Fr. Bede Jarrett, O.P.
Nihil Obstat: PERCY JONES, Censor Diocesan
Imprimatur: D Mannix,
Motherhood and Children
In thinking of the children we think of their education, and so of their Catholic education, for Catholic education is not a right so much as a duty. It is a duty which lies on the father and mother as soon as the child is born.
The ancient Greeks insisted on the importance of surrounding babyhood with beautiful things; the psychologist of today entirely agrees with this. Without intermission the Church has taught the same thing; only with her it is holy things that the child should be surrounded by, namely, that particular beauty that is radiant with goodness from God. At least and always the Church insists that the child should have these.
Here Plato would also have approved, for he maintained that beautiful bodies were the lowest form of human beauties. Plato would have approved of beautiful holiness as the best surrounding for a child, that as early and constantly as possible it should be surrounded by whatever true idea, or true representation, of goodness the parents could collect round their child.
Thus the making of the sign of the Cross on itself, the joining of its hands together in prayer, a statue of the Child Jesus, a crucifix, statues of the Mother and Child, of St. Joseph, and of the Angel Guardian, should be familiar objects to a child, so that it grows up in an atmosphere of supernatural life. All this will depend largely on the mother’s sense of her duty to the child’s education and development.
Naturally, the physical well-being of her children must also be present to the mother’s mind; and here, in the earlier stages of its growth, she will have need to consult a doctor and a nurse. Let them, if possible, be Catholic doctors and nurses.
There are good doctors and nurses other than Catholic ones, certainly; but these, if they be properly instructed Catholics, will help a mother more faithfully than the others because she will have no misgiving or anxiety about their advice. She will be able to trust absolutely what they say.
But though the little body must be cared for, yet it must not be over-indulged. It must be kept clean. It is the temple of God.
Again, the right sort of food, for it is a matter about which advice should be asked from experts in motherhood, mothers who know.
Also the character of the child will need training as far as its frail condition will allow. It should not be allowed to grow up any way. Neither should it be nagged at. What is wanted is not to have to say, ‘you must not fight or lie or be selfish or disobedient, but to encourage children not to want to fight or lie or be selfish or disobey.
It is not actions, but character at the back of actions, that has to be laid hold of. Now character can only be formed by character on character. You can only train children properly by making them wish to form themselves on the model of another character. That is why it is a mother’s business to teach her child the beauty of the character of Christ. And she will teach it to her child successfully only in proportion to the way she herself perceives it.
Only because the mother loves the character of Our Lord is she likely to be able to show its beauty and greatness to her child, and convince it that He was great, is great. That is only another proof of the responsibility of motherhood: she and her child united for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer in the things of the spirit.
Lastly, there is the opening mind of the child to be taught and trained.
Education and the State
Actually the State now imposes compulsory education. (In Australia, all children must attend school from the ages of six to fourteen years, either at public schools, conducted by the State, or at private registered schools, such as are conducted by the Catholic Church.)
It may be that we would prefer education to be optional as long as every parent had the opportunity to send his children to a school, but the conditions actually obtaining make education compulsory. No doubt there is some loss in this.
It is better, both for parents and children, when the mother does some of the teaching herself. She would remember her schooling better herself if she had to teach it. Moreover, it keeps mother and child closer together all their lives long when the child’s memories are thus rooted in her home.
It is right also to remember that the authority which the teachers have over the children has been given them by the parents. The teachers have their authority because they stand in the place of the parents, and not from their relation to the State.
Their power is given them by the parents of the children, and these parents, even when giving them power, never abdicate their own powers. They have always to keep an eye on the education of their children.
Normally they can be sure that in the hands of the teachers, the children will be properly looked after. But parents should get to know the teachers, and be interested in the school, and try to see how they can help forward the education of their children. There should be co-operation between parents and teachers.
The teachers need this co-operation; sometimes they complain that the parents do not help them, that the parents undo their work, undo what the school has done for the children.
Parents, too, sometimes think that the school undoes what the home has done for the children. The best remedy and preventive is cooperation between parents and teachers, and this is the best thing for the child.
But there is a difference between the natural authority of the parents and the imposed authority of the teachers, which makes the authority of the parents the more to be safeguarded, the more to be valued, to be kept the more continuously unbroken.
Of the two the authority of the parents should be more important.
Yet the teachers have a long apprenticeship before they are judged to know how to exercise it; this apprenticeship covers not merely years in which to learn the subjects to be taught the children, but in which to learn how to teach at all.
Now a mother also has to teach her children many things. Does she ever learn how to teach? Is not her need to know this even greater than the need of the teachers? She should learn how to teach her children and she surely will not be able to do this without learning.
It is not that she is ignorant of this, because she is a mother; but mother-instinct, though good, is not enough to live by. There are successful mothers, and mothers who are not in the least successful. It is not merely enough to love a child to be able to help it; wise love is needed.
Love can sometimes be foolish. Natural instinct goes a long way but not all the way. Mothers, however, can learn by watching successful mothers, and seeing how they train their children, and so becoming themselves expert in the art of training.
Let them remember their own homes when they were children, and ask themselves whether their mothers failed with one or other of the children, and why. It is not books that they need to help them so much as a study of the experiences of their life.
A mother will learn more by remembering and watching and asking than by reading or having instructions in maternity clinics, though these, if carried on by sane instructors, can be of great help. Only she must remember that each child is a creature apart, and should be studied individually.
It is due to the small circumference of the home that the children can have individual treatment. That is the value of home training. It can be personal. Not all the children of a family should be treated alike. It is not just to treat everyone alike, because all are not alike. Justice demands a rich variety of treatment and perhaps this is only possible fully at home.
“As a family, try to lead a hidden life with Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. Through holy Mass, offer yourselves through Mary’s hands as a sacrifice with Jesus; at Holy Communion, you will be changed into Jesus by divine grace so that you may live His life; by your visits to the tabernacle, you will enjoy His friendship in the midst of the many problems of life.” -Photo of my daughter and son-in-law at St. Joseph’s Church, Topeka, KS Quote by Fr. Lawrence G. Lovasik. The Catholic Family Handbook http://amzn.to/2oUJDFv (afflink)
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