Family and education in today's world
By Fr. Franz Schmidberger
It has been 60 years since the great Swiss prelate Robert Mader published a booklet entitled Christ, the King [see p.18], wherein he stresses that:
The woes currently afflicting our world may be traced back to the family. The family, our first great bastion of support and stability, has succumbed to profane values and has thus been desecrated."
How would he judge now if he were confronted with the nameless misery and suffering that has since descended upon marriage, family life, and society in general? What would he make of the countless broken homes and the astronomic divorce figures that are typical of today? The number of divorces in the US has reached almost 50%, while the situation in Germany is only marginally better. In Estonia 76% of all marriages are eventually dissolved, with only one in four remaining intact. The primary victims of such developments are the children, many of whom come away with a spiritual trauma.
However, this is only one of many evils that have undermined family life in recent times: a wide range of artificial contraception techniques (the pill, sterilization, etc.) in conjunction with 50 million abortions per year throughout the world equates to approximately 137,000 children being brutally put to death on a daily basis. At the opposite extreme we have in-vitro fertilization and the manipulation of unborn life. Moreover, homosexual partnerships are increasingly being accorded full legal status in many countries, particularly in Europe.
Most Americans currently live without children, and 30% of all households consist of single occupants versus 31% sharing with one other person. A mere 28% live with more than two people, which translates into a fertility rate of about 2 children per American woman. A great number of married couples no longer have children living at home, providing they have ever had any, that is. In addition, there is a growing number of young married couples who are not producing offspring, while single-parent families account for almost 10% of all households. Hence the following observations made by Pope John Paul II in his apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in Europa, issued after a synod held on June 28, 2003, are entirely justified:
Amongst the aspects of this situation, so many of which were frequently mentioned during the Synod, I would like to mention in a particular way the loss of Europe’s Christian memory and heritage, accompanied by a kind of practical agnosticism and religious indifference whereby many Europeans give the impression of living without spiritual roots and somewhat like heirs who have squandered a patrimony entrusted to them by history.…This loss of Christian memory is accompanied by a kind of fear of the future. Tomorrow is often presented as something bleak and uncertain. The future is viewed more with dread than with desire. Among the troubling indications of this are the inner emptiness that grips many people and the loss of meaning in life. The signs and fruits of this existential anguish include in particular the diminishing number of births, the decline in the number of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and the difficulty, if not the outright refusal, to make lifelong commitments, including marriage. We find ourselves before a widespread existential fragmentation. A feeling of loneliness is prevalent; divisions and conflicts are on the rise. Among other symptoms of this state of affairs, Europe is presently witnessing the grave phenomenon of family crises and the weakening of the very concept of the family…." (I, 7-8)
The idea of family life is now widely considered to be old-fashioned, and it is being replaced with alternative lifestyles, such as the single life, shared accommodation, cohabitation, and even homosexual partnerships.
The question that remains to be answered is whether these phenomena are purely coincidental or whether there is a deeper symptom? One may indeed see a system behind it; indeed, one must. The chief instigators of this social shift are the intellectual leaders of the so-called Frankfurt School, which evolved out of a group of people who collaborated in the year 1923, just after World War I, to found the Institute for Marxism. This agenda was later retained under the somewhat less conspicuous alias of the Institute for Social Studies. Who, then, are the main representatives of this institute? Let us drop just a few names: Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, Erich Fromm, and Jurgen Habermas.
Being mainly composed of Jews (infidel Jews, incidentally, who had forsaken the Mosaic laws), this group fled to Switzerland even before Hitler came to power and its members promptly went on to settle in the US. After World War II, the school split up into two branches, one of which returned to Germany while the other remained in the US.
These conspirators came up with the following calculation: a revolution could be carried out by armed force, as had been done in Russia; but the Red Revolution had been only partially successful because it had been restricted to Russia until well after World War II, whereupon it eventually took root in Eastern Europe, China, and other parts of Asia. It had not therefore culminated in the great world revolution envisaged by the Bolsheviks; it had succeeded but was still fraught with failure.
Another option was to bring about revolution by destroying all received traditions, such that whole peoples could be entirely uprooted and subsequently remolded into a mass of uncultured individuals bereft of morals and religion, and this is precisely what the Institute of Social Studies eventually aims to achieve: it envisages a penetrating transformation of man and of society as a whole.
The conspirators are well aware of the fact that the Faith and Catholic culture have constituted the main hindrance to revolution in Western Europe. Hence they are bent on eradicating the Western image of mankind from the human consciousness, to overcome the Faith, and to create a post-Christian society that would render the Church superfluous.
Besides the Catholic Faith, there is another institution that has opposed revolution in a very special way: I am referring to marriage and the family, especially the Christian family. From 1936 onwards the cultural revolutionaries therefore began an orchestrated campaign against the family as such. “Unless the family has been done away with as an institution,” they pondered, “we will never achieve our objective.”
Thus they began their work at various universities, particularly in the US. They studied the manipulative effects of music on human consciousness and experimented with atonal music (i.e., a variety that has no harmony whatever and which subsequently causes damage to the psyche) as a means of unleashing our basest instincts–rebelliousness, hatred, denial and chaos–in order to use it as a vehicle of subterfuge and social revolution. At the same time they propagated the notion of anti-authoritarian education, and we are therefore confronted with a systematic attempt to destroy the Western Christian paradigm as well as the mindset that goes with it.
This plot has already been put into operation. It would be positively naïve to assume that the ills currently afflicting Western families are merely a series of unfortunate coincidences, and while they cannot be exclusively attributed to the Frankfurt School, it certainly has played a major role in the process, just as it was largely responsible for the revolution that swept Germany, France, and indeed the whole of Europe in 1968.
These subversive designs are most definitely contrary to the Scriptures and to the divine order, for:
God created man in His own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said, Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it." (Gen. 1:27-28)
Matrimony as the basis of family life
Matrimony is the basis of family life. Marriage has three properties: the begetting of progeny as its first and foremost purpose, lifelong loyalty between husband and wife, and, lastly, the holy Sacrament which allows spouses to remain devoted to one another, to honor their mutual cause, to accept the children with whom God has blessed them, and to bring them up in the Christian spirit.
Hence the primary aim of marriage is procreation. Spouses are called upon to partake in the process of divine creation, to assist Him in granting life to loyal believers in the one true God and thereby to make them heirs to heaven.
The second objective of matrimony is subservient to the former, in that husband and wife should love one another. In his Encyclical Casti Connubii (December 31, 1930), Pope Pius XI uttered the following words of wisdom on the purpose of marriage:
This mutual molding of husband and wife, this determined effort to perfect each other, can in a very real sense, as the Roman Catechism teaches, be said to be the chief reason and purpose of matrimony...." (§24)
In other words, spouses should see it as their duty to guide their partners to perfection in the Christian sense and ultimately to help one another reach heaven.
