The Catholic Family by Rev. Thomas J. Gerrard
The Catholic Family
The ideal of the Catholic family has been once fully realized. There have been many good examples, all more or less approaching the ideal. But all except one must be regarded as having failed, at least in some respects, to achieve the perfection of family life. That one, of course, is the Holy Family of Nazareth. Since, therefore, God has given us the ideal fully realized in the concrete, it is to that rather than the more remote symbols that we must go for our lessons as to what the Catholic family should be. The Word was made flesh to reveal to us the mind of the Eternal Father. In order, then, to learn the mind of the Eternal Father concerning the nature and end of the Catholic family life we cannot do better than turn our thoughts to the little home at Nazareth.
The school of the Apostles was formed by Our Lord during the years of His public ministry. Then, having been organized by Him during His lifetime, it was fully promulgated and endowed with its special gifts after His death, by the descent of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost. The purpose of the Incarnation was the salvation of souls. The purpose of the Church was the salvation of souls. The purpose of the first Catholic Family was the salvation of souls. The first and foremost purpose, then, of every Catholic family is to obtain for its members the possession of everlasting life. The family does not exist merely for the sake of the love of husband and wife; nor for the love of parent and children; nor for the acquisition of worldly fortunes; nor for the promotion of the children in business; nor for the material prosperity of nations. All these are lawful and subordinate aims, subordinate to the final aim which is to help immortal souls to get to heaven. This is the first and, in a sense, the only lesson to be learned from the Holy Family of Nazareth; the purpose of the Catholic family is the undoing of sin, the hindrance of sin, the propagation of those truths and virtues which lead to life eternal.
The Ideal Catholic Home
The father’s dignity rests, first of all, upon the fact that Almighty God has bestowed upon him the privilege of cooperation in the greatest natural mystery, the creation of human life. Sons and daughters are his in a sense that nothing else that he may ever possess can be called his own. That thought carries with it an honor that is unique. Even modern society that has striven to forget the sanctity of marriage retains this basic recognition.
The children bear the father’s name. In a far deeper sense than is usually recognized under the term of the law, they are his “dependents.” The close observer notes that quite unconsciously they imitate many of his mannerisms, gestures, modes of thought. But much more than that: if he is a worthy father, and they worthy children, they carry with them through life the training in virtue which he alone can impress on their young minds.
Pope Pius XI approves the clearness of thought and the precision of style of St. Thomas of Aquin in these utterances: “The father according to the flesh has in a particular way a share in that principle which is in a manner universal found in God …. The father is the principle of generation, of education and discipline, and of everything that bears upon the perfecting of human life.”(1) This is not poetry, but stern reality expressed by the Angelic Doctor and commended by Christ’s Vicar to bring order out of chaos in modern education.
The father must dwell on this thought often, lest he lose the spirit which God in His wisdom has determined for the moral development of youth. The mother must carry it deep in her heart, for only in cooperation with this divine plan can she hope to achieve what nature has instilled in her to want to achieve, the perfect mental, moral, physical, and social development of her children. The children must absorb this spirit for upon their understanding of it depend the honor they owe their father by divine command, intelligent obedience, the acquisition of virtue, and a life-long sense of gratitude.
When first dwelt upon, such thoughts are almost frightening. They do mean weighty responsibility, not here alone, but in accounting for one’s stewardship before God’s throne. But God does not demand anything impossible. Fatherhood is a vocation in His service, not to be heeded lightly or frivolously, but with the serious determination of serious men. Since it is a life’s work in His service, God offers His aid at every important step along the difficult road. On the part of the father, He expects cooperation with this grace, which in turns calls for persevering good will, a spirit of sacrifice, conscientious observance of God’s law made known by the Church. The very nature of everything under consideration places a high premium on good common sense.
