The Catholic Family Handbook

Author: Rev. George Kelly


Reverend George A. Kelly

Foreword by FRANCIS CARDINAL SPELLMAN Archbishop of New York

Copyright, 1959, by Random House, Inc.

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 59-10826

NIHIL OBSTAT: John A. Goodwine, J.C.D., Censor Librorum

IMPRIMATUR: Francis Cardinal Spellman, Archbishop of New York

The nihil obstat and imprimatur are official declarations that a book or pamphlet is free of doctrinal or moral error. No implication is contained therein that those who have granted the nihil obstat and imprimatur agree with the contents, opinions or statements expressed.

August 22, 1959

This book is a memorial to eleven wonderful and happy years in Saint Monica's Parish, New York City, and to people I will always cherish with fond affection.


Many good people have made the writing of this book a pleasure and have contributed much to the finished product. Our Regional Family Life Directors in New York have organized the family apostolate from which has been drawn some of the viewpoints and experiences recorded herein. The writer wishes publicly to acknowledge the work of the Reverends John Mulroy, James Keating, William Shelley, William McManus, John Hawes, John Hynes, John Scanlon, and Raymond Hill, and to thank them for their enthusiastic support and co-operation. The important part played by Dr. Bernard Pisani, in the success of "The Catholic Marriage Manual," both as friend and collaborator, is belatedly recognized. To John Springer is owed a special debt of gratitude. Mr. Springer was a constant source of help in assisting the author finish this work. His time, intelligence, and energy were always at my disposal. I am sincerely appreciative of his unselfishness and that of Paul Lapolla of Random House, whose personal concern and criticism helped us progress. Last and certainly not least, the author wishes to thank his Archbishop, Francis Cardinal Spellman, not only for the Foreword to the book, which sums up so well its purpose and spirit, but also for his interest and encouragement during the year of writing.


FOREWORD By His Eminence, Francis Cardinal Spellman, Archbishop of New York


The purpose of this book--to strengthen your family life . . . Avoiding modern pressures against family life . . . Parents are partners with God in a sacred vocation . . . True Christian home as a church, school and recreation center in one . . . The example of the Holy Family . . . How can you teach your child to know God? . . . You will find your greatest joy in your children.


Church and social scientists agree on characteristics of a happy family . . . Parents agree that home and children come first . . . Father and mother are equals--Father the head, mother the heart . . . The importance of clear-cut family rules . . . Everybody should work together . . . Advantages and disadvantages of the large family . . . How children help and teach each other . . . Considerations for parents of small families . . . How to help an "only child" make a good adjustment . . . Four basic traits that make a good father . . . Why a mother is the most important person her child ever knows . . . "Don'ts" for mothers.


Your child's need for security which only you can give . . . Ways to build his self-confidence . . . Recognize your child's own native talents and capabilities and accept him for what he is . . . "Understanding" is not enough; you must also give him direction . . . How to earn respect for your authority . . . Authority thrives on use . . . How to instill obedience without being a dictator . . . Forming good habits of work, study and play . . . The art of self-denial: Why your child must learn to say "no" to impulses . . . Five principles to help you discipline your child effectively.


Teaching your child about God . . . How to use stories, prayers and pictures effectively . . . Developing his conscience . . . Early sex experimentation and what to do about it . . . Lying and stealing . . . What about "dirty words"? . . . How children learn them . . . Don't stress sin too much or use religion as a weapon . . . The right attitudes on confession . . . Don't be too scrupulous! . . . When children doubt religious truths . . . Church teachings will withstand investigation . . . Masturbation and homosexuality.


You have the first responsibility of deciding how to educate your child . . . Why we have parochial schools . . . How school may influence your child's attitudes for life . . . Moral teaching should hold first place in the classroom . . . Answers to objections by parents who choose non- sectarian schools . . . Is public school education really superior? . . . Graduates of Catholic schools are their most ardent supporters . . . The case for Catholic higher education . . . Responsibilities of parents with children in public schools . . . Newman Clubs . . . Co- operating with your child's teacher . . . Don't nag your child to the limit on his school work . . . Six ways to help your youngster prepare for college . . . Let him earn his own way--at least partially . . . School costs vs. "school palaces"--why Catholics should be interested in the controversy.


Conflicting advice about sex education confuses parents . . . Five basic principles which should be followed in teaching about sex . . . What parents may do when they "can't talk about sex" . . . How your child first learns about sex . . . The relationship between bowel training and sex attitudes . . . How to answer your child's questions . . . A timetable for sex education, year by year . . . Overcoming "street corner" knowledge . . . Preparing your boy or girl for puberty . . . The different natures of the sexes . . . Ignorance about life is not innocence.


Influences outside the home, Church and school can harm or help . . . Counteracting the steady sex stimulation to which children are exposed . . . Separating the good from the bad in television, movies, radio programs, books and magazines . . . How you can make your influence felt . . . Pornography on the newsstands . . . Cultivating wholesome tastes . . . The importance of good companions . . . Criticizing your child's friends may have an effect opposite to that intended . . . Community recreation centers, teen-age canteens, etc. . . . Don't be a stern policeman over your child's tastes!


One child in ten is unlike others in some important way . . . Mental retardation--causes, detection, treatment and training . . . Facts on cerebral palsy, epilepsy, physical defects which restrict movement, neurosis, exceptional difficulties in seeing, speaking or hearing, etc. . . . How parents can aid the exceptional child . . . Pity seldom helps . . . Emotional problems of exceptional children . . . How to prevent overdependence and rebellion . . . Brothers and sisters of an exceptional child may also need special attention . . . The adopted child . . . What should he be told? . . . How to handle a "genius" . . . Signs of a gifted child . . . Most bright children lead happy lives.


A child without a mother or father needs more security than the average youngster . . . Parents can be "psychological deserters" . . . How a child may react when one of his parents dies . . . A child needs to retain faith in his missing parent . . . How a "substitute father" or "substitute mother" can help . . . Dangers for parents to avoid . . . The evils of "smother-love" and overstrictness . . . Gaining strength through prayer . . . Don't abuse foster homes . . . When should parents let children be adopted? . . . Guidance for stepparents . . . Principles to help the children grow to love their new parents.


Almost every family faces serious problems at some time . . . Differences and difficulties must be expected . . . Danger signs of trouble . . . Don't let problems grow until they become unmanageable . . . When to seek outside guidance in solving family problems . . . Where to take your problems . . . What priests and family counselors can do . . . Sources of financial, physical and emotional aid . . . Psychiatry is not a "dirty word" . . . How a psychologist and a psychiatrist handle a case . . . Beware of "psychological quacks" . . . What to do if your family is "disgraced' . . . Care for the unwed mother.


How working mothers are causing a revolution in home life . . . Reasons why more married women than single women now hold jobs . . . How a mother who works full-time may harm her child, her husband and herself . . . Why nurseries can't substitute . . . What happens to children deprived of mothers . . . How the family unit suffers through overemphasis of material values . . . Does it really pay mothers to work? Statistics prove employment outside the home often is unprofitable . . . Alternatives to work outside the home for mothers . . . The problem of "moonlighters"--men who hold two full-time jobs . . . How overambitious fathers may harm their families.


Every person should decide his own course . . . How you can implant ideals to guide your child . . . Three requirements every career should fulfill . . . How your child can know if he has a call to the religious life . . . Requirements for priests, brothers and sisters . . . Can Catholic parents thwart a religious vocation? . . . Answers to objections by parents . . . The vocation of marriage . . . Reasons why a man or woman might remain single . . . Young men and women in the world can still serve God and man in almost all occupations . . . Even one individual can do great good . . . The child who "disappoints" his parents by choosing an "inferior" career.


Modern factors which have produced the "teen-age" crisis . . . Today's youngsters have greater freedom, sophistication and insecurity . . . Teen-age problems almost unheard-of a generation ago . . . Physical and emotional changes of adolescents. . . How they are affected by awakening sexual desire . . . The fight for independence . . . What your child needs to become a successful adult . . . Force him to take responsibility . . . How teen-agers' codes guide their conduct . . . Practical problems of adolescents . . . Why parents are frustrated in dealing with their adolescents . . . Why you should let your child make mistakes.


How you affect your child's attitudes toward the other sex . . . Practical rules for parties and dances . . . When should youngsters begin to date? . . . Effective deterrents to premarital intercourse . . . The importance of modesty in dress . . . But you can still be attractive! . . . Moral dangers of going steady . . . What public- school officials say about teen-age pregnancies . . . Why do Americans marry so young? . . . The kinds of men and women your child should avoid . . . Impediments to valid marriages . . . Qualities they should seek in a mate . . . The serious purposes of courtship . . . How long should engagements be? . . . Preparations for marriage.


The growing trend toward interfaith unions . . . Why the Church opposes mixed marriages . . . Why such unions often end in divorce and desertions . . . Strains and tensions are common in mixed marriages . . . All faiths oppose them . . . Church rules on mixed marriages . . . Why Protestants object to prenuptial promises--and why Catholics in a mixed marriage are at a disadvantage . . . Do such marriages make converts? . . . How the sincerity of a prospective convert can be tested . . . Three basic ways to help your child avoid a mixed marriage.


Your home can be a little sanctuary . . . Family prayer . . . Inspiring customs from every land to help you celebrate Christmas, Easter and other feast days . . . Suggestions for observing special religious feasts throughout the year . . . How saints' days can be celebrated to strengthen your family's spiritual life . . . Your child's special days--baptismal day, feast day of his patron saint, First Communion and Confirmation days . . . Articles for the sickroom.


Naming your baby . . . Church rules on fast and abstinence . . . The Eucharistic fast . . . A Betrothal Rite . . . Consecration of the family to the Holy Family . . . Family Prayer Card: The Confiteor, Prayer for the home, Parents' prayer for children, Children's prayer for their parents, Prayer for a sick person, Blessing on sleep, Prayer for the dead . . . Prayer for vocations to the priesthood and religious life.




By His Eminence, Francis Cardinal Spellman

Archbishop of New York

There is no art or profession more difficult and more strenuous than that of molding the bodies, minds, and souls of children. Because these are tender creatures, easily influenced by wrong guidance, God made parents the first and most important educators of children. When God confides a child to the care of Christian parents, He seems to say to them what Pharoah's daughter said to the mother of the infant Moses: "Take this child and rear him for Me."

The family, then, in God's plan is the nursery school in which the man of tomorrow matures and is formed--for life and eternity. The foundations of Christian living are established in the home, where minds are opened to God's Presence in the Universe and virtue is nurtured and strengthened. Children are eager pupils following the examples their father and mother give--learning from their words, their actions, and their attitudes.

How serious then, is their obligation to be good teachers. How tragic when they neglect their duties or perform them carelessly or indifferently!

In the training of children for effective Christian living, none can fully take the place of parents. If the home fails to measure up to divine ideals, the Church and school labor with impaired fruitfulness.