When preparing for married life one should first of all invest some thought into one’s choice of partner. For instance, it is obvious that a marriage between spouses of different religious backgrounds and beliefs can be problematic. If partners cannot agree on the most fundamental issue that defines them as humans, then how are they going to help each other in attaining fulfillment and perfection? If they cannot unite in prayer or take Holy Communion in the same church, if they cannot attend Mass together on Sundays or reach a consensus on the way their children are to be educated, how then should their partnership succeed, especially in view of the fact that they may not even share the same conjugal morals? Hence one’s marital intentions should at all times be directed toward a God-fearing Catholic who will make a good spouse, such that the union might last a lifetime. In this way, married couples can always pray and receive the sacraments together, and they can educate their children in the true Christian spirit.
In marriage, the husband represents the creator as he gives of his own, whereas the wife represents creation, for she is the receiving principle. In a Christian marriage, the husband takes the part of Christ, while his wife emulates the Church. St. Paul puts it as follows: “This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church” (Eph. 5:32). Spouses should always be conscious of its deep and far-reaching significance, especially in times of impending marital strife; for the very thought that there is no conflict between Christ and his Church enables them to overcome their differences.
The mystery of marriage is so firmly inscribed in human nature and man is so deeply rooted therein that upon His coming upon the world to heal its rifts, Christ Himself wished to be born into a family, namely the little family of Bethlehem and Nazareth. Let us also bear in mind that He worked His first miracle at a wedding feast in Cana, where He turned water into wine, just as He was later to transform wine into His own blood during the Last Supper.
Furthermore, He made the state of marriage into a sacrament, that is to say He called upon married couples to do more than disseminate the silver blessing of creation, for they were also given a part in administering the golden blessing of salvation.
Family and Education
Children and Fecundity
Children should always be regarded as a gift from God. One should continuously encourage couples to lead a normal married life. However, there are a limited number of circumstances where restricting one’s connubial passions to periods of infertility on the part of the wife would seem advisable, albeit temporarily.
In his allocution to the midwives of Italy, on October 29, 1951, Pope Pius XII listed four reasons for resorting to certain permissible forms of natural birth control [i.e., Natural Family Planning—Ed.]:
- Medical grounds in the case of a woman who is either ill or under such strain that a further child would pose a threat to her psychological balance;
- the eugenic indication, where future children are likely to be physically or mentally impaired;
- the economic indication, which applies in situations where the father cannot make enough to ensure the welfare of his family if another child were to enter the household; and
- social grounds, where the family premises are so confined that begetting a further child would not be acceptable. In his elaboration, the Pope noted that:
If, however, according to a reasonable and equitable judgment, there are no such grave reasons either personal or deriving from exterior circumstances, the will to avoid the fecundity of their union while continuing to satisfy to the full their sensuality, can only be the result of a false appreciation of life and of motives foreign to sound ethical principles.
In other words, if their activities are not justified by at least one of the above-mentioned exceptions put forward by the Pope, spouses cannot deliberately restrict themselves to days of infertility without encumbering their conscience.
No married couple should shy away from giving life to four, five, or even six children. Children represent the wealth of a family and indeed of entire peoples. We are the richest nations on earth yet also the poorest for children, not only in numerical terms but also when it comes to our hostile attitude towards them, not to mention our marital morals. However, the statistics tell us that each woman would need to bear at least 2.1 children for population levels to remain constant. In other words, we are a dying people. Demographically speaking, the Christian West is faced with extinction.
The Muslims are well aware of this fact and they are employing their very fecundity to conquer our realms. A Muslim once said: “We shall overcome Christendom in the maternity ward.”
I would now like to portray the ultimate benefits of fecundity by means of a few figures, or rather a game of numbers. Of course these numerical examples would never occur in the real world, but they are nevertheless quite revealing. Let us assume that a family today raised two children who would in turn beget two children, and so on and so forth. If we take the time-span between each generation to be thirty years on average, then the above-mentioned progenitors would have 64 descendants in the last generation after 150 years. However, if those same progenitors had raised three children instead of two, then they would have not two or three times as many descendants after 150 years, but the figure would actually jump to exactly 729. Had they raised four children it would increase to 4,096, and the numbers would diverge exponentially as time progresses. [See the table below.]
As already mentioned, the figures shown above would almost never occur under normal conditions, but below are two concrete examples that serve to demonstrate the benefits of multiplication:
1) An ancestor of Archbishop Lefebvre married around 1790. 150 years later (i.e., in 1940) he had 1,200 living descendants including 60 who had joined religious orders, many of whom were priests. What a blessing for Church and society was this good Catholic forefather!
2) One fine day in the 80's, I was a guest of the Goyette family in French Canada. This family had been blessed with 22 children, two of whom had died at birth. However, 20 of their number are alive today and they are all married with several children, some of whom have already wed in their turn. This works out at four generations including the progenitors. If we are to count the in-laws as family, then the number of Monsieur Goyette’s descendants has by now reached 400, which would suffice to people an entire village. Just imagine a family gathering of such dimensions!
Large families are usually quite fertile, that is to say people who were born into large families would in turn tend to have many children. Moreover, families blessed with many children will of course produce some offspring that have a mission. Amongst a whole group of children, we are bound to find at least one that will be called to serve the Lord as a priest or in a religious order, and what could possibly be more natural?—A certain degree of thrift combined with mutual respect and cooperation amongst siblings constitute a sound natural basis for the workings of grace. Joining religious life also makes a very special reward for the generosity and kindheartedness of one’s parents.
On January 20, 1958, Pope Pius XII gave an allocution to the prolific parents of Italy, wherein he stated the following:
Even from the perspective of an outsider, a properly run family appears as a manifestly sacred thing. For them the sacrament of baptism ranks not as a rare event but rather as a regular occurrence that gives joy to the Lord and renews His grace time and time again. With numerous solemn processions to the baptismal font yet to come within the family, the eldest are already enjoying the equally glorious sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Communion. Scarcely has the youngest sibling taken off the white robes of sweet remembrance than the white veil of matrimony may be seen blossoming upon the firstborn daughter, once again to see parents, siblings and relations gathered at the foot of the altar. So the joyous chain of marriages, baptisms, and white Sundays continues as though it were forever springtime, and thus we might say that God never ceases to visit these happy people and to shower them with His grace. In this same manner divine Providence descends upon large families, and many parents are more than ready to testify to this, particularly the poorer ones; for they put their entire faith in Him concerning all things that lie beyond human competency. There is merit in such faith and indeed it is not in vain! To put it in human terms and dimensions, we mean that divine Providence may be derived not so much from the number of times He has shown extraordinary clemency but rather from the great harmony of regular life that is due to the infinite wisdom of the Creator, to His great goodness and to His omnipotence."
