This is Part Three of an excellent article! It was given the Nihil Obstat in Australia in 1955. The name of the Dominican sister was not included.
The article has many things to ponder and take to heart!
ON EARTH THE BROKEN ARC. . . . . . .
I know some may be tempted to think that all this talk of beauty and art is too impractical, too much far away from the business of everyday life – or that the country home cannot do much about it. But a Catholic should never let himself think like that. He should know that to be a complete person, means to be able to see and to feel, to imagine and even to create what is beautiful.
I cannot go into this any further, much as I would like to. I shall say just this:- the home can do more in this matter than the school. Like love for our Holy Faith, appreciation of the fine and lovely things of life comes from constant association with beautiful things themselves and with people who have a genuine love and understanding of them.
So it is for parents to help their children in this vital matter. Simplicity, neatness, color, brightness, and good taste can make the house and garden lovely without great expense. A few really good pictures by great artists can help to form the children’s taste.
There are, for example, so many of Our Lady by artists such as Fra Angelico, Botticelli and Raphael, that it seems a shame to have instead, ones that are unworthy of Our Lady’s beauty and dignity.
A good book for helping children to understand art has a significant title, Pictures to Grow Up With.
Children take great notice of pictures in the home and I know I can recall vividly all the pictures in our home. Hence the importance of having lovely ones and of encouraging the children really to look at them – and to make their own, to draw and paint and make things.
Much of a child’s future happiness and goodness depends on what the home and the school have done to help him to discover and develop his special creative powers, his capacity for making something beautiful
RESPONSE TO POETRY
It seems harder to discover what can be done at home to foster a love of poetry. There are collections of works by genuine poets (i.e. not just writers of verse for children) which are produced in such a way as to captivate the attention – such as the Adventures in Poetry series by Mary Daunt, or The Blackbird in the Lilac, by James Reeves or an Australian Adventures in Poetry, edited by Donald McLean, and Gospel Rhymes, published by Sheed and Ward.
If these could be read aloud and talked over, it would be a good beginning. The attitude of the adults to poetry has a great deal to do with the child’s response to it.
MUSIC -TO UPLIFT OR DEGRADE?
To develop appreciation of good music is both easier and harder – easier because modern people will listen more readily to music than to poetry; harder because so much music is heard that is utterly worthless, if not vulgar and degrading.
Positive efforts are always best in this as in all education. You can find ways of knowing what is good; and by wise choice of radio programs and the playing of records of good music the home can set up right standards for the children before their taste has been spoilt.
If it is at all possible, some members of the family who have the gift should learn to play the piano or other musical instruments. They can then give great joy to the others.
I could say much more, but I daresay you are thinking that I have said enough. Still I think you will see from the above, that one of the defects of the education of girls, especially of those who are going to be home-makers in the country, is that it is too similar to a boy’s education.
Training in art and music, in subjects such as history and great literature, in all that would make for good taste in dress, speech and home decoration and management would do more to fit a girl to be a Christian mother and the mistress of a Christian home.
EDUCATION FOR RURAL LIVING
And so I come to my final point – what the country home can do to educate the child for rural living.
An American writer on the “Forward to the Land movement”, expressed the value of rural living thus:-To live a decent, human life a man needs space for family living, a good environment for bringing up children, one where children are welcome, the possession of property so that the family can have both independence and responsibility, and a chance for genuine community living, for true neighbourliness.
Only the country can give all this. A nation can be no stronger than its families are, and they can be at their best in the country. And when to this natural strength we add the crowning glory of the Catholic Faith, when we strive to bring Christ to the countryside, and the land to Christ, we are certainly exercising a great apostolate.
This is the ideal and the vocation we wish to hand on to our children. They will learn it best by living it, by being given an active share in it, while still young. If the chance to be truly responsible for what one does is one of the values of rural living, then the rural home must give each child jobs to do which he must do with faithfulness and responsibility.
It is not enough that he sees, what is easily seen on a farm, that the feeding of animals, the watering of plants, the milking of cows, the gathering of eggs, the preparing of meals cannot be put aside for another day. He must share that responsibility if he is to experience the joy of a job well done.
The jobs should not be burdensome to the child, but they should be really necessary jobs, and the child should be really responsible for doing them.
