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Home Education and Survival of the Catholic Family

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

There are some topics that are meant to startle the audience to attention. Like clever ads in the newspapers or magazines you say something bizarre to catch the readers' notice; but the title of the ad does not really mean what the words are saying. This is not the case here. The full title of my talk to you would read, “Home Education is Necessary for the Survival of the Catholic Family.”

My plan for this conference is to cover the three most important questions we can ask:

  1. What is home education?

  2. Why is home education necessary for the survival of the Catholic family?

  3. How is home education to be provided not only for the survival but for the progress of the Catholic family as we enter the twenty-first century?

What is Home Education?

Home education is the development by the parents of the whole personality of a child from infancy to adulthood. It is education because it draws out, from the Latin word educere, the natural and supernatural potentialities of a person. Some of these potentialities are latent in a child from conception and birth; others are present from the time of Baptism. The parents' primary duty is to cooperate with God as Author of nature and grace to draw out the latent powers in the child whom they brought into the world.

It is home education twice over. It is first of all home education because it is done by the parents, without whom there would be no home. It is secondly done at home, within the ambit of what we commonly identify as our domicile. Notice, I prefer to speak of home education rather than home schooling. This is to emphasize the domestic personal character of the education, rather than its institutional structure.

When I speak of home education by both parents, I mean both parents and not only by the mother. It may be that time-wise: the mother devotes more time to the training of her children than the father. No matter. What is important is that both mother and father are involved; there is a contribution to the children's up-bringing that, having a miracle, only the father can provide. His share in the education of the children is imperative.

Moreover, home education does not absolutely exclude all other forms or sources of teaching the children. But in every case, and I mean every case, the home is the primary source. All other, or any other educational agents or agencies are

  • secondary to the home,
  • auxiliary to the home
  • dependent on the home
  • subordinate to the home
  • chosen by the parents and meant to be helpful, never competitive with the home.

What is the span of home education? It is the whole personal and social life of the child; it is the bodily and spiritual well-being of the child; it is the physical, emotional, mental and volitional life of the child.

Why Home Education?

In stating my thesis, I might have said many things, like

  • Home education is helpful for the family, or
  • Home education is a valuable asset for family life, or
  • Home education is a powerful aid for the Catholic family, or
  • Home education is all but necessary for the Catholic family.

Each of these titles would have been true, but inadequate. Instead, I chose to speak on “Home Education is Necessary for the Survival of the Catholic Family.” Why this title? Because it is literally true.

Let me be clear. I am not merely saying that home education is necessary in the modern world. This is not a conditional necessity. It is not just because the modern world has become so widely and deeply secularized that home education has become a necessity. No! I make bold to say that one of the main factors contributing to the secularization of once strongly Christian cultures has been the neglect of:

  • sound
  • orthodox
  • authentic
  • courageous
  • magisterial
  • historic

Catholic teaching in faith and morals by parents in the home, from the dawn of the infancy of their children.

The issue we are addressing is perennial. Either Catholic parents provide their offspring with the education the children need, or the inevitable happens, as it has happened.

Our main focus here is on “Why?” Why are parents so necessary for the proper education of their children, and the corresponding survival of the Catholic family? The reason is really a cluster of reasons, all derived from what we know about human nature and divine grace.

1. We Are What We Have Received. The first reason is the mysterious law of interdependence. We depend on others for whatever we possess.

  • This applies first of all to our physical nature. Only human beings can reproduce other human beings.

  • This reproduction is not only bodily but also mental or volitional. What do we know that someone else has not taught us; and what do we love except what others have helped us to choose and appreciate.

Under God, the primary, most important person in our lives, to enlighten and inspire us are our parents. Parents, in turn, are to recognize that the children they brought into this world are not meant for this world. The children's destiny is eternal. It is the parents, more than anyone in the world, who are to prepare their children in time, indeed for eternity.

2. Parents Are Primary Sources of Grace. No one reaches heaven without divine grace. No one receives this grace, except through another human being who is the channel of this grace. Parents are the primary channel of this grace for their children.

We are here saying much more than meets the ear. We are saying that, in God's ordinary providence, the parents are the main

  • instruments of supernatural light for their children's minds,

  • channels of spiritual strength for the children's wills,

  • In a word, the parents are the principal conduit by which God communicates the graces that children need to reach heaven and save their souls.

This primacy as channels of grace for their children comes from the sacrament of matrimony which Catholic parents have received. Matrimony assures them of a lifetime of God's grace to love each other in faithful charity and chastity until death. Matrimony also assures them of a lifetime of God's grace for the upbringing of their children in loving obedience to God, as a pre-condition for reaching a heavenly destiny.

The purpose of marriage is to raise families for heaven, nothing less; and there can be nothing more.

One of the great blessings of modern home education is that it is waking up so many parents to their God-given responsibility.

In the providence of God, He allows no evil or suffering without intending to draw a greater good, precisely as occasioned by the evil or pain.

The widespread secularization of organized education in so many parts of the Western world has served as lightening and thunder to arouse complacent parents from their complacency. They are beginning to ask themselves, “What is our duty, as parents?” What should we do to join forces with other dedicated fathers and mothers who are making such great sacrifices for the home education of their children?

3. How to Provide Home Education? As we enter the third part of our conference, I wish to make one thing clear. What I am sharing with you is no mere human pedagogy. It is not the science of psychology or of educational methodology.

It is nothing less than a mystery of faith. If I were to offer one passage from the New Testament that summarizes the whole doctrine it occurs in St. Paul's letter to the Romans, where the Apostle tells us, “For those who love God, everything works together unto good” (Romans 8:28).

What is St. Paul saying? He is telling us that, if we are united with God in our love, He will use us to accomplish His divine plans. Or, put in other words, depending on our union with God's will by our practice of virtue, He will use us as channels of His graces.

Let me be clear. This is not merely giving others a good example, which we should. It is not merely that no one give what he does not have, which is obvious. It is much deeper. It means that in the measure of our wills being conformed with the will of God — and the measure that we love God — He will infallibly use us to achieve the designs that He wants to achieve, especially in the lives of others.

What does this mean for home education? Everything! In the degree that parents love God, God will use them to teach and train their children

  • If the parents have a strong faith, God will use them to teach and train their children.

  • If the parents have a strong faith, God will use them to strengthen the faith of their children.

  • If the parents are humble, they will effectively teach humility to their children.

  • If parents are truthful and hopeful and patient and chaste and charitable and prayerful God will use them as His chosen means of teaching and training their offspring in trust and hope and patience and chastity and prayerfulness.
Prayer “Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Holy Family, obtain from your divine Son the graces which home teaching Catholic parents so desperately need in our day, the grace to see their great privilege as channels of grace for the children, and the grace to serve as channels of grace, even at the cost of living martyr's lives in our day. Amen.”

Copyright © 1998 Inter Mirifica

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