At birth the human child is more dependent on parental care than any other living creature, and these needs extend far beyond feeding, hygiene, and clothing. What children require above all else is the attention of other intelligent beings, people who love them while simultaneously awakening their spiritual and intellectual faculties. In this context, allow me to cite a ghastly experiment that was conducted in former times. One day it was decided that a group of baby infants should be put away in an isolated room and provided with absolutely nothing but adequate temperatures, nourishment, hygienic conditions, etc. Systematically deprived of human warmth, they were neither loved nor smiled at, and not a word was spoken to them. Most of these babies eventually died on site, which goes to show that man is a social being that is fundamentally dependent on its fellow creatures.
Let me support this argument with yet another poignant example based on an event that took place approximately a century ago and which involved a pair of infants being abducted by wolves. Some years later these children were rediscovered amongst the pack. They now howled just like wolves and were evidently incapable of speech. The younger child died shortly after being freed, and the other never learned to speak. A child needs live contact with other people if it is to develop into a proper human being. This loving care on the part of the parents, and particularly the mother, begins at conception. A mother has to accept her child and to be joyous in motherhood, such that she may express her Fiat in God’s will as Mary did; she has to embrace her task, even if the prospect of yet another child can seem burdensome at first.
Being a Christian, the young mother will endeavor from the start to nurture her as yet unborn child in the presence of God, to offer it unto Him and to bid Him turn it to good. She accepts the hardships of pregnancy and the pains of birth, and especially the latter merits exemplification: a group of mother sheep were one day given a sedative before lambing, whereupon they abandoned their young after giving birth. Natal pain apparently triggers certain maternal instincts or at least furthers them in some way or another. However, this is not to say that all sedatives should henceforth be forbidden, but they should certainly be administered with caution, for God had intended the pains of birth for Eve, our ancestral mother, as one of several punishments for her fall from grace (Gen. 3:16).
A mother will desire with all her heart to have her child baptized at the earliest opportunity. This is an issue of which modern parents need constantly to be reminded, for there is a tendency these days to postpone the occasion until such a time as all the aunts and uncles can be assembled in order to celebrate it with the extended family. However, that is not what baptism is about: the purpose underlying baptism involves bringing the child to God, to raise the heathen into Christendom, to turn the sinner into a righteous individual, in short: to make this little creature into a temple of the Lord, that it may be a member of the body of Christ and an heir to heaven. Child mortality remains a genuine threat to this day, and it would be a terrible lot for parents to bear if their child were to be denied adoration of the Holy Trinity due to mere procrastination on their part!
Children demand time, comfort, human warmth, and love, though it should be noted that love manifests itself not so much in emotions but above all via that precious attitude which tells someone, “It’s great to have you with us!” It is a question of acknowledging the other person, of acceptance, of condescension, of goodwill, and of benefaction.
As children grow, they will greatly appreciate being in contact with nature, to admire all those animals, plants, mountains and lakes that were made by the hand of God. In this day and age dominated by technology and automation, by cold, avaricious utilitarianism aimed at maximizing profits, the beauty of nature has been lost from sight, as have her laws and the divine wisdom of her creation. Modern men have no capacity for wonder and awe; their souls are impoverished and crippled.
Some years ago, a farmer friend of ours related to us how he and his family used to take in groups of youngsters from Berlin who would spend the holidays on their little farm. It came as a great shock to these children when they discovered that milk came from a cow rather than the milkman and that eggs came not from the shelf but from a chicken. One of our schools in the US keeps a number of pigs, which are fattened on site and then slaughtered. At first some of the children refused to eat the pork coming from these filthy animals, for they were under the impression that shop-bought meat was much cleaner and nicer. It took a timid tasting session to convince them that they were in fact dealing with the very same sort of meat and that pork from home-reared pigs actually tasted better than their habitual fare, whereupon these little townies decided to try to fatten some pigs of their own in their urban garage.
Owning a little pet greatly enriches a child’s life, be it a rabbit, a goat, a sheep, a guinea pig or whatever; for now he or she is obliged to feed the animal, not just once a week to cover the remaining six days, not just when it fancies doing so, but at regular intervals. Furthermore, the stalls have to be cleaned and kept in good repair, and all these chores help foster certain virtues such as order, a sense of duty, punctuality, patience, and stamina.
Work constitutes an indispensable element of the educational agenda since it occupies a lot of space in our lives. It demands planning and foresight, effort and determination, dedication and input, industriousness and persistence. Work is actually very therapeutic, both physically and psychologically.
The lack of discipline to be found in many young people of today, even in our circles, can at times be shocking. They have no notion of order, and they have no routine; they do not plan their lives, and, worst of all, they have no sense of purpose. They live in chaos, eating, sleeping, and rising according to their whims and fancies. The same is true of their churchgoing habits, providing they go to church at all.
Moreover, children need to be taught a sense of responsibility, which begs yet another example: When the Don Bosco School was founded in the Brilon Woods in autumn of 1982, each child was provided with a garden plot for which it held sole responsibility. It was revealing to regard these allotments as mirrors reflecting the spiritual state of their individual child gardeners; for some plots were well cared for, neatly designed and sensibly stocked, while others had an air of neglect about them. Each child worked its garden according to its own capabilities, both technical and creative. Whenever a child was obliged to leave the school, it had to hand it over to a peer, evoking the idea of passing on an estate of human traditions and acquisitions.
In this manner children are acquainted with the nature of laws and duties in a way that allows them to connect between them. Modern men know only their rights and demands, but they think not of their duty, their responsibility towards others, for they no longer have a sense of service. One should remember, however, that rights are derived from duty and not vice versa! If the modern egotist does not get what he wants, then he will have it by force, even to the point of taking his own parents to court. Children have to be given a sense of honor, awe, and self-respect to guide them along their way.
Since parents are stakeholders in divine authority, children should not address them by their forenames. Such practices seriously undermine parental dignity. Children should call their parents “father” or “mother,” “dad” or “mommy,” and the same applies for daughters- or sons-in-law.
The educational process should be characterized by a healthy mixture of benign encouragement and strict discipline. Misbehavior, stubbornness, or rudeness on the part of a child deserve to be chastised. For instance, if your child has broken the neighbor’s window it should not be easily dismissed. Children know intuitively that there is corrective merit in punishment, providing it is justified. Above all, punishment should be administered for the child’s own good; it must not be a mere act of violent and reckless retribution on the part of the parents. It has to be within reason if it is to be effective rather than harmful, though the chief problems in today’s world are caused by the excessive lenience that is typical of a liberal, anti-authoritarian education whereby children can get up to virtually anything without ever being brought to justice, which ultimately leaves them unfit for the rigors of Christian life.
