Delivering his address to pilgrims and visitors, gathered under the hot sun for the weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square, the pontiff stressed the importance of teaching children how to show love for God through prayer.
“It is beautiful when mothers teach their little children to blow a kiss to Jesus or to Our Lady. What tenderness there is in this!” he said.
“In that moment the child's heart is transformed into a place of prayer. And this is a gift of the Holy Spirit.”
However, in off-the-cuff remarks, the Pope lamented how there are children who are not taught the most basic prayers by there parents, a phenomena he said he has witnessed in the city.
“There are children who have not learned how to make the sign of the cross!” he said. “You, mother, father! Teach your children how to pray, how to make the sign of the cross!”
Children should learn prayer with “the same spontaneity” as when they learn to say “daddy” and “mommy,” so that it stays with them forever, the Pope added.
The Pope's August 26 address was the latest in a series of catechesis dedicated to the family. Since late year, the pontiff has been centering his Wednesday catecheses on this theme as part of the lead-up to the World Meeting of Families in September, as well as October’s Synod of Bishops on the Family.
In his catechesis, delivered in Italian, the Holy Father observed how many Christians know they need prayer, but do not have the time.
“Their regret is sincere, certainly, because the human heart always seeks prayer, even without knowing it; and if it does not find it, it does not have peace.”
It is for this reason that Christians must cultivate a love for God, he said.
While it is good to believe in God, to have hope in him to help at difficult times, and to be grateful to him, Pope Francis asked whether or not we also love him.
He cited the scripture passage from Deuteronomy, repeated by Christ in Matthew's Gospel, in which we are called to love God with all our heart, our soul, and strength.
“(This) formula uses the intense language of love, poured into God,” the Pope said.
Pope Francis acknowledged that we are able see God as the one who gives us life and from whom even death cannot separate us, the “great Being” and “Judge” who made all things and controls every act, the Pope said. However, these concepts only find their full significance “when God is the love of our loves.”
“God could have simply made us know him as the supreme Being, given his commandments, and awaited the results.”
This he has done, but also “infinitely more,” the Pope said, adding in off-the-cuff remarks: “He accompanies us on the path of life. He protects us. He loves us.”
Pope Francis acknowledged how there is little time available in family life. However, by finding time to pray, we “give time back to God.” In so doing, we escape the obsession with not having enough time, rediscover “peace in the important things,” and “discover the joy in unexpected gifts.”
Encouraging the faithful to read the Gospel every day, as he has done on numerous occasions, the Holy Father said this is a particularly important practice for families.
“The Gospel, read and meditated on in the family, is like good bread which nourishes the hearts of everyone,” he said.
Pope Francis concluded: “In the family of prayer, in strong moments and in difficult periods, may we be entrusted to one another, in order that everyone of us in the family may be protected by God's love.”