But it is not enough to be conscious of an obligation and to have the desire of discharging it. Parents must have besides, the competency to render them capable of fulfilling their responsibilities. Hence Catholic parents should deem it a sacred duty to prepare themselves properly for the arduous work of educating citizens of heaven and earth.

"The Catholic Family Handbook" performs a real service for parents. It helps fathers and mothers realize the full meaning of their sacred calling and offers them practical directives for dealing with the problems of educating modern youth; and they will find in its pages ways and means to perfect their relationship with their children.


WHEN you became a parent, you undertook the most important job of your life--the job of guiding your children so that they might live happily on earth and win eternal happiness in heaven. The purpose of this book is to help you gain that objective--to strengthen your family life and to make yours a truly happy family. Its viewpoint is not always the popular one, nor is its advice easy to follow. For the foundations of Christian family life have never faced the many-sided assault they must stand up against today, and the task of the conscientious Catholic parent has never been more difficult.

Many secular books provide an abundance of directives to parents. Almost all deal with the "how" of parenthood but few deal with the "why." It is not the purpose of this book to oversimplify the parent- child relationship. Nor does it offer a final blueprint for all parents in all circumstances, for wholesome family life always contains a mysterious ingredient, known only to God, which makes each effort a real adventure.

This book recognizes that to be truly successful, a family must be more than merely "good." All its members must be suffused with the Christian concept of life. For what does it profit a father and mother if they achieve good social adjustment and perfect psychological balance among their members if they do not serve Christ on earth and gain eternity with God for themselves and their children? "The Catholic Family Handbook" therefore seeks to define the nature and purpose of Christian domestic life--and to encourage you to reach its high and worthy goals.

In order for you to understand what objectives you should strive for as a parent, you should first realize that your Catholic family symbolizes in miniature the Mystical Body of Christ. The husband and father is the head of the body and represents Christ. The wife represents the Church and the children, as members of the body, represent the faithful. And this family unit has been designated by Christ to worship our Heavenly Father. Through its common life all the members give glory to God and express their submission to Him.

In addition, the family works with Christ for the redemption of its members and the world. For when Our Lord made marriage a sacrament, He established the family as a basic means through which His grace could be given to men. The husband and wife channel grace to each other and to their children and vice versa. If these graces do not come to us in this way (through another member of the Mystical Body), they do not come at all. Therefore it is most important that parents and children live in the state of grace, and that the Holy Spirit continually dwell in their souls. For mortal sin in any member prevents the free flow of grace to other members of the household.

You will achieve the greatest success in your family life if you remember that you are fulfilling this sacred vocation. Like the priest, you are called upon to teach, rule and sanctify your children in the name of Jesus Christ. His Eminence, Francis Cardinal Spellman, once wrote: "A man's family (is) a place to which God could look, as He did to Bethlehem, for the beginning of mortal lives which are also eternal, for the beginnings of lives of tiny citizens of two worlds--of earth and of heaven." Your work as parents, therefore, is a holy and religious work. You may produce doctors, lawyers, scientists. But to the extent that your children do not reach heaven or are given every opportunity to do so, you have not succeeded. And you will begin to realize the full potentialities of your vocation when you see your family in this light.

Modern pressures harm family life. Today, unfortunately, we do not always have that Catholic family life of which older generations were justly proud and which produced great human beings and outstanding Christians. The adult children of those fine German, Italian, Irish and Polish households now tend to reject their parents' way of domestic living. They may value their many brothers and sisters and pay generous tribute to their self-sacrificing fathers and mothers, but the effort involved in having a large family is too heroic for them. The training for hard work and service to others, the mental stability, the sense of right and wrong, the religious faith which they received--they want these for their children too, but they often do not want to do all the work or accept the point of view that makes such accomplishments possible. In fact, some couples have wandered so far from the ideals of Christian marriage that they are not Christian parents at all.

Today we see the individual exalted at the expense of the family. People marry foolishly and then leave marriage to suit their own convenience. Others deliberately limit children and thus belittle the importance to solid family life of a full household; their birth- control mentality tempts them to look upon their union merely as companionship or a means of mutual gratification. Frequently a small and prosperous family has a built-in selfishness which disturbs, where it does not destroy, domestic peace. And parents who use contraceptives may have lax opinions about sexual morality, so that the young consciences under their care are harmed.

Many modern wives have forgotten, or do not want to know, that their first purpose is motherhood and that making a home is their most worth- while career. They have emancipated themselves from serious self- sacrifice on behalf of their husband or family. Many husbands, too, have mentally divorced themselves from their high calling as teacher and ruler of their young ones; as a result, their homes are in a state of anarchy or matriarchy. Thus the marriage bond in many instances has ceased to be moral and spiritual. Instead it has become sensual, social and esthetic.

Some modern social scientists have termed Catholic concern over the decay of public and private morality and the disintegration of home life "alarmist poppycock." They array a large amount of statistical evidence to demonstrate that the American world is no worse off than it was before. They declaim that elders have always looked upon every new generation as a generation of vipers. But we who deal with people as people, and are interested in their moral well-being, know that the divorced, the promiscuous, the drug addict, the alcoholic, the homosexual, the juvenile delinquent, are increasingly prevalent phenomena which cannot be discovered in social pathology books, let alone the neighborhood streets, of thirty years ago. They live next door--in large numbers and among ordinary family folk, and can be found in the mainstreams of society. Parents, priests, doctors, teachers, judges, policemen and thoughtful citizens are rightfully alarmed, even if the sociologists and psychologists are not. And you, as parents, must be concerned lest the plague infect your home.

The blame for these blights on modern happiness can be laid squarely on the secular culture of our country which equates happiness with the pursuit of private pleasure and denies the existence of spiritual goals and values. The lack of religion, the encouraged agnosticism of our public institutions, particularly our schools, and the denial of the authority and rights of parents are all related to secularism.

In the face of such widespread error, the Church turns hopefully, as she did two thousand years ago, to the family. She would (1) have you recognize the Christian dignity of marriage; (2) strengthen your determination to live your family life in Christ and for Christ; (3) confirm your resistance to the pressures which threaten to destroy family virtue and domestic tranquillity; (4) inoculate your family against further moral contamination. These purposes of the Church are the purposes of this book. For no matter what evil influences flourish outside your home, your family can be an impregnable refuge of Christian life.

Parents are partners with God. The success of your family depends upon your recognition of the fact that as a parent of a human life, you share one of the greatest of God's gifts--the magnificent act of creation. Your role is to procreate His children, and to educate them so that they may ultimately return to Him in heaven. Only with Him can you realize your life's goals for yourself, your mate and your children; for, as we learn in childhood, the first purpose of our existence is to know, love and serve God in this life so that we may be happy with Him forever in the next one.

To achieve its purpose, the family must be a triangle consisting of God, parents and children. Our Lord taught us this when He raised marriage--the fountainhead of the family--to the dignity of a sacrament. And through the sacrament, He provides the graces for true spiritual success in your family life regardless of the trials and tribulations you may face.

As your partner in parenthood, God will help you. His grace will make your home His dwelling place and the means of your sanctification. It will make you capable of greater love than you ever thought possible and will enable you, as a parent, to achieve levels of self-sacrifice beyond your dreams. And what it will enable you to achieve will lead not only to your own salvation but also to the salvation of the souls He has entrusted to your care.

God's partnership with husbands and wives is nowhere more evident than in what might be called the "innate genius" of parents. If you look about you, you doubtless can see many men and women who a short time ago seemed to be irresponsible and incompetent, poorly fitted for the many tasks which must be performed as parents. Yet today they are fathers and mothers and--thanks to God's grace--they are doing a proper job in caring for their children.

Once you accept the great force of God's grace, you will never underestimate your own genius as a parent. Many of our own fathers and mothers were, by worldly standards, ignorant of psychiatry or psychology. Yet, by and large, they succeeded in bringing to adulthood men and women who walk in the path of goodness. They succeeded for one reason only: they understood their children's need for love, encouragement and direction, and they gave it. Without child experts to guide them along each small step of the way, they instinctively provided what was best for their youngsters. Once you make yourself willing to accept the graces which God offers to you, you will do so too. You will achieve a natural competence as a parent that will produce more good in your children than any blueprint that a human authority can give you.

What is a true Christian family? We probably can best appreciate the characteristics of a genuine God-fearing family by picturing it in operation in a representative home. As Richard Cardinal Cushing of Boston has inspiringly described it: "The worthy Christian home finds a true Christian family abiding therein and growing in love and care for one another. This home is not constructed in prefabricated fashion in a few weeks or a few years--for it is not purely material. Indeed its true character is achieved not through plaster and paint and sanitary plumbing, but through love and sweat and tears. It is a framework trimmed with remembered moments of joy; cemented by hours of suffering. It is a reflection of the personalities of those who dwell therein, an expression of their likes and dislikes. The true Christian home is an altar of sacrifice and a theater of comedies and drama; it is a place of work and a haven of rest."

If yours is a true Christian home, it is like a little church, where the family daily joins together in beautiful devotions--the family rosary, family night prayers and the act of consecration to the Sacred Heart. Life is viewed as Christ would have us view it. There is great trust and confidence in His providence. Love, tenderness and forgiveness you find there, but also a high standard of moral living, obedience and discipline. Parents and children, whether they be rich or poor, share generously with each other, go without things if necessary, and bear trials and sufferings in patience.

It is a little school, where your children learn to live and love as dignified human beings, to work for the good of others, and to serve their fellow man without thought of monetary gain.

It is a little recreation center, where the family relaxes in peace from outside woes and work. Playing together helps children and parents reconcile differences and adjust to each other's needs, and builds up the affectionate ties that last a lifetime. Most of us remember the starring roles we had at one time or another in our own homemade theater. It is the humorous incidents of the family that help develop pleasant and outgoing personalities--the good fun involving Mother and Dad and all the boys and girls which the uncrowded modern household misses.

You can best live up to this picture of true family life if you keep as your ideal the life led by the Holy Family at Nazareth. For there, as Cardinal Cushing goes on to say: " beheld simplicity and purity of conduct, perfect agreement and unbroken harmony, mutual respect and love, not of the false and fleeting kind, but that which found both its life and its charm in devotedness of service. At Nazareth, patient industry provided what was required for food and raiment; there was contentment with little--and a concentration on the diminution of the number of wants rather than on the multiplication of sources of wealth. Better than all else, at Nazareth there was found that supreme peace of mind and gladness of soul which never fails to accompany the possession of a tranquil conscience. At Nazareth one could witness a continuous series of examples of goodness, of modesty, of humility, of hard- working endurance, of kindness to others, of diligence in the small duties of daily life."

You can imitate this model of the Holy Family only if you set out to make every member of your family more concerned about God and the things of God than about the things of this world. You must live in the awareness that all that is done is done in the presence of God and that genuine happiness results only when we conform to His will.