Below are several quotations from the Book of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) to illustrate the above:
Do you have children? Discipline them and make them obedient from their youth. (Ecclus. 7:25)
He who loves his son will whip him often, in order that he may rejoice in the way that he turns out. He who disciplines his son will profit by him, and will boast of him among acquaintances." (Ecclus. 30:1-2)
And, finally, a quote from the Book of Proverbs:
He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him." (13:24)
Far be it from me to advocate child abuse; I am merely expounding the benefits to man of reward and punishment, depending on whether his deeds have been good or bad. Children have a very acute sense of justice to which parents must respond, either by rewarding them or indeed by imposing sanctions. In other words, those who indulge their child’s every wish and allow it to run wild, those who relinquish or soften their parental authority cannot be said to love their own, and this form of nurture will eventually yield catastrophic results; for they will have raised full-fledged tyrants, egotistical beings that think only of their own gains, who neither relent nor forgive, and who will have their way against all reason. In short, they will have raised social misfits of the worst kind.
Parents educate their children in the service of God. They raise them for God. In other words, parents act in His place and must therefore teach their offspring according to His will and His laws. Children do not belong to their parents alone, and thus they should not be raised as their playmates, never mind playthings! Such practices do not reflect the laws of God.
Children should be raised and trained for a Christian lifestyle, and they have to be adequately prepared for it. As we all know, this undertaking involves many challenges: work and exertion, success and failure, praise and chastisement, happiness and sadness, joy and tears. In any case, a Christian life is always a struggle wherein humans must prove themselves in order to ennoble their souls. The purpose of education is therefore to fortify children and youths for this task.
In terms of learning to obey, infants should initially be directed to honor parental authority: “You should do this, because dad said so!” As they grow up, reason will gradually come to support the straightforward imperative: “You should do this or that, because it is good, because it is pleasing to God, and because it benefits others. Moreover, it will bring you closer to your goal.” The smaller a child, the more weight should be placed on simple authority, but as it grows one may blend in a proportionate amount of reasonable arguments, though both elements always go together on the educational agenda.
Every good educator will acknowledge the importance of consistency in the training process, for life is constant and can at times be relentless. Children have to learn to face the consequences of their actions. If they have done wrong it would be of little benefit to follow up any punitive measures with kisses and embraces, even if they have burst out crying. If they have offended father or mother, they have to ask forgiveness before the full extent of parental love is restored. In short: good deeds should always be rewarded with praise, if not prize, while wrongful actions require punishment or at least chastisement.
The educational process involves viewing humans in their entirety, that is to say every aspect is taken into account: body, soul, social interaction as well as the fact that human nature is marred by original sin. We therefore have to train our bodies through physical exercise, work, acceptable sports practiced in good measure, and other forms of physical activity.
However, it is the soul that matters above all else, for there are many forces at work within it, such as reason, determination, and a world of emotions. A child’s intellect is waiting to be enlightened, formed, and brought to full bloom. Learning to read and write, to do arithmetic, and to commit to memory are all integral to child education, but the formation of a character fortified with honesty, strength, steadfastness, an industrious disposition, and above all a well-defined will is of far greater importance.
Man is not an isolated organism, as Leibniz once qualified humans, and this applies in an even greater measure to children. They are companionable beings that are profoundly influenced by the social environment for which they are to be groomed. Thus it is not only proper but also very important for a child to attend school, as children need friends and playmates in whose company they can develop their strengths and with whom they can venture forth and accomplish things. Conversely, social contact can also involve resistance and incomprehension which have subsequently to be overcome through honing and shaping in preparation of a life that will not always go smoothly.
Ever since the tragic fall from grace of our progenitors, human reason has been clouded. Our will does not aspire to good things alone but is often fixated on evil desires; our souls are weakened by the threefold concupiscence. Man is reborn into supernatural life through the sacrament of baptism, which diminishes the wounds of original sin without entirely removing them. This rift in human nature becomes particularly obvious in the education process, and it presents new challenges each day. These blemishes are only healed over time through deliverance–and ultimately through the mercy of salvation–in the course of a truly Christian existence. It follows that a Christian education can only be accomplished by supernatural means. These include praying for–and with–the children and making sacrifices for them, particularly on the part of mothers, while simultaneously fostering in them a spirit of sacrifice. Telling the children that they are doing this or that for the love of Jesus, that they are making certain small sacrifices to please the divine Savior, or that they are abstaining from such and such a pleasure to emulate the crucified Christ should all come naturally to us within our families.
Similarly, receiving the sacraments should play a major role in the educational regimen, particularly when it comes to holy Confession and frequent receipt of Holy Communion. It was by these two means alone that St. John Bosco educated his boys into good, solid Christian men, despite the fact that several of their number had arrived at his door in a state of utter neglect. Indeed, some of them were later to be canonized.
In his splendid Encyclical entitled Divini Illius Magistri (December 31, 1929), Pope Pius XI had the following to say on the subject of education:
In fact it must never be forgotten that the subject of Christian education is man whole and entire, soul united to body in unity of nature, with all his faculties natural and supernatural, such as right reason and revelation show him to be; man, therefore, fallen from his original estate, but redeemed by Christ and restored to the supernatural condition of adopted son of God, though without the preternatural privileges of bodily immortality or perfect control of appetite. There remain, therefore, in human nature the effects of original sin, the chief of which are weakness of will and disorderly inclination.
Folly is bound up in the heart of a child and the rod of correction shall drive it away” (Proverbs 22:15). Disorderly inclinations then must be corrected, good tendencies encouraged and regulated from tender childhood, and above all the mind must be enlightened and the will strengthened by supernatural truth and by the means of grace, without which it is impossible to control evil impulses, impossible to obtain to the full and complete perfection of education intended by the Church, which Christ has endowed so richly with divine doctrine and with the Sacraments, the efficacious means of grace. (§58-59)
The importance of games
Let us move on to a very special teaching method, namely organizing all manner of games. This literally plays a more important role in child education than one might think, particularly when it comes to fostering virtuous behavior. Everybody has to obey rules, to follow a prescribed objective order that has not been devised by oneself, that should not–and indeed cannot–be changed at will lest the whole enterprise lapse into chaos and confusion. Each participant is bound by the same rules, just as all humans are bound by the same laws of religious and moral order, for the truth does not waver: two and two make four; it has been thus since ancient times, it remains thus today and it will not have changed in a thousand years’ time. The truth is eternal and completely stable, and even the greatest efforts on the part of science will not alter human nature. Moreover, games require intelligence, reflection, exertion, and a precise assessment of reality: a move on the chessboard must not be rushed, and the winning chances have to be calculated in advance. Similarly, one must not divulge one’s advantages to the opponents, nor should one allow oneself to be irritated by their tricks and ploys. At times it takes extensive thinking to come up with a good move, while a bad decision at the start can make it rather difficult to win in the end, which, however, has been known to happen. Rarely do life’s lessons come in a more comprehensive package!
