Catholic Activity: Religion in the Home for Elementary School: February
This section for the month of February covers the following areas:
VIRTUES— Good Habits
HABIT AND MANNER OF PRAYER
OUR CHILDREN'S FRIENDS
THE MERRY-MAKING CLUB
THINGS TO DO: Dramatics at Home
FEASTS: Feb. 11th, Feb. 3rd, Feb. 5th
VIRTUE FOR PARENTS: Regulation in our own lives
A child does not become good just by being told to be good. To be good means to practice virtue. "Virtue," says St. Augustine, "is a good habit suitable to our nature." The first duty of parents, then, is to train their children in good habits. Each virtue,—that is, each good habit,—has to be acquired by repeated acts, plus the grace of God. A child becomes obedient by performing acts of obedience, patient by performing acts of patience, pure by the practice of purity, generous by being generous. Above all he learns the virtue of prayerfulness by praying.
When we begin in earnest to perform our duty and to cultivate virtues or good habits in our children, the first thing to do is to decide just which virtues to strive for. Since all good effort is helped by direct appeal to God for the assistance of His grace, we ought to strive first for the virtue or habit of learning to pray well.
HABIT AND MANNER OF PRAYER
How shall we pray? Last month we discussed the good habit of regularity in prayer and a reverent attitude when praying. Remembering that the good habit of regular praying is a virtue, suppose that this month we ask ourselves whether these regular prayers are all they might be. Do not let the children get into the gabbling habit. Short prayers said consciously to God are something to be greatly encouraged. Say often, "Remember, children, that prayer is talking to God. Look at Him, think of Him, and then speak to Him with love in your heart." With regard to the morning offering,—a habit easily established for life,—remind the children once in a while of what it means. Explain that they offer themselves and all their thoughts, words and deeds to God. They must then be sure to think good thoughts, say kind words, and do good deeds, so as to have plenty to give to God.
If we talk this way once in a while to our children, they like it. Do not do it every day and run the risk of boring them. If you have never yet talked of religious things and the children are now thirteen years old, it will be difficult to start; but even so it is possible to make a beginning now by saying that you have been reading how fine a thing it is to train yourself to turn to God the moment you awake. Tell them that you do it, and that they should also begin to cultivate the practice. "Just this once; let''s make this one day perfect," is a good family watchword.
In many families, all pray together at night. As to this custom, the parents of each family must judge what is best. A good plan is to call the children together at the hour when the youngest go to bed, and recite the regular prayers together. Then say, "Now let each one speak to God by himself"; and have the children kneel in silence for a minute. The child from eleven years up is often best left to himself. The least sign of a desire for privacy alone with God should be respected.
Family recitation of the Rosary is a magnificent custom; but parents must carefully observe whether the practice tends to deteriorate into a gabbling or a mumbling of words in a rush to get through. A decade a day is often a nice compromise.
OUR CHILDREN''S FRIENDS
No matter how well we train our children, we all become aware of the way in which their habits are influenced by their friends. We have to know who their friends are. Children up to six or eight years of age are usually satisfied to play at home, to stay near mother, brother and sister. Toys still please them. Then they want to play "tag" and "run-sheep-run." Next they want to be in a "gang." Boys are happy when they join teams for various games. The girls often say "our crowd" or "we girls." Girls like social clubs and getting up fairs and bazaars for various purposes. Since this tendency is general and can be directed to good, parents must arrange so that the gangs and clubs are well ordered. There are several things to do:
- Be so cordial that all the children''s friends like you. Then, if you have a backyard or garden, try to make it the meeting place for play. Know "the gang." Have them indoors occasionally for a celebration and give them plenty to eat. They will come again. Observe them and try to know their parents also.
- Take an interest in their games. Know what games they play, and where they play. If it must be away from home and there is no decent spot for baseball or basketball, bestir yourself. Talk to the priest on the subject or to the mayor or to the councilman.
- Have the children associate with some Catholic group if there is one. If not, perhaps you can speak to the pastor about the possibility of having a branch of one of the following: 1. Catholic Youth Organization, 2. Junior Catholic Daughters, 3. Catholic Boy Scout Troop, 4. Catholic Girl Scout Troop.
- Have the clubs meet in your home or in the homes of other trustworthy families. Greet the children pleasantly, talk a little of them, and show interest in their plans. Above all, absolutely forbid meetings in halls or basements or other lonely places.