Anyone who has had much to do with modern children, would realize their need for a sense of responsibility, and for acquiring a spirit of work and a respect for its dignity. At the same time the children will learn from sharing the family work to care for things with reverence and detachment, to use them properly – a very valuable lesson that is so hard to teach to the child who has to spend his growing years in a flat or in a few rented rooms.
True neighborliness or the spirit of genuine community living is really an extension of a sense of responsibility. It is living a truth that, as members of the Body of Christ we are almost as responsible for the goodness and happiness of others as we are for our own. We are all one in Christ. Someone has put it thus: ‘The countryman retains in his very fiber the knowledge that God’s answer to “Am I my brother’s keeper?” is an emphatic “Yes.”
Children should not only see the genuine concern which their parents have for the troubles of others and their readiness to give help; they should have their share in helping.
Picnics and parties and games together are the joyful side of neighborliness; children need this, and the more serious side as well. As they grow up in the more spacious country environment, they can learn the meaning and value of quietness, serenity and solitude; but they should realize that they are never isolated, no matter how far away the nearest homestead.
From their parents, too, children learn to take an active part in parish functions and entertainments, to give time and energy to supporting movements such as the Rural Movement, or any movement or club that is working to help the Catholic boy or girl to be, in time, an intelligent and contented member of a country community.
SENSE OF VALUES
A parent’s surest means of developing in their children this intelligent appreciation of a rural way of life, is by giving them a happy home life with parents and children sharing their interests and fun. Nothing can replace the value of that in any child’s life, but it is particularly true of the country child’s life, who at some time or other will be tempted by the seeming enchantment of city life.
It can be a very strong temptation, but parents who have realized that their vocation in life is to educate their children in God’s way, will not be found wanting. Their own love for each other and for God, is the strongest foundation of happiness in the home, and that is one reason why they will keep to themselves any differences or disagreements that may arise between them.
They will realize that the special home virtues of unselfishness, bearing with one another, gentleness, generosity and modesty will not come without prayer and personal effort.
Each of these would be worthy of a talk on its own, but unselfish courtesy and modesty are needed by the child of today to a degree that is almost frightening-courtesy because it means a real concern for the feelings of others, a deep respect, a reverence for the person of others-and reverence, we are told, is fast disappearing from our world.
Good manners is the outward showing of courtesy and good-mannered children have good-mannered parents; that is the only certain way.
This is true also of modesty – a person’s sense of reverence for himself, his own person. Here, the father has a tremendous responsibility for the modest manliness of his sons and their respect for women; and the mother must know that her girl’s womanly modesty and purity depend largely on hers.
A girl nowadays, at least in the city, needs this virtue to an heroic degree, so great are the temptations to unbecoming dress and behavior.
Yet Catholic women, who knew how to dress smartly and modestly, and had the courage of their convictions, could start a revolution in this matter.
THE HOME OF A SAINT
To end my talk, I want to quote the words of our Holy Father, the Pope, spoken when he was canonizing St. Maria Goretti, the twelve year-old martyr of purity. She was, he said, “the fruit of a Christian home with its old simple method of education, a home where one prays, where the children are brought up in fear of God, in obedience to parents, in the love of truth and self-respect, accustomed to be satisfied with little, and to give a helping hand.”
It was a country home, and Maria was a country child, who learnt early the meaning of sharing fully in the joys and sufferings of a family – the give and take of a family life.
I have always loved the ideals of country life, and have loved teaching children from country homes. That is why I am glad and honored to speak to you today, to get to know a little of those who make it possible for children to be truly childlike.
City children have their own lovableness and perhaps a greater need of our work, but I often find myself longing to give them the tremendous benefits of growing up in the country – and that is why I think every effort should be made to establish in the country, colleges and schools that are fully Catholic and truly rural in ideals.
Our Lady was the mistress of a little village home in Nazareth; Jesus was a little village child. I know their loving spirit will guide every step the country child takes on his way to heaven.
“For years, while raising children, a mother’s time is never her own, her own needs have to be kept in second place, and every time she turns around a hand is reaching out and demanding something. Hence, a mother raising children, perhaps in a more privileged way even than a professional contemplative, is forced, almost against her will, to constantly stretch her heart.” -Fr. Rolheiser, OMI
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