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Catholic Activity: Religion in the Home for Elementary School: September

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This section for the month of September covers the following areas:

THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL: Co-operation and Regularity RECALL OUR PURPOSE: LIving in Two Worlds PEDAGOGY: Living and Loving, Motives, Opportunities for Showing Love THINGS TO DO ROUND THE ALTAR VIRTUE FOR PARENTS: Studying Religion HYMNS FOR THE MONTH: Holy God We Praise Thy Name and Come Holy Ghost, Creator Blest

DIRECTIONS

THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL With September comes school, and the excitement of the first days. Wise parents are full of interest, eager to know the name of the new teacher, eager to look at the new school books, and to listen to all the stories about what happened all day. In one very well managed home the children were so full of news, each wanting to talk first, that, after saying Grace before supper, Father made a rule that, beginning with the youngest, each could talk for five minutes, and then start round again.

Co-operation and Regularity
Be sure to look at the home-work notebooks and see that the young people start the new term well by getting down to lessons promptly. Pay particular attention to the Catechism or religion lesson. The peace and happiness of the home suffers if school duties are not promptly performed. Religion thrives better in an orderly household, and we cannot repeat too often that it is the parents'' business to manage the home, and to establish habits of regularity in every member of the family.

RECALL OUR PURPOSE—LIVING IN TWO WORLDS With the school term well begun we ought to make a fresh start on our big job,—creating a Catholic spirit in the home. It is wise to think a little of our aim. What shall we recall?

We know that man lives in two worlds; his body walks the earth, while his soul in the fraction of a second can commune with God in another world, the supernatural world.

There are people who live almost wholly in the natural world. There are many who morning and night might pass over in prayer to the other world. But parents should live in God's supernatural world a great deal more than they do. If they are close to God they will take their children with them.

Have you not known people who are always aware of God's presence, of His care and protection, or who in trouble will at once say, "Yes, dear Lord, I bear this sorrow joyfully with You"? They are always seeing God's hand in the beautiful world. They look at the smiling faces of their children and see God there. They are miles and miles removed from those whose attention is absorbed in money, society, dress and all the rest that makes up "the world." A home with the supernatural attitude toward life is what we want for all Catholic families. A million such homes could set the country on fire with the desire for a better Christian life; a million supernatural-minded parents could clean up the movies, the radio, the magazines.

The home where children breathe a supernatural atmosphere! How can we create it? Let us remind ourselves of a few points we have considered before:

  1. Parents must live close to God.
  2. They must set a good example in every word they speak and in every act they perform in their children's sight.
  3. They would do well to remember all the suggestions made since January, which help to keep religion living and vital in the home, suggestions about: a. Prayers. b. Conversation. c. Family parties. d. Family altars.
  4. They would profit by going through all of the preceding pages and writing out a list of things mentioned under the heading, "Things to do."
  5. In particular, parents should remember that it is not enough to say, "Don't do this; don't do that." Say "Read this"; not "Don't read that." Say "Go to this movie," as well as "Don't go to that." Say "Suppose we go to the beach today," instead of "Where shall we go?"
Time—Patience—Intelligence are required. If you have a job in a factory, shop or school you may not loaf on the job. At home, in the supreme job of bringing up the children, you may not loaf.

PEDAGOGY—LIVING AND LOVING Motherhood and fatherhood are not for cowards. Every mother has faced death; most fathers have faced the necessity of battling to support their wives and children.

Let your children know that it is love that makes mother and father brave and heroic and ready to meet death. Love is not a matter of petting and kissing; love is such devotion to another that you give yourself, your time, your strength, your health for that person. Quite small children love to do things for mother and father. Make it a point to encourage them to show their love in deeds. The frequent complaint of mothers, "I have done everything for my boy and now he does nothing for me," is sad; but it is the result of faulty training. Don't "do everything" for the child. Start when he is young and wants to help you, and train him to keep on.

Never let him slacken in his efforts. Now, with the school year beginning, write out for yourself a list of things in which your children can help, talk it over with them, and start to work on it.

Motives
Get the motive right. All children from six to fourteen can be told two things:
  1. You help mother and father because you love them.
  2. You help them because you love our Lord and want to copy Him. He loved and helped His Mother and St. Joseph.
When an occasion comes and the child rebels at helping, then you can say, "Of course it's hard and Mother would gladly do it for you. But if you have no chance to do hard things for dear Jesus'' sake, you have no chance to suffer for Him and so show Him you love Him. Why not go to the store or cut the grass because you want to offer to our Dear Lord something that is hard for you?"

