How can we help our families to grow spiritually?
Those that ask this question come from a variety of backgrounds. It is a very common question amongst parents who have come to love Christ, and who yearn for their children to come to love Christ. Those that ask this question could even be young people who love the members of their family and deeply desire that their loved ones, as the psalmist says, come to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 33 :9).
Saint Porphyrios said the following for parents, but his words apply to all, no matter what their position is in their family.
“What saves and makes for good children is the life of the parents in the home… Parents need to become saints in their relation to their children through their mildness, patience and love. They need to make a new start every day, with a fresh outlook, renewed enthusiasm and love for their children… Children’s behaviour is not improved by reprimands, disciplining, or strictness… Mothers know how to express anxiety, offer advice and talk incessantly, but they haven’t learned to pray. Most advice and criticism does a great deal of harm. You don’t need to say a lot to children. Words hammer at the ears, but prayer goes to the heart… When the love between you and towards your children is holy and Christian love, then you will have no problem. The sanctity of the parents saves the children… The same divine grace will then illuminate, warm and animate the souls of the children.”
St Paisios also stressed prayer, if someone from our family is not interested in the Church he advised us not to be anxious but surrender this matter to Christ. He said, “If a child is falling away, parents need to turn to God in prayer and in faith and place their child in the hands of the Lord. Sometimes parents have the grudge – we are regular at Church, why should my child turn away so much – they do not give the screwdriver to Christ to tighten some screws – they want to do it all themselves – even though they are faithful, they act as if there is no God, and thus they hinder Divine intervention.”
In other words, the main answer to the question on how can we help other members of our family come closer to Christ is that we ourselves need to strive to grow spiritually. The emphasis is not so much on what we say to them, though occasionally, in a humble and loving way, we may have to say a few things to them.
The main way we can help them is if we are growing in prayer, and if we are growing towards sanctity. If we are being renewed constantly, becoming more selfless, tolerant, humble, kind, loving and giving, then this gives us the best chance of helping others.
We cannot hide our true selves in our families. If we are trying to tell them to come more regularly to Church, they are not likely to listen if they know we have anger, are judgemental, lazy and selfish. If we have tasted of the joy and peace of the Lord, and if we have genuine love and humility, then there may come a time when our loved ones will also be touched by the Grace of God.
† Fr D. K.
Source: Lychnos June – July 2021