ROME — There are many saints who demonstrate that even if one comes from a difficult childhood, or does not have good parents, hope can still be found in Christ and the mission received from him, Pope Francis said Wednesday.
The commandment to honor father and mother “can be constructive for many young people who come from stories of pain and for all those who have suffered in their youth,” he said Sept. 19.
“Many saints – and many Christians – after a painful childhood lived a bright life, because, thanks to Jesus Christ, they were reconciled with life,” he said, pointing to the example of Blessed Nunzio Sulprizio, who died at 19 from bone cancer after being orphaned at a very young age.
Sulprizio will be canonized in Rome Oct. 14 during the Synod of Bishops on young people.
The pope also noted the witness of St. Camillus de Lellis, who, he said, “from a disordered childhood built a life of love and service; to St. Josephine Bakhita, who grew up in horrible slavery; or to the Bl. Carlo Gnocchi, an orphan and poor man; and to the very St. John Paul II, marked by the loss of his mother at an early age.”
The wounds of one’s young life have the potential to be transformed, by grace, when it is discovered “that God has prepared us for a life of his children, where every act is a mission received from him,” Francis said.
The pope’s general audience catechesis on the theme of the Ten Commandments continued with a reflection on the commandment “to honor thy father and mother.”
Looking back on one’s childhood, especially if it was difficult, “we discover that the real mystery is no longer ‘why?’ [something happened] but ‘for whom?’ For whom did this happen to me,” Francis asked. This is when people can begin to honor their parents “with the freedom of adult children and with merciful acceptance of their limits.”
As it says in Deuteronomy, he quoted, “honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that your days may be prolonged, and you may be happy in the land which the Lord your God gives you.”
The commandment says that honoring one’s parents “leads to a long, happy life,” he noted. This acknowledges what the human sciences have said: “That the imprint of childhood marks the whole of life.”
He explained that whatever history one comes from, this commandment gives “the orientation that leads to Christ: in him, in fact, the true Father is revealed, who offers us ‘to be reborn from above.”
The fourth commandment “does not talk about the goodness of parents, it does not require fathers and mothers to be perfect,” he said.
“It speaks of an act of the children, regardless of the merits of the parents, and says something extraordinary and liberating: even if not all parents are good and not all childhoods are sunny, all children can be happy, because the achievement of a full and happy life depends on the right gratitude to those who have placed us in the world.”
“Honoring father and mother therefore means to recognize their importance also through concrete actions, which express dedication, affection and care,” he said.
Adding comments off-the-cuff, he asked those present, if they are not currently close with their parents, if they would consider returning to a relationship with them. He also told children they should never insult their parents or the parents of others.