In the Church we are able to have our sins forgiven, "unbound", through the ministry of Peter and of all men who share the priesthood with him. Thus, the priesthood which Christ confers through apostolic succession is a source of supernatural life.
Supernatural life, the grace of eternal life or salvation, is important we all agree. But it would not do us any good without a prior gift: natural life. So, there is another gift that must be conferred first, that made possible through our parents: they are "key" to the process by which children gain access to the Kingdom in Christ.
We have seen in recent days the unbreakable faith of Catholics and other Christians in Iraq and other places in the Middle East. Parents have led their children into exile away from the safety and security of their homes and everything familiar in order to lead them to the Lord. These parents are also a kind of "keys to the kingdom" who enable their children to receive the gifts of the Lord.
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Parents give life: because closest to God for children on earth, powerful leading them to God in heaven as family worships Sundays together.
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All of our families faced challenges to the faith which must be overcome by the leadership of our parents if our children are to know and love the Lord by practicing their faith throughout life. Parents are the keys to the kingdom when they:
- lead their children to Sunday Mass despite distractions, opportunities to work, and childish disobedience
- ensure their children receive adequate education through Faith Formation
- get to Confession at a minimum in case of mortal sin
- prayer in the home which is grounded in and leads to Eucharistic devotion and reception on Sundays, holy days and at other times.
The life story of James Foley, the journalist who was brutally killed by evil men in Iraq this week, is an example of the ways in which parents are "key" for their children to the life of the Kingdom.
James learned, and was inspired to pray the rosary during a period of earlier captivity, because of the example of parents and grandparents. The natural relationship with these witnesses of faith were the keys of the kingdom for James in a most difficult period when he did not have access to the ordinary means of grace, through Peter and apostolic succession as all of us are able to here today, in the holy Mass, Confession and the other sacraments. He describes the experience of following the example of his family by praying:
“If nothing else, prayer was the glue that enabled my freedom, an inner freedom first and later the miracle of being released during a war in which the regime had no real incentive to free us. It didn’t make sense, but faith did.”
Let us pray for and support all of our parents, the natural "keys to the kingdom" for all of our children and families.
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!