Speaking from the fullness of his “Own paternal heart,”(2) Pope Pius XI, who often referred to his title of Father of Fathers, has called attention to the following duties of fathers. Pope Leo XIII reminds them that they are “the head of the family”(3), which is more a duty than an honor, and speaking of the marriage bond, calls the father “the ruler of the family and the head of the woman.”(4)
Commenting on the Condition of Labor, Pope Leo terms “the family the society of a man’s own household,”(5) and stresses that “the right of property which has been proved to belong to individual persons must also belong to man as the head of the family.” This follows logically because “it is a most sacred law of nature that a father must provide food and all necessaries for those whom he has begotten, as well as what is necessary to keep them from want and misery in the uncertainties of this mortal life.”(6)
“The father’s power is of such a nature that it cannot be destroyed or absorbed by the State, for it has the same origin as human life itself.”(7) It is the paternal instinct which turns the child with confidence over to the Church for education, certain of finding the protection of family rights.(8) The father is the natural instructor for his son in the facts of life.(9) In the full program of domestic education the father is cautioned to have great care that he make the right use of his authority.(10) The Pope says that normally the vocation to the priesthood will be the result of example and teaching of a father “strong in faith and manly in virtues.”(11)
Examples could be multiplied, but these indicate the dignity and the seriousness of the father’s vocation in God’s service.
2. The Mother
As the father is the head of the family, the mother is its heart. Although her educational influence is of an entirely different nature from that of the father, her vocation is equal in importance to his. In fact, the memory of most grown sons and daughters will attest that she has had far more to do with the shaping of their character than he. But so necessary are both that if either is lacking for any cause whatever, the education of the children is seriously, and sometimes fatally, handicapped.
It is significant that in describing homes in which vocations for the priestly and religious lives are developed, Pope Pius speaks of the father as “strong in faith and manly virtues,” but of “a pure and devoted mother.”(12) Elsewhere: “As the father occupies the chief place in ruling, so the mother may and ought to claim for herself the chief place in love.”(13)
It is to be noted, however, that His Holiness speaks of supernatural love, not of the tender maternal love-instinct upon which the supernatural is built. Natural love, which is excellent in itself, and offers the possibility of untold good, may even at times be a hindrance, when mothers are imprudent and cannot keep the children in truly obedient subjection, refuse what is harmful, punish if necessary, or where they selfishly abuse it and over-emphasize it and make it a wedge of separation from the love of father.
This supernatural love is the beginning of all the finer instincts of the children. Its delicacy and tenderness exercise the strongest appeal. Of it are born, for example, piety, modesty, purity, fear of the Lord, all learned at the mother’s knee.
The worthy mother is usually at home with her children all day long. Often she is, for whole days, their only companion. But there is a far deeper mystery to the entire process of education in virtue than mere association. The mother is by nature more closely attached to her children. As in babyhood the child was incapable of taking solid food but was nourished by its mother, so in the early formative years, nature has determined that it is she who must nourish it in virtue. Even in mature and advanced years, the appreciation of these natural facts is only intensified. There is no finer instinct in the world than a grown man’s mature love for the mother who bore him, and nourished him, and trained him in virtue.
Every human being has a supernatural destiny–to be worked out in time. He must be educated “for what he must be and what he must do here below, in order to attain the sublime end for which he was created.”(14) That education is the result of the combined efforts of both parents. But in its youngest years, the child will be almost exclusively under the mother’s guidance. Her efforts are to produce effects which will have their final reckoning only in eternity.
On the morning of her marriage, the priest prays for this holy vocation, which must be entered upon only after serious thought and conscientious preparation. The nuptial blessing, bestowed after the Pater Noster of the Mass, is primarily for the bride. The graces for which the priest implores Almighty God are in preparation for her duties. Among them may be selected:
“May she be true and chaste . . . dear to her husband .. . wise . . . long-lived and faithful. . . . May she fortify her weakness with strong discipline . . . be grave in demeanor and honored for her modesty . . . well taught in heavenly lore. . . . Let her life be good and sinless.”(15)
As the educator and trainer of immature minds entrusted to her by God, the mother’s vocation is difficult. It calls for many qualities that are virtues in themselves. The burden is lightened by the ease of moulding the child’s mind and will. But to train them calls for zeal, painstaking effort, patience in weariness, and the humility that joyfully stoops to the level of the child. It is hard work, and the temptation must come at times to abandon the effort and take life easy. Only the seriousness of the undertaking and the knowledge that it is done for God can sustain the untiring effort demanded. “Let the children be, and do not hinder them from coming to me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew, 19: 14)
3. The Children
The relationship between the children and their parents is briefly told. The fourth commandment of God expresses it in six words: Honor thy father and thy mother. Obedience, honor, balanced respect, gratitude. They sum up the duties of the child.
