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  • Writer's pictureLauren

Mother Love: Parents are the Primary Educators

This is the fourth installment of a ten-part series on "The Ten Commandments of a Christian Education" found in Mother Love: A Manual for Christian Mothers.

Evening Prayer by Pierre Edouard Frère

Fourth Commandment: Thou shalt not leave the religious education of thy children entirely to their spiritual directors and teachers. Thou shalt train them thyself in morals and doctrine which later on they will learn both in church and at school; viz., the holy faith, love of Jesus Christ, confidence in His ever blessed Mother, reverence for the saints of God, and prayer. Teach them as early as possibly to make the sign of the cross, and to pronounce the holy names of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. At this age they should be taught, little by little, to recite, with joined hands, the Hail Mary, the Lord's Prayer, the Apostles' Creed, the Sixth Truths to be known and believed by all, the Ten Commandments of God, the Six Precepts of the Church, the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy, the Prayer to their Guardian Angel, the Holy Rosary, and other prayers suitable for children.

We are currently living in the Age of Outsourcing. Our schedules are so busy and crammed-full that we no longer have time for tasks as basic as grocery-shopping, running errands, cooking meals, or choosing our own clothing. We order everything online for at-home delivery or pickup, removing as many incarnational interactions with others as possible. Don't have time to make your morning coffee? No problem! Order online and pay through the Starbucks app! You simply walk in, grab your prepaid coffee, and don't have to speak or interact with anyone at all.

"Curated boxes" abound for all types of products, from things like Stitchfix for clothing allegedly picked just for you to meal kits ranging from the basic ingredients to the "heat and eat" variety. Roomba and set-and-forget automatic cleaners for showers, ovens, and toilets exist to ensure you don't have to waste your precious time cleaning (whether they are anywhere near as effective as good-old-fashioned elbow grease, I have my serious doubts). There's even a "yard Roomba" to automatically cut your grass!

Unfortunately, we are so busy we've outsourced our children, as well, and it is my firm conviction that if Christian parents had adhered more to this Fourth Commandment of Mother Love over the last 50 years, we would not be seeing the disastrous decline in attendance that every denomination experiences today.

"Amongst the blessings of marriage, the child holds the first place," writes Pope Pius XI in his encyclical, Casti Connubii. Canon Law affirms: "The primary end of marriage is the procreation and the education of children." Procreation and the education of our children that follows are inseparable, and they are a charge laid directly upon the parents, not on society in general.

"Christian parents must also understand that they are destined not only to propagate and preserve the human race on earth, indeed not only to educate any kind of worshippers of the true God, but children who are to become members of the Church of Christ, to raise up fellow-citizens of the Saints, and members of God's household, that the worshippers of God and Our Savior may daily increase" (Casti Connubii, 13). "Both husband and wife, however, receiving these children with joy and gratitude from the hand of God, will regard them as a talent committed to their charge by God, not only to be employed for their own advantage or for that of an earthly commonwealth, but to be restored to God with interest on the day of reckoning" (Casti Connubii, 15).

This is what we, as parents, will be examined upon at our Particular Judgments. Not upon our success (for, as Leila Marie Lawler so eloquently puts it, "God has no grandchildren," and it is ultimately up to the free will of each individual to choose to know, love, and serve God), but we will be judged upon whether we shunned or accepted the great work of sincerely trying to raise our children to become Saints. "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it," Scripture both commands and promises in Proverbs 22:6.

Like our cuisine and closets and commodities, however, we have largely outsourced the training of our children. News articles abound about the ever-growing behemoth of public education, whose task apparently now includes not only teaching reading, writing, and 'rithmetic, but also shaping their politics, treating their mental health, and providing (sometimes all three) meals. Before- and after-care exist to ensure the parents' careers remain uninterrupted, and the government's push for free daycare, beginning at the tender age of six weeks, are all designed to ensure the Nanny-State - and not the parents - is largely responsible for children's moral formation.

All this is for the ultimate end-goal of keeping the economic cogs spinning, so that parents can remain undistracted from their primary purpose of making money, so they can outsource more things, so they can...make more money, to outsource more things. Children lose their dignity and become commodities themselves, educated (read: programmed) with the aim of creating productive future members of secular society.

Even more disturbingly, we are outsourcing our children's spiritual training, as well. The one-hour a week spent at PSR (or CCD) is not enough to ensure your children know their Catholic faith. It is meant to be a supplement to what you should be doing at home. Even weekly Mass attendance is not enough, for if what you do on Sunday is not making a profound, observable difference in the way your family is living throughout the remainder of the week, then your sacrifice is an abomination (Isaiah 1:13).

Don't misunderstand me -- all of this is not to say that if you do work outside the home and utilize daycare, public (or private) school outside the home, or don't have time to attend daily Mass as a family then your work is doomed. That's not what I am saying at all, or what Mother Love necessarily counsels in this Fourth Commandment. I know plenty of families with stay-at-home moms or who homeschooled their children and had, by all external observations, exemplary prayer lives at home whose children have largely left the Church as adults.

What I am saying, however, is that the busier we are, we need to take greater care and effort to ensure that we, as the parents, truly remain the primary educators of our children, particularly in regards to their faith and morals. The more career-focused and activity-packed our lives become, we need to give deeper examination to the driving forces behind those choices.

"It is in the bosom of the family that parents are 'by word and example . . . the first heralds of the faith with regard to their children. They should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each child, fostering with special care any religious vocation'" (CCC, 1656). "It is here that the father of the family, the mother, children, and all members of the family exercise the priesthood of the baptized in a privileged way 'by the reception of the sacraments, prayer and thanksgiving, the witness of a holy life, and self-denial and active charity.' Thus the home is the first school of Christian life and 'a school for human enrichment.' Here one learns endurance and the joy of work, fraternal love, generous—even repeated—forgiveness, and above all divine worship in prayer and the offering of one's life." (CCC, 1657, emphasis mine).

At the end of our lives, we will not be asked which extracurriculars we enrolled our children in, what vacations we took, how successful we were in our careers, or how well-prepared our children were for college. We will not be asked whether we sacrificed to put them in a five-star daycare or the best prep schools or surrounded them with the most influential people to ensure success in their own future careers. We won't even be asked how many family game nights we had, our whether we fed our children organic food, or stayed home with them exclusively when they were young.

We will be examined, however, upon the Love with which we stewarded these children and the care we took to set the great feast of Faith before them daily. The question we must seriously ask ourselves then, is this: "Are we raising our children to become Saints?"

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1 commento

12 apr

Beautifully said. Thank you for this encouragement!

Mi piace
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