This is Part Two 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!
Part One is here.
Part Three is here.
NURSERY OF SAINTS
In truth, the family circle is the nursery of saints as of sane, human beings. There the child finds the love, security and guidance which are his greatest needs.
It is by loving and being loved that persons grow as persons. It is in the family that relationships are essentially personal and each person is valued as a person.
So we look to the family to preserve that form of society, that way of life which respects the personality, the unique value in God’s eyes, of every human being.
The mothers who humbly strive to open the eyes of the children to the truths of the first chapters of the catechism are doing a work of incalculable, irreplaceable value.
Maybe that is the vocation of the country family – to keep alive a sane view of life by educating their children to be, as Fr. Gerald Vann expresses it,’creative personalities who will share the redemptive work of Jesus Christ through their lives, their work, their homes and their love.
If ever you get the chance read the stories of Saints Pius X and John Bosco, Saints Therese and Maria Goretti, you will realize how close is the connection between good homes, nobility of character and sanctity.
You will understand too, why vocations to the priesthood and the religious life come usually in the good home; and with grateful love you will encourage the children who want to serve God in this great way.
I am afraid I have too little time to deal adequately with the three other aspects of educative work in the home. But, as a Dominican, I must speak at least briefly, on the parent’s share in developing in each child a deep respect for the things of the mind, for the work of the human intellect.
The work of the intellect is to grasp truth, to grasp the meaning of things as they are in the reality of their own being, to come always nearer to seeing things as they must be in God’s sight.
It may be the Divine Knowledge of God as He has revealed it to us, or the natural knowledge of the universe He has created, or the world of ideas by which the human mind strives to understand the purpose of existence-why the world is, what we are, what are our real powers, what are the relationships between things and men and the unseen world.
Whatever it be, the unspoilt human intellect seeks this knowledge and yearns for it, because even when it does not know it, it is always seeking the greatest reality, God, the source of all Truth.
The modern world has little taste for this thirst for truth. Too often, insensitive and blind to the inner meaning of things, it asks only Of what use are they to us? Is there any money in it for us?
It degrades everything by commercializing it. It scorns those who have no material gain to show for all their study. There is nothing wrong with putting our knowledge to practical use.
The Holy Family at Nazareth had to do so daily. The grave mistake is to forget the higher value of knowledge, to let our minds be tainted by the materialistic outlook around us; even sometimes to encourage our children to adopt this attitude. That is why I am dwelling on a point that may at first, seem to have little to do with education in the home.
THE COUNTRY HOME
I can see in country life and the country home great possibilities for keeping alive a right love for knowledge. I can sense a danger too in the fact that parents are often dependent on non-Catholic schools for the outside education of their children.
There is bound to be confusion and conflict in the child’s mind, if the ideals and standards of value differ, especially if one held that man, not God, was the measure of Truth.
The home must therefore deliberately set itself to correct this, to give the child the right meaning of truth and knowledge.
For this the country child has the great advantage of living from his earliest days in close contact with natural things, with things that have come straight from the hand of God.
Everything that is, is more than it is, and the child can gain real knowledge from the company of living and growing things.
Natural things exert an almost incredibly strong influence on the child mind, which can surrender its whole being so fully to what it sees and loves- a fleet of ducklings on a pond, a calf on its rickety legs, a moonlight walk to turn off the windmill, the tall trees always in their place, the ride round the thirty-acre on the Massey-Harris pulled by eight strong horses.
GOD’S PURPOSE IN ALL THINGS
Experiences such as these things can hardly fail to give real knowledge and at the same time to guard and guide the spirit of the child, giving it a sense of true peace and true grandeur which it need never lose.
In your own minds, now perhaps you are seeing again what used to give you a special joy or comfort, reassurance or inspiration. The meaning and purpose of these natural things is something a child can understand, and at the same time he is led, almost, unawares, to see God through them. Thus is developed a sense of wonder at the mystery of being that could be a most precious possession for life.
This power to see the creatures of God as the symbols of His goodness and beauty, if rightly developed, is a means of enabling the child to enter more fully into the spirit of the liturgy, that is, the Church’s public worship of God.
It would help him to see the significant way in which flowers and candles, oil and wine and bread and water are used in the Sacrifice of the Mass and in the Sacraments.
And though I cannot dwell on the thought now, it would be worth your while to think deeply about the educative value of the Church’s liturgy, all Her ways of giving worship to God, and bringing man to God. This seems a long way from so-simple-seeming a subject as the study of nature; but all real knowing has such far-reaching effects.
By encouraging children to read and to reflect on what they read, parents can also strongly influence a child’s attitude to learning. But the books must be worth reading, for you cannot develop a taste for what is good, nor the power to seek and find the beauty or truth of what is written if the book is of poor quality.