The father has a beautiful example in St. Joseph, the head of the Holy Family. Mothers strive to imitate Mary of Nazareth. But the Boy Jesus Himself has left a divine example to be copied by sons and daughters. And again, that is recorded briefly by the Evangelists: “And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was “subject to them.” (Luke, 2: 51. Gospel of the feast of the Holy Family.)
Obedience is of the divine law, for by it parents are believed to hold the place of God Himself in the lives of their children. Numerous other virtues and habits are good and holy, and many observe them with great fruit. But unless sons and daughters progress in intelligent submission, they will not please God nor advance in anything virtuous. God has not called them to great and heroic undertakings, but to the simple and humble perfection of learning from their natural teachers, their parents.
Young men and women, still under obedience to their fathers and mothers, often complain today that they are not understood, and that parents do and say things that “get on their nerves.” Certainly parents do and say things that are unpleasant! So does the State. So does the Church. God does the same thing. In fact, it is only because they are doing God’s own will, which has no guarantee of being agreeable, that their commands are found to be unpleasant.
Honor is shown by the proper respect and deference for parents. It calls for proper address and titles. It makes the boy and girl proud for the world to know their parents, and never to feel the slightest shame or embarrassment at their clothes, their employment, uncultured speech, or anything else except open and manifest sin.
Gratitude is an attempt to repay parents for their sacrifices. It is only an attempt, for full payment is impossible. It seeks to show itself by full interest in the home, in all that concerns father and mother, brothers and sisters. Its possessor does not find his principal pleasure among friends acquired outside the home circle. One who is truly grateful to parents is not bored with home life, silent, sullen, irritated by younger brothers and sisters, while amazingly gracious to outsiders. Gratitude prompts pleasing companionship, helps to realize the dream of a home that father and mother have worked for, makes for a sympathetic understanding of parents’ wishes.
1. Pope Pius XI, “On the Christian Education of Youth,” in Five Great Encyclical, (New York: Paulist Press, 1940), p. 45.
2. Ibid., p. 61.
3. Pope Leo XIII, “On the Condition of Labor,” in Five Great Encyclical! (New York: Paulist Press, 1940), p. 6.
4. Pope Pius XI, “On Christian Marriage,” quoting Pope Leo XIII, ibid., p. 85.
5. Pope Leo XIII, “On the Condition of Labor,” ibid., p. 5.
6. Ibid., p. 6.
7. Pope Pius XI, “On the Christian Education of Youth,” quoting Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Nova-rum, ibid., p. 46.
8. Ibid., p. 47. 9. Ibid., p. 56. 10. Ibid., p. 59.
11. Pope Pius XI, Encyclical Letter “On the Catholic Priesthood,” December 20, 1935, in Catholic Mind, February 8, 1936, p. 74.
Holy Purity: The Family
1. What Holy Purity Is
When the first baby is born into the family the parents assume numerous serious obligations. But their divinely appointed tasks present no greater difficulty than the preservation of the purity of their home. From almost the time that the child is capable of understanding anything at all, the forces of evil are pitted against the efforts of the parents. Father and mother have powerful aids from heaven, and can and do win the struggle against all odds.
In an age when temptation lurks on every side, boys and girls are being brought to manhood and womanhood in glorious modesty and purity. This goal is being realized because parents have shown themselves deeply prayerful and reverent, constantly alert to danger, and willing to go to any lengths to protect their children. The least negligence on their part may mean disaster.
No greater blessing can descend upon the home than the purity learned from God-fearing parents. By comparison, material wealth, social advantages, even health and life itself are lesser gifts. Any truly Catholic mother would prefer to see her child buried than fall a victim to impure vices. To know that the modesty and purity of their boys and girls results, under God’s grace, from their prayerful example and zealous instruction, is a cause for daily thanksgiving to father and mother.