For a full discussion of these matters, read an excellent book, You and Your Children, 1 by Rev. Paul Hanly Furfey. If the children do belong to a club, see that they attend meetings regularly. Otherwise they may fall behind in the games and get an unfortunate experience of failure.
Remember that the more time and interest you give to the children and their friends, the easier and happier your own life will become as the years slip on. The child who looks on you as his companion, friend, and the friend of his friends, is least likely to be a disappointment later.
THE MERRY-MAKING CLUB
"The Merry-Making Club" was the name chosen by a group of little girls aged eight to twelve who used to meet on Saturday mornings to play. Instead of amusing themselves in an aimless fashion, they decided to have a monthly magazine and to give plays for their relatives and friends. They had an editor-in-chief, a sports writer, a story writer, a jokes editor; in short, each person had charge of one department of the paper. All material was given to one girl during the month, after it had been talked about at the meetings. This girl, the oldest, twelve years of age, typed the little paper which was called "The Merry-Makers." In the middle of the month the Merry-Makers gave a play. Sometimes they chose one from a book of children''s plays but more often they made one up. Each month they had at least a tableau of the feast of the month.
THINGS TO DO—DRAMATICS AT HOME
Rehearsing plays is an excellent way of doing things in groups at home. The Church of the Middle Ages taught the people by mystery plays,—plays about the life of Christ often acted out in the back of the church or in the church yard. On February 2nd have a little play or a tableau (for children six to ten) of the Purification. Forty days after the birth of Jesus, our Lady takes the Divine Baby to the Temple. Read the story in the New Testament, St. Luke''s Gospel, Chapter 2, verses 22 to 40. Also read from the Missal the blessing of the candles; and let the children make up a play in which someone says that the candles are a symbol of "Jesus, the Light of the World." The speeches of Simeon and Anna should be memorized exactly. Finish with a tableau.
FEASTS—FEB. 11th, FEB. 3rd, FEB. 5th
The Feast of the Apparition of our Lady at Lourdes falls on February 11th, and gives a chance for a play about Bernadette. Remember that a miracle is something which we see or perceive, which cannot be done by any natural means. There''s St. Blaise for throats on the 3rd of February and St. Agatha on the 5th. Be sure that the family knows all about both. St. Agatha is the patroness of Catania, that city of Sicily so often endangered by the volcano Etna. In Catania, St. Agatha''s Day is celebrated with great ceremony, parades, fireworks, and floats. It is a unique celebration to witness.
VIRTUE FOR PARENTS
While our minds are full of the idea of regularity with regard to the children''s affairs, it is a good point to see if we can regulate our own lives a little better, take a little better care of our own souls. The minutes saved by regularity in housework can be used for religious reading, prayer and meditation. Have you a copy of The Imitation of Christ? The Primer of Prayer 2, by Rev. Joseph McSorley, C.S.P., is helpful for beginners.
BOOKS FOR THE MONTH
Twenty-one Saints 3 is is a collection of stories that make one feel courageous, like the saints, the soldiers of the fighting Church (usually called "The Church Militant"); and they lead the reader to train himself in courage by bearing toothaches and other troubles because he loves God. This book is suitable for older children, from ten to fourteen.
Gospel Rhymes 4 is a collection of gay little poems on incidents from the Gospels, and is suitable for younger children.
HYMN FOR THE MONTH
The Magnificat. If possible, sing it, but at least read it aloud at night prayers every Saturday night. You will find the words in the New Testament, St. Luke, Chapter 1, verses 46 to 55. The Magnificat, associated with our Lady, should be said or sung whenever a feast of hers occurs. This month say it on the Feast of the Purification and on the Feast of Lourdes. You will find the music for it in the Catholic Youth''s Hymn Book.
1 You and Your Children, by Rev. Paul Hanly Furfey, Ph.D. New York: Benziger Bros. [Editor's Note: This book is out of print.]
2 The Primer of Prayer, by Joseph McSorley, C.S.P. New York: Longmans, Green & Co., 65 Fifth Avenue. [Editor's Note: This book is out of print.]
3 Twenty-one Saints, by Aloysius Croft. Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 640 North Milwaukee Street. [Editor's Note: This book is out of print.]
4 Gospel Rhymes, by Father Feeney, Father Martindale, Chesterton and others. New York: Sheed & Ward, 63 Fifth Avenue. [Editor's Note: This book is out of print.]
2 The Catholic Church Hymnal (edited by Tozer). Hymn No. 95. 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