Your Family Will Be a Sanctuary of Love: A Letter to New Parents
“When they become parents, spouses receive from God the gift of a new responsibility. Their parental love is called to become for the children the visible sign of the very love of God, ‘from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.’” —Pope St. John Paul II
Congratulations! Your baby is beautiful. You are marvelous. Welcome to the club. This is a great vocation — a glorious and joyful, sorrowful and luminous vocation.
The art of motherhood, of fatherhood, of parenting, is to make that “gift of self” look effortless. For most of us, this is an ongoing work in progress that never quite reaches what we know it should be. I surrender and renege. I surrender and forget. I surrender and refuse. I surrender and surrender and surrender, and find new excuses, and so it goes.
To make matters worse, these people we've created, birthed, changed, fed, cleaned, entertained, carried, nursed, and loved beyond all reason keep growing up, and thus invent new things for us to manage, and new ways for us to worry. So we have to learn again, to let our hearts be pierced, and to go on loving.
Today I had a visit with a friend and we commiserated over the nature of parenting, which is always that whatever it is you're doing, there's more to it. From the moment of conception, parenting is sacrificial in a physical, emotional and spiritual sense. You surrender your body. You surrender some of your plans. You surrender your heart. You surrender your time. You surrender. You surrender and surrender and still, you surrender more.
You change the diapers, you get up at night. You pick up the socks, you plunge the toilet, you comb out the snarls and pay the unexpected bill. You let them have the last cookie. You let them have the last word, and sometimes, you give them a piece of your mind. You drive out to pick them up, you let them drive. You let them leave, you let them come home.
You let them. You open your doors and say come in, and you set a feast, with warmth and light — and all the time, all you're wanting is more time. You will climb the stairs, you will make their beds, you will mail them letters, you will phone and you will wait by the phone. You will surrender everything and call it a bargain in the process.
Children, all children, are by their nature created by God to teach us how to love. Their needs allow us to be generous as God is generous, and to live out the beatitudes. We are peacemakers amongst those who fight, we clothe the naked, we feed the hungry, we care for the sick, we are merciful, we instruct them, we champion for them, we love them. We love them beyond any ache.
Love always expands outward towards the infinite. The stretchmarks on our bodies are nothing compared to the ones on our hearts.
Here's the best part: the love you give your child is a free gift, and one day, it may be taken for granted. Why is that the best part? Because if your child perceives your parenting as a given in his or her life — that this is how you parent, this is how you love — he or she will teach your grandchildren the lessons you revealed, and the world will grow ever lighter. We will know the truth of the matter: we only did what is required of us.
So welcome and congratulations. Want to change the world? Love your family.