by Rev. Fr. George A. Kelly, The Catholic Family Handbook, 1950’s
WHEN you became a parent, you undertook the most important job of your life–the job of guiding your children so that they might live happily on earth and win eternal happiness in heaven.
The foundations of Christian family life have never faced the many-sided assault they must stand up against today, and the task of the conscientious Catholic parent has never been more difficult.
In order for you to understand what objectives you should strive for as a parent, you should first realize that your Catholic family symbolizes in miniature the Mystical Body of Christ. The husband and father is the head of the body and represents Christ.
The wife represents the Church and the children, as members of the body, represent the faithful. And this family unit has been designated by Christ to worship our Heavenly Father. Through its common life all the members give glory to God and express their submission to Him.
In addition, the family works with Christ for the redemption of its members and the world. For when Our Lord made marriage a sacrament, He established the family as a basic means through which His grace could be given to men. The husband and wife channel grace to each other and to their children and vice versa.
If these graces do not come to us in this way (through another member of the Mystical Body), they do not come at all. Therefore it is most important that parents and children live in the state of grace, and that the Holy Spirit continually dwell in their souls. For mortal sin in any member prevents the free flow of grace to other members of the household.
You will achieve the greatest success in your family life if you remember that you are fulfilling this sacred vocation. Like the priest, you are called upon to teach, rule and sanctify your children in the name of Jesus Christ.
His Eminence, Francis Cardinal Spellman, once wrote: “A man’s family (is) a place to which God could look, as He did to Bethlehem, for the beginning of mortal lives which are also eternal, for the beginnings of lives of tiny citizens of two worlds–of earth and of heaven.”
Your work as parents, therefore, is a holy and religious work. You may produce doctors, lawyers, scientists. But to the extent that your children do not reach heaven or are given every opportunity to do so, you have not succeeded. And you will begin to realize the full potentialities of your vocation when you see your family in this light.
Modern pressures harm family life. Today, unfortunately, we do not always have that Catholic family life of which older generations were justly proud and which produced great human beings and outstanding Christians.
The adult children of those fine German, Italian, Irish and Polish households now tend to reject their parents’ way of domestic living. They may value their many brothers and sisters and pay generous tribute to their self-sacrificing fathers and mothers, but the effort involved in having a large family is too heroic for them.
The training for hard work and service to others, the mental stability, the sense of right and wrong, the religious faith which they received–they want these for their children too, but they often do not want to do all the work or accept the point of view that makes such accomplishments possible.
In fact, some couples have wandered so far from the ideals of Christian marriage that they are not Christian parents at all.
Today we see the individual exalted at the expense of the family.
People marry foolishly and then leave marriage to suit their own convenience. Others deliberately limit children and thus belittle the importance to solid family life of a full household; their birth-control mentality tempts them to look upon their union merely as companionship or a means of mutual gratification.
Frequently a small and prosperous family has a built-in selfishness which disturbs, where it does not destroy, domestic peace. And parents who use contraceptives may have lax opinions about sexual morality, so that the young consciences under their care are harmed.
Many modern wives have forgotten, or do not want to know, that their first purpose is motherhood and that making a home is their most worth-while career. They have emancipated themselves from serious self-sacrifice on behalf of their husband or family.
Many husbands, too, have mentally divorced themselves from their high calling as teacher and ruler of their young ones; as a result, their homes are in a state of anarchy or matriarchy. Thus the marriage bond in many instances has ceased to be moral and spiritual. Instead it has become sensual, social and esthetic.
Some modern social scientists have termed Catholic concern over the decay of public and private morality and the disintegration of home life “alarmist poppycock.” They array a large amount of statistical evidence to demonstrate that the American world is no worse off than it was before. They declaim that elders have always looked upon every new generation as a generation of vipers.
But we who deal with people as people, and are interested in their moral well-being, know that the divorced, the promiscuous, the drug addict, the alcoholic, the homosexual, the juvenile delinquent, are increasingly prevalent phenomena which cannot be discovered in social pathology books, let alone the neighborhood streets, of thirty years ago.
They live next door–in large numbers and among ordinary family folk, and can be found in the mainstreams of society.
Parents, priests, doctors, teachers, judges, policemen and thoughtful citizens are rightfully alarmed, even if the sociologists and psychologists are not. And you, as parents, must be concerned lest the plague infect your home.
The blame for these blights on modern happiness can be laid squarely on the secular culture of our country which equates happiness with the pursuit of private pleasure and denies the existence of spiritual goals and values. The lack of religion, the encouraged agnosticism of our public institutions, particularly our schools, and the denial of the authority and rights of parents are all related to secularism.
In the face of such widespread error, the Church turns hopefully, as she did two thousand years ago, to the family. She would (1) have you recognize the Christian dignity of marriage; (2) strengthen your determination to live your family life in Christ and for Christ; (3) confirm your resistance to the pressures which threaten to destroy family virtue and domestic tranquility; (4) inoculate your family against further moral contamination.
For no matter what evil influences flourish outside your home, your family can be an impregnable refuge of Christian life.