The various terms used to describe holy purity give the readiest appreciation of it. It is frequently called “the angelic virtue,” because it makes men like the angels, who are pure by nature. Some writers call it “the difficult virtue,” because it can be preserved only by the constant struggle against the strong lower nature of man, particularly today when temptations abound on every side. It is always impressive to hear religious refer to their vow of chastity as “the holy virtue,” holy in itself, and holy in its effects, making them like chosen souls, virgins, as like to Jesus and Mary as human frailty permits. In this connection it is noteworthy that in the Greek language only one word is used for “holiness” and “chastity,” because really they are one and the same. “Continence,” defined by Webster as self-restraint from yielding to desire, obviously refers to difficulty, as do many other terms employed.
No element in human character is more acceptable to God or pleasing to men than purity. It sets its possessor apart from his fellows. It is that which makes little children so lovable, and men and women admirable. It brings them close to God, and this union with Him shines from their eyes, and shows itself in a thousand ways to captivate all who know them. “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew, 5: 8)
Without this moral purity, man’s highest faculties are darkened and weakened, and miserably prone to failure. A whole universe, the world of true beauty, is shut off from those who are not pure. Beauty is a reflection of God. “In Thy light, O God, we shall see light.” (Psalm 35, verse 10) And only the pure of heart see God (Matthew, 5:8), or that part of His works which He makes known to us.
2. Purity Within the Home
If the home is what it should be, (parents not living in fornication, or open adultery through divorce or remarriage), it offers the most perfect protection of purity for its every member. Father and mother find their moral safety within its sanctuary. An unbelieving age has accustomed itself to think and speak of negative and ugly things. Unfaithfulness means a definite break from the family tie. The positive and beautiful express a deeper truth. Fidelity is union with and protection by the family circle. As long as that union is preserved protection is guaranteed.
Some of the Church’s choicest blessings descend upon the Christian family in answer to that petition. Homes are blessed, repeatedly. A special blessing is imparted to the bed chamber. The Church’s ritual has beautiful blessings for the mother with child, and after childbirth, the latter called “churching,” both now regrettably neglected by most Catholic women.
Families are consecrated to the Sacred Heart. Holy water and other sacramentals sanctify their members. The family is never more intimately united than when at prayer.
Obedience, disinterested love, helpful guidance, the willing ear, self-sacrifice, utter trust and confidence in important matters are all found in the home, and rarely anywhere else.
The simple benefit of intimate association with those who desire our spiritual welfare is protection in itself. Father and mother have consecrated their lives to this purpose at the altar. The advice of older brothers and sisters, however unceremoniously administered, and however much resented at the moment, has often stood fortunate youngsters in good stead. Then there are the younger members of the family whom all feel a natural obligation to protect, not merely in a negative way, but by most positive and constructive measures.
3. The Neglect of Training and Education
If the parents enjoy the children’s confidence and the children really love their parents, the day will come all too soon when boys and girls will ask questions of a most delicate and holy nature. No off-hand replies can be tolerated in this critical hour. Prudence and the perfectly right answer which will satisfy but not disturb, must be the products of much earnest prayer for guidance in this sacred moment.
Because parents are often not prayerfully prudent, because many of them have led lives that have poorly equipped them for this task of supreme delicacy, and because many of them feel an unwarranted shame in speaking of matters that are holy in themselves, thousands of children have got their information from “doubtful sources.” Father Hennrich, an excellent authority on this matter, does not hesitate to say that:
“The discussion of the guiding principles in sex instruction indicates that it is a most difficult task. This, most probably, is the main reason why only few young people receive sex instruction from those who are called by God to impart it. An extensive investigation, if it were possible, might reveal that not five per cent received this information from their father or mother.”
Sex instruction, although very important, is only a small part of sex education, which is a positive training from babyhood in the spirit of modesty and holy reserve. In the same manner sex education is only a minor portion of the whole program of home training in Catholic virtue, not to be exaggerated into a disproportionate importance. If the other virtues are properly understood, this matter is rendered much easier.
