A Good Shepherd is intent on protecting his sheep from the ravenous wolves on the prowl and on the prey. Such a shepherd knows where the wolves come from, when they attack and how they attack. An authentic Good Shepherd is even willing to lay down his own life for the sake of the safety of the sheep. (Jn. 10:1-21)
Of course the best model in the world of the Good Shepherd is Jesus Himself. He says the Good Shepherd is willing to lay down His life and die for the sheep entrusted to His care. The welfare of the sheep supersedes and transcends the value of the Shepherd Himself.
Jesus’ death on the cross on Good Friday is the most eloquent proof of the love of the Good Shepherd for the sheep under His care. The Precious Blood that He shed on the cross shows most clearly and convincingly His limitless love for His sheep.
Never have we lived in a world where there are so many wolves on the prowl to attack, bite, devour and kill the sheep of our flock—that is to say our children and teens! Therefore, parents must be in training formation so as to be able to protect their children from these prowling wolves.
We would like to offer a spiritual strategy plan that could be of great use to help us be the Good Shepherds that Jesus our Good Shepherd wants us to be.
1. BAPTISM AND CONSECRATION TO MARY. Parents should provide for and procure the baptism of their child as soon as possible. With the Baptism, in the same ceremony, they should consecrate their child to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. One of the special intentions will be to protect their child from the ravenous wolves that are on the prey to attack and kill. In our spiritual battle we should prepare for war as soon as possible, and be well safeguarded and protected by a strong sacramental life and by Mary whose prayers and protection are most powerful.
2. FAMILY PRAYER is of the essence. Parents are the first educators of their children especially in the path of faith and love for God. One of the essential elements of our faith is PRAYER. With respect to prayer, parents should faithfully carry out three fundamental tasks: 1) Pray for the protection, welfare and salvation of their children. 2) Parents should teach their children to pray and as early as possible. Children are like sponges; they absorb—either good or bad. The other day I listened to one of my relatives—a child only two years of age—recite the Creed! This is a sign of good parents working at a very tender age with their little one. Let us not underestimate the capacity and potentiality of the child. Jesus said: “Let the little children come to me.” 3) Finally, parents should pray with their children. The Rosary is a prayer most pleasing to Jesus and Mary. How often have we heard: “The family that prays together, stays together!” (Servant of God Father Patrick Peyton).
3. CONTROL ELECTRONICS WORLD. Parents, as Good Shepherds of their flock, must strive to control the use of the electronics world in the lives of their children. Television, movies, magazines, but most especially the use of the INTERNET must be supervised constantly by the parents. As daunting a task as this may seem, still this is the responsibility of parents in order to be Good Shepherds of their flock. Allowing free access and use of the Internet for children and teens has proven catastrophic in too many cases. The number one addiction in the USA is pornography—the abuse of the electronics world, specifically the internet. How true this sage proverb: “Better preventive medicine than curative medicine.”
4. LIVE THE SABBATH DAY WITH YOUR FAMILY. Sunday is the Lord’s Day and it should be lived fully and properly according to God’s plan. But Sunday, besides being the Lord’s Day, is also FAMILY DAY! After attending the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and receiving Holy Communion in Church together, it is time to enjoy family time and to bond with family members. How? Have a good picnic or meal together. Then go to the park and play together, rest together and enjoy each others’ company. Take a nature walk and thank God for the beauty of His creation. Visit an elderly or sick person who is abandoned, thereby giving this person joy and hope. At night have a pizza party and watch a good movie together to work on the spiritual formation of your children, and then after the movie share the values that were transmitted. Finally, to end the day, pray the family Rosary together. This is the way to live out the Sabbath rest and to bond emotionally with family members.
5. The Bible teaches us that a GOOD FRIEND is indeed a great treasure beyond price. The poet John Donne says that no man is an island unto himself. Aristotle says that man is a social animal. Jesus Himself willed to enter the world in a family and to choose the Apostles whom He called friends. We all need friends, or at least one good friend. However, parents must be very careful and judicious in watching over the choice of friends that their children desire. One bad friend can ruin their lives. Indeed we should define what a good friend really is and not a Pseudo (false) friend. As followers of Jesus the Good Shepherd, a true friend is someone who brings us closer to Jesus who is our BEST FRIEND. This should always be our first criteria!