Of course, every child is inspired by the idea of winning, and that is a good thing; but before long he will lose the odd game, and losing is most certainly worth learning if one wishes to avert bitterness or discouragement, and if one is to continue enjoying the game. In the course of their lives, humans will be faced with disappointment, humiliation, and loss which they must somehow take in stride. Having lost, the first issue that needs to be ascertained is the reason for failure: had I simply been dealt a bad hand, or may it be attributed to lack of skill or foolish behavior on my part?
Most games are played in teams comprising honest players who abide by the rules and cheaters who do not. Whether their trickery is to be exposed or whether it should be borne in silence depends on the circumstances and is ultimately a matter of common sense, for one may either come down on the side of justice or on the side of magnanimity. What happens, for instance, if the opponents decide to give up? Should one allow them to leave, or should they be urged to prevail? Again, I cannot emphasize enough the value of games for acquiring life skills!
Another game entirely is drama–and a particularly challenging one at that, since it involves acting one’s part to maximum effect. In former times, drama used to play a major role on the Jesuit curriculum, and it was systematically employed in their institutions as an educational measure, because the Jesuits knew how beneficial it could be in terms of the formation of the soul. For a start, one has to learn a text which can take many hours and much sweat. Moreover, the players have to appropriate their respective roles; they must identify with their characters and immerse themselves in whichever world the play happens to be set. Finally, they must take to the stage and learn to act with a natural grace that is devoid of fear or affectation.
When acquiring virtue, it is the three theological ones that come before all the others: faith, hope, and love. Furthermore, one should strive to develop and ultimately bring to fruition the cardinal virtues, such as prudence (which must not be confused with cunning but should rather be understood as the act of systematically directing one’s means towards a worthy end), proper reflection coupled with seeking advice from wise people, taking correct decisions, and, finally, bringing a task to completion. The second cardinal virtue is justice, which gives to all what they deserve, unto God His due, unto one’s neighbors theirs. Indeed, we must do justice even unto ourselves. In third place comes fortitude, which enables us to envisage great things and to carry them through; which grants us endurance in the face of many trials and tribulations, no matter how long or painful. It is want of this quality that characterizes our contemporaries, leaving them fickle and restless. In fourth place comes temperance, which serves to rein in the lust for money, property, honor, fame, sex, and food and to subjugate these desires to our reason. We should remember that the aforementioned drives are inscribed in human nature solely in order to conserve the individual and to keep it from starving, whereas the latter is designed to conserve humanity as a whole and to avert extinction.
Beyond the three theological virtues and the four cardinal ones, we should also endeavour to obtain all the others: humility and self-control, politeness and modesty, honesty and selflessness, plainness, loyalty, helpfulness, magnanimity, bravery, propriety, mercy, and punctuality. Virtues can be acquired through practice, just as regular practice on the piano makes an accomplished pianist.
Another important issue on the educational agenda is developing an appreciation of the bonum commune, a sense of the common good. What exactly do we mean by this concept? The common good is the sum of those possessions that are shared by any given community, be it a family, a State, or the Church. The common good of the latter is faith and the life of grace, which is epitomized in the Body of Christ and its mysterious composition. The common good of a family on the other hand is their mutual harmony as they dwell together in an ambiance of peace and joy that allows individuals to develop freely and without material cares.
The bonum commune ranks above the bonum individuale, i.e., individual property. Let us look at a few examples to illustrate this point: A mother has to make sacrifices for her family. Above all, she has to share her husband’s responsibilities and to forget her own advancement for the sake of the children. If she were acting primarily in her own interests she would not only become unhappy herself but she would also cause her family to suffer, whereas her selfless quest for the greater good of the family will make her thrive. Once again, we may put our faith in the word of Christ, for He said: “Seek first the Kingdom of the Lord and His justice,” which means in effect that both the common and the individual property, lesser though it be, “shall follow.”
Here is another example: A soldier goes to war and puts his life at risk for his homeland, leaving his wife and children in order to defend a larger community that ranks even higher than his kin, namely his people. This means in effect that the greater common good goes before the family.
This truth manifests itself to an even greater extent in the case of priests, bishops, and members of the religious orders; for these people have relegated their own interests and their personal success to the margins in order to devote themselves entirely to God, to the Church, and to the human soul, even at the risk of losing their lives in the process.
The concept of the common good is being disregarded in this day and age; it is being shamefully neglected and even scoffed. Modern men seek nothing but their own satisfaction, their own wealth, their own comfort, their own holidays, and their own success. Nobody wants to serve any more. The idea of serving is these days considered degrading and contrary to one’s dignity. People are no longer prepared to care for orphans, invalids, lonely individuals, or needy people in a selfless manner, nor are they willing to take up voluntary work. Love is dying.
Let us look at one last issue pertaining to the duties of parents and teachers in the strenuous business of education. They have a part in the three offices of Jesus Christ which involve teaching, preaching, and administering pastoral care. Parents must teach their children, they must enlighten their minds, and they cannot simply evade some of their more bothersome queries by pretending to be stuck for time.
It is up to the mother to instruct her children in faith and in prayer when they are still very young. She must teach them to fold their hands and she must narrate the first prayers to them in order to guide them towards the Eucharistic Christ. She must mold her children’s souls in her own spirit of faith and Christian love. Moreover, parents hold a stake in Christ’s priestly office, i.e., they must pray for their children and make sacrifices for them while at the same time praying with them and encouraging them to make offerings. They should also bless their children as often as possible. Finally, parents share in the pastoral work of Christ and His Church, since they watch over their children as they guide their offspring towards good pastures, good friendships, good books, and good music while simultaneously cautioning them against harmful weeds, such as bad companionship and adverse influences. They have to take an active interest in the lives of their children through encouragement and stimulation, but they must also stay any danger that might lie in their path.