Opportunities for Showing Love
Suggested helps and things to do for love of mother and God are:
  1. Going to the store. A girl or boy of twelve or more can go to the store regularly and should be taught systematic marketing. Have him make a list with you. If inferior goods are delivered make him return them. Go and see the grocer occasionally yourself. Explain that he must wait on your child as scrupulously as he would on you yourself.
  2. Setting the table. From four years up children can set the table. Systematize the process of laying out knives, forks, etc. Then bread, butter, water, salt, napkins,—a list of things often forgotten should be memorized.
  3. Cleaning, dusting, bed-making,—even princes and princesses are trained to do these things.
  4. Cutting grass, weeding, arranging flowers are tasks which children can easily learn to perform.
  5. Brushing clothes, sewing on buttons, polishing shoes all give good training.
  6. Cleaning silver. Once a month the whole family may assemble in the kitchen, get out all the silver and have a polishing bee for one hour only—more time becomes drudgery.
What has all this to do with the Catholic religion? It trains children in good habits of generous helping and serving. A child so trained, easily learns habits of prayer, of self-sacrifice, of virtue. The idea of doing things for the love of the good Lord becomes part of the nature of the child.

THINGS TO DO ROUND THE ALTAR September 8th is the birthday of our Lady. Celebrate it so that the little ones may realize that it is a day of joy. Of course, have prayers around the altar, and some songs to our Lady. As for pictures for the altar, it would be interesting to know how many families have come across a picture of the birth of the Blessed Mother. It was a favorite subject among the great artists. In the historic city of Florence, in Italy, in the Dominican Church of Santa Maria Novella, there is a large fresco (painting on plaster) along the right wall of the sanctuary. It shows St. Ann sitting up in bed, receiving lovely ladies who come with gifts for the new baby Mary. At one side a woman is washing the tiny infant. She has a basin, small articles of clothing and the sort of things that modern mothers have. Ghirlandaio, the artist, followed the custom of many artists of his day; he made the scene, the setting, the house and the furniture like that of his own time, and imagined St. Ann, St. Joachim, our Lady living at that period. Such a picture makes an unforgettable impression.

The Holy Ghost and School
On the first day of school the family should include in evening prayers a prayer and hymn to the Holy Ghost for light and help in the studies of the year. For a hymn, see section for hymns, below. For a prayer the children should learn to say:
Come, Holy Ghost, fill the hearts of Thy faithful and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love. Send forth Thy Spirit, and they shall be created. And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth. O God, Who hast taught the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant that we may by the gift of the same Spirit, be always truly wise, and ever rejoice in His consolation. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
VIRTUE FOR PARENTS As we see to it that the children study, why should we not decide to study religion ourselves? A good book which answers objections to the Catholic faith is called The Question Box.1 We ought to study a couple of pages a day.

BOOKS FOR THE MONTH Stories about saints told for little children make very interesting reading provided they are told simply and naturally so that the little ones may understand them. Two small books about small saints have recently come to our attention, one called Little Saint Agnes,2 and the other Little Patron of Gardeners: the Good Saint Fiacre.3 Both books have plenty of pictures drawn in a way to please little citizens of the twentieth century. For older children we highly recommend Bible Children,4 twelve stories with colored illustrations. The children appearing in the stories are such boys as Isaac, Joseph, Benjamin, Samuel, and one girl, the daughter of Jairus. This is the kind of book to read over and over, year after year.

HYMNS FOR THE MONTH A stirring hymn which children sing with great gusto is Holy God We Praise Thy Name.5 This will be found in both hymn books mentioned in the footnotes. A hymn to the Holy Ghost to ask His aid in school studies is Come Holy Ghost, Creator Blest.6


1 The Question Box, by Father Bertrand L. Conway, C.S.P. New York: The Paulist Press. [Editor's Note: This book is out of print.]

2 Little Saint Agnes, by Helen Walker Homan. New York: Longmans, Green & Co. [Editor's Note: This book is out of print.]

3 Little Patron of Gardners: the Good Saint Fiacre, by Catherine Beebe. New York: Longmans, Green & Co. [Editor's Note: This book is out of print.]

4 Bible Children, by Blanche Jennings Thompson. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co. [Editor's Note: This book is out of print.]

5 Catholic Youth's Hymn Book, by the Christian Brothers. Nos. 128 and 28. New York: J. Fischer & Bro.; and Catholic Church Hymnal, edited by A. Edmonds Tozer. Nos. 200 and 61. New York: J. Fischer & Bro. [Editor's Note: This hymnal is out of print. A good basic hymnal for a Catholic family is the Adoremus Hymnal, available from www.adoremus.org. I highly recommend the Organ edition (for $24.95) so that one can accompany the song on the piano, plus the CDs can help those in need of more musical help. Another recommendation is Cantate et Iubilate Deo published by the Midwest Theological Forum. --JGM]

Activity Source: Religion in the Home: Monthly Aids for the Parents of Elementary School Children by Katherine Delmonica Byles, Paulist Press, 1938

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