The Dignity of Parenthood
(The following post is a summary of reflections that was inspired by Pope Francis' encyclical "On Love and The Family")
Love always brings forth life. The beauty of life, of bringing babies into the world, is that they are loved even before they arrive. They are anticipated, they are welcomed, they are serenaded, they are nourished, they are cherished. Each new life allows us to give of ourselves without counting the cost. It is such a deep and profound gratuitous component to love which never ceases to amaze the parents who didn't even know they were capable of such selfless love. We are loved before we even do anything to deserve it - just like how God loves us. He celebrates us, nourishes us and cherishes us before we even see the world.
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." - Jeremiah 1:5
Pope Francis writes that each baby has a unique corner in God's heart from the beginning of time, once he or she is born, God's eternal dream has come true! How beautiful. We are God's dream come true. Similarly, each mother shares in the dignity and the great mystery of creation as she brings life into the world. She, too, waits, anticipates and dreams of her child with a longing to know and experience his or her growth. Mothers are “the strongest antidote to the spread of self-centered individualism” as they testify to life’s beauty by their very being and capacity to bring life into the world. Without mothers, we would have a dehumanized society for mothers are always witnesses to tenderness, devotion and moral courage in the worst of times. Yet only God intimately knows the contours of a child's soul, his or her worth and identity is fully exposed to only Him. Expectant parents must pray for the gift to see their child's value for him or herself and to accept the child wholeheartedly regardless of situation or timing.
But this kind of love and welcoming of life is all in an ideal circumstance where father and mother love each other and celebrate the baby. What about those lives that aren't celebrated? What about those mothers who despair over their circumstance? Pope Francis answers this question: “With great affection I urge all future mothers: keep happy and let nothing rob you of the interior joy of motherhood. Your child deserves your happiness. Don’t let fears, worries, other people’s comments or problems lessen your joy at being God’s means of bringing a new life to the world. Prepare yourself for the birth of your child, but without obsessing, and join in Mary’s song of joy: ‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my Saviour, for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant’ (Lk 1:46-48). Try to experience this serene excitement amid all your many concerns, and ask the Lord to preserve your joy, so that you can pass it on to your child” Joy is a powerful gift. Joy is not fluctuating bouts of heightened euphoria but it is a lasting disposition to choose hope amidst sorrow, and to choose love amidst apathy. Pope Francis writes that "you cannot have a family without dreams. Once a family loses the ability to dream, children do not grow, love does not grow, life shrivels up and dies.”
So let us dream. Let us preserve our joy. Let us honour each other and grow in mutual love.