Pope Francis to Families: Teach Your Children Well the Word of God

The Holy Father told those assembled at the Sistine Chapel, ‘Every day, get into the habit of reading a passage from the Gospel, a little one, and always carry a small Gospel in your pocket or purse to read.’

(photo: CNA file/Bohumil Petrik)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis baptized 33 babies at the Sistine Chapel on Sunday, advising families to set an example for their children through reading the Gospels.

He said the word of God is like a mother’s nourishing milk.

“God, like a good father and a good mother, wants to give good gifts to his children,” and he wants to give his children “substantial food,” the Pope said in his homily at the Jan. 11 Sistine Chapel Mass.

“What is this substantial food that God gives us?” the Pope asked. “It is his word. His word makes us grow, makes us bear good fruit in life, as rain and snow are good for the earth and make it fruitful.”

At one point, the Holy Father encouraged mothers to give their children milk, “even now, if they cry for hunger.”

“We thank the Lord for the gift of milk and pray for those mothers — who are many, unfortunately — who are not in a position to give food to their children,” he said. “We pray and try to help these mothers.”

“What milk does to the body, the word of God does for the spirit: The Word of God makes faith grow.”

He encouraged parents, godparents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, encouraging that they will “help these children to grow well if you give them the word of God, the Gospel of Jesus.”

“And give them the example [of faith],” he exhorted. “Every day, get into the habit of reading a passage from the Gospel, a little one, and always carry a small Gospel in your pocket or purse to read.”

“This will be an example to the children: to see Dad, Mom, godparents, grandfather, grandmother, uncles and aunts read the word of God.”

The Holy Father cited the words of St. John the Evangelist: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God.”

“In this faith, your children are baptized,” he said. “Today, it is your faith, dear parents and godparents, and the faith of the Church, in which these children receive baptism. But, tomorrow, with the grace of God, it will be their faith, their personal ‘Yes’ to Jesus Christ, who gives us the Father’s love.”

Pope Francis said that baptism integrates Christians into the body of the Church, into the holy people of God. He said the Christian faith is transmitted from generation to generation, beginning with the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, the apostles and martyrs.

The Pope encouraged families to pass down to their children the “light of faith,” which they take from Jesus.

“Teach your children that you cannot be a Christian outside the Church; you cannot follow Jesus Christ without the Church, because the Church is [our] mother and makes us grow in love for Jesus Christ.”

“Dear parents, dear godfathers and godmothers, if you want your children to become true Christians, help them grow, ‘immersed’ in the Holy Spirit, that is, in the heart of the love of God.”

He encouraged daily prayer to the Holy Spirit, saying this helps children “grow up in the atmosphere of the Holy Trinity.”  

Pope Francis especially recommended one short prayer: “Come, Holy Spirit; fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love.”