Let me move on to the third point of this article, namely the dangers of contemporary life threatening our children, our youths, and our educational system. The first threat I would like to mention is television, which has a disastrous influence on the soul. Apart from a few exceptions, modern television programs are permeated with scenes of violence and indecent behavior, and it is only natural that children should desire to re-enact or even imitate some of them, while exposure to on-screen indecency will necessarily undermine a child’s baptismal innocence. The television is a direct route to sin; it furthers vice and sinful habits and can ultimately lead to hell. On top of these threats, television induces inertia: children will lounge about in front of the screen instead of going out into nature to admire God’s work. It keeps them from playing and from tinkering about, from drawing, singing, reading, and storytelling; it drains people of their creative drive.
Another area of danger is the world of computers and computer games, which lure children into a virtual environment where they can learn to humiliate others, or perhaps even to shoot them. When an adolescent then proceeds to try this out for real, we react with bewilderment and ask ourselves how such a thing could possibly have happened!
More perilous still than television is the Internet, insofar as it allows people to pick and choose their own images and programs. A book entitled Vorsicht Bildschirm (Beware the Screen) that has recently been published even goes so far as to expound the grave threats posed by the electronic media to the physical aspects of child development.
Rock music likewise causes great damage to a child’s soul. Let us briefly revert to an issue mentioned at the very beginning, namely the Frankfurt School and their research into how atonal music could be systematically employed as a vehicle for bringing about an incisive social shift. Equipped with cell phones and Walkmans, contemporary adolescents find it impossible to build real relationships, and any interest in edifying intellectual pursuits such as literature, music, culture, and religion is nipped in the bud. Just look into their apathetic faces that have lost all the freshness and spontaneity of youth!
A young priest from a diocese in Argentina who has recently joined our ranks related to me how he used to deny absolution to youths in his own parish if they were known to frequent nightclubs, and he was right in doing so; for those who wilfully expose themselves to the threat of sin must somehow be prepared to bear it and cannot therefore be said to show genuine contrition. Hence they cannot receive absolution.
Apart from the virtual world of the screen that drags our youths into oblivion, drugs also play a major role in their flight from day-to-day reality, i.e., the objective world in which we must work for the good of all. Drug addicts and those who have been damaged by drug abuse often end up as mere shadows of their former selves. They are no longer capable of leading regular working lives, and they have no sense of mission, which in turn induces a psychological trauma that frequently ends in suicide. This is true in particular of younger victims.
Another source of danger to children is lurking in the toy department, for in this day and age toys are far from innocent. Do not be too naive, my dear parents, when you go out shopping for your children: many toys are designed in the service of destructive ideologies.
Canons 1372-74 in the 1917 Code of Canon Law make it absolutely clear that parents are obliged to send their children to a Catholic school. It says in these statutes that religiously neutral institutions, especially schools with an anti-Catholic agenda (i.e., a curriculum that goes against the teachings of the true Church), are quite simply not acceptable for children of Catholic parentage.
In terms of theological law a child’s education is the responsibility of those who brought it into life, that is to say its parents and the Church. The former have given it biological life, whereas the Church has raised it into supernatural life. Mandatory state schooling therefore ranks as a manner of expropriation whereby both the parents and the Church are robbed of their rights. What is more, modern schools are contaminated with materialism as well revolutionary and interreligious notions, where children are exposed to a threefold threat:
1) A flawed education that is heavily biased towards the natural sciences, whereas the humanities, comprising languages, literature, history, and geography, are no longer accorded enough space on the curriculum. In fact students are being pushed in an entirely new direction. In the wake of World War II, the American government effected a number of changes to the German curriculum, which were to have catastrophic consequences. Influenced by Freemasonry and the Frankfurt School, it aimed to alter fundamentally the Western mindset by moving away from the humanities, from the occidental Christian perception of man by furthering the natural sciences instead. Children were made to learn biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics in order to turn them into technicians, if not to say nerds, and hence to foster a new image of man wherein humans featured as machines, commodities, objects rather than beings who were wrought in the image of the Holy Trinity. These days, children rarely learn how to read or do arithmetic; they do not get taught how to analyze a sentence according to subject (the key component of a sentence), predicate (the statement being made), and object (which complements the sentence). Indeed, our youngsters are no longer capable of writing so much as a properly drafted letter comprising an address and a conclusion.
2) The moral temptations of sex education. Of course children have to be made aware of these things in accordance with their age and their respective levels of maturity, but this can only be achieved with due responsibility on a case-by-case basis and should, moreover, fall within the purview of the parents themselves. On top of this particular threat we still have all the other temptations listed above: drugs in the school yard, computers, cell phones, and rock music.
3) Religious corruption. Providing religion is taught at all, contemporary lesson plans tend to marginalize the one, true, God-given Faith in favor of discussing numerous religious traditions–Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity–as representing different routes to salvation which are all accorded a certain degree of validity. Yet other schools do not offer any religious instruction, which will lead children into perceiving religious knowledge as an insignificant issue that has no bearing whatever on the meaning of life or on one’s happiness. All that will subsequently matter to them is indulging their personal happiness, their own enjoyment of life, their own holidays, their own comfort and wealth, and such things may be obtained without God, without His foresight or His commandments, without prayer, without the Church, and without the sacraments!
In his aforementioned encyclical, Divini Illius Magistri, Pope Pius XI cites a man who was very much tainted by the ills of liberalism but who nevertheless made the following lucid remark: “The school if not a temple, is a den. When literary, social, domestic and religious education do not go hand in hand, man is unhappy and helpless” (Nicolo Tommaseo, Pensieri sull’ educazione, parts 1,3,6). A successful education requires parents, pastors, and teachers to work together in perfect harmony.
The father’s role within the family
The father is a figure of authority, for he is the head of his household. His chief duties include nourishing the family and guiding his own safely past all dangers that might befall them. “Thou shalt earn thy bread by the sweat of thy brow!” God declared unto Adam. Metaphorically speaking, fathers have been entrusted with the foreign office, which they must run astutely with all due foresight and circumspection. They must plan on their own but they should also seek advice from others as regards decision-taking in the management of their charges. What is more, fathers should set a good example by striving to be honest, upright Catholic men at all times.
The role of fathers in society has currently hit rock bottom. In his lovely booklet entitled Christian Fatherhood, the French author Fr. Jean-Dominique makes the following observation:
Of all the tribes and regimes in the world, the most successful peoples to this day owe their expansion and their wealth to paternal authority. This becomes particularly obvious under despotic rule, affecting for instance the farmers of Russia, and it is clear for all to see in the various liberal governments as witnessed in England and its colonies throughout both hemispheres. Conversely, all those peoples that eventually sink into insignificance commit the error of weakening the position of the paterfamilias."
