The #1 Place for Children

One of my good friends, a wise and indefatigable mother of eight, likes to say that once our children are out of the house, our parenting is done on our knees. So true! As my oldest daughter prepares to pack up for her first year of college, I am thrilled with all the opportunities and freedom she will embrace. And I know I want to pray for her.

But even before children do something drastic like settle down in another zip code, they leave the house for any number of activities: play dates, day care, school, sports, parties, etc. Parenting is a long process of building a cozy nest, then nudging our children out of it.

I meet many parents who get a bit panicky about the nudging part, though, and with good reason. The world can be scary, and not everyone will love our children the way we do. Our children may encounter bullies, failure, rejection, heartache, drugs, alcohol, promiscuity--sin, in short. They will not always be angels observing the sin of others, of course; our children are sure to make their share of bad choices.

What if there were a place for our children to go, a safe place, a shelter from sin? A place where they would always find a warm welcome and rest. A home that would accept them entirely as they are, gently leading them away from sin and toward greater goodness and love. That home is Jesus, the very Heart of Jesus.

The greatest gift I can imagine for my children is for them to know about this place, this Heart, and to want to remain close to it. God loves our children more--and more perfectly--than we do. How consoling to imagine our children resting in this perfect Heart of Christ.

The Apostleship of Prayer is all about helping people pray, obviously, and in the spirit of the Jesuits who founded the Apostleship of Prayer, we like to pursue the magis--the greater and more excellent universal good. In prayer, then, we like to go right to the "heart of the matter," right to the Heart of Jesus. When friends want to describe the essence of someone, after all, they never refer to her arm, or her stomach, or even her face; the "core" of knowing someone is knowing her heart. While the Apostleship of Prayer encourages all kinds of prayer, we are particularly thankful for the gift God gave us when he became a man, giving us the physical means to pray to him heart to Heart.

This Sunday my church celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday, which focuses on the mercy flowing from the Heart of Jesus. The Gospel reading at Mass was John 20:19-31, the famous account of Doubting Thomas. As everything that day focused on the Heart of Jesus, I was drawn deeply into Thomas' story. I pictured Thomas in Caravaggio's celebrated painting and imagined what exactly Thomas' fingers must have touched while he was probing the wound in Jesus' side. Was Thomas tentative about feeling the wound? Or did he plunge right in? Did he actually come into contact with the Heart of Jesus? Was it touching the Heart that caused Thomas to exclaim, "My Lord and my God!"?

Spending time with the Heart of Jesus might be consoling and helpful for your family. When my daughter arrives on campus this fall, the church that awaits her is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Well played, Lord! You have led my child from the heart of our home straight into your Sacred Heart. As you say in Matthew 6:21, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Every parent can sigh (or weep!) with relief and joy, remembering that you, Lord Jesus, treasure our children. Where our children are, then, your Heart is also. Please draw our children closer and closer to your Heart.

For an excellent article on the relationship between Divine Mercy and the Sacred Heart, please visit John O'Brien, S.J.'s recent post on the "Ibo et Non Redibo" blog of the English Jesuits in Canada.