Catholic Activity: Elementary Parent Pedagogy: Two Homes, Heaven and Earth — Building up Family Unity and Security
Life here is a preparation for heaven. It is the parents' duty to teach our child to be aware of God's presence always. With the families breaking up and weakening, we must take steps to build up family unity and security within the home. The author provides some solid suggestions.
We have two homes — one here on earth and one in heaven with God. Life here is a preparation for heaven. The supernatural life we live here is a beginning of the life hereafter. That is why good people die without fear. They know that they pass to a fuller life with God. Can you make your home so lovely that it will seem to be like a little taste of heaven here on earth below? Say often to yourself that your destiny and your child's destiny is to dwell with God in perfect happiness. And say to yourself that your duty is to begin here and now to teach your child to live in God's presence. When things go wrong in the house ask yourself: "Do we act as if God is in this house? Is this house a home, a garden enclosed, where children feel safe under the protection of loving parents, where one family dwells in peace and unity?"
The Weakening Family
The family is the God-made unit of society, an institution so powerful that it has lasted since the beginning of the world. Today it is weakening. People marry on an impulse, never thinking that marriage means founding a family. Then they divorce each other almost as readily; the family is split, and the children suffer. Or else parents rush off on trips and leave children to servants or neighbors or even alone. Parents become bridge and movie addicts and desert their families night after night.
Offset by Catholic Family
Against this type of family, stands the Catholic model, founded on a sacrament established by Christ. Marriage for life with no divorce — on this rock is built the Catholic family.
That family can be a garden of the Lord, a place of boy and delight for father, mother, children. Since marriage cannot be terminated by man, even Catholic parents who have ceased to be enchanted with each other realize that they have a big job to make a success of the family, and that they can do so by drawing on the grace which God stands ready to give for the asking, grace in the form of courage and serenity and persistence in keeping the family happy and united.
The family must possess solidarity. It must be a unit. Each child must learn to speak with pride of his home and parents and sisters and brothers. The child lucky enough to find himself surrounded by a loving family has a sense of security which psychologists agree is necessary for a happy childhood.
How can we build up this security? How can we make the child feel himself one of the family group? A simple way is by doing things together. How many things can parents and children do together?
- Say family prayers.
- Go to Mass together.
- Receive communion together as a family.
- Have family reading.
- Have family music and singing.
- Go on trips and picnics in a group.
- Clear off the snow, or rake up the leaves or weed the garden together (two or three of the family at least).
- Play games together.
We suggest that each family add to this list occupations in which the family can unite.
Family Unity — Through a Family Interest
To keep the children interested in home affairs is a sure way of preserving the unity of the family. We should aim to discover interests in which parents and children can share. One of these interests is pictures. A whole family may educate itself in art and learn the stories of the Old and New Testament by the simple and fascinating way of pictures. A family interest of this kind which can be shared by adults and children is invaluable in maintaining the close contact of earlier years.
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:
- Parents must live close to God.
- They must set a good example in every word they speak and in every act they perform in their children's sight.
- 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.
- 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."
- 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.
Activity Source: Religion in the Home: Monthly Aids for the Parents of Elementary School Children by Katherine Delmonico Byles, Paulist Press, 1938