The triangle of God, parents and child. It cannot be stressed too often that you can leave a heritage of good for centuries simply by leading a holy life as a parent. For example, if you have six children, it is possible that within your lifetime you will have twenty-five or thirty grandchildren. They in turn may have more than 100 children, and within a century perhaps 1,000 lives will reflect your influence to some extent. If you have been a good parent, thanks to you they may be good Christians--your advocates in heaven. If you are a bad example, you may leave a large number of evildoers as your contribution to God and humanity.

As the Catholic Bishops of the United States pointed out in 1950 in their memorable formal statement, "The Child: Citizen of Two Worlds," the first requirement of good Catholic family life is that the children must know God. However, as the Bishops emphasized, "there is a vast difference between 'knowing about God' and 'knowing God.' The difference is made by personal experience. It is not enough that the child be given the necessary truths about God. They ought to be given in such a way that he will assimilate them and make them a part of himself. God must become as real to him as his own father and mother. God must not remain an abstraction. If He does, He will not be loved; and if He is not loved, then all the child's knowledge about Him will be sterile. Where love is, there too is service. ('If you love me, keep my commandments.') That is Christ's test and it must be applied to the child. He should be brought to see God's commandments and precepts as guideposts which give an unerring direction to his steps. In this work, the Church, the family and the school all have a part to play."

How can you teach your child to know God? First, by inspiring him to love and serve God by your own daily actions. He will be quick to imitate what he sees and hears at home. If good example is not forthcoming, he will become confused by the contradiction between what you teach and what you practice. His confusion will be compounded when he goes to a school where religion is taught. There he will learn to reverence the name of God, but at home he may hear God's name used irreverently in petulance and anger. At school he will learn to get along with his fellow pupils, but at home he may be allowed to offend and wrangle with his brothers and sisters. At school he will be taught strict precepts of honesty and justice, while at home he may hear boasts of sharp business practices and clever evasions of truth. Disturbed by these contradictions and torn by conflicting loyalties to home and school, he will lose confidence in his parents or teachers or both.

Only two courses are open to your child. He will be either God-centered or self-centered. Every young child seeks to satisfy every selfish whim. Training yours to consider God and others before he acts is one of the most challenging tasks you face. Here is where you can draw on the life of Christ. If you teach your child to deny his selfish whims in imitation of the obedient and patient Savior, he will not only have a supernatural motive for his actions, but God will have a central place in his affections. Only then can he grow up to his full spiritual stature.

You can find joy in your children. While you should never forget that you are your children's foremost teacher--and the most important influence they will ever know--your family life will lose its true perspective if you overemphasize the sacrifices you must make to educate them. For your joy in your children should outweigh by far any disadvantages they may cause. In them you will find your own happiness.

Your children give dimension to your love as a couple. Conjugal love, which can be selfish and isolated, takes a great stride with the birth of a baby. Many young mothers have said, "John and I did not really know what our love could grow to be until we held successive children in our arms." The greatest aid to your own maturity as human beings is the rearing of your children. St. John Chrysostom remarked, "Can there be a more responsible task than to mold the human spirit or form the morals of young people? I consider that man greater than any painter or sculptor who neglects not the molding of the souls of young people."

In your children you will rediscover your own youth. Their growth process will rekindle your own sense of wonder and enthusiasm. Johnny asks, "Dad, why is the sky blue?" And Dad, who hadn't cared, takes a new and longer look.

What have you to show for having lived, if not your children? At forty or fifty years of age, an adult generally reaches the limits of income and social standing. Yet parents continue to grow with their sense of fulfillment in the achievements of their children. And as if these satisfactions were not enough, parents through their offspring have a grand opportunity to spread the faith. They are real missionaries in their own home. They can say at the end of their lives as Christ said of His Apostles: "Those whom Thou hast given Me, I guarded; and not one of them perished." (John 17 :12)

There is no doubt that genuine Catholic family life is among the best family life to be found in the United States. For Catholic married couples are one of the few large groups in the country who have consistently sacrificed themselves to have more children. And the large numbers of their children who, properly trained, have left Catholic homes to take up responsible roles in the armed services, corporate economic life, the labor movement, and the public offices of government, reflect credit on those parents and on the Church.

In the Catholic home there is that modern rarity--fidelity between husband and wife. There is great reverence for parents by the children, great protection of weaker members by the stronger, and a great awareness of the dignity and rights of every member of the family. The Catholic woman has attained a height of respect and authority which cannot be found anywhere else, and the chief factor in her improvement has been the Church's teaching on chastity, conjugal equality, the sacredness of motherhood, and the supernatural end of the family, in imitation of the Holy Family of Nazareth. But even as we uphold the Catholic woman as wife and mother, we also uphold the pre-eminent place of the husband and father in the home.

You must not forget that the vigor of your Catholicism rests on the stability and goodness of your family life. Of course, the Church knows better than anyone else that in proclaiming Catholic family ideals she is dealing with human weakness and the tendency to selfishness and sin. Like a good mother, she also forgives and embraces those who momentarily betray those ideals. But unlike others, she will never admit that those weaknesses diminish or vitiate God's place for fathers and mothers or call sin virtue or pretend that weakness is strength. The reward for all your efforts is the Call of Christ on Judgment Day: "Come, ye blessed of My Father."


IF YOU could carefully study families that are genuinely happy--those in which father and mother truly love each other and their children, and where children obey, respect and love their parents--you would find that they have many traits in common. These characteristics are distinct and recognizable, and sharply differentiate these families from those in which there is unending tension, bickering and bitterness.

No institution has had the opportunity to observe the characteristics of happy families as has the Church. Through the centuries, she has recognized the family as the ideal means of helping parents and children to lead holy and happy lives, and she has carefully noted which factors best encourage holiness and happiness. What she has long known has been borne out in recent years by the studies of social scientists. These researchers have questioned thousands of persons who, by their own testimony, are members of happy families; and they have questioned other thousands who admit that their family life is not happy. From such beginnings they have uncovered the characteristics of happy families which are lacking in the other kind. The findings of the Church, tested over the centuries, and of sociologists, using modern scientific methods, agree that there are five main characteristics of a happy family.

First, it places full, unquestioned trust in God. Father, mother and children accept the Almighty as their Creator without reservation. They show love and respect for Him and His laws in the everyday conduct of their lives. They pray together; they attend Mass and receive Communion together; they practice other devotions together; they make their home a little sanctuary, with pictures and statues to remind them of Our Lord or the Blessed Mother.

The father who believes and trusts in God is best equipped to perform his functions as head of the family. Aware of his responsibilities to the Lord for his children, he strives to instill moral virtues by his own example. The mother who holds the Blessed Virgin as her model develops the love and patience which nurture the spiritual and emotional growth of her children.

When father and mother give living evidence of their faith in God, they no longer need spend so much time trying to decide which course to pursue in bringing up their children. They usually know what to do, because they have a standard to guide them. They only ask: What does God want of us as parents? When they seek to understand His way and to follow it, they free themselves of the confusion which besets parents without standards upon which to rest.

Children in a home where God is worshipped also know where they stand. They are taught to respect the Creator and, in respecting Him, to respect all lawful authority. They learn in a precise way what conduct is acceptable and what is forbidden. In their study of religion and religious truths, they learn at an early age that punishment will inevitably follow wrongdoing; thus they learn the major principle which will guide their conduct throughout their lives.

Many authorities have observed that a major sign of danger in marriage arises when one or both of the partners stops attending religious services regularly. Records of the nation's courts clearly prove that the home which worships God does not produce the child who appears before a judge on charges of juvenile delinquency. Studies of unwed mothers prove that the girl who has learned the virtue of purity in a religious setting at home is not the one who gets into trouble in her adolescence.

Second, the happy family puts interest in its home in first place. Father and mother fully recognize that the most important work they can do is to train their children to be a credit in the eyes of God.

One sometimes encounters a father who spends long hours at business during the week and then spends his week ends with business associates. In pursuing success or wealth--and perhaps believing that he is a good father in doing so--he refuses his children's fundamental need to know him as a human being. On the other hand, one often sees men who hold positions which, by the worlds standards, are low in social prestige. Perhaps they sacrifice material progress by devoting their leisure time to their children--playing and talking with them, sympathizing with their problems and encouraging them in their aspirations. Regardless of what the world thinks, the first type of father is a failure and the second type is a success.

In a happy home, parents often hold firm against other allurements which tempt them to put the needs of their children in an inferior place. Such allurements include the desire for an overly active social life, the constant pursuit of pleasure in the form of commercial entertainment and the exclusive choice of hobbies (golf, cards, dancing clubs, etc.) from which children are excluded.

Obviously, men must work to provide for their families. It is also obvious that parents are entitled to entertainment away from their children--in fact, an evening alone can have a pronounced therapeutic effect. Nor is the desire to succeed in business or to enjoy one's self blameworthy. But when a father becomes overly ambitious and sacrifices his children for his career advancement, or when a mother engages in an unending round of social activities, the great bond of unity in the family is weakened. Mutual love and respect, which are born and held only in intimacy, are the ingredients that make for true family life, and they cannot thrive when the father or mother places other objectives ahead of them.

Third, in happy families, father and mother occupy a position of equality, but there is no misunderstanding that he is the head. The importance of the mother is an accepted fact. She is the heart of the family--the custodian of love and warmth, the first comforter and educator of the children. In according her a just status, however, we must not weaken the father's traditional position.

By nature and temperament, he should exercise headship. When he fails to do so, his children lack an appropriate male model to guide them in their conduct, and they are likely to reach maturity without properly understanding the roles they must play as men or women. But while he must be the leader, he should not be like a common type of fathers of the past--the tyrant whose word was law, and whose wife and children constantly trembled before him. Such a father does more harm than good; his children either become submissive before everyone, or become so rebellious against authority that they cannot lead normal lives as law- abiding citizens. In happy homes, the father is the just dispenser of punishment, but he also wins the respect of his children by the reasonable rules he imposes and the merciful way he enforces them.

Fourth, the happy family is based upon mutual sacrifice. In such a home, Dad will forgo desserts at lunch to save for a family vacation which all members of the family may enjoy. Mother will wear a dress that is several seasons old so that her daughter may take piano lessons; and the children will save for weeks to buy her a special gift for Mother's Day. When Dad must do extra work at home for his employer and Mother can help him, she gladly does so. When guests are coming and the house needs a thorough cleaning, Dad rolls up his sleeves and does his share of the manly work. Johnny washes the windows as his regular chore, Billy sets the table for dinner, Mary washes the dishes while Mother rests, and after school Tommy sometimes watches the baby in her playpen while Mother shops. In this family, everyone makes sacrifices for the common good.

Fifth, the happy family runs on rules. The children know exactly what they can do without offending others, and what they cannot do. They know what their punishment will be if they break the rules. And they know that it will not vary from time to time or from parent to parent.

