Parents, not schools, are childrens’ main educators (Ord 31b)

pencil-918449_640As you might be aware we have changed the way we prepare children for the sacraments: due to our concern about the children’s preparation and maturity, we will no longer be doing first confession with them in Year 2 but Year 3.  

This is not the only change we have made.  From now on anyone who wishes to make sacraments will meet with one of the priests first.  This is for a few reasons:- it brings this formation into line with what is already done for adults; the priest should go out to his sheep instead of waiting for them to come to him; it gives the opportunity for the family to have the pastoral care they need focussed on just their family; and of course, one-on-one formation is the highest quality of formation.

Interestingly, in baptism meetings, parents are usually little-aware of the commandments.  This is really serious and something we assist the parents with: because during the baptism they will solemnly promise publicly, before God, to educate their child in the Faith: You have asked to have your children baptised.  In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training them in the practice of the faith.  It will be your duty to bring them up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us [the Gospel today!], by loving God and our neighbour.  Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?  If the parents agree, it is only then that the child can be baptised.  Even then, this is already the second time parents make this promise: it is also part of the very promises that formed the foundation of their marriage on their wedding day.  Are you prepared to accept children lovingly from God and to bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church?

For it is primarily through our parents that we learn how to be a Christian.  Sometimes we hear dissatisfaction with the way young people can come out of 13 years of Catholic schooling knowing barely anything of the faith.   Well the first response of the Church is to point out that educating children is not principally the school’s job. Nor is it the priests’. The main educators of children are their parents.  This is not the Church’s decision: it is simply part of being human. And this is why in the gift of children to their parents God asks them to teach them about him, about what he asks, and how to love him every day.  And the commandments are the basis upon which the children will make every ethical decision for the rest of their life.

There are plenty of practical ways we can do this.  I only suggest a few here:

  1. Pray together.  How can someone know God if they don’t pray?  It doesn’t have to take half an hour. A brief time in the evening is immensely fruitful.  
  2. Every Sunday take them to mass, and each month take them to confession: it’s good for us, and it helps them be responsible, considerate and free.
  3. Teach them.  Sit with them and teach them all aspects of the faith.  What the creed means. The seven sacraments. Each of the commandments.
  4. Model the Christian life for them.
  5. Celebrate the Church feast days in a special way.  Children understandably think mass is boring if we live each day in the same way.  On or near Holy Souls to visit the cemetery with flowers, on Marian feasts to have something special for Mary, or in Christmastide to visit a new nativity scene each day, for example.