Pope Francis on Family: A Factory or A Nursery

Pope Francis made several important and insightful statements about the family during his unscripted remarks made “from the heart.” You can read several of these comments in the Catholic Herald or the New York Times. I would like to take a moment and expand upon one of his statements…and, if it I may be so bold, modify one word. Specifically, Pope Francis stated, “The family is like a factory of hope.” I love the idea that family produces hope. I agree wholeheartedly. At the same time, I would like to modify one word—factory. Factory brings to mind a precise method of assembling or manufacturing a product to consistent specifications within a specific timeframe. Every product in a factory begins with the same raw materials, goes through the same process, and becomes a finished product that meets the same specifications as every other product produced by that factory. Families are not so precise, not so mechanical. Families are messy. They vary. They start with different raw materials and require a variety of processes, even from within the same family. I think families are more “like a nursery of hope.” I’m not speaking of a baby nursery; I’m speaking of a plant nursery.

The family is like a nursery of hope. Like a plant nursery, families prepare the soil to grow hope. They nourish it with rich doses of acceptance and love to increase its fertility. Families then plant the precious seed of hope in the soil they have prepared. They meticulously plant it to a depth unique to each particular seed. They spend time carefully adjusting the nutrients in the soil of their family to match the unique needs of the seed they plant. Each family studies their particular seeds for those characteristics that mark them as unique and then adjusts the home environment accordingly. If the seed requires more time poured into it, let it pour. If it prospers with more encouragement toward independence, encourage. In other words, the family becomes a student of the seed, learning as much as possible about the seed and what will best promote it to grow in hope, love, and maturity. Through their study of the seed, the family learns what branches to prune, how to discipline, so the tree will grow deeper roots of wisdom, a broader trunk to supply strength, and branches that reach toward higher dreams. Throughout the growth of each family member, the family provides support, nourishment, and protection so hope can grow from seed to fragile sapling to mighty tree. When hope reaches maturity, the family watches in awe as a bud blooms on their tree of hope and transforms into a fruit unique to that family—a fruit they can admire, a fruit they can share with the world, a fruit from which they can take further nourishment, and a fruit which they can use to plant more hope. Truly, the family is like a nursery of hope. Tend to it with special love and care.

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