6. IDLENESS IS THE WORKSHOP OF THE DEVIL. Saint John Bosco had a dreaded fear every year for his young students during the vacation months. He was aware of the many temptations that young people are exposed to when they have too much free time on their hands. It is so true: if we have nothing to do then the devil will give us a lot to do! Look at the sin of David who committed adultery and then murder. One of the principal reasons for David falling into sin was that he had a block of free time and no plans. Good parents and Good Shepherds of their flock should always have their children, and especially teens constantly engaged in wholesome and enriching activities. We should always be busy—but not nervously frenetic and agitated. We can be engaged in three ways: physically, mentally, or spiritually. Sports for young people are invaluable for keeping the body occupied in a wholesome manner. The habit of reading good books so as to cultivate the mind will never be regretted. A strong and holy mind can do limitless good for the society; take these saints—Aquinas, John Paul II and Augustine as examples! Finally, spiritual activity is of paramount importance. On holidays and during vacation time there is no reason why parents—the Good Shepherds of their flock—can’t take their children to daily Mass and receive Holy Communion, the Bread of Life and the strength of the saints and martyrs!
7. DIALOGUE AND COMMUNICATION. Busy work schedules, paying the bills, shopping for groceries, being caught in traffic jams, all of the above characterize modern life and sometimes can serve as an excuse to neglect a very important component of family life—parents’ dialogue and communication with their children. The modern man, woman, teen, child unfortunately spend more time in front of a screen than in front of a human person. In the eyes of God, the human person has infinitely more value than all of the material objects in the world. Many young people today are addicted to the internet and all that is involved in the electronics world. In a certain sense we can say that many young people live more in a fantasy world than in a real world. Parents, for the love of God and the future of your children, find time to talk to and listen to your children. This is your responsibility.
8. LAUGHTER AND JOY IS THE BEST MEDICINE. One of the many fruits of the Holy Spirit is that of JOY! Parents should strive to cultivate an environment of Joy in their homes. The family milieu should have an aroma and ambience of Joy so that after school the children do not dread returning home—as if it were a jail or penitentiary—but rather look forward to coming home as a place of Joy, peace, harmony and wholesome rest. Many young people have recourse to premarital sex, drinking and drugs or seek gang involvement because there is no festive, welcoming and joyful family environment. Beg the Holy Spirit for the grace to experience Joy and share it with your children. Saint Paul exhorts us: “Rejoice in the Lord always; I say it again: rejoice in the Lord.” (Phil. 4:4)
9. MERCY AND FORGIVENESS. The English poet Alexander Pope coined an immortal saying that all of us should memorize and live: “To err is human; to forgive is divine.” Only God is perfect; the just man falls seven times a day. The family is a school of virtues and a school of forgiveness. We can all hurt family members by our words, gestures, silence, inattentiveness, and at times crude selfishness. However, that which can really tear down families to the very foundation is to fail to forgive and to foster resentments and bitterness against other family members. Jesus’ last commandment was: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Jesus also said: “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful.” Finally, in the most famous prayer in the world, the Our Father, we pray: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Starting today, right now, let us reconcile with each other and foster family peace, harmony and love.
10. REJOICE WITH THOSE WHO REJOICE AND WEEP WITH THOSE WHO WEEP! Saint Paul enjoins us in these words! The family should cultivate what the athletes term TEAM WORK! A successful team always rejoices in the success of one of the team members and suffers at the failure of a team member. When a baseball team, or basketball team, or football team wins a game or championship it is not the victory of one member but all of the members playing and working together towards the same goal. Likewise, whenever a family member triumphs—morally or spiritually, physically or intellectually—then all the other members of the family should rejoice in this victory. Jealousy and envy can kill; rejoicing in love is what builds up and triumphs!
In conclusion, the family today is surrounded by a pack of ravenous wolves that desire to attack and destroy. It is up to the parents, the Good Shepherds of the flock entrusted to their care, to do all in their ability to protect, preserve and save their children. The key to being a Good Shepherd to the sheep in our care is that we must first be a good sheep of the Good Shepherd, Jesus the Lord. “The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall lack.” (Psalm 23:1)
Father Ed Broom, OMV, is Associate Pastor of St. Peter Chanel Church in Hawaiian Gardens, California. He is a member of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary and was ordained by Saint John Paul II on May 25, 1986. Fr. Ed teaches Catholic Ignatian Marian Spirituality through articles, podcasts, a radio show, retreats and spiritual direction.