This was originally posted on the Raising Saints podcast in December 2013.
We have a new Saint in our Holy Church! The official word has come from our Patriarch in Constantinople: the holy Elder Porphyrios is henceforth to be known as St. Porphyrios.
What a great blessing! St. Porphyrios just left us, fell asleep in the Lord in 1991. Our lifetimes overlapped. I love to see modern Saints, to know that even in this crazy mixed up modern world, the human race is still producing Saints, thank God. We are not so far gone, are we?
In honor of this momentous occasion, of the canonization of St. Porphyrios and right on its heels, the very first celebration of his official feast day, December 2, the anniversary of his falling asleep, I thought we could spend some time with the great wisdom he offers us in regard to raising up children, which is recorded in the beautiful book, Wounded by Love: The Life and Wisdom of Elder Porphyrios, translated by John Raffan, and available through various booksellers.
When parents would come to the Elder asking advice, it seems that his favorite response was to ask them not to talk, but to pray. Or at least, if they felt they had to talk, let them pray first.
Pray and then speak. That’s what to do with your children. If you are constantly lecturing them, you’ll
become tiresome and when they grow up they’ll feel a kind of oppression. Prefer prayer and speak to them
through prayer. Speak to God and God will speak to their hearts. That is, you shouldn’t give guidance to
your children with a voice that they hear with their ears. You may do this too, but above all you should
speak to God about your children. Say, “Lord Jesus Christ, give Your light to my children. I entrust them to
You. You gave them to me, but I am weak and unable to guide them, so, please, illuminate them.” And God
will speak to them and they will say to themselves, “Oh dear, I shouldn’t have upset Mummy by doing that!”
And with the grace of God this will come from their heart.’
This is the most perfect way — for the mother to speak to God and for God to speak to the children. If you
do not communicate in this way, constant lecturing becomes a kind of intimidation. And when the child
grows up it begins to rebel, that is, to take revenge, so to speak, on its father and mother who coerced it.
One way is the perfect way — for the mother’s and father’s holiness and love in Christ to speak. The
radiance of sanctity and not human effort makes for good children.
St. Porphyrios speaks of a troubling dynamic: constant lecturing becomes a kind of intimidation, and the children rebel against the coercion of the parents. That’s all too familiar, and it’s not how Christ loves. There is no coercion in Christ; to the contrary, there is a freedom in Christ’s love.
On another occasion, he would say,
When children grow up in an atmosphere of freedom and at the same time are surrounded by the good example of grown-ups, they are a joy to see. The secret is to be good and saintly and to inspire and radiate. The life of the children seems to be affected by the radiation of their parents. If the parents insist, ‘Come on now, go and make confession, go and receive Communion’, and so on, nothing is achieved. But what does your child see in you? How do you live and what do you radiate? Does Christ radiate in you? That is what is transmitted to your child. This is where the secret lies.
Does Christ radiate in you?
That’s the secret that’s the key to everything, isn’t it? Does Christ radiate in you? If He does, the children indeed, the people you meet will feel Him radiating. Does Christ radiate in you? What a thing to say to us, what an invitation the idea that Christ could radiate in us, in us sad and worn out parents, in the harried Sunday School teachers and the overworked youth ministry worker. Does Christ radiate in you? Stop talking. Pray, pray, pray. Let Him fill you up, so that He will radiate in you and pour into the children who surround you and who absorb Him from you.
Glory be to God in the highest!
I intended to offer a long episode, and to tell you about my favorite prayer for parents, but I don’t know if I can add to St. Porphyrios’s great wisdom here, or if I should. So let’s divide this episode into two parts. Next time, we’ll talk about my favorite parent’s prayer for their child, and how I came to love it. Until then, let’s pray together the parents’ prayer of St. Porphyrios:
“Lord Jesus Christ, give Your light to my children. I entrust them to You. You gave them to me, but I am
￼￼weak and unable to guide them, so, please, illuminate them.”
May Christ radiate in you, today and every day, unto the ages of ages, Amen. Pray for us, St. Porphyrios! Join the choir of the Saints, lifting us up and helping us to carry our burdens. Amen.