This is an excellent article! It was given the Nihil Obstat in Australia in 1955. The name of the Dominican sister was not included.
The article has many things to ponder and take to heart!
Part Two is here.
Part Three is here.
(A talk given to the 1954 South Australian State Conference of the National Catholic Rural Movement, by a Dominican Nun, Cabra Convent, Adelaide).
The purpose of my talk today, is to think over with you, some of the ways in which Catholic parents may play their part in the Christian education of their children. It would hardly be possible for anyone to choose a topic more important than this, and that for two reasons.
Firstly, it seems no exaggeration to say that our civilization, our way of life is on the verge of destroying itself. Materialism, that theory which denies all spiritual realities-God, the soul, the life hereafter, which makes the human being a mere object, has gained a terrifying hold on the minds of men.
Almost every day we hear something which forces us to realize that the Catholic Church is one of the few institutions that still respect every human being as a person, of priceless value in the sight of God.
I cannot develop this point any further, but it leads to the second of my reasons. It is obvious that our children will have to bear the brunt of this struggle against anti-human, anti-Christian forces.
The fate of the world lies in our children’s hands.
As a nun writing in America states, ‘Even a quick look around will assure us that the influences set against our children today amount almost to a diabolical plot. But the ‘child is still the strongest bridge between God and man. And when we realize that no educational influence on earth is as powerful nor as permanent in its results as that of the family and home, you will see why I think this topic is so vital.
The enemies of religion know that their most effective weapon is the attack against family life. You, too, must realize as fully as possible, the power that is yours.
IN THE HOME
‘Education, it is said, ‘is the help that is given to the growing personality of the child to recognize itself and to become all that God intends it to be,-a truly human person, with all its powers and gifts fully developed and used for the glory of God and the service of others.
It is the home that makes possible the growth of the child’s personality. With every waking moment the child becomes more conscious of itself, more ready to absorb the influence of those nearest to it.
Its soul is, as it were, untouched soil which places no obstacles in the way of anything planted in it.
In later years, many interests compete for its attention. In early childhood, the mother first, and in lesser degree the father and other members of the family absorb the child’s whole attention and so can contribute very deeply to the development of its personality. From them it learns natural independence in walking and talking. From the parents it discovers the meaning of love, security and authority. No one else can love the child in exactly the way a mother loves it as part of her very self-no one can therefore know it nor influence it as she does.
WHAT THIS MEANS
It is not hard to see from this the tremendous importance of a good home. What is there, almost subconsciously imbibed, will never be rooted out of the person’s being though it may be clouded over or twisted for a time by later experiences.
How great then is the parents’ responsibility and their need of the graces of matrimony, to bring up their children in the fear and love of God.
In discussing more in detail the parents share in the education of their children, I shall consider four main aspects of the way in which the child is prepared, as Pope Pius XI expressed it ‘for what he must be and what he must do here below in order to attain the sublime end for which he was created.
The home must set the child well on the way to:
. . . a deeply sincere religious life and sense of spiritual values.
. . a deep respect for the things of the mind.
. . . a love and an appreciation of what is beautiful.
. . . a respect for the rural way of life and its special place in God’s plan.
It is in the first of these, the development of the child’s religious life, that the parents must be to the child an authentic revelation of God. He sees God through them. Seeing their love for one another, he more readily grasps the truth of God’s love for all; seeing them pray he senses the holiness of God and the reality of the unseen world of saints and angels.
Their trust in God, despite bad seasons and the like, their kindness to less fortunate neighbors, their unsparing attention to their jobs, all mirror for the child the fatherhood, the very love of God.
THE CHILD IS INFLUENCED
Consider too, the power a mother wields in developing the conscience of her child-the care she should take that it is rightly formed, delicate but not scrupulous and over fearful. Then, as the children grow older, the father’s influence becomes stronger, and his attitude to prayer, to the Sacraments, his way of speaking about priests and the Church, determine, even without his being aware of it, the way his children, especially the boys, will regard these things.
Besides these indirect ways, there are also many ways of directly helping the child to know, love and serve God.
I am sure you all have experienced the power and the joy of family prayers, of Grace before meals and the evening Rosary, of hearing Mass together. You have known perhaps the joyous share the whole family can have in the first Holy Communion of the six-year old or the Baptism of the new baby.
Make the most of these events, and do all you can to bring your children to a reverent joy in all the feasts of the Church by having special practices for Lent and Advent in preparation for Easter and Christmas, by establishing family customs, e.g. a home Crib, Carols and even a Christmas Play, or welcoming the Christ Child by inviting an orphan child to the home. Let the children save up for Masses for the Holy Souls in November, or to help the Missions.
