Look at your little child. See the little smile, the little nose; see the little arms and legs; hear the sweet little voice that calls your name in joy and sorrow. If you could, you would imitate God and number the hairs upon your little one’s head (Mt 10:30), treasuring each one, “for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Lk 12:34).
You will move heaven and earth for those little limbs and little hairs—those things which were made from dust, “and into dust thou shalt return” (Gn 3:19).
But that little soul! That little soul shall never return to dust. It shall, God willing, forever rejoice before the splendor of all that is good, true, and beautiful, reveling in inexplicable joy, overcome with inexhaustible glory, relishing every moment more and more for eternity, never slowing, never tiring, never ceasing, never exhausting the infinity of the Beatific Vision.
Or that little soul—if it be a child of the kingdom of man (Mt 8:12)—will suffer the warnings of Jesus Christ: “The Son of man shall send his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all scandals, and them that work iniquity. And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mt 13: 41–42).
Imagine, your little one surrounded with unquenchable sin and wrath. It is hard to imagine. In fact, you might find it easier to imagine a child locked in a dark cellar, abused and malnourished by the cursed hand of a demonic man, than possessed by demons on earth. Some such children live to tell their story. And your heart plummets to your stomach, sickened with sympathy, so grateful your child has been spared from such a plight.
But such a plight is nothing compared to the pit of Satan’s layer, where every light of hope and love is extinguished in the fires of hell.
How foolish we are! If your sweet little one had cancer, suffering the pangs of chemotherapy, needles and fear of the unknown—if your little daughter had her head shaved and covered with scarfs or your son no longer had the strength to throw a ball—you would rightly move heaven and earth to save their bodies with the most innovative treatment. You would, without hesitation, work a second shift, or even beg for money from family, friends, and strangers. You would expose your own sorrow and plead for mercy from your creditors. You would cease to care about your own health, wealth, and reputation. Your personal dreams would gladly be abandoned and replaced with one simple dream of holding your child’s broken body in your arms one more day. You would, indeed, die a thousand deaths to salvage your child’s one life.
But you must confront the following question with scrutiny and sincerity: how much of this paternal affection do you on average direct toward your little one’s soul? All your efforts to save the little heart that pumps blood, but so little effort to save the soul that lives forever. How often have you darted across the room to save your toddler from ingesting a dangerous chemical but shrugged your shoulders at the impurity on Netflix or the wrath on video games? How often have you sat on pins and needles awaiting your new driver to return home safely but think little about his soul crashing into the dregs of humanity on his smartphone? The mere thought of a man violating your teenager daughter is too much to bear, yet you barely sweat over the kings of pop culture infecting her with their own poison and moral code. “And fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mt 10:28).
As a parent, you must examine your conscience: do you give greater attention to your child’s physical or spiritual well-being? Have you gone to great lengths, have you constructed your entire life around your child’s health, education, social life, and sports so they can be well-rounded, productive, and successful citizens? A resounding yes comes to mind. But have you given even 10 percent of such effort to their spiritual formation? Have you considered heaven and hell 10 percent as much as you consider worldly success for your growing child? Perhaps you wish you had more resources to pay for college, travel, or family vacations. But do you have regrets for not taking your child to Eucharistic Adoration and confession and helping him fall deeply—madly—in love with Our Lady?
As a parent, you must dwell upon the day of your judgement, standing on trial before the throne of God, with all the angels and saints gazing upon you and the evidence laid before the Supreme Judge. And the angelic choirs will sing out the divine teaching of the Godman: “It were better for him, that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should scandalize one of these little one” (Lk 17:2). That is right! Your little ones. Almighty God has given you care of innocent babes who are like “sheep in the midst of wolves” (Mt 10:16) whom the devil, like “a roaring lion,” prowls about seeking to devour (1 Pt 5:8).
As a loving father or mother, you must do everything to get your children to heaven. Yet due to original sin (darkness of intellect, weakness of will, and proneness to evil), your eyes remained fixed on this mortal coil we call earth. It is only through grace that you can be freed from the chains of your senses, enabling you to transcend earthly fixation, focusing all your thoughts, emotions, and grit on your child’s eternal glory.
Fear not if you are unqualified to lead your child on the path of righteousness! Take heart in the fact that Noah was a drunk, Moses stuttered, David was a murderer and adulterer, Peter was a coward, Thomas was a doubter, Paul was a persecutor, and Lazarus was dead. For the Lord told St. Paul, “My grace is sufficient for thee; for power is made perfect in infirmity” (2 Cor 12:9). With grace, Dear Parent, teach your child that which you do not yet fully possess, for God uses broken vessels to accomplish His will. And therefore, oh flawed and weak parent, be like St. Paul and say to yourself, “Gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (12:9).
Despite the litany of sins casting a shadow over the light of your baptismal grace, if you focus on the smallest truths and perform the simplest acts of devotion, the glory of God’s brilliant light will burst forth onto your children, lighting the path to their very own mansion awaiting them in the Father’s house (Jn 14:2).
In this little book, you will read about those little truths and simple devotions that are sufficient for forming your child’s conscience so that he will have the strength necessary to shun the kingdom of man and every opportunity to become an eternal resident of the kingdom of God.
Dear Reader, if you believe these profound truths and lead your family in these simple devotions, you will one day be able to repeat the Canticle of Simeon, a hymn proclaimed by an old, tired, but vigilant man awaiting the Messiah in the Temple. He lovingly took the baby Jesus from the Virgin Mother into his own arms. He held that innocent child and gazed into His eyes with love and affection, just as you do with your own. He looked up at heaven and proclaimed the very words that every parent ought to declare with their own dying breath, knowing that they as parents have done the will of the God: “Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word in peace” (Lk 2:29).
Source: Parenting for Eternity by Conor Gallagher, Published by TAN Books (cf. Introduction).
Conor Gallagher is CEO of TAN Books. He is author of various books and is a proud husband and father of fifteen children. His subjects of interest include family life, philosophy, the spiritual life and spiritual direction. His graduate degrees are from the Catholic University of America.