Establishing clear-cut family rules requires complete agreement between father and mother. Few things disturb a child more than when his father establishes one standard of conduct and his mother makes continuous exceptions to it. Once a father and mother agree, neither should change the rules without consulting the other, or the child will not know what is expected of him. And both father and mother must share in enforcing them.

Probably the happiest homes are those in which each family member imposes rules upon himself. One wife becomes unduly disturbed whenever references are made to the alleged inferiority of women in any area of activity. She becomes angry at jokes about women drivers, women who are late for appointments, women who can't balance a checkbook. Out of respect for her feelings, her husband never raises such subjects even in a joking way. Many husbands have similar quirks in their make-up which may be unjustified from an objective point of view but which their wives respect for the sake of harmony. Sometimes children also become sensitive about certain points. When family members are motivated by a spirit of Christian tolerance, they willingly impose the rule upon themselves not to raise such touchy subjects.

As this review of the characteristics of happy families suggests, achievement of a genuinely Christian environment in your home will not result from mere chance. Rather you must put into effect the principles that follow from recognition of the fact that the family should be a triangle with God at its apex, or else it is doomed to failure. For the very characteristics that make a home holy, happy, and a source of strength and solace for its members come from nowhere but Almighty God. The love which the mother displays for her infant, the just and consistent way in which the father exercises his authority--these are but human copies of the loving authority which God exercises over all His children. And the respect for God and each other that family members display in the truly happy and Christian home springs from the two greatest commandments--that we love God with all our minds and all our hearts, and that we love our neighbor as ourselves.

Advantages of the large family. Before marrying, many young couples decide how many children they will have--a decision which often reveals that they are more concerned with how few children they will have rather than how many. Thus they begin their marriage with intentions of limiting the number of off spring. In this respect they reflect the birth-control frame of mind so prevalent today--a frame of mind which regards children as a liability rather than a blessing.

Although the first purpose of marriage is the procreation of children, Catholic couples will not necessarily have offspring. There may be many reasons why they cannot have babies or why they are limited to one or two. Some wives have difficulty in carrying a fetus to full term and have many miscarriages. Sometimes the husband or wife may be sterile-- unable to do his or her part in conceiving a new life. There may be mental, eugenical, economic or social reasons which make it justifiable to practice the rhythm method. The fact that a Catholic couple has no children, therefore, is no reason for concluding that they are guilty of any moral lapse.

In most marriages, however, there probably are no physical hindrances to births or justifiable reasons to limit them beyond those limitations which nature herself and unchangeable circumstance impose. Hence the typical Catholic family will have many more children than are found in the average family of other beliefs.

The large family provides many distinct advantages for both parents and children. For instance, it brings the mother and father closer together, giving them a joint source of love, and they achieve a closer sense of unity in planning for their children's welfare. Their love for each child extends their love for each other, and in each child they can see qualities which they love in their mates.

Children help parents to develop the virtues of self-sacrifice and consideration for others. The childless husband and wife must consciously cultivate these qualities, for the very nature of their life tends to make them think first of their own interests. In contrast, a father and mother who might have innate tendencies toward selfishness learn that they must subjugate their own interests for the good of their children, and they develop a spirit of self-denial and a higher degree of sanctity than might normally be possible.

The fact that children help to increase harmony in marriage has been proved in many ways. The sociologist Harold A. Phelps, in his book "Contemporary Social Problems," reports that 57 per cent of the divorcees in one large group had no children and another 20 per cent had only one child. Other researchers have established that the percentage of divorces and broken homes decreases as the number of children in the family increases.

Large families also teach children to live harmoniously with others. They must adjust to the wishes of those older and younger than themselves, and of their own and the other sex. In learning to work, play and, above all, share with others, the child in a large family discovers that he must often sacrifice his own interests and desires for the common good. For this reason, the "spoiled child" who always insists on having his own way is rare in the large family, if he can be found there at all. For the child who will not co-operate with others has a lesson forcibly taught to him when others refuse to co-operate with him.

In the typical large family, one often sees a sense of protectiveness in one child for another that is the embodiment of the Christian spirit. Children learn to help each other--to hold each other's hands when crossing the street, to sympathize with each other in times of sadness or hurt, and to give each other the acceptance which we all need to develop as mature human beings. This willingness to help one another is often strikingly evident in schoolwork: the oldest child instructs his younger brother in algebra, while the latter helps a still younger one in history.

Another advantage of large families is that they teach each child to accept responsibility for his own actions. Unlike the mother with one or two children, the mother of a large family usually lacks the time and energy to concern herself with every little problem of her children. She must observe sensible precautions with her children, of course, but she is not guilty of supervising her child's life to such an extent that he has no chance to develop his own resources. Precisely because she cannot devote her full time to him, he must make decisions for himself. Moreover, he acquires a better understanding of the rules by which the family is run. He sees his brothers and sisters punished for various breaches of conduct and learns what he himself may and may not do. And as he watches the progress of older children, he learns what privileges he may expect as he too advances in age. This knowledge gives him a greater sense of security.

Another reward for members of the large family, to which those who are now adults can testify, is that it gives the children close relatives upon whom they can depend all their lives. Occasionally, of course, brothers and sisters cannot agree as adults and break off relations completely. More often, however, they retain a close bond of kinship with each other and the reunions and family get-togethers on occasions like Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter form one of the great joys of their lives. In most cases, the child brought up in a large family never feels utterly alone, regardless of adversities which may strike in adulthood. If he is troubled or bereaved, in desperate need of financial help or sympathetic advice, he usually can depend upon brothers and sisters to help. Forlorn indeed is the man or woman who, in time of stress, has no close and loving relatives to tell his problems to.

A final, but by no means least important, advantage is that they virtually insure the parents against loneliness, which has often been called the curse of the aged. How often do the father and mother of a large family remain young at heart because of the love they give to, and draw from, their grandchildren? In fact, many say that old age is their happiest time of life because they can enjoy to the fullest the love of the children and grandchildren without the accompanying responsibility. On the other hand, how lonely and miserable are the typical old people who have no children or grandchildren to love them?

One should not overlook the fact that there are some disadvantages to both parent and child in the large family. However, an objective review of these disadvantages would surely establish that they are outweighed by the advantages. For example, the large family may require the parents to make great financial sacrifices. They may be unable to afford as comfortable a home, own as new an automobile, or dress as well as can the husband and wife with a small family. But they have sources of lasting joy in the love, warmth and affection of their children--a joy that money cannot buy. The children of a large family may also be required to make sacrifices. Their parents may be unable to pay their way in college. But this need not mean that they will be denied educational opportunities. Thanks to scholarships, loan programs, and opportunities for student employment, the bright boy and girl who truly desires a college education can find the financial resources to obtain one. And having to earn at least a part of their own way will make them better students. Researchers have established that students who drop out of college most frequently have had all their expenses paid for them and have never learned the true value of an education.

Considerations for parents of small families. If you have but one or two children, you should try to create for them opportunities such as exist in larger families to develop their characters. In particular, you should discourage selfish tendencies--a natural hazard in the small family. Since you can concentrate all your attention upon your child, you may tend to worry about him to a greater extent and to bow to his whims more often than do parents of a large family. There is a natural danger, therefore, that he will become accustomed to having his own way and will not recognize that others have desires which should be accommodated too.

In training an only child, it may help you to remember that self-denial is the virtue from which other virtues spring. You should therefore strongly resist the tendency to do everything for him and not permit him to want for anything. So that he may learn to get along with others, encourage him to cultivate friends. Invite them to your home where he will be the host and thus must exert himself to please them.

Finally, give him the freedom to develop in his own way. You must control the impulse to worry unduly about every ailment, to stand guard over him at play, to check up constantly on his teachers to make sure that they are doing their job right. Such actions would betray a tendency to interfere abnormally in your child's affairs. Unless you avoid them you may find yourself ultimately trying to dictate where he should work and whom he should marry, and you will make it difficult for him ever to make decisions for himself.

How to be a good father. Probably nobody denies that the typical father exercises less authority in his home today than at any time in history. Reasons for this decline probably are of no interest or help in the present discussion; but the effect of it cannot be overlooked. For evidence accumulated by psychiatrists, social workers and similar experts proves unmistakably that when children lack a strong father to guide them, they suffer serious damage in many important ways. Consider these facts:

There is a startling growth in homosexual tendencies among the young, and most authorities agree that the boy who develops feminine characteristics usually has had unsatisfactory relations with his father in one or several important respects. Increases in juvenile delinquency--a headlined trend in every part of the country--are also due to the weak position of the father; the lack of an affectionate and understanding relationship between father and son is a prevalent characteristic in the background of boys charged with criminal offenses. Many authorities also blame the shocking rates of divorce and marriage breakdowns to this cause. The fathers of those who cannot succeed in marriage often never gave their children a realistic example of how a man should live with his wife in this relationship.

The importance of the father as an example of manhood to his son and daughter probably cannot be overestimated. For example, one day your son may marry and have a family. To be a successful father, he should know how to train his children; how to treat his wife and their mother in their presence; what to discuss with them about his work; how to show them manual skills, such as repairing a chair or painting furniture; how to perform in countless other important areas. The best way to learn how to act as a father is to observe one in action.

What ideals will he display as husband and father? To a large extent, that answer will depend upon those he has learned from you, his father, in your own home. What part will he play in the religious education of his children? The answer will largely depend upon whether you have led the family to Mass each Sunday, whether you say grace before meals in your home, whether you take an active part in the spiritual life of your parish. How should he act toward his wife--aloof, affectionate, domineering, docile? Here too the answer will mainly depend upon your example.

The adage, "Like father, like son," is firmly based on fact. No matter how much he may resist your influence, your son will be like you in many different ways. If your influence is wholesome, the effect upon him will be wholesome. If you are a bad father, you will almost surely corrupt him in some significant way. Remember also that you represent God before your child because you are--or should be--the figure of authority in your home. He will be taught that he can always depend upon the mercy and goodness of the eternal Father, but it will be difficult for him to grasp the full importance of that teaching if he cannot rely upon the goodness of his earthly father.

It has been said that, in addition to giving wholesome example, a good father follows four fundamental rules in his dealing with his children. First, he shows himself to be truly and sincerely interested in their welfare. Secondly, he accepts each child for what he is, and encourages any special talent which the youngster possesses. Thirdly, he takes an active part in disciplining his children. And finally, he keeps lines of communication open with them at all times. Each of these rules is worth detailed consideration, because the typical American father often ignores one or more of them.

1. Show an interest in your child's welfare. You can do this by devoting time to him, every day if possible. Try to discuss with him his experiences, problems, successes and failures. By giving yourself to him in this intimate way, you give him the feeling that he can always depend upon you to understand and help him in his difficulties. In a large family, it is especially important that you find time for intimate moments with each child. Every youngster should know that his father is interested in him as an individual, and is sympathetic with him and devoted to his welfare.

