Stuart, Janet Erskine, The Education of Catholic Girls, 1912

The following are points very necessary in Catholic education…

These are qualifications that are never attained, because they must always be in process of attainment, only one who is constantly growing in grace and love and knowledge can give the true appreciation of what that grace and love and knowledge are in their bearing on human life: to be rather than to know is therefore a primary qualification. Inseparably bound up with it is the thinking right thoughts concerning what is to be taught.”

1.To have right thoughts of God. It would seem to be too obvious to need statement, yet experience shows that this fundamental necessity is not always secure, far from it.

It is not often put into words, but traces may be found only too easily of foundations of religion laid in thoughts of God that are unworthy of our faith. Whence can they have come?

Doubtless in great measure from the subtle spirit of Jansenism which spread so widely in its day and is so hard to outlive—from remains of the still darker spirit of Calvinism which hangs about convert teachers of a rigid school—from vehement and fervid spiritual writers, addressing themselves to the needs of other times—perhaps most of all from the old lie which was from the beginning, the deep mistrust of God which is the greatest triumph of His enemy.

God is set forth as if He were encompassed with human limitations—the fiery imagery of the Old Testament pressed into the service of modern and western minds, until He is made to seem pitiless, revengeful, exacting, lying in wait to catch His creatures in fault, and awaiting them at death with terrible surprises.

But this is not what the Church and the Gospels have to say about Him to the children of the kingdom.

If we could put into words our highest ideals of all that is most lovely and lovable, beautiful, tender, gracious, liberal, strong, constant, patient, unwearying, add what we can, multiply it a million times, tire out our imagination beyond it, and then say that it is nothing to what He is, that it is the weakest expression of His goodness and beauty, we shall give a poor idea of God indeed, but at least, as far as it goes, it will be true, and it will lead to trustfulness and friendship, to a right attitude of mind, as child to father, and creature to Creator.

We speak as we believe, there is an accent of sincerity that carries conviction if we speak of God as we believe, and if we believe truly, we shall speak of Him largely, trustfully, and happily, whether in the dogmas of our faith, or as we find His traces and glorious attributes in the world around us, as we consider the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, or as we track with reverent and unprecipitate following the line of His providential government in the history of the world.

The need of right thoughts of God is also deeply felt on the side of our relations to Him, and that especially in our democratic times when sovereignty is losing its meaning.

There are free and easy ideas of God, as if man might criticize and question and call Him to account, and have his say on the doings of the Creator.

It is not explanation or apology that answer these, but a right thought of God makes them impossible, and this right thought can only be given if we have it ourselves.

The Fatherhood of God and the Sovereignty of God are foundations of belief which complete one another, and bear up all the superstructure of a child’s understanding of Christian life.

2.Ideas of ourselves and of our destiny. It is a pity that evil instead of good is made a prominent feature of religious teaching.

To be haunted by the thought of evil and the dread of losing our soul, as if it were a danger threatening us at every step, is not the most inspiring ideal of life; quiet, steady, unimaginative fear and watchfulness is harder to teach, but gives a stronger defense against sin than an ever present terror; while all that belongs to hope awakens a far more effective response to good.

Some realization of our high destiny as heirs of heaven is the strongest hold that the average character can have to give steadiness in prosperity and courage in adversity.

Chosen souls will rise higher than this, but if the average can reach so far as this they will do well.

3.Right ideas of sin and evil. It is possible on the one hand to give such imperfect ideas of right and wrong that all is measured by the mere selfish standard of personal security.

The frightened question about some childish wrong-doing—”is it a mortal sin?” often indicates that fear of punishment is the only aspect under which sin appears to the mind; while a satisfied tone in saying “it is only a venial sin” looks like a desire to see what liberties may be taken with God without involving too serious consequences to self.

“It is wrong” ought to be enough, and the less children talk of mortal sin the better—to talk of it, to discuss with them whether this or that is a mortal sin, accustoms them to the idea.

When they know well the conditions which make a sin grave without illustrations by example which are likely to obscure the subject rather than clear it up, when their ideas of right and duty and obligation are clear, when “I ought” has a real meaning for them, we shall have a stronger type of character than that which is formed on detailed considerations of different degrees of guilt.

On the other hand it is possible to confuse and torment children by stories of the exquisite delicacy of the consciences of the saints, as St. Aloysius, setting before them a standard that is beyond their comprehension or their degree of grace, and making them miserable because they cannot conform to it.

It is a great safeguard against sin to realize that duty must be done, at any cost, and that Christianity means self-denial and taking up the cross.

4.Thoughts of the four last things. True thoughts of death are not hard for children to grasp, to their unspoiled faith it is a simple and joyful thing to go to God.

Later on the dreary pageantry and the averted face of the world from that which is indeed its doom obscure the Christian idea, and the mind slips back to pagan grief, as if there were no life to come.

Thoughts of judgment are not so hard to give if the teaching is sincere and simple, free from exaggerations and phantoms of dread, and on the other hand clear from an incredulous protest against God’s holding man responsible for his acts.

But to give right thoughts of hell and heaven taxes the best resources of those who wish to lay foundations well, for they are to be foundations for life, and the two lessons belong together, corner-stones of the building, to stand in view as long as it shall stand and never to be forgotten.

The two lessons belong together as the final destiny of man, fixed by his own act, this or that. And they have to be taught with all the force and gravity and dignity which befits the subject, and in such a way that after years will find nothing to smile at and nothing to unlearn.

They have to be taught as the mind of the present time can best apprehend them, not according to the portraiture of mediaeval pictures, but in a language perhaps not more true and adequate in itself but less boisterous and more comprehensible to our self-conscious and introspective moods.

Father Faber’s treatment of these last things, hell and heaven, would furnish matter for instruction not beyond the understanding of those in their last years at school, and of a kind which if understood must leave a mark upon the mind for life.

Honor his position as the head of the family and teach your children to do so. Have faith in the principle that God placed him at the head and commanded you to obey him, as stated in the Bible. If this doesn’t seem fair, remember that God’s ways are better than our ways.– Helen Andelin, Fascinating Womanhood

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