Well trained children’s minds are easily impressed, their consciences troubled at the slightest fault. They should learn from their parents, and from no one else, of the things that under the most favorable circumstances will cause them temptation and anxiety. It is a gross neglect of parental duty to allow the child to learn by unclean jest from foul-lipped older and more experienced associates knowledge that in itself is honorable and deals with man’s and woman’s cooperation with God.
A ten minutes’ talk with a young boy or girl is sufficient for the whole purpose of the instruction–for that particular development. But parents must not neglect to add maturer explanations when the time presents itself.
They must impress upon grown sons and daughters that the vocation to the wedded life and parenthood to which they look forward calls for the blessing of Almighty God, and that the blessing must be merited by self-denial. It certainly will be no exaggeration if they state that most of the pitiable misery of unhappy marriages is the result of not having merited this blessing of Almighty God before marriage, and from the gross abuses that result in the wedded state.
The ideal combination of qualities for this instruction is difficult. It requires candor born of a spiritual appreciation of man’s cooperation with God and the desire to procure the child’s best spiritual interests. It demands prayerful preparation. It calls for appropriateness of the time and place, and the hope of anticipating the dangers to which the boy or girl may be exposed. It is wary of the danger of saying too much or arousing curiosity.
But with the proper dispositions, and the help of Almighty God, there is no reason for the parents to worry unduly, and certainly no reason for them to shirk their responsibility.
4. Suggestions for Fostering Purity
1. The difficult and delicate virtue cannot be preserved on human strength alone. The home training must have fostered a child-like devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, to one’s guardian angel, and favorite saints.
Virgin most powerful, pray for us.
Virgin most merciful, pray for us.
2. The confidence which will bring sons and daughters to speak with the utmost candor when the time for explanations comes must be built and protected by the parents over long years. The approach with personal problems is one of the highest compliments that can be paid to parents. Its denial is sad in the extreme, and normally a sign of the parents’ failure. Fathers and mothers are sometimes quite honestly unable to impart the required instruction, as when they realize that they have never gained, or have lost, the confidence of the children. Some person in whom they have complete faith must then represent them: an older priest, a favorite relative, a very conscientious Catholic doctor with growing children of his own.
3. Parents may feel unequal to their task when they learn that neighbors have “read scientific books” on the problem of directing their children with regard to purity. They need not feel so. The desire to foster the spiritual welfare of the children, a solidly Catholic conscience, and good common sense, are a sufficiently accurate guide. No amount of reading can replace any one of them.
4. Father and mother must direct sons and daughters to face the difficult problem of preserving chastity with confidence and trust in God, and complete reliance on His help, if they do their part. God never allows anyone to be tempted beyond his strength. He commands us to do what lies within our power, and to pray earnestly for what exceeds our strength. If faith is firm, and purity has been preserved, there is no need for dread of temptations.
5. Prayer and upright living alone can convince parents that “advantages” given to children do not result from the violation of God’s law, “restriction of families,” material wealth, and the like. Sincere Catholics realize that the success of their sacrifices and efforts for their children depends principally on heaven’s blessing, which can be won only by lives in which there is no abiding shame and immorality on the part of the parents.
6. It is a serious obligation to know with whom the older children are keeping company, where they are, when they return home (always on the same day on which they set out), whether there is any of the show-off drinking of youth, and so on. A definite time should be set as a matter of obedience for returning home. This is based on the realization that “as the small hours approach, temptations and dangers increase, and moral resistance is lowered.”
Suggestion for Practical Resolution
Obedience: The Family
1. What Obedience Is
Obedience is the submission of one’s will to the will of a superior precisely because that superior is believed to hold the place of Christ in the matter under consideration. Doing the bidding of another is only the lesser half of obedience. Soldiers, grudging employees, and prison inmates obey after a fashion. But faith alone can tell one: “This order is God’s will. I believe that my father commands me with God’s own divine authority, being my father gives him a share in the authority of God when he commands me.”
This faith alone can give obedience the qualities it must possess to make it acceptable to God and pleasing to men.
First of all, the submission of the will must be an intelligent act. Otherwise what is done is mere good order, obedience without a soul. Obedience is the offering to God of man’s noblest gift, his free will. That can never be easy. To develop a spirit of obedience calls for a deep appreciation of religious motives. And this in turn demands much intelligence on the part of him who commands and him who obeys.
