On the Necessity of Educating Children
“What a one shall this child be?”
(Luke 1. 66.)
Thus said the friends, neighbors and relations of the pious couple Zachary and Elizabeth, when they saw and heard the wonderful incidents which accompanied the birth of their son John. What a one shall this child be? so parents often say to each other, when they look upon their own little children, and see how even in early days certain propensities appear in them, causing great wonder. How often would parents be overwhelmed with pain and grief, if they could know in advance how these tender little ones whose good and remarkable qualities and whose extraordinary talents they admire, on whom their eyes rest with pleasure, whom every one praises, how these children would one day hasten to temporal and eternal ruin, preparing for their parents no joy, but many afflictions and much misery! Whence does it come that so many parents are deceived in the expectations they entertained in regard to their children, that their advancing youth, notwithstanding all the education bestowed upon it, becomes more and more disorderly and impious? It is because parents so seldom observe that which is written of the young Tobias: From his infancy he (his father) taught him to fear God, and to abstain from all sin; (Tob. i. 10.) because they regard not the apostle’s admonition: And you fathers, bring up your children in the discipline and correction of the Lord; (Eph.vi. 4.) because they forget that every child is like a young tree that must be carefully guarded, straightened, bound to a post, trimmed and protected against insects, wind and frost; because they remember no longer the wise man’s counsel: Instruct thy children, and bow down their necks from their childhood, (Ecclus. vii. 25.) and, thou shalt beat thy child with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell; (Prov. xxiii. 14.) because they pay no attention to the words: The child that is left to his own will, bringeth his mother to shame, (Prov. xxix. 15.) and, he that loveth his son, frequently chastiseth him, that he may rejoice in his latter end, and not grope after the doors of his neighbors, (Ecclus. xxx. i.) that is, for protection, consolation and help against the rebellious child. They do not bring the child early to Jesus, the divine Friend of children; they do not teach it to fear God and abhor sin above all things; they rejoice in the many talents of the child, but do not seek to direct them to God, their only end; they do not remove from the child all that which poisons and corrupts the innocent heart open to every impression; they neglect to make it pray in early childhood, to make it exercise the necessary Christian virtues, the love of God and their neighbor, humility, obedience, meekness, peacefulness and modesty; in a word, they educate their children for anything rather than for God, the Church and their country. God, the Church, and the country are not satisfied with an education in which attention is paid only to those things which will enable the child to do well in this world, or that will make a great show, and receive power, honor and praise. This false and pernicious education causes so many parents to complain of their grown children; causes God to punish them severely even here on earth, more terribly in the other world; causes the Church to lament, and good men to be filled with fear.
If education is to be a truly Christian one, so that parents may rejoice in their children here and in the next world, and a better generation grow up, education must be founded on religion, must commence and end with God. Parents should consider that their children are a precious trust, which God has confided to them, and of which He will demand a strict account on the Day of Judgment; they should remember that their children are created for heaven, are redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus, and sanctified by the Holy Ghost in baptism. In their earliest childhood, Christian parents should make their children acquainted with God, the Highest Good, keep them attentive to devout prayer, especially imprint upon their hearts the holy fear of God, lead them early to Jesus, often place His beautiful example before them, infuse His holy teachings into their hearts, instruct them in sincere veneration for the blessed Virgin Mary, daily recommending them to this beloved Mother. Being, as it were, the guardian angels of their children, parents should watch day and night over the innocence and purity of their hearts, remove them from association with bad children and degenerate grown persons, be attentive to watch all their steps, be vigilant concerning all their omissions and commissions, banish from their knowledge all bad example, improper words and songs, and bad books. If they truly love their children, they will not permit obstinacy, stubbornness, or disobedience in them, and should: withhold not correction from a child, (Prov. xxiii. 13.) make use of strict discipline united with affection, and suffer no ill manners to grow with them. They should bring their children early to the practice of Christian virtues, and teach them to mortify their evil inclinations; often exhort them, when they have arrived at the proper age, to receive the holy Sacraments; see that their children do riot spend their youth in idleness, but thoroughly learn all that which is necessary for them to know, not superficially as half educated, half instructed persons, who can gossip about everything, but are at the same time shallow-minded; they should above all give their children a good example, cooperate with the priests and teachers, and thus strive to bring up good, pious, religious, virtuous children of God, members for the Church and citizens for the country.
Woe to the parents who do not educate their children for God and heaven! What fear and terror will come upon them on the Judgment Day, when God will demand pure and unharmed, the children He confided to them, when parents must acknowledge that through their fault their children have been excluded from heaven and are lost forever!
Taken from, “Explanation of the Epistles and Gospels,” by Rev, Leonard Goffine, Imprimatur 1918