Modern fathers may find it more difficult to make their children an intimate part of their lives than did men of a few generations ago. Today's fathers often work many miles away from home. They leave for their jobs early in the morning and do not return until late in the evening, perhaps after the children are in bed. Unlike the men of an earlier age who often worked close to their homes, today's fathers may seldom see their youngsters during the week. To offset this condition, they should try to devote as much of their week ends to them as possible. This does not mean that you should be a "pal" to your children or that you must act like a juvenile, when aging bones may not permit this. But at family gatherings, picnics, trips to the ball park or even visits to the school, you are sharing leisure moments with them.

2. Accept your child and encourage his talents. One man hoped for a son, and found it impossible to conceal his disappointment when a girl was born. He now spends much time trying to inculcate masculine virtues in her and berates her constantly because she is not proficient at sports. A successful lawyer prides himself upon his intellect and once hoped that his son would achieve great scholastic success. But the lad, now in high school, has shown no pronounced ability in academic work; however, he is skilled at working with his hands. He must face unending sneers from his father about his "stupidity. A third man married a beautiful woman and expected his daughters to be beauties too. One girl is extremely plain, however. Even at the age of ten she knows that she is a complete disappointment to her father.

All of these examples indicate ways in which fathers display a lack of acceptance of their children. It is a fact that the qualities a child inherits--his physical attributes, aptitudes, and many other characteristics--are the result of chance. He may be a genius or an idiot: you should not claim credit if the first possibility occurs any more than you should feel ashamed for the second. The moral is plain: your children are a gift from God, and you should always accept each of them in a spirit of gratitude. In fact, the saintly father will accept a defective child with greater gratitude, for God has offered him an opportunity to provide more love, affection and direction than the ordinary youngster might need.

Remember also that your child is an individual, with talents which you perhaps cannot appreciate. Let him develop them in the best way possible. In attempting to learn why many gifted children do not go to college, researchers have found that their parents often have actively discouraged them. In a typical case, a father became wealthy through real estate investments and could easily afford college for a son with a strong aptitude in science. But the father accused the boy of trying to "put on airs" whenever college was discussed. Thanks to him, the son is now a misfit.

3. Don't shirk unpleasant tasks of parenthood. "See your mother; don't bother me" is a remark commonly made by one type of father. He returns from work, eats his dinner and then settles down to an evening behind his newspaper or before the television screen. When his children seek his aid with their homework or when they become unruly and require a strong parental hand, he is "too busy" to pay attention. Such an attitude tells a child that his mother is the true figure of importance in the family, while Dad is only the boarder who pays the bills.

It is not fair for fathers to enjoy all the pleasures of parenthood--to play with the children, to boast about their growth--and to give mothers all the painful duties. A father should discipline as often as the mother. If he fails to do so, he gives the children the idea that he does not stand with the mother in her efforts to instill proper manners and acceptable forms of behavior. As a matter of fact, in major matters the good father is likely to be the court of last resort. This is as it should be for his authority is more impressive and its effect more lasting than that of the mother.

4. Keep lines of communication open with your children. Teenagers often say that they cannot talk to their fathers about questions which disturb them. This breakdown in communication usually stems from one of three factors, or a combination of them. The father may be so severe in his discipline that he appears as a dictator in the youngster's mind; in the past he has always been "too busy" to keep on close terms with his boy; or he has not given his youngster the respectful attention he should have.

Stalin-type fathers fortunately are on the way out in America, for most men have learned that it is easier to train a child with loving kindness than with brute force. But some stern unyielding fathers remain. They may beat their child into patterns of behavior that offend no one, but in the process they often create a bitter adult who is never able to confide fully in another human being.

The second and third possible explanations for a child's unwillingness or inability to confide in his father may have even worse effects than the first. In the first instance, unless the father is a calloused brute, his child may at least discern evidence that his father is interested in his welfare. But when a father does not even care enough to concern himself with the child's upbringing in any serious way, he evidences a complete absence of love or interest.

There are many things that human beings prefer to keep to themselves, and it is probably good that this is so. Your child should not feel that he must lay bare his innermost thoughts and desires. But he should know that in times of stress and strain he has a sympathetic and loving adviser to turn to. You will fulfill that role if you strive always to treat him with courtesy and sympathy, and with an understanding based upon your memory of the difficulties, problems, fears and aspirations of your own boyhood. Never ridicule him: it is the opposite of sympathy and probably locks more doors between father and son than any other action.

How to be a good mother. In view of the many social evils resulting from the decline in the father's influence, one of the most important functions the modern mother should perform is to help maintain or restore the father's position of authority in the family. In doing so, you will fulfill your own role as a wife and mother to a greater extent than is possible when you permit your husband to be the lesser figure. This was the secret of the success of olden fathers. Even though they worked twelve hours a day, their dominant role in the home was guaranteed and protected by the mother.

You can make your greatest contribution to your family as the heart of your home--not its head. From you, your children should learn to love others and to give of themselves unstintingly in the spirit of sacrifice. Never underestimate the importance of your role. For upon you depends the emotional growth of your children, and such growth will better prepare them to live happy and holy lives than any amount of intellectual training they may receive.

Most of us know persons who have received the finest educations which universities can bestow, who yet lead miserable lives because they have never achieved a capacity to love. On the other hand, we also know of men and women whose intellectual achievements are below normal but whose lives are filled with happiness because their mothers showed them how to love other human beings. It follows that in helping your child to satisfy his basic emotional needs to love and be loved, you give something as necessary as food for his full development. So do not be beguiled by aspirations for a worldly career or by the desire to prove yourself as intelligent as men or as capable in affairs of the world as they. The father must always remain a public figure. The mother is the domestic figure par excellence. In teaching your child the meaning of unselfish love you will achieve a greater good than almost any other accomplishment of which human beings are capable.

You are the most important person your child will ever know. Your relationship with him will transcend, in depth of feeling, any other relationship he probably will ever have--even the one with his marriage partner. As noted above, from you he will learn what true love really is. From the tenderness you show and the security you give, you will develop his attitudes toward other human beings which will always remain with him.

However, his dependence on you begins to wane soon after birth--and continues to wane for the rest of your life. In his first years, naturally, he will rely upon you almost entirely--not only for food, but also to help him perform his most elementary acts. But soon he learns to walk and to do other things for himself; when he goes to school he can dress himself; when he reaches adolescence and strives for the freedom that adults know, he will try to throw off his dependence so violently that you may fear that you have lost all hold upon him.

Your job is to help him reach this state of full and complete independence in a gradual fashion. And your success as a mother will depend to a great extent upon the amount of emancipation you permit him as he steps progressively toward adulthood. Therefore you should try to judge realistically when your child truly needs your help and when he does not.

If you can reach the happy medium wherein you do for your child only what he cannot do for himself, you will avoid dominating him or overindulging him. The dominant mother makes all decisions for Johnny and treats him as though he had no mind of his own; the overindulgent mother will never permit her Mary to be frustrated in any wish, or to be forbidden any pleasure her little heart desires. The overindulgent mother may do without the shoes she needs to buy a doll for her Annie; she may stop what she is doing to help Johnny find the comic book he has misplaced; she may eat the leftovers in the refrigerator while she gives the freshly prepared food to her children.

The overindulgent mother is a common character in literature. Probably every American woman has seen movies and television programs, and has read stories in magazines and newspapers, in which these defects were pointed out. Yet every new generation of mothers seems to practice the same extreme of behavior. Some excuse themselves by saying that they want to give their children every advantage in life. Such an intention is laudable, perhaps, but the method is impractical. If you want to do the best for your child, let him develop so that he can face life on his own feet. Overindulging him denies him his right to develop his own resources and thus defeats the purpose of your mission as a mother.

Someone once remarked in jest that as part of her education for motherhood, every woman should visit the psychiatric ward of an army hospital. If you could see the countless examples of mental disorders caused largely by the failure of mothers to sever the apron strings to their child, you could easily understand why--for the sake of your child's emotional self--you must make it a primary aim to help him to develop as an independent person.

Priests and psychiatrists often see problems from different angles, yet they display striking agreement in pinpointing other kinds of maternal conduct which do great harm to the child. Their advice might be summarized as follows:

Don't be an autocrat who always knows best. Your child may have his own way of doing things, which may seem to be inefficient or time- consuming. Have patience and let him do things his way, thus giving him the opportunity to learn by trial and error.

Don't be a martyr. Naturally, you must make sacrifices. But do not go to such extremes that your child feels guilty when you deny yourself something which rightfully should be yours, in order to give him what rightfully should not be his. A typical martyr worked at night in a laundry to pay her son's way through college. Before his graduation, he asked her not to appear at the ceremony--he said she would be dressed so poorly that he would be embarrassed.

Don't think you have the perfect child. Some mothers, when their child receives low grades, appear at school to determine, not what is wrong with him, but what is wrong with the teachers. When such a mother learns that her son has been punished for disobedience, she descends upon the school officials and demands an apology. By her actions she undermines the child's respect for all authority--including her own. You will probably be on safe ground, until your child is canonized at St. Peter's, if you conclude that he has the same human faults and weaknesses that you see in your neighbors' children.

Don't use a sickbed as your throne. The "whining" mother feigns illness to attract sympathy and to force her children to do as she wills. Who would deny the last wish of a dying person? In this vein she often gets what she wants--for a while. The usual, final result, however, is that her children lose both sympathy and respect for her.

Don't be a "glamour girl." Motherhood is not a task for a woman who thinks that ordinary housework--preparing meals, making beds, washing clothes--is beneath her. Of course, mothers should strive to maintain a pleasing appearance, but they should also realize that they are most attractive when they are fulfilling the duties of their noble vocation. You would embarrass your family if you insisted on acting and dressing like a teen-ager; and, if you adopted a demeaning attitude toward household tasks, you would teach your children that motherhood and its responsibilities are unworthy of respect.


IT CANNOT be repeated too often that you are your child's most important teacher. As an adult, he will reflect your influence to a greater extent than you probably imagine--just as you reflect the personality of your own mother and father. Even if you refused to exercise your God-given responsibility to train him, you would leave your imprint upon his personality nevertheless. For instance, a father who deserts his family while his child is still an infant leaves an impression upon the youngster that will never be eradicated; he says, in effect, that parenthood is not worth the trouble and that a father's obligations are more than a man should carry. The storekeeper who calls it "good business" when he cheats his customers by selling inferior merchandise teaches his child that honesty is unimportant. The mother who tells smutty stories need not deliver a speech downgrading purity; her actions, more effectively than words, teach this principle to her child. And against such influences of the home, it is highly unlikely that the corrective teaching of church or school can prevail.