A CHRISTIAN ATMOSPHERE
The Crucifix on the wall, the pictures of Our Lord and His Mother-the loveliest you can afford-the little shrine with lights and flowers-these unceasingly speak to your little ones of God’s love and His Beauty, preparing them for that friendship with God, that willing, personal submission to Him that is true freedom and happiness.
Growing up from babyhood in a truly Christian atmosphere such as this, children are soon ready for more definite instructions in the truths of our Holy Faith.
In giving these, a mother has no equal as a teacher, if she strives sincerely to do it well, remembering that she is not working alone. The divine life of Grace is in the soul of the child, giving him what St. Thomas calls a kind of divine intelligence, the light of Faith, which helps the light of the intellect.
Anyone who has taught religion to children know how eagerly they take it in; they have a natural religious sense.
There are books, e.g.,Christopher’s Talks to Children, which help parents to develop the Faith of their children, but it would be the most wonderful help of all if the parents would read or tell them the stories of the Bible.
Such stories enthrall the children more than any others, and help them to know Jesus and Mary as real people. Even the young ones will listen to the Gospel stories as given in Monsignor Ronald Knox’s version.
We should never forget that the Bible is a source of Divine Truth and it would be hard to over-estimate the value of a child’s continual and loving contact with God’s own words in the Old and especially in the New Testament.
Even when the religious instruction of the children is given in school or by correspondence courses, the responsibility of the parents does not cease.
They should know what the child is studying, discuss it with him, help him to make the knowledge part of his daily life, a real influence on his actions and thoughts.
This is not to be done by nagging at the child but by keeping the atmosphere of the home such that it is easy and natural for the child to practice virtue and live what he learns.
The whole family should be vitally interested in these Religion lessons, and make it clear that they are regarded as the most important part of the child’s schooling. It is a pity that the text-books used are not more helpful and attractive to both parents and children,
TIME CAN BE FOUND
I hope that not too many of you are wondering, How on earth could we find time to do all that? A mother’s day is always a busy and tiring one, especially when the children are young.
I know there are times in the year when it would be impossible to find even a few spare minutes. But I know too, that you long for all that is best for your children; and love feels no burdens and scarcely knows the meaning of the word impossible. It would be helpful to call to mind two principles – the value of going slowly and the power of incidental teaching.
In a story of Ethel Meynell’s, telling of a father’s rearing of his motherless daughter, I once read a line I have never forgotten. He gave her, it said, the inestimable benefit of leisure for her growing. Nothing is gained by hurrying little children on beyond their powers.
A quiet lesson of from eight to ten minutes, given daily or several times a week is enough for little ones, provided there are other times for reading or listening to holy stories and joining in family devotions.
Even prayers need not be learnt all at once. The little one can say Our Father, who art in Heaven, bless your little child, or Hail Mary, full of grace, help me to love your Child Jesus, and thus gradually learn the prayer, phrase by phrase, as its meaning is given time to sink into his mind.
Never forget that it is God’s will that the parents should be the ones to teach the child to pray, as Mary and Joseph helped the boy Jesus to advance in wisdom and grace.
Incidental teaching gains its immense effectiveness from being given at the moment it is needed.
It is the explanation given just when the child asks for it, and so is fully alert to the answer. It is the story told when the child is most receptive, the question asked when the issue really means something and is not just part of a lesson.
Most parents know that daily home life has many such occasions, and mothers especially know that young children are very confidential and responsive when they are being put to bed, or helping them at some little task. Often we teachers envy mothers their chances of cooperating so intimately in the child’s growth to holiness.
“Devote yourself to your labor as well as to the fulfillment of all your duties energetically and with a pure intention to please God and make yourself useful to your neighbor. Raise your heart to God from time to time by means of fervent ejaculations (short, quick prayers to heaven), that it may not be narrowed by earthly occupations.” – Fr. Lasance, My Prayer Book http://amzn.to/2oYAUq3 (afflink)
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With his facile pen and from the wealth of his nation-wide experience, the well-known author treats anything and everything that might be included under the heading of home education: the pre-marriage training of prospective parents, the problems of the pre-school days down through the years of adolescence. No topic is neglected. “What is most praiseworthy is Fr. Lord’s insistence throughout that no educational agency can supplant the work that must be done by parents.” – Felix M. Kirsch, O.F.M.
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