The Principal of Immaculate Conception Academy, Fr. Jonathan Loop, discusses the importance of fostering the spirit of respect in our children:
Today, the good God permitted me to be present once more for the ordination of several men to the priesthood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In a sense, this solemn occasion represents most perfectly the culmination of the work of Christian education. For, it is through receiving the sacerdotal character that a man is given the opportunity to be as perfectly conformed to Our Lord Jesus Christ as is possible for a mere human being. By being faithful to his grace of state, he truly becomes an "alter Christus," which is - as Pius XI explains - the whole purpose of Catholic formation.
Now, these past few months we have been considering together various means to cultivate in the young men entrusted to your care the spirit of respect which is, in the words of Archbishop Lefebvre, “one of the principal things that manifests the Catholic spirit.” Whether it be in one’s dealings with one’s elders, the manner in which one carries oneself at table, or the courtesy one shows to one’s neighbor, the respect and reverence which one displays illustrates the extent to which one participates in the mind of Christ.
Nevertheless, the most powerful means available to parents and educators alike is nothing other than the model in their person and behavior which they themselves give to the young. Addressing the young men who were “captains” – and thus responsible for younger boys – at the boarding school which he ran, Andre Charlier wrote,
The spirit of a Captain is a spirit of fidelity to this ideal. He can have no influence on those entrusted to his care unless he has first begun to work seriously on himself, reflected in an effort to understand what it is that is asked of him. It is by his own fidelity that he will awaken others to the ideal they are meant to aspire to.
What is true for a young man trying to govern the younger boys of a school is eminently more applicable for parents trying to mold the children entrusted to their care.
This reality is more forcibly expressed by Cardinal Antoniano (whose work we have cited previously):
But I must mention at the same time to the father of the family that he is the living image which imprints itself on the spirit of his children as on a soft wax, and therefore that it is necessary that they find in him a perfect model of sobriety and Christian civility.
Consider briefly what the Cardinal says: the father is the “living image” which imprints itself on a child as on “soft wax”.
In other words, all the precepts that a father may give, all the counsels he may dispense pale in comparison with the example he gives to his children through his habitual manner of acting and speaking. When we speak of example, we do not mean those isolated and somewhat artificial moments where parents may consciously model this or that behavior for their children. Rather, we mean the multitude of actions and statements performed throughout the days and months without deliberate reflection and which, as a result, manifest more accurately and faithfully the heart of a man. At these hidden moments, one’s children are most keenly watching, absorbing deeply the spirit of their parents.
Thus, if we wish our children to acquire the spirit of respect which is the hallmark of Christian souls, they must be able to find it deeply implanted in the souls of their parents. This “living image” of Christ present ever before them will be the most efficacious means of transmitting to them the desire and ability to imitate Our Lord Jesus Christ under the influence of the grace of God. If we desire that Jesus find young men ready to respond to His call to the priesthood, we must first have parents – and especially fathers – who walk in His footsteps.
- Fr. Jonathan Loop