Front Row With Francis: Six Words to Transform the Family


Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the GospelOn May 13th, Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the family by reflecting on three phrases: “May I?”, “Thank you”, and “Pardon me”. These simple phrases are difficult to put into practice but “when they are ignored, their absence can cause cracks in the foundation of the family, which can lead to its collapse. If these words are part of our daily lives, not just as a formal expression of good manners, but as a sign of deep love for one another, they strengthen a happy family life.reflected on the life of the family.”

As the mother of a large family, I find that these words speak to my heart. His three phrases sum up a Catholic life lived in a spirit of humility, gratitude and reconciliation. I know when, as a parent, I allowed His Spirit to permeate my life and home, I consequently modeled mutual respect, and kindness towards my spouse and my kids. As a result, my children soaked in Godly attitudes. I asked permission, thanked and forgave, but I also asked forgiveness even from toddlers.

The pope warned that the three phrases, “May I?”, “Thank you”, and “Pardon me”, could just become a ” formalism of good manners”, a ‘mask that hides aridity of soul and indifference to the other. … Not even religion is immune to this risk, which sees a formal fulfillment slide into spiritual worldliness.” Even when Satan tempts Jesus, he “shows good manners – he is a real lord, a gentleman – and quotes the Sacred Scriptures; he seems to be a theologian. His style seems correct, but his intention is to divert from the truth of the love of God.”

The pope stressed the difference between mere good manners and Christian conduct; Christians “understand politeness in its authentic term, where the style of good relations is firmly rooted in love of the good and respect of the other. The family lives from this fineness of loving well.”

The first of the three important words in families is “may I”. A Christian does not ask politely for what he thinks he deserves because such an attitude puts a spirit of defensiveness into marital and family coexistence. Rather:

To enter into the life of the other calls for the delicacy of a non-invasive attitude, which renews trust and respect. Trust does not authorize to take everything for granted. And, the more intimate and profound love is, the more it calls for respect of the freedom of the other and the capacity to wait for him to open the door of his heart. In this connection, we recall Jesus’ word in the Book of Revelation: See that I stand at the door and knock. If someone hears my voice and opens the door to me, I will go with him, eat with him and he with me. The Lord also asks for permission to enter! Let us not forget this. Before doing something in the family, ask permission, may I do so?… It is truly polite language, but full of love.

The second word is “thank you”. Pope Francis astutely recognizes society often equates bad manners with emancipation because “politeness and the capacity to give thanks are seen as a sign of weakness, and sometimes they even arouse mistrust.” However,

This tendency is contrasted in the very heart of the family. We must be intransigent when it comes to education in gratitude, in recognition: both the dignity of persons and social justice pass through here. If family life neglects this style, social life will also lose it. For a believer, moreover, gratitude is at the very heart of the faith: a Christian who does not give thanks is one who has forgotten God’s language. Listen well, I say! A Christian who does not give thanks is one who has forgotten God’s language

The pope coninues, “Gratitude is a plant that grows only in the earth of noble souls, – that nobility of soul, that grace of God in the soul that drives one to say: Thank you for gratitude. It is the flower of a noble soul.”

The third word is “pardon”, a “difficult ” but necessary word. “When it is lacking small cracks are enlarged – even without wishing it – until they become wide gaps.”, In the Our Father, “the prayer taught by Jesus that summarizes all the essential questions of our life, we find this expression: Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

We must admit we have done wrong, and be anxious to restore what we have taken – respect, sincerity, love – makes us worthy of forgiveness. And thus the infection stops. If we do not have the capacity to be sorry, it means that we are also incapable of forgiving. ….Many emotional wounds, many lacerations in families begin with the lost of this precious word: pardon. I give this advice: do not end the day without making peace.

The pope concluded by repeating, “These three key-words of the family are simple words. May the Lord help us to put them back in the exact place, in our heart, in our home, and also in our civil co-existence.They are three words to enter really in the love of the family, so that the family will be well.” Although these words might appear simple, it is true that six simple words can transform Christian family life, if we are willing to make a life out of saying them.


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  • goral

    May I suggest that the pope use his extremely visible and influential office and time to stop the hemorrhaging in his/our church. The confusion at the top is astounding.
    Thanks, but no thanks to the pope for filling appointments with clerics who are more in line with Bill Ayers and pope Pelosi than they are with the orthodox Catholic Church.
    And pardon me Pope Francis but Christians are being slaughtered throughout the Middle East. No one, at this time, has the will to put a stop to it. Once again, apart from empty words, you are doing next to nothing.
    House and table manners are better taught by moms of 9.

    • melanie jean juneau

      Perhaps. I am not informed about recent appointments however the pope has prayed and spoken out against the slaughter in the Middle East and we are not privy to all his diplomacy, actions or prayers behind closed doors.
      On the other hand, the foundation of society is the family. As our families fall apart, so too does our society. The future demends on the moral fibre and sanctity of today’s children.

      • goral

        Your article is excellent as it focuses on the “foundation of society” as you say. The foundation of civilization is being rattled right now. Christians and priceless property are being wiped out.
        The diplomacy of Pope Francis is having the same effect as Obama’s diplomacy. It’s encouraging and emboldening the islamist barbarians.
        Perhaps it’s time that the pope steps up to the comission of his office.

        • melane jeau juneau

          I see your point- your discussion is the type of dialogue which points out the pope’s weaknesses respectfully.