You have an awesome responsibility, therefore, but also a challenge--a challenge to which you will rise magnificently if you realize the benefits to humanity that can be achieved if you live by true Christian principles. As we have noted, your influence as parent will extend not only to your children but to your children's children and down to many other generations yet unborn. Your simple acts of devoted motherhood or fatherhood may assist untold numbers to heaven--or your bad example may be the force which may lead them to hell.

What your child needs. In order to become an adult who will honor God and serve his fellow man in the way God intended, your child needs the sense of security that can come only from your unquestioned love and kindness. When a baby is born, he enters a strange environment--one newer and more different to him than Mars might be to the first space traveler. Before birth, your child was sheltered, warmed and fed in an automatic process. Then his world abruptly changed: he became an individual thrust from his warm, protecting shelter and forced to encounter cold, hunger and suffering. Never again on earth will he enjoy the sense of peace and well-being that he experienced in the womb.

The newborn babe needs food and shelter, of course. But even more, he needs a substitute for the security he has lost. This need can be satisfied in a physical way at first--for instance, when he is held close to his mother's body. Later, as he develops a sense of physical freedom as an individual, it must be supplied psychologically through love.

In his book "Your Child's World," Dr. Robert Odenwald, the psychiatrist, states that your child's need for security will be the most important part of your relationship with him. His behavior in later life will reflect whether you have provided or denied it, and how much maturity he acquires as an adult will depend directly upon how much security you give him in his early years. "You can best foster a feeling of security in your infant or young child by giving him uniform, sympathetic care," Dr. Odenwald states. "Paying loving attention to his needs, like holding him and rocking him, creates a steadfast continuity which makes him feel secure. One of the first things you will discover about your child is his urgent demand for consistency. Take him from the crib to which he has become accustomed, change some characteristic of his feedings, misplace his favorite toy, get someone new to care for him for a short period, and he may wail for hours. Is this an early evidence of perverseness on his part? No. It is evidence of his desire for security and his deep unhappiness when it is not provided for him."

As your child develops, you can make him secure by constantly letting him know that you are interested in him as a person, and that you want him and love him. Few parents would openly admit that they do not love their child; yet many reject their offspring by their actions. Some couples find that a young child interferes with their pursuit of pleasure: they cannot go to many dancing parties or stay out until early morning when an infant demands their attention around the clock. Others may subconsciously resent the fact that they no longer can spend as much as they would like on liquor, clothes or automobiles; they must tighten their purse strings to support their baby. Other couples are immature and see the infant as a threat to their hold upon the affections of the partner.

When these resentments exist, the parents may not express them openly; it is not the "polite" thing to do. But they may develop attitudes which express their true feelings. One such attitude is perfectionism. Those who would not dare reject their child in an obvious way--such as by leaving him upon a doorstep--can set up standards of behavior with which any human being would find it impossible to comply. Typical perfectionist parents usually have only one or two children; they often are more concerned about what other people will think of them than about what is truly right, and they tend to be unable to give freely of themselves emotionally. They upbraid their child for disturbing the sterile neatness of the living room, for shouting or singing in the house, or for returning dirty after playing outdoors. These parents are really saying that what their child does naturally--and what any normal child would do--is not suitable behavior. By setting up artificial standards, they do not allow him to develop in a normal way and thus they undermine his confidence in himself as a worth-while individual-- the very basis of his security.

Other parents stifle their child through overprotectiveness. Such parents also are saying that their child cannot be trusted to handle by himself the normal situations of everyday living which others of his age tackle with their own resources. Visit a public park on a Sunday and you will see overprotectiveness at its most appalling. A young child wishes to run on the grass, but his mother holds him back because she fears he might fall and hurt himself. Eight-year-olds playing a game are constantly warned not to throw the ball too far, lest they run out of the parents' sight and thus risk getting lost. These are extreme examples--the kind which often bring the child involved into a psychiatrist's office years later, as an adult, when he lacks the initiative to perform even common tasks on his own. Fortunately, few parents are guilty of such extreme behavior, yet lesser varieties of overprotectiveness--the kind summed up in the word "Momism"--are more common than most persons suspect.

You are overprotective when you implore your young child to eat his dinner every night for fear that he will not get proper nourishment. If you withheld food between meals and let him hunger for a few days if necessary, he soon would eat what is offered at mealtime. You are overprotective if you constantly warn him of dangers such as falling which are a normal risk in children's games. Likewise, you are overprotective if you repeatedly beseech your teen-ager to wear his rubbers when it rains; after a few urgings on your part, it would be better for his full development as a self-reliant individual if he contracted a cold as a result of his failure to wear them and thus learned from his own experience. For by constantly reminding your child to do what is a reasonable responsibility of his age, you indicate that you lack confidence in him and thus undermine his security.

It is obvious that a necessary chore when done for a young child may be sheer overprotectiveness when done for an older one. When your two- year-old plays in front of your house, common prudence dictates that you remain close by, because he lacks the experience to know that he must not run into the street and possibly into the path of an oncoming car. But to sit by for the same reason while your nine-year-old plays is sheer overprotectiveness. Thus, to function effectively as a parent, try to understand what may reasonably be expected of your child at various stages of his development. Many excellent books have been written by child psychologists which indicate what the normal youngster can do for himself at different ages.

Understanding your child. A second need of your child is to be understood in terms of his own native talents and capabilities. God makes each one of us different; our nervous systems may run from extremes of restlessness to extremes of placidity. One child may be born with a physique that demands constant physical exertion. Another may prefer to spend hours in one spot, if not in one position. One child may have a native curiosity which may some day make him an outstanding scientist; another may be bookish; a third given to play- acting. As was noted earlier, you should first accept your child for what he is. Then you should try to understand his particular needs which result from the fact that he is who he is. This is of great importance if he is to have a wholesome environment in which he can develop his fullest potentials.

Modern experts make much of the necessity of understanding your youngster. They are correct in this attitude. If two-year-old Eddie constantly demands attention after the birth of a younger child, it is helpful to parents to realize that his conduct is probably caused by his fear that his parents are giving to the newcomer the love which he wants for himself. If your eight-year-old constantly picks on younger boys and is acquiring a reputation as a bully, it helps you if you realize that he probably feels frustrated in some important area of his life and is venting his frustration upon those who cannot fight back. If your thirteen-year-old daughter defies your wishes and applies rouge and lipstick when out of your sight, it may aid you if you understand that she is expressing her wish for greater freedom, and perhaps feels that you regard her too much as a little girl.

All too often, however, parents who understand why a child does a certain thing also feel that they must accept the action. This is a complete mistake--the kind of error that soft-hearted social workers make, especially in dealing with juvenile delinquents. You should understand why your child acts as he does so that you may be able to satisfy those emotional needs which he is seeking to satisfy by his improper conduct. If his actions reflect his sense of insecurity, find ways to give him a feeling of being loved and wanted. If his actions indicate his struggle for independence, provide outlets that enable him to express his own individuality without harming others. If his conduct indicates a belief that he is treated less fairly than your other children, devise ways to prove that he shares equally in your love.

But because you can explain why Johnny acts that way does not mean that his objectionable conduct itself should be tolerated. There is probably a reason why every sinner in history has performed his shameful act. But that does not make the act justifiable. The man who kills in a fit of passion may have been goaded into it; yet society rightfully demands that he pay a penalty. The bank robber may have been frustrated as a child; but if his lawyer advanced such an excuse before a judge, he would probably be laughed out of court. Therefore, when you seek to understand your child, do so not to excuse him but to gain knowledge that will help you direct him along the course of proper action.

Directing your child. Your final and fullest test as a parent lies in helping your child reach the potential of which he is capable. You must show him the way to go, and to do so you must know the way yourself.

Your child's goal is a happy, holy adulthood in which he serves God and man. He will make much progress toward this goal simply by following his natural urges to grow physically and mentally, and by observing you in your everyday relationship. But he should also be directed formally toward his goal by your direct teaching. Three principles are involved:

1. You alone have this authority to teach. It is your right given by God as an attribute of your parenthood. Moreover, no one can take it from you, so long as you fulfill your obligation to exercise it. Christian society has always recognized that the authority of the father and mother is unquestioned. For instance, in most states of the Union, a child is legally subject to his parents until he is eighteen.

2. Respect for authority is earned, not imposed. Children will always respond to authority when it is just and when they respect the parent who exercises it. They will ignore or disobey authority when it is unjust or when the parent has forfeited their respect. A father cannot expect his child to obey his rules if, for example, he consistently passes red lights and commits other traffic violations and thus shows that he himself disregards the laws of society. Likewise, your child will respect you only when you show by your actions that you respect him.

3. Your authority must be used. One "modern" father decided not to teach his child anything about God so that the child could choose his own religion himself when he grew up. This man could just as well have argued that he would not try to inculcate any virtues; that the child could choose between honesty and dishonesty, between truth and falsehood, or between loving his country and hating it. Precisely because you are more experienced, you must decide on all matters affecting your child's welfare. You would not wait for him to decide when to see a doctor to treat his illness; you would call the doctor as soon as you decided that his services were necessary. You would not allow your seven-year-old to choose a school; you would make the decision without even consulting him.

As your child develops, he should exercise an increasing amount of authority over his own actions. When he is eight, you will decide which Mass he should attend on Sundays; when he is eighteen, the decision probably will be his. When he is seven, you will exercise a strong control over his reading matter; at seventeen, he himself will exercise a choice.

Allow your child to make decisions for himself on unimportant matters first. In questions involving the important areas--his religious duties, choice of school, etc., give freedom slowly and carefully. For instance, your teen-ager might be free to decide whether to attend a sports event on a Sunday afternoon, but he has no freedom to decide whether to attend Mass on Sunday morning.

How to instill obedience. You can teach your child to obey if you proceed in the proper way. Most youngsters want to remain on good terms with their parents and will do what they are told to maintain that relationship. Their disobedience often is due either to their ignorance of what is expected of them or to their desire to test whether the parents mean what they say. Obviously, your child's misbehavior through ignorance of what you expect of him is not a deliberate attempt to circumvent your will and cannot be considered disobedience; and if he is promptly punished for stepping beyond the limits of conduct you have set, his experimental disobedience will cease abruptly.

Many childish actions that may seem to be disobedient are actually not that at all. A mother asked if her ten-year-old daughter would like to set the table. The girl said that she would not. The mother shook her head, remarking that the child was truly disobedient. The mother was mistaken: her daughter merely gave an honest reply to a question. When you want your child to obey you, tell him plainly that he must perform a specific action. Only then can you justifiably expect him to do as you say. If you ask him if he would like to do something or if you merely discuss a possible action without making your position plain, he may reasonably conclude that he may follow a course other than the one you advocate.

Children should not be slaves, to be ordered about at a snap of the finger. They must often be allowed freedom of choice, and should be permitted to raise reasonable and respectful objections if they feel that your instructions are not altogether correct. In doing so, they merely exercise a prerogative of individuals with minds of their own. But when an important issue arises and they must obey without questioning or quibbling, let them know that you expect strict obedience.

