Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Mother at Home - Chapter 6 - Religious Instruction Part I

Abbott teaches in chapter six, regarding the religious instruction of our children that “nothing can supersede the necessity of effort and instruction at home. Sabbath (Sunday) Schools have been of inestimable value; however, a mother cannot regard these as exonerating herself in the least degree from responsibility.  The home should be the sanctuary of religious instruction.”1

Our faith, as Catholics, reinforces this absolute truth.  As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teachers, “through the grace of the sacrament of marriage, parents receive the privilege and responsibility of evangelizing their children. “(CCC# 2225)  Also, “Family catechesis precedes, accompanies, and enriches other forms of instruction in the faith. Parents have the mission of teaching their children to pray and to discover their vocation as children of God. The parish is the Eucharistic community and the heart of the liturgical life of Christian families; it is a privileged place for the catechesis of children and parents.” (CCC  #2226) 2

Therefore, as the mother, you “must be the earnest and affectionate guide to the Savior.  You must take your little ones by the hand lead them in the paths of piety.”  As mother, you know each of your children intimately; you know their dispositions, habits of thought, and moods of mind and can therefore teach them better than anyone. 1

Abbott also teaches that if you wish to instill a deep faith in your children, you must possess and demonstrate deep devotional feelings yourselves. “It is certainly in vain to hope that you can induce your children to fix their affections upon another world, while yours are fixed upon this world.   Christian feelings must animate your heart – children will imitate your example. If not, then you are leading her away from God.   If you go on in un-repented sin, your child, in all probability, will go with you. You must not only “point to heaven”, but to “Lead them.”” 1

Furthermore, Abbott teaches, “in order to bring a strong faith to your children, you must present religion in a cheerful aspect. Religion is to make us happy here and hereafter; to divest the mind of gloom, and fill it with joy.  Do not dwell too much upon the terrors of the law. Do not connect religious considerations with melancholy countenances and mournful tones of voices, as to cause the subject to be unnecessarily repugnant.   However, do not err upon the other extreme.  Children must understand the nature of sin and the justice of God, and the awful penalty of His law. The child should be taught to regard God as that being who, while he loves his creatures, cannot look upon sin but with abhorrence.   God must be represented as He has exhibited Himself to us in the Bible and in the works of nature. He is a God of mercy and of justice. He is to be regarded with our warmest affections, and also with reverence and godly fear. Let therefore children distinctly understand that sin cannot pass unpunished." 1

Therefore, in our homes, if we show a genuine love for our Lord, an enthusiasm for His graces and mercy, our children will catch the fire.  If they see us receiving the Jesus in the Eucharist with humility and love, and the sacrament of reconciliation with gratitude and joy, they too will seek these graces with hope.  When we read scripture to our children, it should not be just another story, but a real life-lesson in faith, hope, love, and humility.  Through scripture, we can bring to our children the most powerful lessons.  Lessons that will arm them for eternity; how to live like Jesus lived and to find hope in the promise given us in old testament followed by its revelation in the New.   Time in scripture, daily, with our children is not only good for them, but also helps us to grow in virtue.

Finally, Abbott teaches us to “show God’s readiness to forgive, speak of the joys of heaven, and let the duties of religion be connected with feelings of enjoyment and happiness.  Do this that the child may perceive that gloom and sorrow are connected only with disobedience and irreligion. Improve appropriate occasions. Watch for them!   For example, when a child is unusually tender of spirit , let her then look to God in fervent prayer, and with all the persuasions of a mother’s love endeavor to guide her child to the Savior.   During the dark and tempestuous night,  teach trust in God.  If the child is sick,  she hears your prayer for restored health. When illness subsides, you tell her then, that if God had not interposed, her sickness could have increased till she had died.  If a child in neighborhood dies, teach them the meaning of death. Speak of the eternal world to which her friend has gone, of the judgment seat of Christ. Teach her the new scenes of joy or woe upon which her friend has entered.  Visit a graveyard and discuss eternal things; one such incident enters more deeply into the heart than volumes of ordinary conversation.   Share with your child a beautiful summer’s morning; do not fail to point the attention of your child to these beauties and lead his mind to Him whose word called them into being.   As a family, always keep Sabbath Holy." 1

In summary, we are the primary teachers for our children’s religious instruction.  We should take them to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days as well as daily Mass if we can, teach them the Catechism, pray with them, take them to confession, read the Bible with them daily, and inspire them with the lives of saints.  We must teach them to be God-fearing; a fear of offending God borne of the known consequence, and also fear of offending or hurting Him, borne of love for Him.  

Also, we cannot hope for our children to grow in virtue and therefore holiness, if we, ourselves are not working, daily, tirelessly to overcome ourselves and to grow in virtue.  We MUST lead by example.  It is work and we are often met with failure, but even when we fail as a result of our selfish humanity, we can teach our children that God is not finished with us yet and that He loves us dearly.  We have hope, because He forgives us when we fall, and helps to pick us up again… to help us to begin again.  

We should help our children find our Lord in EVERYTHING, in joy and success, as well as in sorrow, pain, and loss.  We must teach them the true meaning of providence; everything, both good and bad is part of God’s plan for us, to help us love Him more… even if we don’t understand it.  If we are running late, though we have made our best effort, perhaps it is because God wanted to protect us from getting in an accident that would have occurred had we left sooner.  If an event they were looking forward to is cancelled, perhaps it is because God wanted us to be somewhere else, to serve Him in a different way.  If a loved is suffering or dies from a terminal illness, teach your child how God uses this person’s suffering to draw many closer to Him through prayer.   The most powerful conversions of heart happen in the midst of trials.  Every conversation should point to heaven and God’s hand in our lives, His providence. 

When our children see our true love of Lord and our hope and joy that faith in Him affords, in addition to our struggle toward holiness, they will follow us to heaven.

[1] – The Mother at Home – Abbott
[2] – Catechism of the Catholic Church