He elaborates by remarking that:
The success of a nation is fundamentally threatened wherever paternal authority is robbed of its two mainstays. The supreme decadence of the ancien regime followed by a revolution that destroyed the Faith and did away with heritage has caused such deep damage to our nation that no amount of effort has so far succeeded in repairing it." (Frederic Le Play)
Fathers play an exceptionally important role not only within the family but also in society as a whole. Their wives and their children should be able to look up to them for support and direction.
In order to illustrate the responsibilities of a father towards his children, let us quote once again from Christian Fatherhood: Fathers are to
play with their children, to sing, to go for walks, to act with them; they must do physical work with them (gardening, carpentry, etc.) but they should also check their school work and correct it for them, to rejoice at their successes and to praise them."
Similarly, fathers should
keep a close eye on what sort of company their children keep and to warn them of bad friendships at the earliest possible opportunity, so as to enable them to make worthy friends."
They have to
develop a personal relationship with their children and to use every incentive to write them a letter or to give them presents."
Fathers exert a considerable influence on the character formation of their children, particularly on the boys. They must therefore teach them
to appreciate the merits of good, thorough work and to encourage them to put their whole heart into any given project. Fathers have to encourage their children to be neat from a very early age on, to dress and to behave with all due modesty, not least when it comes to bodily issues: they should respect other people’s bodies as well as their own, for the body is not their property and it most certainly is not a toy. Hence the human body should remain clothed at all times: 'To remain God’s friend, you have to make sacrifices.'”
Looking beyond these issues,
fathers should take charge of the spiritual life of their household. They should bless their children each evening by making the sign of the cross on their foreheads; they should introduce them to prayer and adoration and they should pray at the head of their family. Similarly, it would be advisable for them to erect a little shrine in the home."
go on little pilgrimages and processions with their family, whilst Church feasts should be adequately prepared in advance and then celebrated in a most special way. Fathers should prepare their children for learning the catechism and quiz them on it; they should listen to tapes with their children and read to them the biographies of holy men. On Sundays at the very least, they should read them the Bible and take their children to confession (or if they are as yet too young, they should prepare them for it)."
Such are the duties of fathers, which are, however, shared by the mothers, whom God has entrusted with the “ministry of the interior” so to speak; but both parties must work closely together in governing their household.
Fathers necessarily resemble Joseph of Nazareth and Bethlehem, head of the Holy Family. Joseph cared for his own and saved the Child from Herod’s murderous intentions by fleeing to Egypt. Similarly, many fathers in the modern world must protect their household from the stranglehold of contemporary ills, the Herod of our times, which entails escaping from the local environment. For instance, they may have to leave their home parish in order to find the nearest chapel where the holy Mass is celebrated, or they might even have to move altogether in order to be near a truly Catholic school.
The role of mothers in the family
The mother’s role is primarily one of sacrifice and love, for she makes the children feel at home by giving them all the comfort they need. Furthermore she teaches them the rudiments of life and she acts as their nurse when they fall ill. Mothers resemble Mary, who was a mother and a virgin. Like her, Christian mothers have to be immaculate and modest in their thought and in their entire attitude, whilst they must also be maternal. As Eve was sent to Adam to support him in his daily chores, so they too shall be strong and steadfast partners to their husbands. In the Book of Wisdom, the Holy Ghost describes them not in the light of meek housewives and still further removed from the image propagated by feminists and women’s libbers:
Who can find a good wife? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.
She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchants, she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and tasks for her maidens.
She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. She girds her loins with strength and makes her arms strong.
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle.
She opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. She makes herself coverings; her clothing is fine linen and purple. Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers girdles to the merchant.
Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her. 'Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.'
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates." (Prov. 31:10-31)
Such words of praise does the Bible lavish upon the wise and loyal housewife that is the mainstay of her husband and a true mother to her children. It is no secret that most great men that had an impact on world history were aided in their work by loyal and loving wives. In the order of creation, man and woman are fundamentally dependent upon one another.
The family is a little kingdom with Jesus living in its midst and where everything is organized around His true presence. Its members flock about Him and live by the motto ora et labora (work and pray). In other words, it is not enough for members of a family to pray individually; the whole household must do so, and it should constantly implore the Lord’s grace if it is to prevail. Like the Holy Family of Nazareth, which every Christian family endeavors to emulate, there will be hours of innocent joy and healthy relaxation, but there will also be many a cross to bear, many trials and tribulations. A Christian life is always led in preparation for heaven; it is not an end in itself upon this earth. The Imitation of Christ states that the road to heaven is a thorny one.
Moreover, a truly Christian family is characterized by a continuous mutual striving to live virtuously at all times, to aid and support one another on the path to maturity and perfection. After work, there shall be song, pastimes, storytelling, and communal prayer. Similarly, there is much fun and adventure to be had together on walks and excursions, or by the camp fire. We should not neglect our rich store of folk songs, whether they be songs for the highway, patriotic songs, love songs, or odes to nature. This beautiful and wholesome treasure has almost completely gone under in recent times.
Modern families are tainted by the ills of our materialist world. The emphasis is today placed firmly on acquiring wealth, on attaining a high standard of living, on earnings and on possessions; but these worldly riches are offset by spiritual poverty: it is not what you have but what you are that ensures happiness. The low birth rate and lack of sympathy for children that prevails is truly shocking. Half a century ago, a book entitled The End of Western Civilization was published. That end is now upon us. Wherever a culture begins to fade, the vacuum it leaves behind promptly attracts other peoples that are as yet brimming with vitality. The ancient Greeks and Romans paid for their decadence in a similar manner.
Let us take another look at the large family, which is generally composed of father, mother, and their children plus the grandparents at another level. Living together with grandparents is of great importance to children because the former are no longer working to earn. If mothers are involved in a business or if they have to run a farm together with their husband, there may not be enough time to answer children’s queries, to play with them, to read them stories, or to tell them of old times. Grandparents on the other hand will have their active life behind them and are thus at leisure to pass on their wealth of knowledge and experience to the young ones. Alternatively, this task can also be taken on by an unmarried uncle or aunt.
When their grandparents pass away, children are suddenly confronted with death, and this gives rise to all manner of questions: Where has grandfather gone? Will he ever come back? Will I perhaps have to die one day? Such experiences leave a lasting impression on a child’s soul. However, our modern consumer society looks upon grandparents as a burden; there is no space for them in the house and they are subsequently packed off to the nursing home. The family of three generations is reduced to a mere two, and this impoverishment in terms of human warmth causes pain to the children. Hence they, too, leave home at an early stage to seek out a room or an apartment of their own, and the family of two generations quickly dwindles to one. The parents are left with an empty nest, but the development does not end there.
