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Saturday, December 9, 2017

Parents, Your Role in Catholic Education is Critical!

The home is the first school!
Fr. Hardon used to say that Catholic home schooling families were the monasteries of modern times. Why did he say that? Because education in the secular world is so corrupted that if real learning is to be kept alive the "schools" must be found elsewhere.

The Church teaches that parents are the primary educators of their children, and this is nowhere more true than in the parents' responsibility for the religious education in the home. As a long-time catechist, I can testify to the absolute truth that a CCD teacher cannot in one hour a week effectively instruct children in the faith. If the children's primary exposure to doctrine is in the after-school program that is continuously interrupted by weather, use of the building for other purposes, holiday performances, etc. the child will be a donkey in Catholic truth. The voice in the Church classroom will be drowned out by the much louder voices in the culture: TV, YouTube, sports and other activities, social media, etc. There's no contest. The world wins!

Hence, parents determination to pass on the faith is crucial! The "domestic church" of the home must provide the primary teachers. Both parental example of lived faith and the frequent explicit teaching of doctrine are the two components that will give children the rock-hard foundation for life. Even if they stray, like the prodigal son, they will remember and "come to their senses" later. Scripture promises, "Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6)

Don't let your little ones be donkeys in the faith!
Bishop Athanasius Schneider emphasized the parents' role at the fourth annual Rome Life Forum last
May when he called the Catholic family the first defense against the modern world's "great apostasy." He pointed out that a primary cause of the moral crisis in our day is religious ignorance. "We are forced to agree," the bishop said, with those who hold that the chief cause of the present indifference and, as it were, infirmity of soul, and the serious evils that result from it, is to be found above all in ignorance of things divine." To eliminate that ignorance is, above all, the duty of parents. Bishop Schneider went on to say:
So great and splendid is the educational ministry of Christian parents that Saint Thomas has no hesitation in comparing it with the ministry of priests: “Some only propagate and guard spiritual life by a spiritual ministry: this is the role of the sacrament of Orders; others do this for both corporal and spiritual life, and this is brought about by the sacrament of marriage, by which a man and a woman join in order to beget offspring and bring them up to worship God.” 
Pope John Paul II gives to the catechesis in family the priority over all other forms of catechesis, when he says: “Family catechesis, therefore, precedes, accompanies, and enriches all other forms of catechesis. Furthermore, in places where anti-religious legislation endeavors even to prevent education in the faith, and in places where widespread unbelief or invasive secularism makes real religious growth practically impossible, ‘the domestic church’ remains the one place where children and young people can receive an authentic catechesis. Thus, there cannot be too great an effort on the part of Christian parents to prepare for this ministry of being their own children’s catechists and to carry it out with tireless zeal. Encouragement must also be given to the individuals or institutions that, through person-to-person contacts, through meetings, and through all kinds of pedagogical means, help parents to perform their task: the service they are doing to catechesis is beyond price.” (See full address here.)
"But I'm not qualified," you might say. The Lord responds, "My grace is sufficient for you!" We have all the tools we need: the catechism (many of them in fact - from the Didache to the Catechism of the Council of Trent to the excellent Baltimore catechism developed for different student levels, to the Catechism of the Catholic Church aimed at adults); frequent use of the sacraments of Confession and Holy Eucharist; devotions like the Rosary, novenas, the Advent wreath and liturgical feasts. There are so many teaching moments as well: in the car on the way to sports' practices, at meal time when events of the day are discussed, at bedtime with family nighttime prayers, after going to a movie, during the celebration of sacraments like First Communion and Confirmation.

Catholic parents who neglect their teaching responsibility in the belief that it's the "Church's job" will be held accountable by God. Even worse, if children reject or are lax in the faith because of their parents' religious neglect, there will be no consolation for those parents in the recognition that they did their best to pass on the faith.

Let us all as parents and grandparents embrace our role as educators beginning with praying and sacrificing for our "students." It is a joyful thing to hear a child articulate God's truth in his own simple and innocent understanding. During this Advent season we hear the quote from Isaiah:
And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.                                                                                                                (Isaiah 11:6)
Our children are the future. Let's give them what they need to tame a world filled with wolves, lions, and leopards!

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