Obedience must be prompt. To “argue the matter,” or study the advisability of what we are told to do, or to examine the motives of the one who commands is to kill obedience. This is all-important for life, because obedience makes its demands at the most unexpected moments, and unless a spirit has been trained from babyhood, failure in the important matters of life’s critical hours is certain.
True obedience is vigorous and hardy. There is never any hesitation or fear in its response. Timidity is unknown to it. It does the bidding of parents and other superiors without delay, gladly, with a joyful countenance, cheerfully, for “God loves a cheerful giver.” (II Corinthians, 9: 7)
It also makes the obedient person perfectly safe. The only thing that can be lost by it is one’s own free will, in return for which is gained God’s will, union with God. It even makes acts that by themselves are neither good nor bad pleasing to God. And by it good acts become highly meritorious. It gives true nobility of character, for one of its rewards is true liberty. It frees the obedient man from the tyranny of his own will, the severest of all masters.
2. Obedience in the Catholic Home
By God’s own Providence the Catholic home is the training ground for intelligent obedience. In their early years, children rely on their parents for everything. For food, clothing, and the home’s shelter, the dependency is total for many years. Moral education and spiritual training are just as much as physical care a part of that dependency until the home shares the duty with the school. Even then the home training continues to be the more important part of the children’s dependence on their parents. This is all in accord with a divinely ordered plan.
Father and mother, too, must be obedient. This does not mean merely that they are bound to give an example of obedience to their superiors. They must do this, of course. The truly obedient boy or girl comes from the home where parents have demonstrated their submission to the authority of God, and His Church, and civil society.
But a still deeper meaning explains the obedience of parents. As God’s representatives they are the custodians of their children. These children have souls which are precious in the sight of God, souls to be trained to seek God’s glory in everything. The reward of such effort is heaven itself, a destiny which parents must strive to make them realize. For the child, the principal condition for gaining this goal is obedience. And such are the workings of Divine Providence that God chooses human representatives, the children’s parents, to be the trainers and recipients of this obedience.
Submitting one’s will in obedience is never easy. But to make it less difficult, God has invested the parents with His own authority. When father and mother train to obedience, or exercise their parental powers and honor in receiving submission, they are sharing with God Himself in something divine.
That thought eliminates all arbitrary action in commanding. There is a norm to follow–God’s law. Everything demanded of children must be based on that law. To make obedience intelligent, the matter should be explained to the children in language that they can understand. With this in mind, harshness in correction, impatience, anger, and loud words, or the sentimentality that accepts disobedience only as a personal hurt must seem to be entirely foreign to the divine order of things.
Daily contact with anything noble usually dulls finer appreciation of it. It is hard to think in divine terms when Willie returns home from school almost three hours after classes have been dismissed, having completely forgotten his daily errands. Patience with disobedient older sons and daughters is even more difficult. But however much routine and human frailty have blunted the appreciation of the parents or of the children, home training must be such that on any serious occasion the appeal can be elevated to the most exalted heights.
“Honor thy father and mother.” The parents duty is born of a sacramental union. Their efforts are seconded by an ever present sacramental grace. Intelligent and wholehearted obedience to them is offered to God, for it venerates parents as His representatives, and honors them as nothing else will honor them.
Very brief observation is needed to see whether a home is deeply Catholic in spirit or not. Like murder itself, disobedience kills the Catholic Spirit. If obedience is lacking, nothing else can have much importance in a Catholic home.
3. Disobedience in the Home
Numerous causes have contributed to the breakdown in the spirit of obedience in the present generation of Catholic homes. The following reasons are offered because they seem most important and come readily under observation. They are by no means exhaustive.
Parents themselves have grown remiss. They know, or should know, the law of God. They were taught it in their own homes and in Catholic school. They have read it in the family Bible. Each Sunday they learn of it in the Mass. The solemn pronouncements of the popes have brought it to their attention. Nevertheless, parents disregard many points of God’s law, and at times even make fun of them in the presence of their children. To realize that this it true, it is sufficient to examine oneself on God’s commandments and the precepts of the Church. Giving a good example is a vital part of training in virtue.