Now living as singles, the children soon discover that they are not cut out for solitude and promptly cast around for other young people to share their hobbies and their time with them. They want to have fun with their peers, and this desire results in the genesis of a new type of “family,” such as communes and, in the worst cases, rock bands. These young people will stick together and defend their interests with their own lives if need be. The traditional family has gone out the window, and what came in the door but a totally contorted alternative!
Clothes have three separate functions: they provide exterior protection for the body, especially against the cold, and, secondly, they are a mark of modesty, for they cover the flesh and they veil the contours. In this context I would like to cite yet another booklet written by Fr. Jean-Dominique, entitled Christian Motherhood:
Clothing shall neither emphasise the material body, nor shall it attract attention in such a way as to draw gazes upon a woman. On the contrary, it should signal to everyone that woman is a spiritual creature with a very special mission, that God has given her very special privileges. It would take too long to expound the way in which the design of a garment, its length, its cut, its folds, can be employed to express a woman’s soul and her spiritual relationship with God. Suffice to say that it is one of modesty and peaceful trust.
A simple appeal to personal experience will do to remind us all that a long garment expresses a certain degree of nobility, commanding respect and propriety. Conversely, a manner of dress that underscores the contours will neglect the soul and accentuate the carnal side, even if the flesh is concealed. Wherever there is mention in the Bible of women’s attire, it is always in respect to their attitude, the state of their souls and their personal dignity.
Thirdly, clothing is an expression of one’s personality by means of which inner values are projected outwards. People who dress shabbily evidently do not value themselves, whereas persons that are neatly clothed signal to the outside world that their souls must likewise be in order. Pope Pius XII tells us that clothing has to be aesthetic, for it should mirror the spiritual nobility of man. It must not be soiled or slatternly, nor must it be too luxurious. Let us remember the maxim that truth, goodness, and beauty are inseparable from one another. Truth is always good and beautiful; goodness is always true and beautiful, and beauty is always good and true.
Our youngsters have been betrayed by the older generation and misled by godless demagogues; they have been deprived of true happiness. They are only partially to fault for their pitiful condition, whilst most of the blame lies with others.
We have a responsibility towards our nation and towards our future. Whether the Christian West will prevail or not is entirely up to us. Future numbers of chosen people and their respective merits depend on our own commitment, our efforts, and our apostolic deeds. On the occasion of his sacerdotal jubilee on September 23, 1979, in Paris, Archbishop Lefebvre called for a new crusade that was also to be a crusade of the families. His words make a fitting summary to the postulates of this article:
You Christian families who are here, consecrate yourselves to the Heart of Jesus, to the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Oh, pray together in the family! I know that many of you already do so, but may there always be more and more of you who do so with fervor. Let Our Lord truly reign in your homes!
Cast away, I beg of you, anything which impedes children from entering your family. There is no greater gift that the Good God can bestow upon your hearths than to have many children. Have big families. It is the glory of the Catholic Church–the large family. It has been so in Canada, it has been so in Holland, it has been so in Switzerland and it has been so in France–everywhere the large family was the joy and prosperity of the Church. There are that many more chosen souls for heaven! Therefore do not limit, I beg you, the gifts of God; do not listen to these abominable slogans which destroy the family, which ruin health, which ruin the household, and provoke divorce.
And I wish that, in these troubled times, in this degenerate urban atmosphere in which we are living, that you return to the land whenever possible. The land is healthy; the land teaches one to know God; the land draws one to God; it calms temperaments, characters, and encourages the children to work.
And if it is necessary, yes, you yourselves will make the school for your children. If the schools should corrupt your children, what are you going to do? Deliver them to the corrupters? To those who teach these abominable sexual practices in the schools? To the so-called “Catholic” schools run by religious men and women where they simply teach sin? In reality that is what they are teaching to the children; they corrupt them from their tenderest youth. Are you to put up with that? It is inconceivable! Rather that your children be poor–that they be removed from this apparent science that the world possesses–but that they be good children, Christian children, Catholic children, who love their holy religion, who love to pray, and who love to work; children who love the earth which the Good God has made."
1) If we wish to rebuild Christendom as best we can, given our limited powers, we must begin this task in the family. If, as Msgr. Robert Mader maintains, the woes of this world are indeed to be blamed on a de-Christianization of the family unit, then the key to rejuvenating society also lies with truly Christian families. The best means of bringing about such a rejuvenation is the enthronement of the Sacred Heart whereby our Lord and Savior shall be made king of this little empire of His, with His spirit, His Gospel, His sacrifice, and His love. He shall reign! Naturally, all families that are devoted to Him must thereafter live by their faith and by the Gospel. They must turn their backs on this decadent age and return to their roots as spouses and as family people, without making any compromises; they must live in the spirit of Jesus Christ. The extent of our love and our faith will be revealed through the Christian culture we engender.
2) Christian families that are currently living in isolation must unite in mutual support. They must encourage one another and share their experiences when it comes to raising children. Unity is strength, especially in the battle against the ills of our times. Young families must bond in friendship and learn from one another.
3) Family gatherings and outings are indispensable in this day and age of isolation.
4) Catholic families should not hesitate to co-operate with their peers in finding means and ways of founding their own little primary schools to ensure the purity and chastity of their children’s souls. This responsibility lies not with pastors alone but is shared in equal proportion by the parents.
5) Finally, I should like to present you with a wholesome reading list:
- The encyclical Casti Connubii on marriage, and the encyclical Divini Illius Magistri on educational issues, both written by Pope Pius XI;
- the two booklets respectively entitled Die christliche Vaterschaft (Christian Fatherhood) and Die christliche Mutterschaft (Christian Motherhood) by Fr. Jean-Dominique, which every father and mother should own;
- a little booklet entitled Reife (Maturity) by Fr. Pascal Schreiber, which makes good reading for both young and old;
- a thorough investigation called Vorsicht Bildschirm (Beware the Screen) by Manfred Spitzer, as mentioned in this paper;
- Das christliche Leben (Christian Life), published by the Rex Regum Verlag;
- the tape on the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart;
- and, finally, a book which takes a keen and poignant look at the ills of our times called Schluss mit lustig–Ende der Spassgesellschaft (Let’s get serious: The end of shallowness) by Peter Hahne.
Christian society takes life seriously, and it must succeed a shallow world that seeks only to have fun. A sense of duty, generosity, virtue, and propriety must replace consumerism. Our Christian families can learn all these qualities from the Holy Family of Nazareth.
This is a revised version of a talk given on November 6, 2005, by Fr. Franz Schmidberger at the Priorat Sankt Joseph in Littau, Lucerne, Switzerland. Fr. Franz Schmidberger was Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X (1982-94) and is currently District Superior of Germany.
1 Cf. Arnaud de Lassus, “Cultural Revolution: The Frankfurt School”, The Angelus, July 2006.