Read the Forward From Danielle Bean…
Years ago, when I was in the hospital laboring to deliver our seventh child, my husband paced the floors, and a television tuned to Fox News blared from a corner of the room. Pope John Paul II was dying.
It seemed especially fitting that this man, who had spent a lifetime waging battle against the forces of what he called the “culture of death,” should offer such a fearless, contrasting example of embracing suffering at the end of his life. John Paul II was the only pope I ever knew. I was just
six years old when white smoke wafted from the chimney in the Sistine Chapel and my mother stood before the television, mesmerized and clutching a dishtowel, as Karol Wojtyla was elected pope decades ago. Though I paid little attention at the time, the famous opening lines of John Paul II’s inaugural sermon came to have more meaning for me as I grew older:
“Be not afraid. Open wide the gates to Christ. Open up to his saving power the confines of the state, open up economic and political systems, the vast empires of culture, civilization and development. … Be not afraid!”
It can be hard not to fear. As parents raising the next generation of Christians in a world that often mocks our values and offers all manner of godlessness presented in seductive packages, it can be very hard not to fear. That day in the hospital, when my unborn son’s heart-beat slowed unexpectedly and became erratic, one nurse ran to the hall and shrieked for the doctor while two others threw me roughly onto my side and forced an oxygen mask onto my face. When my eyes met my pale-faced, stoic husband’s, fear pressed hard against my heart. Hours later, when I held my healthy, pink-faced new-born son, traced my finger along the gentle curve of his dimpled elbows, and felt his sturdy legs kick hard against the swaddling, I thought of our beloved, dying pope.
I recalled his abiding love for families and unfailing confidence in the next generation. John Paul II once said, “As the family goes, so goes the
nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” Sometimes that makes me tremble. We are the families in whom he had such confidence. Ours was the generation he predicted would bring about a “new springtime” in the Catholic Church.
I am no pope. How can I raise up a new generation to wage war against a culture of death that devalues human life, promotes impurity, scorns faith, and forgets its dependence on God? John Paul II had no patience for such paralyzing fears. I think this is what he had in mind when he reminded us, “The future starts today, not tomorrow.” He intended that we should establish a culture of life by forgetting our fears, “opening wide the doors to Christ,” and letting Him take care of the more worrisome details.
I am grateful for that reminder.
And Jason Free reminds me too. Parenting On Purpose is an easy read, but don’t be fooled by its simplicity. Ostensibly, this humble book offers readers “7 Ways to Raise Terrific Christian Kids,” but I think what it really offers is something much greater than that. Here, in straight-forward language, with personal examples, practical wisdom, and honest humility, Jason Free offers every Christian parent real hope for the future and an infectious form of optimism.
You can do this, I hear God’s voice through these pages. I have called you to Christian parenthood, and though it might not always be easy, you are up to this task. Specifically, Free reminds us to nurture our marriages, bless our children, simplify our lives, celebrate life, speak carefully, protect purity, and create a legacy of love for our families. But the most precious gift in this book is that of parental empowerment. The future of our children’s faith is in our hands, but that is not cause for panic. It is cause for great joy. The encouraging, joy-filled chapters of this book will light your heart afire with renewed gratitude for the awesome gift of our faith, and inspire you with confidence as you take on the task of passing on that gift to future generations.
Recently, my son Raphael, born into this world just as John Paul II was leaving it, approached me with a hand-hewn wooden sword his older brother whittled for him from a tree branch. “Can you attach this to my belt?” As I worked the sword through his belt loops, Raphael wiped his sun-kissed face with a dirty hand and squinted toward the trees. “Where can I find some bad guys to fight?” he wondered aloud. I watched Raphael march boldly into our open field with his sword at his side. Be not afraid, John Paul II once reminded us, and now Jason Free reminds us too. If we raise up soldiers for Christ, and if we place the future of our Church in such capable hands and hearts as these, we will have nothing
Editorial Director, Faith & Family