As children grow older, they can be appealed to more and more by reason than by stern orders. A soft approach--suggesting or requesting, rather than commanding--is usually more effective. If you create a home atmosphere of mutual confidence and loving trust, the need to issue strict commands should diminish almost to the vanishing point by the time your youngsters enter their late teens.

Forming good habits. Your need to direct your child's actions should also diminish in proportion to his age. It will do so if you establish good habits of living which enable him to fulfill his obligations as a matter of course. By instilling good habits, you can impress upon your child that he has obligations to God and family; that authority demands his respect; that he must be reverent at his religious duties, co- operate in the home, and sacrifice his own interests where necessary for the welfare of others.

By developing good habits in many different areas of life, your child will strengthen his character. He will get many of these habits simply by watching you. From you he should learn to accept his responsibility toward Church, country and family. He should begin the habit of contributing to the support of your pastor at an early age, and be responsible for putting a small sum in the collection plate each Sunday. He should be taught to tip his hat in reverence when he meets a priest or sister. He should also bow his head when he hears the name of Jesus. Many similar habits can be developed.

In the home, he also can learn habits of responsibility at an early age. As soon as he is able, he should do some work around the house as his contribution toward family living. The boy or girl of seven may set the table for dinner or remove the dishes after it. A youngster of nine or ten can help vacuum the floors and keep his own room in order. The older girl can wash dishes and prepare meals occasionally. The older boy can maintain the lawn and wash the car. By performing all these tasks in a regular fashion and without being bribed to do so, your children learn the habit of contributing to the common welfare.

Habits can be inculcated so that they become part of the daily pattern of living. The youngster who is taught to say his morning and night prayers will soon say them automatically, his parents will not have to remind him every day. Similarly, the youngster who is required to do his homework every evening after dinner develops a regular pattern of performance. It will become an automatic process. When he arrives at high school, he will be able to take responsibility for his studies entirely.

The art of self-denial. One of the most important things you can do for your child's development is to teach him to practice self-denial willingly. If he is to become successful as a human being, he must learn to deny himself immediate pleasures to achieve a future good. We must all deny ourselves to achieve eternal happiness in heaven. So too on a worldly level. The husband and wife who fail to deny themselves at least some material pleasures during their early years of marriage will reach old age penniless and dependent upon others. The student who cannot deny his impulse for pleasure when homework assignments must be done, pays the price ultimately by failing in his studies and finding that he cannot achieve a suitable station in life.

Learning to say no is therefore the most important single lesson that your child must learn. During his lifetime, he must say no to temptations that besiege him on all sides; he must say no to discouragements, defeatism and despair; if he is to reach any stature in the spiritual or even worldly order, he must say no to urges to take things easy, relax, or give up the fight. For this reason, parents who try to do everything for their child ultimately do nothing for him; by preventing him from developing self-discipline and the ability to say no, they prevent him from acquiring the most important attribute of a complete person.

How can you teach your child to practice self-denial? Mainly by setting up rules for his conduct and behavior and adhering to them firmly. When you do this, you make him aware of penalties that he must pay unless he controls impulses of one kind or another. Must he be home for dinner every night at 6 P.M. or lose desserts for a week? He must then say no to playmates who urge him to play another game of ball that will last beyond the designated time. Must he maintain a certain scholastic average or spend extra hours at his books each day until the next marking period? He will then learn that it is easier to deny himself to achieve passing grades now than to make greater sacrifices later.

The concept of self-denial appeals to youngsters. It represents a challenge--an opportunity to prove their mettle as strong-willed boys and girls. When they learn how to win over their lower instincts, they prepare themselves in the best possible way for the greater challenges and battles they will face as adults.

Five principles of discipline. No laws can be effective unless penalties are imposed when they are violated. So too with rules governing your child's conduct: You will be unable to direct him properly unless he learns that undesirable conduct will cause more pain than it is worth.

The idea of disciplining a child is viewed with disfavor by some modern experts. In their progressive view, the child should be free to express himself, and "parents who hamper this self-expression hamper the development of his personality." Enough years have passed so that we can now examine the adult products of this progressive school of discipline, and we find that the general results are not good. Children who are permitted to do as they please without a control system to govern their actions tend to become insufferably selfish, thoughtless of the rights and needs of others, and incapable of exercising the self-discipline which adults need to live harmoniously together.

Fortunately, the let-them-do-as-they-please school of child training is rapidly becoming passe. Most authorities now recognize that a child not only needs but also wants checks over his actions. Even in adolescence, the so-called "age of rebellion against parents," youngsters have affirmed many times that they prefer to be guided by rules of conduct and expect to be punished for infractions. In fact, teen-agers often complain that their parents are not sufficiently precise in announcing what will and will not be allowed.

Since children vary so greatly in temperament, along with their parents, it is probably unwise to set down hard and fast rules of discipline. However, five general principles can be adapted to fit most circumstances.

1. Keep in mind what purpose your discipline is intended to serve. You should discipline your child mainly to instill in him proper methods of behavior and to develop his ability to control himself in the future.

This principle implies that you must subjugate your own personal feelings, likes and dislikes when exercising them might not serve a useful purpose. To illustrate: A father has often slept late on Saturday mornings while his young children raced about the house making noise. Usually he merely rolled over in bed and put a pillow over his head to keep out the sounds. One morning, however, he awakened with a headache while his children pounded their drums. His first impulse was to reach out from bed and spank them. But a second thought convinced him that his children were behaving properly in the light of their past experience, since they had no way of knowing that this was different from other Saturdays. Therefore, the father spoke to them reasonably, telling them that their noise disturbed him. If, after his explanation, they had continued to pound their drums, he could legitimately punish them to stress not only the importance of obedience but also that they must sacrifice their own interests for the good of others.

The child who knows that his punishment is dictated by his parents' love for him will become a partner in the punishment--at least to some extent--because he realizes that it is for his own good. That is why wise parents sometimes permit their youngsters to choose their own punishment when they have violated rules. The youngster who recognizes the need for punishment and who willingly accepts it takes an important step toward the goal of all his training--the disciplining of himself, a process which will continue until death.

2. Let the punishment fit the crime. In applying this principle, try to put yourself in the child's place. A four-year-old girl was playing in a side yard with several boys of her age. A neighbor observed her exposing her sex organs to them and reported the fact to her mother. The mother raced to the yard, grabbed the girl by the arm, dragged her into the house and beat her with a strap, raising welts upon her back. This mother should have realized that her daughter lacked the experience to know that her action was not proper. Moreover, the punishment was entirely out of keeping with the offense. It was based on the mother's own sense of shame and not that of the child. It was an exercise of hate--not of love.

What offenses call for physical punishment? In the view of most experts, very few. However, reasonable corporal punishment, sparingly used, can be more effective than some educators like to admit. If a child's actions might cause physical harm to himself or another, his punishment should be strict enough to impress upon him the dangers of his actions. For instance, a child of two does not understand why he should not play with matches or cross the street without an adult. If he reaches for matches or steps from the sidewalk, you might spank him because this is the only way he can learn a vital lesson. The very young child measures good and bad in terms of his own pleasure and pain, and since most of his experiences are still on a physical level, physical punishment has its place. But wherever possible, love and affection should hold the foremost position. When your child resists the temptation to touch matches or cross a street unaided, use praise to assure him that he is doing the right thing. Spank him if nothing else works.

Some psychologists make much of the possible harm done to a youngster by physical punishment. But the Bible's teaching that "He that spareth the rod hateth his son" (Proverbs, 13:24) indicates that physical punishment, as such, does not harm the child emotionally. When it is accompanied by indications of hatred, it is undeniably wrong. But the parent who applies the rod in a calm way and as evidence of his desire to help the youngster's development probably does not do lasting hurt. On the other hand, some of the most brutal punishments--the kind that leave wounds for years, if not for a lifetime--come from words. One little girl was never spanked by her father. But whenever she did things which he found objectionable, he shook his head and commented that she was certainly "a queer one." The girl is now a woman of fifty, and her father has been dead thirty years, but his attitude still rankles deeply. She believes that it reflected his unwillingness or inability to understand her.

It should not be necessary to punish girls physically after they reach the age of twelve. Many teachers believe, however, that teen-age boys can be held in line by--and respect--authority exercised in a physical way. Girls usually respond more readily to deprivations of privileges-- being denied permission to visit friends on week ends, to attend movies or watch television.

3. Punish only once for each offense. One advantage of corporal punishment which is often overlooked is that it usually "clears the air." Once it has been applied, parents and child generally feel free to forget it and go on to other matters. When their punishment is less decisive, parents may tend to keep harping on the offense--and the child never knows when it is going to be thrown up to him again.

To apply this principle, make sure that your child thoroughly understands what his punishment will be. For instance, if you decide to deny him desserts for a week, tell him so at the outset; do not keep him wondering from day to day when the punishment will end. And do not harp on the offense after the punishment ends. Let him know that when he pays for his conduct he starts with a clean slate.

4. Be consistent. Your child deserves to know exactly what kind of conduct is tolerated, and what will be punished. Unless he knows this, he will try to find out how far he can go. If you tell him that he must be home at 8:30, he will be uneasy if he arrives at 9:00 and is not called to task for being late. Next time, he will be tempted to remain out until 9:30, and he will continue pushing the hour ahead until you step down firmly. If you berate him for arriving home at 9:00 after he returned at 10:00 the night before without comment from you, you will leave him thoroughly confused as to where the limits actually lie.

To be effective, your rules must also be fair. One child should not be punished for actions which another commits with impunity. In one family with seven children, all know that they will lose their allowances for a week if they are not at home for dinner at a designated time. One evening one youngster came home late with the excuse that the bus was delayed. His mother said that she would not punish him. The father then insisted that the boy lose his allowance, because he knew that once any excuses were accepted, the parents would be besieged with them and the entire system of fairness for all would break down. As this example indicates, parents who do not apply rules consistently actually perform a disservice to the child.

5. Investigate before you punish. In order to discipline your child properly, you must necessarily know the facts in the case. Otherwise you do not know what purpose your punishment should serve. Parents may easily misinterpret a child's action. Sometimes he does things which are wrong because no one has told him not to do them and he does not know whether they are approved or not. Be especially careful before punishing a child involved in a quarrel or fight with another. It is often difficult to find out who is at fault, since both children usually contribute to a squabble to greater or lesser extents.


IN NO other aspect of your child's upbringing will your example exert such a powerful force as in his moral training. For your words to your child are meaningless unless your own actions confirm them. A mother teaches her son to say morning and night prayers, but she says neither. He is only seven years old, but already he questions why prayer is necessary for him but not for adults. One need not be a prophet to realize that he will stop praying as soon as he can. A father teaches that it is wrong to use the Lord's name in vain; but whenever things go wrong around the house, he spews forth profanity. His son likewise swears at every chance he gets. A father tells his children that they must respect authority, but he belittles his own employers, criticizes elected officials of the country in the most insulting ways, and makes sneering remarks about priests and his boys' teachers. And he cannot understand why his sons get into trouble for disobeying school regulations.

