicate to your children the best opportunities for human, civil and Christian growth. Teach your children moral discernment, ethical discernment: this is good, this is not so good, and this is bad, so that they may know how to distinguish. But this is learned at home, and at school: together, both of them.
I thank you for this meeting and I warmly bless you, your families and the entire association. I assure you of my remembrance in prayer. And you too, please do not forget to pray for me. Thank you.