.- Pope Benedict XVI baptized 16 newborn babies during Sunday Mass within the historic surroundings of the Vaticanâs Sistine Chapel on Jan. 8.
âWe can say that this was your first educational choice as witnesses of the faith to your children: the fundamental choice,â said the Pope to the parents, godparents, families and friends.
The annual ceremony marks the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, and thus, the conclusion of the Churchâs Christmas celebrations. The Pope explained to those gathered that their role is now to educate their children in conjunction with God.
âEducating is very demanding; it is sometimes arduous because of our human capacities, which are always limited,â he said.
âBut education becomes a wonderful mission if it is done in collaboration with God, who is the first and true educator of every man.â
To distance ourselves from God, though, is to become like the prodigal son because âwe would soon find ourselves in troubleâ and âabove all we would lose our human dignity.â
âFortunately for us,â he said, âwe can always come back to Him,â knowing that when we do âit will bring forth good fruit in our lives, as the rain irrigates the earth.â
That is why the parents and godparents turn to âthe source of salvation,â that is âthe Word of God and the Sacraments.â
Parents, like priests, are not âthe sourceâ of a spiritual education but are "like the channels through which the lifeblood of the love of God must pass.â Therefore, the first and best way to educate children âis through witness.â
Pope Benedict pointed to how John the Baptist lead his disciples to Jesus in today's Gospel as a model for educating people in the faith.
âThe true teacher does not bind people to him, he is not possessive,â but instead, he or she âwants the son or disciple, to learn to know the truth, and establish a personal relationship with it,â the Pope said. Therefore, while a âtrue teacherâ will always provide an âattentive and faithful presence,â the primary goal is that âthe student will listen to the voice of truth speaking to his heart and pursue a personal journey.â
Since parents and godparents are aided in their task of imparting the faith by the Holy Spirit, Pope Benedict said it is âvery importantâ for them to "believe strongly" in his presence and action, and to welcome and invoke Him âthrough prayer and the sacraments.â
For it is the Holy Spirit âwho enlightens the mind, warms the heart of the educator so they know how to pass on the knowledge and love of Jesus,â the Pope explained.
When parents begin to educate their children in the faith, they must begin with prayer, because âin prayer we leave the initiative to God, we entrust our children to Him, who knows them before and better than us, and knows exactly what their true good is.â
It is also in prayer that âwe are listening for Godâs inspiration so we may do our part well, which still is our task and which we must achieve,â the Pope said.
He also suggested that a sacramental life is equally crucial for parents and godparents â particularly the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist â so that the task of education is carried out âin communion with Him and (they are) constantly renewed by his forgiveness.â
By remaining rooted in prayer and the sacraments, parents will know when to âkeep silent and when to speakâ to their children, as well as when to be tender or firm.