Educating Children in the Faith

Latin Mass:  19th Sunday after Pentecost
Friends in Christ, the Holy Gospel today speaks of this ‘wedding banquet’ that the king put on for his son. In this parable, Our Lord surely is pointing to the Holy Mass. Mass is the center of our life, and so I will tell you, it breaks one’s heart to hear of parents who don’t bring their children to Mass, or even teach them their religion.
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The Catechism says, ‘parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children.’ The Catechisms also says, “The role of parents in education is of such importance, that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute.’
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So it is clear that parents may not sooth their consciences by merely dropping kids off for CCD or to Catholic school. The primary educators of children in the Faith is the parents.
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Now you can ask any of the 800 priests in the Archdiocese about those children who know nothing of how to pray or who is Jesus Christ, and they will all tell you that even the best parish programs are ineffective if the parents won’t teach the children at home. Completely ineffective. The poor children.
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But today we will not speak about those homes where mother or father is more cruel than a ferocious lion, in which the children live in fear; there they cannot find God at all.
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But for families who love their children, their formation in the Christian faith is of utmost importance. A child’s future, whether for good or bad, depends largely on how he is brought up. Even in the animal world for heaven’s sake, we see animals teaching their young how to survive.
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Unfortunate child, whose parents do not discipline him, or who, when involved with bad friends or bad habits, do nothing. Scripture says, ‘Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from the way.[i] Yes, young people often go through stages of rebellion, but they usually return to the way they were first taught.
A parent was horrified the other day – she was telling me of the troubles raising her son, I told her, ‘Sociologists tell us that although children go through rebellious modes and many things, in the end they usually turn out a lot like their parents.’ She was horrified!
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St. Alphonsus says,[ii] God gives children to parents that they may be brought up in the way of salvation.’ ‘Children, he says, have not been given to parents as a present, but as a trust, for which they must render an account to God.
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So how do we teach our children the faith? A good start, is when they are young, to read little books with them about Jesus and the saints. Get a children’s bible and read it with them. If they go to catechism class, or Catholic school, then pick up their religion book and ask them about it – ‘What is this? What did you learn? Let’s read this lesson.’ And above all, we teach best, by good example.
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St. Teresa of Liseux became a saint because she had such a wonderful example in her loving father.
St Lucy became a saint, because her mother taught her, and even risked her life to take her to Mass.
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The essentials we must teach to our kids: The Holy Trinity, that God is a loving God, who knows you and hears you.
We must tell our kids about the creation, the fall of Man, the first sin, and God’s promise to send a Savior.
We can show them this at the beginning of the bible.
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The stories of the Old Testament we can read, and explain that these are signs, pointing to the coming Savior.
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The Gospel: that God sent his own Son to save us; the birth of Christ to Mary, his life, death, and resurrection. And the Church he gave us, the Holy Sacraments. And why we go to Holy Mass every Sunday.
St. Paul tells parents to ‘bring up your children in the discipline and correction of the Lord. By ‘discipline,’ he means teaching them to live the moral life and habits of virtue. Even in very ancient times, it was understood the importance of raising children well. Moses said, we must teach our children the commandments and love of God; then he said, ‘Drill them into your children’. (Deut 6) To ‘Drill’ children, means to go over and over the things. Ask them to recite the 10 commandments over and over, and their prayers – until they are perfect.
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One saint says, if parents do not instruct their children in the faith, they and their children will end in damnation.
Parents worry that kids have the best school, stylish clothes, a ballet teacher, the best coach, good health – but what about the most important thing? Salvation?
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In the baptismal rite, we pray the prayer of exorcism, we ask that Christ cast out the power of Satan, the spirit of evil. From birth, the devil wishes to capture each person. Now how could a parent bear it, if their precious child should end up captured in hell forever. How could anyone bear to see their own child lost in this way?
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We must guide our children with love and discipline. We guide them to have good friends, not bad ones. We are careful about what they listen to or watch – most tv is bad – most of it.
Guiding adolescents in dealing with the opposite sex. This requires refinement, helped by grace and the advice of other parents.
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But more than advice, we must be convinced that our children won’t be able to live a good life, and be a great person without prayer. We must teach them to pray, and help them to advance in prayer as they mature, to develop an interior life.
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I was with a group of young people; I said, ‘well, let’s say the Hail Mary.’ One girl said, ‘I don’t know it Father, I was never taught.’
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Our children have to be taught their faith, in order to be great on this earth, and to be happy in heaven.
To know Jesus, and Mary;
Mary, help us to become worthy of the promises of Christ.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Pelagia]

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[i] Prov 22:6

[ii] See Sermons of St. Alphonsus on Education of Children.

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