Divine Intimacy (starting around #250) have been amazing! All the meditations are on fraternal charity and are so inspiring, renewing my resolve to give my full presence to my children and respond to them with gentleness and joy. I wish I'd been underlining all the wonderful thoughts Fr. Gabriel has included in the last month's meditations so I could go back to them easily and share them with you. Instead, I have only a few:
"Everyone [even a child] has some burden, more or less heavy, to bear: physical or moral weakness, the press of duties and responsibilities, fatigue or other troubles which weigh on his shoulders. Everyone feels the need of a friendly hand to help him carry this weight. This hand should be held out to him in fraternal charity, which for love of God, knows how to be all things to all men. 'Bear ye one another's burdens, and so you shall fulfill the law of Christ' St. Paul exhorts us (Gal 6,2). A Christian knows that he is not isolated, but is a member of a unique body, the Mystical Body of Christ. 'So we being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another' (Rom 12,5). This knowledge of his solidarity with the brethren [secure attachment] makes a Christian live, not enclosed in the tiny circle of his own interests, but with his heart open to the needs and interests of others."
So it is our knowledge of our incorporation in Christ that should remove our anxiety and enable us to give generously of ourselves to our neighbor, beginning with our spouse and children; and this in turn, will open their hearts to the needs and interests of others.
"Charity always believes in the good will of others, even though it may be accompanied by faults; it always hopes in the good which it knows how to discover in every creature, although it may be eclipsed by many deficiencies [the flight from vulnerability]. What is more important, charity supports everything, never finding any burden too heavy. To support, according to the etymology of the word, means 'to place oneself under a weight to carry it.' Charity feels that it must stoop with love to take up the burdens of others, particularly those burdens which all avoid because they are troublesome."
"Behold the charity which, instead of fleeing, seeks out those who are suffering through natural and moral imperfections [rather than sending them to their rooms to suffer alone!], and busies itself with them so lovingly that they never guess how painful the effort is, nor how troublesome their defects are to others. Charity bears all things, endures all things with a smiling, serene face, never showing itself annoyed or crushed by the burden it bears."
How sensitive children are to perceiving that they are a burden to their parents! I cringe at the memory of so many times when my reactions to their requests have lent themselves to the impression that my children were a burden to me. And even though the memory of their sad expression is punishment enough for me, still the consequence of my sins afflicts my children and often tempts me to recoil from yet another burden I have laid upon them, perpetuating this awful cycle. What a horror and plague is sin! And what an awesome responsibility is parenthood. While lay Catholics stand in outrage over the recent scandals in the priesthood, we may do well to become more mindful of how our own actions offend the innocence of our children.
"Attention to the needs and sorrows of others, with a constant readiness to give one's help, is no justification for expecting a like return... Charity does not give an order to receive; it gives without counting the cost and without measure, for it knows that the honor of serving and loving God in His creatures is ample reward. Charity loves, serves, gives, and spends itself lavishly, solely for the sake of loving and serving God in others, for the joy of imitating His infinite generosity, for the joy of feeling itself the child of the heavenly Father who bestows His favors upon all without distinction. What greater reward can there be than to be able to call ourselves, and to be in all truth, children of God! To enjoy this [intrinsic] reward, charity seeks to fly from every [extrinsic] earthly recompense and hides the good it does... It seeks by preference to benefit those from whom it can expect nothing in return..."
Wow! There's an awful lot about punishments and rewards in that thought that I think even Alfie Kohn would agree with!
"Sometimes, just when one of about to perform an especially delicate act of charity for another, a strong feeling of antipathy toward that person arises from the sensitive part of the soul because of the absence of some sign or token of respect or consideration. This is manifestly a temptation which must be overcome as soon as it appears, that it may not take root. Anyone who would yield to these feelings and act accordingly, under the pretext of justice or of teaching a lesson, would soon become very exacting to the great detriment of charity."
How true this is in parenting! The devil wastes no time at all tempting us to start a tally of who deserves what based on his own contributions! But what a fatal error this is, especially within the family, undermining secure attachment to its foundation. If it were even possible to make a tree bear fruit before it was fully mature, it's roots having spread deep and wide enough to support the weight of its fruit-laden branches, it would topple over and die, its fruit rotting on the ground. But this is exactly what so many of us expect of our children, forcing the flower and stealing young fruit from the branches, not waiting for it to ripen and be offered freely. And what is our excuse? That we ourselves are starving. And why? Because we have still put off the Cross and the imitation of Christ. If we are not living up to the precept of fraternal charity in our own homes, it is because we are only in a casual, on-again-off-again relationship, if at all, with the source of all charity Who is Jesus. Only He can fully affirm us so that we will be empowered to affirm our children; only He can satisfy all our needs so that we will be empowered to fill the needs of our children; only He can satisfy our heart's desire so that we will be empowered to satisfy the desire of our children's hearts; so that having arrived one day at full maturity, our children will be empowered to rest in Him and be affirmed by Him, and fulfilled, and satisfied.