Failure to appreciate the importance and power of grace in home training has taken its toll in many American Catholic families. Too many lines of powerful aid from the altar to the family hearth have been ruthlessly broken.
A life of virtue is difficult and can be fostered only with the aid of all the spiritual means placed at the disposal of the parents. It is comparatively easy to develop a spirit of obedience in the boy or girl who has regularly knelt at the Communion table with father and mother. No amount of insistence on natural motives can take the place of sacramental confession, or prayer with and for the family such as the family rosary.
It is of the utmost importance that children feel deeply and manifest an equal and balanced devotion and obedience toward father and mother. Each parent has his own distinctive contribution to make toward developing an obedient character. Failure by either, and particularly the selfish seeking of the children’s affection by one or the other partner in the marriage will destroy this balance.
“Naturally, many relations will be personal and individual, toward father or mother. The deepest and most common of all human emotions is the love which a person owes to the mother who bore him. And the dignity of fatherhood and headship of the family circle is in turn quite as unique, despite the lack of sentiment with which it is ordinarily expressed. But more fundamental than these personal elements is the sacred bond and unity through which the role of father or mother finds its true explanation in each instance.”
Too often parents do not second the efforts of the Sisters in the parish school with that positive cooperation which is necessary for proper education. Unless the child can return home and see lived what he has been taught in school, progress will be very doubtful. At times parents are even inclined to “take the part of the children” when sterner measures have been found necessary. Such an attitude confirms the child in stubbornness and disobedience.
“Right education must begin even in the first tender years and within the home itself. The home, rudely shattered today, will never be restored to its true dignity, save by the observance of those truths revealed to the Church by her Divine Founder. Only by fidelity to those truths will we preserve the dignity of the home.
4. Suggestions for Fostering Obedience in the Home
1. To develop a spirit of obedience, so that even though no formal command has been given, the knowledge that something is desired by the parents, or is in conformity with their teaching, is a sufficient guide for son or daughter. Writers on obedience usually point out three ascending, degrees of the virtue, namely: a) to perform a given work at the time and in the manner prescribed; b) to fulfill not only the external work, but interiorly to submit the will wholeheartedly, accepting with equal readiness pleasing and displeasing commands; c) not only to perform the work, and submit the will, but also to submit the judgment in simplicity of heart, no matter how the will of the superior (parent) is made known to one. Such a spirit will determine companions chosen, books read, the places of recreation frequented.
2. “For obedience is better than sacrifice.” (I Kings, 15:22) St. Gregory teaches that God most fittingly prefers obedience to sacrifice because in sacrifice we offer Him victims distinct from ourselves, but in obedience we offer our own selves. Generally speaking it can be said that the higher the person disobeyed, and the more serious the command, the more grievous the sin of disobedience. Parents hold the place of God Himself in the home. Therefore disobedience is never a light matter and never to be treated lightly by the parents. “Children, obey your parents in the home, for that is right.” (Ephesians, 6: 1) “Children, obey your parents in all things, for that is pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, that they may not be discouraged.” (Collossians, 3: 20-21)
3. The spirit of obedience calls for a spirit of sacrifice. In obeying we give up what is most dear to us, namely our will and judgment. True obedience is an imitation of Christ, often in important and distasteful matters. “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.” (John, 6: 38) As an athlete must be trained by daily practice and rigorous self-denial for months in preparation for the season’s strenuous games, so the child must be prepared for the hardships and submission of obedience.
4. Wise and prudent parents make it an invariable practice never to air their conflicting views on matters of discipline in the presence of the children.
5. Sons and daughters have the duty to make the home the delightful dwelling place planned by thoughtful parents–a plan that has often involved scrimping and saving, labor and sacrifice. By obedience, more than anything else, the children can cause the parents’ dreams and hopes to be realized, just as they shatter them by disobedience.
6. Never to permit oneself to be carried away with indignation or anger in the correction of children. Angry words and expressions, loss of temper without suitable punishment, or punishment that is excessive or cruel, completely destroy the role of God’s representative. They never bring the child to rid itself of its faults.