District Superior's Letter: Jan 2011
The time after Christmas is dedicated to the Child Jesus, a devotion that has brought many blessings to those who would honor Our Lord in his childhood. The liturgy will, for instance, propose the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph as the model of virtue for our own households...
Dear Friends and Benefactors,
The time after Christmas is dedicated to the Child Jesus, a devotion that has brought many blessings to those who would honor Our Lord in his childhood. The liturgy will, for instance, propose the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph as the model of virtue for our own households. I would like to take this opportunity to write on education, helping families to fulfill one of their most eminent duties, the raising of their children. It is all the more important as we are drawn in a crusade for families, a crusade for Catholic life.
“Raise your son, despair not,” as the Proverb admonishes, is a good reminder. It was true in past times and is even more factual today. Despite the difficulties in raising children, which at times causes a certain feeling of helplessness, it is essential to remember that parents must not give up, and never despair, but on the contrary keep on making all efforts possible to raise them properly.
Often, one may feel that it is too demanding and tough to overcome the difficulties of educating the youth, particularly the exposure to evil and corrupt influence of the world, even for the very young; the independent spirit of children; the worldly attraction, especially when the youth reach adolescence... A few thousand years ago, the Holy Ghost in the inspired Book of Proverbs reminded parents, even then, of their duty to educate the children and never to despair. Nothing has changed; the difficulty is great, but not insuperable!
One of the most important facets of education is that of the little children. Their education begins in the very first days of their lives; from the beginning, by the grace of Baptism, as well as the teaching of the Faith from their mother, the babies must be molded with the Faith.
Our Catholic Faith teaches us that by Baptism we are purified from Original Sin. Newborn babes were infected by the sin of Adam and Eve; the Church even goes so far as to say that the child belonged to Satan. However, after Baptism, the Holy Church gives into your hands a clean and pure child of God, a temple in which the Holy Trinity loves to remain and live; a child with a soul sanctified. The Church, in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, has placed a treasure of grace with all the supernatural virtues infused with the state of grace. A miracle of grace occurred by the hands of the priest.
The first stage of education, up to the age of reason, is to keep that treasure and to prepare the soul so that it may increase in grace by a life of virtue. The parents are the protectors and guardians of this treasure of grace and the promoters of virtues; meaning to say that they prepare the soul to practice virtues, which are good habits.
That is why parents, and especially the mothers, must suckle their babies with faith as much as with milk—to give them their first teaching about God. How can a mother do this? Simply by speaking about our beloved Creator and Savior; by teaching them to pronounce the names of Jesus and Mary; by talking about Our Father, Who art in Heaven; by being themselves concrete examples of Christian life, of loving Almighty God and being loved by God.
And gradually, the first knowledge of the Faith will come at the knees of their parents. They will show them beautiful pictures of Our Lord, His Mother, and the saints. They will protect their children from ugliness, and on the contrary, start to educate their sense of beauty. They will give them true music to listen to, music that will lift up their souls to God like Gregorian chant or classical music or even good secular music. What a disaster, without even realizing it, to give their innocent and pure ears “worldly” music, to say the least.
They will teach them their first prayers. They will bring them to church; and although the child cannot offer himself yet, he will receive gifts from the Good Lord. God resides in them by the grace of their baptism, and a mysterious exchange will take place between the temple of their souls and the tabernacle. They will teach them the mysterious character of the church; they will show them how to respect the sacredness of this place dedicated to God. To give a few examples in this regard, they can, while very young, learn how to join their little hands in a praying manner, to make the sign of the cross, to kneel down and learn how to stay still, to keep silent in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and feel already without understanding it the holiness of the House of God.
But the first duty of parents is not limited to that of opening their souls, of their intelligence to the Faith. They must from birth prepare the virtues of tomorrow by giving and practicing good habits already. The child has not yet reached the age of reason, but it does not mean that his actions are indifferent–on the contrary, every one of his actions, his habits, matters. Every habit he adopts, even in an unconscious way, will continue tomorrow, but under the grip of his reason. That is why it is so important, already at their young age, to teach them how to say “please” and “thank you” for anything they receive, even by a sign before they can verbalize it; and by doing so educate the virtue of gratitude. Another example would be the education of truth, which starts from birth. Parents should never lie to their children or avoid waiving in their decisions. “Let your speech be ‘Yes, yes; no, no’; whatever is beyond these comes from the evil one” (Mt. 5:37). These things may seem of little importance, but they are not.
It is so common to see that the children are allowed to do whatever they want because, “well, they don’t understand what they are doing anyway.”—What a terrible mistake! Even before knowing it, before fully understanding it, they are induced to renounce the promises of their baptism.
Even children yet without reason must be taught discipline as well as led to acts of sacrifice, not doing whatever they want, giving in to all of their whims. We can, for instance, educate the spirit of sacrifice by making them wait a little before eating. At a very young age, they have a certain understanding of what is right or wrong, what is beautiful or ugly, what is allowed or forbidden, and even while they are too young to have this comprehension, they need to cultivate the right habits.
But all too often, we see parents coddling, giving in to all the caprices of their young children, not even recognizing that they are creating their own misfortune. Early on, children need to be corrected, especially as regards disobedience. You can read in the eyes of the very little ones how they know when they are not obeying or when they are manipulating their parents.
Naturalism, for centuries, has influenced the education of children; it has penetrated every home to the point that we have forgotten the consequences of Original Sin. Even after baptism, even in those ‘little angels,’ where the Holy Trinity remains, the tendency to evil exists. It is there, and it needs to be rectified–the sooner, the better. Therefore, the more the toddler learns virtue, even in an unconscious and routine way, the less Original Sin will leave its marks.
It is in the very first years, before the age of reason, that the first education is given. It is difficult to realize just how important it is, because we don’t see yet the consequences of our mistakes. Nevertheless, it is there that parents prepare the saints of tomorrow, as well as the rebels—“Despair not, but raise your son.” Let us keep on bringing up the children God has entrusted to us in a thoroughly Catholic way, remembering that they are not given for our enjoyment but for the glory of God, that they may love and serve God on earth and for all eternity. May the Holy Family be the model of every Catholic family.
With my prayers and blessing in the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
Fr. Arnaud Rostand