"Train up a child in the way he should go…"
Among the most rewarding, challenging, and enjoyable experiences in life are the blessings that come with being a parent. The environment we strive to create in rearing our children must be one that provides opportunities that enable them to reach their full potential. It is with an optimistic spirit that parents overcome the mistakes they make, reevaluate the situation, and return with a renewed spirit to provide opportunities for responsible growth. Promoting an understanding of love and trust strengthens the bonds between parents and their children.
It is a sad thing indeed that we can pick up a newspaper almost any day of the week and read of children being abused by parents. These tragic events, unfortunately, are not new to society. Let us take a look back into the sixteenth century and study the life of St. Markella of Chios.
The life of St. Markella does not reveal that she experienced any divine visions, but it does tell of a young girl who possessed great devotion to and faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Still a young child, her mother died leaving her to be reared by her father. Known as an atheist to fellow villagers, Markella’s father was recognized as having had an abusive temper. He believed that his daughter was the cause of all his frustrations and failures. One day he became so angry with Markella that she ran from the house to escape his violent punishment. Seeking to find a suitable hiding place, she fell among the rocks and became lodged between them. Helpless and unable to break free, she found by her father who killed her on the spot. Not many days later a villager happened upon the place and noticed that water was coming forth. He informed the rest of the village of this location, and to their amazement, the villagers realized that there was miraculous healing power from that water. The people recalled the life of Markella and realized that she had died a martyr’s death. In memory of her sacrifice a chapel was built on that location. The people of Chios will tell you that there are times when the rocks at that spot will turn the color of blood as a symbol of the sacrifices made by the holy martyrs of the Church. Miracles continue to be attributed through the intercessions of St. Markella.
We learn from the life of St. Markella that the parental influence in her life was lacking, to say the least. As Christian Orthodox parents we have the awesome responsibility of nurturing our children. St. Paul in his Epistle to the Ephesians has written about parenthood teaching us to: "…not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4). The greatest gift we offer our children is the gift of faith in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. We learn from the example of the Lord Himself that we must be parents who give love and understanding to our children. It was with great tenderness that our Lord called the children to Himself and said: "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 19:14).
The challenge we face as parents and stewards is to teach our children to progress in life with the blessings of God and to respect humankind. Parenthood is most definitely an expression of our understanding of Christian Orthodox Stewardship since we must beseech God to grant us the insight to relate to our children — pray to Him that we be granted the patience and hope to manage the most difficult situations — and be blessed with the wisdom to teach our children the way to make proper decisions in life. We will most definitely make mistakes in raising our children, but as one noted child psychologist has written: "The definition of perfect parenting is easy to express — Just err and err and err again, but less and less and less."
To learn more about the stewardship of the saints, click here.