Parents Are Primary Educators
By Anne Van Tilburg
Published on 09/3/2012
Parents Are Primary Educators

Parents Are Primary Educators
The days are over when good Catholic parents could simply sent their children off to the local Catholic school, get the children to Mass every Sunday, have meal prayers, etc. at home and give example of a reasonable good moral life in the home. In that way, the children would identity with the faith and pass it on to their children without much effort of parents. The children grew up in a basically Christian and Catholic environment.

We live in a time of the modern media and working mothers. The obligation of parents to supervise media for young people is a serious one. The schools often take children out of the home for activities and formation that should belong to the family. Little is left for the parents or done by the parents. Parents return home from work tired and the economy is blamed for forcing them to be away  from parental duties.

Too many religious educational programs have failed. Too often private schools which have been called "Catholic" have not fulfilled the functions parents hoped for. Even if children are able to attend an ideal Catholic school, it is still very much necessary for parents to fulfill the role of primary educators and formers.

The Church has spoken with Its greatest authority in an Ecumenical Council of the Universal Church (the Second Vatican Council) in stating again that parents are the primary educators of their children and scarcely anyone can substitute for the parents. Parents must see that their children are taught the basics of the faith. This should be done in the home. Parents may not take for granted that some CCD or religion teacher in some school, even a Catholic school, is teaching their children for them.

The Catholic parents should know the contents of the religion text books the child is using. The parent should discuss religious Truths with the child, e.g. the meaning of who Jesus Christ is, his Church, the Holy Eucharist, Confession (Reconciliation), all the Sacraments. The parents should see that the child knows some Church history. Who founded the Catholic Church? What position did Jesus give to St. Peter? Who is the visible and invisible head of the Church? What is the position of the Pope today? What is a Bishop? A priest? And of course within the home the dignity and meaning of Holy Matrimony is taught and should be taught to the children from childhood by the example of the parents and family life, prayer-life and religious practices which exists in the environment of the home.

Just because a school or religious education program is called "Catholic" does not mean it is necessarily so today. There is a very serious reason why the Church had to put out in 1992 a new Catechism for the Universal Church. Too often the fullness of true faith - and the correct Catholic faith - was not being taught. many were learning what was in reality a false face to Catholicism. There were many reasons for this, all the way from those disloyal to the Church as dissenters, to ignorance of people who never learned the basics properly and were easily misled by the secular media that so often misrepresented the Church.

Having a child educated in the teaching of Catholicism will not necessarily mean the child is formed in the faith. There is a distinction between education and formation, and the two must blend. Being educated means the mind, the intellect, is filled with facts. Being formed means the will accepts and lives by these truths. There have even been brilliant theologians not formed in the faith. Enemies of the Church can sometimes state the teachings of the Church.

Formation of a child in the faith will form from the way the faith is practiced primarily in the home. The attitude of parents must be basically in harmony with Christ and his Church. The children will pick this up. Catholic externals can be important in the home but interiorly the faith must exist in the hearts of the members of the family. The father's role is all important. The teaching and formation must not be simply that of the mother. Even if the father would happen to be a non-Catholic Christian, he, if true to his promises in entering marriage, he can still assist by his example and teaching the basic catechisms to children. This has often been done by good fathers who were supportive of their Catholic spouses or by good mothers who were not Catholic but kept their promises to their husbands.

The father's role is so important that if he is totally passive or worse yet, antagonistic to the faith, there is great danger to the children, especially sons, that they will not identify with faith in Jesus Christ and his Church.

Source: Until Death Do Us Part,  Fr. Robert J. Fox.