Speaking with Our Children about the Passing of the Holy Father
By Lisa M. Hendey
not afraid!” – Perhaps these words of advice, given to us by our beloved
Pope John Paul II at the beginning of his pontificate in 1978, are the
best resource available for parents looking to provide comfort and
reassurance to their children at the passing of this great spiritual
light. I have found this week that along with dealing with my own
personal mourning, it has been important to spend time in prayer and
conversation with my children as they deal with the death of the only Pope
they have ever known.
Children are so
wonderful – they freely and without reservation express many of the
emotions we “grown ups” hold inside. My two boys are no exception. I
find myself looking to my ten year old son Adam frequently as a role model
of empathy and compassion. Adam, at ten years old, has always been a
perceptive child, and particularly so when it comes to human suffering.
He’s the first to cry “Stop, he needs help!” at the site of a poor person
looking for support. He’s also his mother’s greatest defender, coming to
my aid against the light hearted teasing of his father and older brother.
So it’s no surprise that he is particularly in tune to Mom’s mood this
week, and to the profound wave of emotions that fill my heart.
To help shepherd my own
“flock” through this period of mourning and prayer for our Church’s
leaders, I consulted one of the best group of “experts” I know on the
topic of Catholic parenting, the mothers at the Catholic Mom Community (www.cmomc.org).
I asked them for their insights on how they are speaking with their own
children about the death of the Holy Father and this time of transition
for our Church. I am happy to share some of their words of wisdom.
Special Masses and turn to the Eucharist – Mom
of five Lisa, from Greenville, California, plans to attend special
Eucharistic celebrations being held several evenings this week in her
own parish. Children may obtain holy card memorials at these services
that will remind them for years of the many good works of this special
Prayer – Many families are taking time to
remember the intentions of the Holy Father during their family prayer
times. Denise, a mother of five daughters from Apple Valley,
California, says her family is setting aside time each evening to pray
as a family.
Television Watching – Mary, mother of a large
family in Alton, Illinois, recommends monitoring children’s exposure to
television coverage. It is important, especially with younger children,
that time be taken to explain images they may view on television that
may frighten or confuse them. Prudent at any time, this advice to
monitor our children’s viewing is especially appropriate at this time.
Suggested alternatives might include viewing a videotape documentary on
the life of John Paul II.
Rosary – Knowing the Holy Father’s dedication
to the Rosary, family time spent praying the Rosary is a wonderful
tribute to John Paul II. Sassy, mother to nine from Iowa, has
encouraged her children to remember the Cardinals in their prayers
during this important time of discernment.
- “Be not
afraid!” - Bea, mother of five from Arizona,
is one of my favorite “experts” and a continual font of wisdom for me,
as she has raised a daughter and four sons, (including one priest and two seminarians). She
counsels: “When Christ
died the apostles were afraid, ran and hid for a while. When our first
Pope, St. Peter died, I'm sure the Catholics at the time were also
afraid. When a baby is being born, it is said HE is afraid. He is
leaving the only world he's ever known. He has a sense that he will die,
But his life is about to begin. The Pope's life, his life in eternity
is about to begin, we should rejoice for him. When Christ ascended into
heaven he told the apostles they should rejoice because He is going to
the Father. The Pope's mission on earth was finished and God called him
home. We should rejoice for him. It is for ourselves that we weep
because he has left us. Christ said about the Church that "the gates of
hell shall not prevail against it." We have God's Word, nothing else is
needed. Another phase will begin in Our Church, we should rejoice. God
will not abandon us. He never has. It is we who abandon Him by sin. The
only thing we should fear is sin. It is time to pray for our Church and
await what God has in store for us. The Pope would always say "Be not
afraid." The biggest honor we can give our Pope at this time is to heed
Regardless of how you
and your family take time to commemorate John Paul II and his papacy and
life of service, time spent in prayer and conversation with our children
during this historic time will be remembered for years to come. We need
look no further than to the example offered us by this special light of
Christ himself as we take time with our own loved ones to remember him and
to seek his intercession in turning our hearts towards Jesus Christ.
Lisa M. Hendey is a
mother of two sons, webmaster of numerous web sites, including
http://www.christiancoloring.com, and an avid reader of Catholic
literature. Visit her at
http://www.lisahendey.com for more information.
on the Papacy and the Life of John Paul II