|Surely one of the great developments of our day has been
the rise and growth of what is popularly called home schooling, and what
I prefer to describe as home education.
Behind this development is far more than a reaction to the inadequacy
of so many organized schools in North America. In fact, it is more an
act of divine providence than a result of merely human factors. In my
judgment, it is nothing less than a gift from God which I hope to help
all of us appreciate and put to use for the greater glory of God.
My plan for this conference is to cover the following:
•Our primary duty as Catholics is to share our faith with others.
•This primary duty for parents is to teach the Catholic faith to
•This home teaching of the faith is God's providential plan for
life in the Western world.
OUR PRIMARY DUTY AS CATHOLICS
It must seem strange to say that our primary duty as Catholics is to
share our faith with others. But this will seem less strange if we
reflect on the fact that, as Christ told us, we shall be mainly
considered His disciples if we have love for one another.
What is love except providing for the needs of others. In our Lord's
own words, if people are hungry and we provide them with food to eat, we
are practicing love towards them. People are thirsty and we give them to
drink. They are naked and we clothe them; or sick or in prison and we
But what is bodily hunger or thirst or nakedness or loneliness
compared to these needs in the soul! And the most fundamental need of
the soul is for possession of the truth which means possessing the
faith. We have the truth only if we believe that God became Man.
That is why the most fundamental duty of our lives is to communicate
to others what others have so generously passed on to us, namely the
true faith. The key factor here is the word "true." Every
rational human being believes in something, in fact believes in many
things. The main question is whether what a person believes is the
The great gift of our Catholic faith is that it is a treasury of
God's truth. Our faith tells us there is a God who made us to be at
peace on earth by doing His will and perfectly happy with Him in heaven
for all eternity. As Catholics, we should have no doubt why we exist,
what is the purpose of every which, why, who, every where, every when,
in a word every thing in our lives.
Surely our highest and deepest responsibility is to share with others
something of this precious gift that God has so undeservingly given us.
THE PRIMARY DUTY OF PARENTS
The more a society is preoccupied with making money or achieving
success, or living a long and healthy life on earth, or being honored
and praised by others — the less meaningful is our statement that the
primary duty of parents is to teach their children. Do I say, "less
meaningful?" I mean that teaching the faith becomes meaningless as
parents become immersed in these worldly values.
Let us be honest. We could so stress the negative factors which
started the home schooling phenomenon that we are liable to overlook the
main positive purpose for home education. This main purpose has always
been, since the time of Christ, is now, and always will be — to have
parents teach their children the one true faith which came from Christ
through the Apostles.
Standing in St. Peter's in Rome, while Pope John Paul II offered the
Mass just two days ago on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul — thousands
gave dramatic witness to this faith. Every square foot in St. Peter's
was filled with people from all over the world. It is this faith for
which, by now millions have shed their blood, that parents are
privileged and obliged to give the children they have brought into
temporal life, but only to bring them to eternal life in heaven with the
We have a problem however. By now something like a million parents
are giving their children home education. Many, perhaps most of these
parents are not Catholic. Yet they are concerned for their children's
faith and make great sacrifices to pass on a sound pedagogy to their
sons and daughters.
Why are they doing this? It is not merely because existing schools
are not providing an adequate secular education in history, literature,
geography and grammar. The underlying reason is the need for authentic
After two centuries of history in our country, religious believers
are finally waking up to the consequences of a secularized democracy. A
democracy which ignores the rights of God becomes a mobocracy that
destroys even the most fundamental rights of man. Our nation is moving
in that direction.
That is why every other factor in home education is secondary to its
main purpose. This is to enable parents to teach the true faith to their
children. As a country loses its hold on immortal values, the
educational agencies in that country tend to become either agents of
those in state control or partners in its paganization, or silent
spectators of the secularization process.
Catholic parents have the unique privilege of possessing the fullness
of religious truth. They have the corresponding grave vocation from God
to open the treasury of this truth to the offspring entrusted to their
Let us be very clear. It is one thing to say that parents are to give
their children religious instruction. It is something else to do this
adequately. The obstacles are numerous and in some ways insurmountable.
