By Elder Paisius the Athonite
On family piety
A monk must neglect himself - and his life, too - for the sake of others. But a head of the family cannot do the same, because he has a wife and children and, in accordance with the law of God, must first of all take care of them, and only the remainder can be “spared” for others.
Abortion is a horrendous sin! Abortion is murder. May the most authoritative Christian physicians continue unfailingly to inform women that 95% of their wretched sisters who had abortions performed on them, now suffer from advanced cases of cancer. A woman’s body at conception becomes tuned towards the development of a child. But when a woman aborts this child, all these processes are abruptly curtailed and there arise certain physiological consequences, such as cancer. Thus doctors should never cease to warn women of the grave harm and inherent dire consequences of abortion.
A certain married couple lived in great sorrow: many years had passed since their marriage, but they did not have any children. The doctors admitted that they could offer no help. The couple then decided to appeal to the elder:
The elder responded with the following comforting words:
- Do not be upset! Come to confession, (since they had not been to confession for years), partake of communion when your spiritual father tells you to, and God will grant you children. Pray to Him, and I will also pray.
The obedient couple followed the elder’s advice, and right away God gave them children, just as the elder had promised. Today they are a wonderful family, joyous and happy, and the parents are doubly grateful to the elder: for having helped them come to Christ by means of church sacraments, and for being recipients of His generous gifts.
Thus the elder always gave people to understand that they should first of all - by means of the Church and the sacraments of confession and the Divine Eucharist - draw near to our kind Father. And then - even without our asking for it - He will grant us the gift we wish.
The absence of gifts, the elder pointed out, occurs not because God wishes it so, but because man has alienated himself from God, the Source of all bounties, and naturally, through his own fault, is deprived of the action of grace.
God takes care of all people and preserves them. I remember a certain Christian who had a large number of children. He once came to the all-night vigil with his wife and only two or three children. He was asked in church: “And where are your youngest children?” The father replied: “We left them at home. God sent an angel to look after our children, since we went out to the vigil and not to amuse ourselves.” Do you see how this man reasoned? Thus we, humans, should do what we can and leave the rest to God.
In response to the question whether to baptize children who were born to parents not married in the church, the elder replied: “Why should any blame be attached to the poor babies? Let us consider the parents and determine the reason for their not having been married in church and, again, why they want to baptize their children. We will proceed from there. They, too, have their reasons. We must see what lies behind the parents’ situation. It is possible that they have suffered through something and are now seeking help.”
Parents must give as much time as possible to their children, even to the detriment of their engagements and their work. And women should lead a simple life, so that they could spend time with their children whenever the latter require it.
I have seen that pain helps the soul greatly and makes it humble, and the greater the pain, the greater benefit there is for the soul. Let us suppose that two young men leave home and enter the monastery. Let us suppose that the mother of one of them is a member of the church. And although she will suffer for her son becoming a monk, she will be able to cope with her pain fairly easily, because she believes in Christ and understands that her son is safely together with Christ. Now let us suppose that the other mother is not a member of the church, and it is she who suffers greatly, weeps for her son as though he had died, and looks upon him as a living corpse. She cannot get over her son’s going away and suffers greatly, since she sees no reason for his departure and does not feel God’s grace. But God sees the pain of both mothers, and I believe, however, that the pain of the mother who is outside the church will be counted by God as martyrdom, and that later He will generously reward her, for she suffered so greatly through ignorance of God’s grace.
A certain father had a son who dreamed of becoming a monk. The father, however, disregarded his son’s heartfelt desire and forced him to get married and raise a family. The son submitted to his father’s will and - against his own wishes - became married and had children. However, sorrow gnawed at him so much that he wasted away day after day. The poor youth came down with cancer and soon died, leaving a wife and children. And the blame for this rested with the father, who did not respect the freedom given by God to man, - the freedom which He Himself respects; through his stubbornness and self-interest the father forced the son to go against his heart’s desire and deny his divine freedom, which led to such a pitiful end.
One should be content with bare necessities and not make plans for grandiose projects, because then one will have more time to simply stay at home with one’s wife and children, to engage in charitable activities, to pray and enjoy a warm family atmosphere, and not be under constant pressure to earn more and more money. I believe the most reasonable decision lies not in the earning of huge sums of money, but in setting up our lives in a Christian manner, for it was said to man that he should not concern himself about many things, but one thing is needful (Luke 10:41-42).
Christians should not place curses on others, because it should be kept in mind that occasionally God allows the curse to “take hold,” whenever falsehood is involved. If falsehood is not involved, then the curse returns to the one who uttered it, and that person becomes subject to all its consequences. A similar situation obtains with binding words: if the word is truthful and spiritual, it “takes hold” immediately; otherwise, if it is unjust and unreasonable, then the same thing happens as with a curse.
When you have guests, and it happens to be a lenten day, be very attentive to the matter of food. If the guests wish for something non-lenten, let us tell them that we will gladly ask them to come another day. We, Christians, must be careful to safeguard the name of God from blasphemy.