There is now a great wealth of good books for children and young people. It would be difficult to over-estimate the value of helping your children to love reading.
Some great educators do not hesitate to state that the test of the well-educated person is the quality of his reading. Can he really read a great book? If you could bring back to your home the custom of reading aloud to your children (or their reading to you) and of letting them try out their powers of thinking and discussing with you, you might help to make Australia a land of genuine culture.
But the right book is the important thing and it is your responsibility to do all you can to get them, plenty of them-Saints’ books, Nature books, stories, fairy and folk tales, stories of real life. But remember there is a world of difference between a genuine fairy story as found in Hans Andersen’s Tales or Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books and some pixie story by Enid Blyton.
Before I leave this problem of developing a deep respect for the things of the mind perhaps I could mention the right attitude to take towards the children’s progress in their studies.
A Catholic parent should never be tempted to ask-What is the good of all this study of poetry or history or Latin-it won’t help you to get a job-nor is it wise to use, as a spur to urge children to work, the argument that they will not get on in the world.
Again, keep always in mind the truth that children differ very greatly in natural gifts and aptitudes. One of the greatest lessons we have to learn in life is to accept ourselves as we are and our children have to learn it too. What is needed is to find what one can really do and do it as perfectly as we can.
SUCCESS IS NOT ENOUGH
How much more sane and balanced is the personality of the child who is not for ever being harried by unfair comparisons with what other children can do. Often we are so anxious for the success of our children that we forget the harm we may be thus doing to their characters their attitude to life. Rather should we train our children to rejoice sincerely in the gifts and success of others.
When I come to consider what it means to have given a child a love and appreciation of what is beautiful in life, in art, in music, in literature, I could wish I had a poet’s power to convey in a few words, a whole world of meaning.
It is indeed fatally easy to think we have educated a child when we have trained him to think, to acquire masses of useful information, to do many useful things. We could do all this and leave his inner spirit untouched or dulled.
Someone has written that modern education has produced a world, completely out of tune with beauty, unaware of it, and incapable of seeing it, reverencing it or producing it.
The ugliness of much that we see in big cities – advertisements on hoardings, factory buildings, radio programmes, comic strips and popular songs and dance music, that are utterly empty of all loveliness and graciousness – These are evidence of wide-spread disregard for beauty, and, to quote a great Catholic writer, Jacques Maritain, “The dismissal of beauty is a dangerous thing for humanity.”
It would scarcely be too much to say that in dismissing or belittling what is beautiful we are dismissing God. For God is Beauty as well as Truth and Goodness, and ‘all the beauty we can see is but an addition to the store through which we become aware of God.
(To be continued…)
We are called to be great Apostles of Love in our ordinary, daily life. We are Christ’s Hands and Feet as we wipe noses, feed hungry little ones and change diapers with an attitude of service and love. When we are cheerful to those we rub shoulders with each day, when we kindly open our door to those who enter into our home, we are taking part in Christ’s Apostolic Work. “Jesus was an Apostle in the stable of Bethlehem, in the shop of St. Joseph, in His anguish in Gethsemane and on Calvary no less than when He was going through Palestine, teaching the multitudes or disputing with the doctors of the law.” – Divine Intimacy, Painting by Morgan Weistling http://amzn.to/2p0dxg8 (afflink)
Lovely reviews from Amazon on my book, Cheerful Chats for Catholic Children: Thank you, Dear Ladies!
“Love it! Love it! Love it! A grace filled book that gives young children a faith perspective, more of a God’s eye view if you will, of daily events.All the ups and downs of life are considered in relation to Christ and His Blessed Mother. My own grandchildren love hearing these tales every night. The stories give them hope, security and understanding.”
“I’ve long been wanting a book on various virtues to help my children become better Catholics. But most books focused on the virtues make being bad seem funny or attractive in order to teach the child a lesson. I’ve always found them to be detrimental to the younger ones who’s logic hasn’t formed. This book does an awesome job in showing a GOOD example in each of the children with all the various struggles children commonly struggle with (lying, hiding things, being grumpy, you name it.) But this book isn’t JUST virtue training… it’s also just sweet little chats about our love for God, God’s greatness, etc…
And the best thing of all? They are SHORT! I have lots of books that are wonderful, but to be honest I rarely pick them up because I just don’t have the time to read a huge, long story. These are super short, just one page, and very to the point. The second page has a poem, picture, a short prayer and a few questions for the kids to get them thinking. It works really, really well right before our bedtime prayers and only takes a few minutes at most.
If you like “Leading the Little ones to Mary” then you will like these… they are a little more focused on ALL age groups, not just little ones… so are perfect for a family activity even through the teenage years, down to your toddler”