Friday, August 24, 2018

Nurturing the Hearts of Our Children

Dear Friends,

Pope Francis is in Ireland this weekend. One of his reasons to be there is to call attention to and celebrate families at the World Meeting of Families. Since 1994, the Vatican Office for Laity, Family and Life has gathered people in various parts of the world in support of family life – to repeat and renew the love of Christ for families throughout the world.

Families have been very much in the news during these last few years: refugee families, immigrant families, families uprooted from their homes by war. So many. So tragic. Yet, Jesus continues to say about the children of these families – indeed, all families, “Let them come to me” (Mark 10.14). Rather than focus on the dark side of family life, let’s take a few moments before the new school season begins to recommit ourselves to love our children in the Spirit of Christ, and help our children to grow in every way they possibly can.

I live with Sister Melissa Gernon, a talented second grade teacher at our Congregation’s Nazareth Elementary School. This school, like other schools, is full of talented, intense, challenged, funny, curious children. Recently, Nazareth has put its creative energies into an international strategy to help the children grow. Called the Nurtured Heart Approach, this dynamic process was developed by child specialist Howard Glasser, founder of the Children’s Success Foundation. One school out west writes on its website that through using the Nurtured Heart Approach, its goal is “to build inner wealth, to transform what children believe about themselves and give them abundant evidence that they are valuable, good, competent and able to cope and succeed in life.”

Teachers can’t do this work alone. They need the partnership of parents, grandparents, other family members, and neighbors.

Children are elusive. They push our buttons. They don’t necessarily trust adults. They recognize when we are more interested in our tech toys than in them. What was there about Jesus that drew them to Him? Did they see His focus on them, His interest and encouragement?

As our kiddos get ready to go off to school, what will we do? Will we breathe a sigh of relief that they will be gone during the day? Or will we nurture their hearts? And if we are Christian, will we nurture the virtues in them? Will we recognize and tell them we see the kindness they exhibit, the hopefulness with which they live, the love with which they treat the bullied child in their class? Will they recognize our sincerity when we praise them? Will they find in us models to emulate?

Even if we don't have children of our own, we are all part of various groups which include children. Will Christ’s love for them shine in us?

As schools open, will we make every effort to nurture children?

~Sister Joan Sobala