The single most important asset which the parents need is their own
possession of a deep enlightened faith. This is not easy to come by in
today's massive electronic confusion. That is why, I would say that
parents must be trained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Another
way of putting it even more clearly: parents must understand their faith
in a way consistent with the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic
Twenty years of religious speculation leaves a library of biblical
fiction, theological views, liturgical make-believe and day-dream
In not a few places, once-Catholic colleges and seminaries have
literally purged their stacks of thoroughly Catholic books. Something
like a dozen once fully Catholic publishing houses have gone out of
business or drastically changed their Catholic character.
All of this, simply illustrates the desperate need for Catholic
parents to do what we might say is humanly impossible. What is that?
They must, at no matter what cost, know their faith by learning it from
authentic Catholic sources.
They must find those priests, religious and lay instructors
necessary; families may have to cluster together to obtain the required
religious education. I know this from years of experience in Chicago,
Detroit, Ann Arbor and New York City.
Gone is the day when parents with even young children can be
satisfied with a rote knowledge of their faith. Why? Because the most
fundamental truths of doctrine and morality are being constantly
assailed and undermined by our media of social communication.
Children before the age of two are now being faced with demonically
seductive ideas in every aspect of Christianity. Sex education has
become a synonym for sex perversion on a scale and with such
sophisticated approval that parents are pressed to explain to their
pre-adolescent children why the Church is so backward as to forbid the
enjoyable pleasure of unchaste thoughts or the satisfaction of so-called
sins of unchaste actions.
HOME TEACHING AND GOD'S PROVIDENCE
Our third and final reflection is on the role of home education as
part of God's providential plan for restoring family life in the Western
What exactly do I mean? I mean that generations of parents have given
over the responsibility for training their own children to the school
system that was available. As a result, many parents are now so
accustomed to someone else replacing them that it has become a national
pattern. Add to this the economic pressure on parents to even raise a
normal size family, and the "burden" as many call it, of home
education seems intolerable. But this simply proves one thing: that home
education is part of God's providence to
•to restore family life in the Euro-American world.
Parents who learn their Catholic faith are, in many cases, being
faced with a hard alternative: Either lose their children to the
Catholic faith and the prospect of these children losing their immortal
souls; or doing the heroic thing and giving their children a sound
Catholic education at home.
I cannot exaggerate the role of God's providence in this historic
phenomenon. The Lord knows that without a Catholic training in faith and
morals from childhood, the very survival of the Catholic Church in some
countries is at stake. So what did He do? He allowed the situation to
become so grave and the spectacle of Catholic apostasy so obvious that
parents who still cherish their religious heritage were finally aroused
to do something.
This "something" that must be done is not only providing
children with religious instruction. It is also, and with emphasis,
giving the children home inspiration.
What is "home inspiration"? It is the parents living such
holy lives that they are the constant channels of divine grace to their
This is more, much more, than giving a good example. It is nothing
less than what Christ told us to be: the light of the world and the salt
of the earth. All the graces God wants to confer on our children, He
will confer, but on one condition: That we — and especially parents — are
the conduits of this grace from Christ who is God, through us who are
Christians, to those whom God has placed into our lives.
There is no one under heaven who is a more necessary channel of
divine grace than are parents to their children. After all, parents are
meant by God not only, or mainly, to bring offspring into this place of
space and time. No! They are meant by God to raise families for the New
Jerusalem where there will be no more sorrow or mourning and where every
tear will be wiped away.
"Mary, Mother of the Holy Family, obtain for parents from your
Son the wisdom they need to raise their families according to His divine
will. Ask your son to give home education parents the courage to
proclaim this truth in an unbelieving world; the patience to carry this
cross without complaining because they love Jesus Crucified, and the
holiness they require to be channels of divine grace as they lead their
sons and daughters to that eternal home for which we were made.