Telling the Truth About Youth By John Clement Dionysius

Written by on 01/03/2020

Telling the Truth About Youth By John Clement Dionysius

Part I

(Raising Christian Children in a Post-Christian Society)

A Brief Introduction

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  (Prov. 22:6) 

Telling the Truth About Youth asks the question who is responsible for the training up of Christian children but Christian parents to whom such has been entrusted by God? What is “the way they should go” but toward complete unity with Christ Jesus who says, “I am THE WAY, the truth, and the life.”? Throughout the remainder of this article I will attempt to positively answer these two questions and thereby expose some of the problems with modern parenting and education that so many Christian parents fall victim to. It is not my intention to demonize or condemn any individuals personal parenting choices but rather to address this issue generally and objectively.

The Duties of Parents

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) there is an entire section addressing the “duties of parents”. I will only quote the section in part but would urge you to read it in whole. It begins at paragraph 2221.  

“The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost IMPOSSIBLE to provide an adequate substitute.” The right and the duty of parents to educate their children are primordial and inalienable.” (CCC Par. 2221)

To provide some context for this quote the Church here is referring to the moral and religious education of children. Notice that the Church makes itself quite clear that adequate substitution for this education apart from the parents themselves is, for all intents and purposes, impossible. For example, sending our children to Catechism for one hour a week and taking them to mass on Sundays DOES NOT fulfill our duties as parents to instruct our children in faith and morals. As parents it is our responsibility not only to teach our children formally, but also to live out what we are teaching them. How much does it mean to a child to teach them it is a sin to miss Mass on Sunday but when Sunday rolls around we cannot pull ourselves out of bed or muster up the will to get dressed and take them there? What authority does your teachings hold when you instruct a child about the sinfulness of lying, but later you command them “don’t tell your father/mother” regarding something that might upset them? The greatest trial that good parents must struggle to overcome is hypocrisy. This is simply because your children learn by observing you. They are always watching and even sometimes subconsciously testing you to see if you really believe all the moral teachings you claim to believe and bind them to. If you can conquer yourself, you can conquer parenting.

 

The Education of Children

“Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children.” 

(CCC Par. 2223)

Telling the Truth About Youth highlights that the Church has always held this fundamental position on the role and duties of the parents regarding the education of children. All too often parents pawn this primordial duty off to some secondary institution under the misconception that this is fulfilling their duty as parents when it is barely meeting the minimum requirements. Many Christian parents push their children to be the best athlete, musician, artist, etc., and will demand they devote hours to the practice of perfecting themselves in these endeavors. However, when it comes to their child being the best Christian, one dismal hour of catechism a week and Mass on Sundays will suffice. The Church teaches quite clearly that parents have the FIRST responsibility for the education of their children. It seems that in our modern society we have allowed ourselves to be convinced that this responsibility can be delegated to a 3rd party and forgotten about for the sake of pursuing more temporal, monetary, and secular gains. “Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33) 

Parents should teach children to avoid the compromising and degrading influences which threaten human societies.” (CCC 2224)

“As those first responsible for the education of their children, parents have the right to choose a school for them which corresponds to their own convictions. This right is fundamental. As far as possible parents have the duty of choosing schools that will best help them in their task as Christian educators.” (CCC 2229)

I purposely combined these two quotes from the Catechism because they go hand in hand and do well to point out a modern failure to see a deadly contradiction that exists in most modern Christian families. The first quote points out that parents are responsible for the company their children keep and are influenced by. The second quote establishes the right for Christian parents to choose educational institutions that assist them in not only the secular education but also the moral education of their children. I believe for the modern Christian family this is where the rubber meets the road. This is where we must look deep within ourselves and ask the tough question. Are secular public schools any place for the Christian child, and is sending my child there honestly fulfilling the Christian duty that I have to them as their parent? How can we, as Christian parents, teach our children to “avoid the compromising and degrading influences which threaten human societies” when we are simultaneously sending them into the lion’s dens that are the secular public educational institutions? Institutions which are filled with teachings that are directly contrary to the teachings of Holy Mother Church? Institutions that have expelled God and his moral precepts from having any influence whatsoever? How can we justify these institutions to any longer fulfill the parental obligation of choosing a school which “corresponds with their own convictions” and will “best help them in their task as Christian educators”? I would argue that true Christian parenting and modern secular public schools can no long be considered a compatible option for Christian children. I’m sure that someone will be tempted to argue that school is where Christian children learn to be Christian disciples and lights in the darkness, but this is nothing more than a preposterous copout. No good parent throws their children into the deep end of the pool with a “sink or swim mentality”, and even if they did would they not immediately rescue them as soon as they began to drown? No good parent expects their child to accomplish a task that they haven’t first thoroughly taught them how. The Idea that we can submerge our Christian children in all things contrary to our values for 8-10 hours a day and expect them to come out as chaste and holy as we thought them to be when we sent them in is just plain intellectual dishonesty. Before we send our children out into the world we have a duty to adequately prepare them for it, and secular public schools are part of the world no matter how much we would like to think otherwise. Be not deceived: Evil companionships corrupt good morals. Awake to soberness righteously, and sin not; for some have no knowledge of God: I speak this to move you to shame.” (1 Cor. 15:33,34). It was clear to St. Paul and it is clear to me that good morals are simply not enough to withstand the onslaught of continuous bad company. I propose that this is especially true for children which is one reason we are losing them by the thousands. In the future I intend to compose a piece addressing some practical solutions for this problem, but for the sake of the length of this article I will not include those here. 

A Brief Conclusion

In conclusion Telling the Truth About Youth explains the simple reality that the responsibility of your child’s fundamental understanding of moral truth falls first and foremost to you. It is all together impossible to pawn this responsibility off on some third party without eventually suffering the consequences of doing so. Christian children do not teach themselves to be followers of Christ and if you do not teach them and protect them as your own the world will be more than thrilled to step in and do it for you. The moral of this story is that it is time for Christian parents to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, be willing to sacrifice the finer things in life, and take FULL responsibility for the moral and religious education of their children. This is where we should take time to look for examples from Scripture, Tradition, and history such as the Holy Family. Meditation on the Holy Family is, without a doubt, a bottomless well filled with the sweetest of thirst-quenching waters of wisdom for the rearing of a family. Let us also remember secular saints such as Louis and Zelie Martin who raised 5 daughters who all became saints as well as one, St. Therese of Lisieux, who became a doctor of the Church as well. For in the end there is but ONE way and that is Christ, and you will find him centered in the lives of each of these examples. All the extracurricular and academic accomplishments, all of the business promotions and monetary success in the world will never be enough to unify you or your children with him for all eternity. So, there is only one question remaining. If unity with Christ is not the most important goal set for you and your children, then what exactly are you doing here? What exactly is it that all this faith and church stuff means to you as an individual and as a parent? If you are having trouble answering you might want to take some extra time alone and read the full text of the “duties of parents” in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Most importantly spend some time in prayer and conversation with God.    

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