So often, the pressures of modern living separate husbands and wives from one another, threatening their lifelong interdependence in love and fidelity. Can we also not be concerned about the impact of cultural pressures upon relations between the generations, upon parental authority and the transmission of sacred values? Our Christian conscience should be deeply concerned about the way in which sins against love and against life are often presented as examples of “progress” and emancipation. Most often, they are simply the age-old forms of selfishness dressed up in a new language and presented in a new cultural framework.
Children very soon learn about life. They watch and imitate the behavior of adults. They rapidly learn love and respect for others, but they also quickly absorb the poison of violence and hatred. Family experiences strongly condition the attitudes that children will assume as adults. Consequently, if the family is the place where children first encounter the world, the family must be for children the first school of peace.
How important are children in the eyes of Jesus? We could say that the gospel is full of truth about children. The whole of the gospel could actually be read as the “Gospel of children.” We read in Scripture: “Unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Is not Jesus pointing to children as models even for grown-ups? In children, there is something that must never be missing in people who want to enter the kingdom of heaven. People who are destined to go to heaven are simple like children, and – like children – are full of trust, rich in goodness, and pure. Only people of this sort can find in God a Father and, thanks to Jesus, can become in their own turn children of God.
Jesus and Mary often choose children to do important tasks for the life of the Church and of humanity. Jesus seems to share with them His concern for others: for parents, for other boys and girls. He eagerly awaits their prayers. What enormous power the prayer of children has. This becomes a model for grown-ups themselves: Praying with simple and complete trust means praying as children pray.
As we look toward the future, how can we fail to think of the young? What is being held up to them? A society of “things” and not of “persons”? the right to do as they will from their earliest years, without any constraint?
We may well fear that tomorrow these same young people, once they have reached adulthood, will demand an explanation from their parents and their leaders for having deprived them of reasons for living because they failed to teach them the duties incumbent upon being endowed with intelligence and free will.
Gender equality, as most women themselves point out, does not mean “sameness with men.” This would only impoverish women and all of society by deforming or losing the unique richness and the inherent value of femininity. In the Church’s outlook, women and men have been called by the Creator to live in profound communion with one another with reciprocal knowledge and giving of self, acting together for the common good with the complementary characteristics of that which is feminine and masculine.
Where communities or countries lack basic social infrastructures, women and children are the first to experience marginalization. And yet where poverty abounds, or in the face of the devastation of conflict and war, or the tragedy of migration, forced or otherwise, it is very often women who maintain the vestiges of human dignity, defend the family, and preserve cultural and religious values. History is written almost exclusively as the narrative of men’s achievements, when in fact its better part is most often molded by women’s determined and persevering action for good.
The trivialization of sexuality, especially in the media, and the acceptance in some societies of a sexuality without moral restraint and without accountability, are deleterious to women, increasing the challenges that they face in sustaining their personal dignity and their service to life. In a society that follows this path, the temptation to use abortion as a so-called solution to the unwanted results of sexual promiscuity and irresponsibility is very strong. And here again, it is the woman who bears the heaviest burden: Often left alone, or pressured into terminating the life of her child before it is born, she must then bear the burden of her conscience, which forever reminds her that she has taken the life of her child.
A radical solidarity with women requires that the underlying causes that make a child unwanted be addressed. There will never be justice – including equality, development, and peace, for women, or for men, unless there is an unfailing determination to respect, serve, love, and protect every human life, at every stage and in every situation.
Women also have the task of assuring the moral dimension of culture, the dimension – namely, of a culture worthy of the person – of an individual yet social life. “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” God entrusted the human being to woman. Certainly, every human being is entrusted to each and every other human being, but in a special way the human being is entrusted to woman precisely because the woman, in virtue of her special experience of motherhood, is seen to have a specific sensitivity toward the human person and all that constitutes the individual’s true welfare, beginning with the fundamental value of life.