If you could examine records of families from generation to generation, you would see undisputed proof of the priceless power of example. In one family, a man now eighty learned from his father's example that men went to church only for baptisms, weddings, and funerals. The man tried to teach his own son to attend Mass as required by Church law, but neglected to do so himself. His son followed his example--not his teaching--and his grandson now also does likewise. More than a hundred years ago, a merchant made a fortune by cheating townspeople who shopped at his store. His grandson is a "respectable businessman," but he too believes that chicanery is justifiable if it makes money. On the other hand, men and women who are long dead but who lived holy lives have left a heritage that lives on in the sanctity of their children's children.

Therefore, if you would help your child to achieve his true purpose-- the living of his life in accordance with the will of God so that he may save his soul, and if you would see your good influence continue for untold future generations, provide an example that gives the holy guidance he needs.

Your child's spiritual training. A mother once asked her pastor when she should begin teaching her five-year-old about God. The pastor replied that she was already five years late. What he meant, of course, was that your child's religious training should begin almost as soon as he is born. As Sister Mary de Lourdes states so beautifully in her guide for mothers, "Baby Grows in Age and Grace," the child held in the arms of a confident and competent mother and who is surrounded by the happiness of a good Christian family has a natural start for the spiritual life.

At seven to ten months, a baby begins to listen to sounds intently. He does not know what words mean, but he gets an impression from the tone of your voice, your facial expressions, and your gestures. It is not too soon to begin teaching him a prayer. Such a prayer should be as simple as possible, and preferably repetitive--with the same sounds repeated over and over. Sister de Lourdes cites this one:

Thank you, God, for Jimmy, Thank you for Jimmy's bread, Thank you for Jimmy's smile, Bless Jimmy in his bed.

As soon as your child can speak in syllables, you can teach him simple prayers. For example, carry him to a painting or statue depicting the Baby Jesus in His Blessed Mother's arms, and point out to him that the Infant Savior also had a mother who loved Him. Before he reaches his first year, he may be able to enunciate the name of Jesus. He can be encouraged to say good night to the Savior of the painting or statue. When the family eats together, the baby in his high chair will observe that grace is said before and after meals. He will join in the prayers automatically as soon as he is able.

Pictures have a powerful appeal for the one-year-old and two-year-old. You can encourage his interest in religion by showing him paintings of great events in the life of Our Lord. You will find him an interested viewer and listener if you show him pictures of Baby Jesus, and the Holy Family, and of Biblical incidents. He will also be a rapt listener as you narrate the stories which the pictures illustrate. At Christmas time especially, you can impress upon him that this great feast commemorates the birth of the Infant Savior: your telling of the Christmas story can begin to implant a reverence for this great feast that will last throughout his life.

In his third year, your child will probably be ready to learn about the creation by God of the world and everything in it. You will have opportunities to teach him as a matter of course that God made the flowers, the trees, the dog whose back he pats, and every other thing that he sees about him. Express your own appreciation for God's many gifts--the beautiful flowers, the lovely sunset, the water you drink, the food you eat. In this way, he too will recognize that God is a loving Father to Whom we owe gratitude for all things.

By the time he is three, he should be sufficiently advanced mentally to begin practicing simple acts of self-denial. If he is given a piece of candy before dinner, he will probably understand if he is told that he must not eat it until after his meal. This is his first realization that satisfaction of present desires must often be deferred for our own good.

At the age of four, he should be ready to take a more active part in family prayers. In some families, father, mother and children pray together in the evening before the first child goes to bed. His attendance at night prayers will impress the importance of this devotion upon him and enable him to learn the words sooner than he perhaps would ordinarily. Four-year-olds usually do not have a long attention span, however, and the average child may become distracted after a few minutes. The night prayers in which he joins may be kept short at first and gradually lengthened as he grows older.

At this time, your child is old enough to understand certain moral principles: that he must obey his parents because God wishes him to do so; and that lying, stealing and disobedience are not in accordance with God's will. You can teach these principles by giving him the image of God as his Eternal Father. If he has a loving trust in his own father, he will not find it difficult to visualize God as the loving Father of all mankind. He is also ready to learn of his Guardian Angel; many childish fears can be removed if he knows that his Guardian Angel always watches over him, and he will feel secure in new experiences when he knows that he has a protector.

From ages four to six, you can intensify in many different ways the moral training you began earlier. Through family prayer and other devotions, when you read to him, and through little talks when you perform his daily routines with him, you can inculcate the great truths of our religion. In particular, do not overlook opportunities to instill high ideals through reading. Many excellent books recount Bible stories in attractive pictures and text and they stress vividly the importance of practicing virtue in our lives. For example, the story of Adam and Eve can be a means of teaching him why he must obey God and his earthly parents. The story of Abraham may teach him that we must be ready to sacrifice all we possess if God requires it. From the parable told by Jesus of the widow's mite, he can learn that we must always show our gratitude to God; from the parable of the talents, that we must always do our best for His glory.

Many devotions and religious observances can now be made an intimate part of your child's daily life. In Chapter 16, devoted to religious observances in the home, you will find many suggestions to help you make the love of God the greatest fact in your child s existence.

Our Lord taught that the love of God is the first and greatest commandment, but He also said that a second commandment was like it-- the commandment that we must love our neighbor as ourself. You probably can best teach this commandment by example. More powerful than your words will be your courteous attitude toward those who visit your home; toward peoples of other races and creeds; toward those less privileged in a spiritual or material sense than yourself. Christ's teaching that all men are brothers under the Fatherhood of God will have greater meaning for your child if he notices that you always treat others with respect.

Before your child is seven, you will probably notice the formation of his conscience. He may show by expressions of guilt or shame when he has done wrong. This development of conscience indicates that you now can appeal to him more and more on the grounds of reason, rather than on the weight of your authority. The seven-year-old normally is sufficiently developed to take responsibility before God for his actions. By the orderly and constructive training you have provided, he should be able to recite his morning and night prayers; he should know the important laws of God and Church--the necessity to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and of abstaining from meat on Friday, for example; and he should be ready to begin preparations for his First Communion.

Obviously, your child's moral training at home does not stop when he enters parochial school. Rather, it continues throughout his lifetime. In the remaining chapters of this book you will find many suggestions to help you meet his continued needs for spiritual guidance. Specific problems you may encounter in his various stages are discussed below.

Early sex experimentation. A child cannot commit sin until he reaches the age of reason. It follows that no moral guilt is associated with his early sex experimentation. Some parents might mistakenly regard as masturbation a baby's holding of his sex organ, but it is as natural for him to display this interest as it is for him to examine his hands, feet or other parts of his body. He may experience pleasure when he touches his genitals, but this act has no greater moral significance than has sucking his fingers.

The normal child generally discontinues his sex experimentation when he finds other interests--and you can help him do so by giving him rattles to hold or toys to play with. However, if he continues to touch his genitals habitually after he begins to walk, he may be developing a pattern which will make masturbation more difficult to resist in later years. You should gently and casually remove his hands each time you see him doing so. It is best to discourage this conduct in a matter-of- fact way, much as you might prevent him from picking his nose. Do not overemphasize its importance; otherwise you may accentuate his interest instead of changing it.

Sometimes two- and three-year-olds display a curiosity about the organs of the other sex. This interest also is natural and no evil intent is involved, but it is not proper and should not be permitted. Likewise, the little girl who lifts her dress in company is not guilty of any moral wrong, but she should be told not to do it. By the time boys and girls are about three years old, their training in modesty should begin. They should learn that certain parts of the body must not be exposed before anyone except their parents.

A young child usually can be easily trained to be modest if his mother will tell him in a calm, unemotional way what is expected of him. Much difficulty with children in this regard results from the inability or unwillingness of parents to discuss the process of elimination without a sense of shame, and without giving it an undue importance in the child's mind.

Sex experimentation usually ceases well before the child reaches the age of reason, and sex does not emerge as a serious problem in his development until adolescence. If your child continues to touch his genitals habitually after the age of six or seven, perhaps he seeks the pleasure which he derives from the action to compensate for some sense of insecurity. If your efforts to stop the practice fail, you should discuss his case with a doctor.

Lying and stealing. Minor transgressions can be expected of every pre- school child; if nothing more, they indicate his desire to learn exactly what penalty will be imposed if he violates your rules. The three- or four-year-old probably cannot understand that all of us must obey God's laws. Later, of course, he must be taught that lying and stealing are sins because they violate that law.

It takes a wise parent to understand the difference between a young child's imagination and his lying. When children learn that speech has the power to affect others, they often make up stories simply to notice the effect upon adults. In such cases, you probably need not do any more than indicate your mild disbelief. Untruths affecting others are a different matter, however. If your child lies deliberately about a serious matter, you should point out to him that his action is sinful; that it harms those about whom he lies; and that it harms him by causing people to lose confidence in him.

The best way to discourage lying is to encourage truthfulness. The child who admits the truth and is willing to face the consequences of his actions displays a fine sense of maturity and deserves to be complimented for it. But do not carry your commendation for truthfulness to extremes, as though it were a novelty. Whenever one little boy did something wrong, he ran to his father and confessed. The father invariably praised him for his honesty and neglected to punish him for his actions "because he told the truth." The youngster, now sixteen, is the most truthful boy in town--and the greatest mischief- maker. He firmly believes that simply telling the truth absolves him of all blame for his conduct.

Children also do a certain amount of stealing. Vinnie, three years old, sees a toy which Billy is playing with and takes it as soon as he can so that he too may enjoy it. He is simply doing what comes naturally; he wants the toy and sees no reason why he should not have it. Obviously, he commits no sin. He must be taught in a calm way, however, that he must not take things which do not belong to him.

You can strengthen your child's resistance against the impulse to steal by strengthening his own sense of possessiveness. If you treat his possessions with respect, making it plain to him that you would not use them without his permission, you make it easier for him to comprehend his obligations to others.

Probably all children pass through a "stealing" stage during which you can impress upon them the importance of not taking what belongs to others. This tendency to pilfer others' possessions usually decreases and ceases to be a source of difficulty by the time the child is seven. If he continues to steal after that, it may indicate that some of his strong and legitimate desires are not satisfied. For instance, the parents of a ten-year-old boy habitually compared him unfavorably with others of his age. He had a compelling urge to show that he was their superior, and he began to steal watches and other jewelry and to flaunt them before his classmates as presents he had received from his rich, admiring relatives. Other youngsters may steal to relieve their boredom: boys who raid a fruitstand may simply crave excitement. If your child steals after he has reached the age of reason and is morally responsible for his actions, do not minimize the fact that he has sinned; but also seek to determine whether any psychological reason may have been important in causing him to act as he does. A child should always be required to pay for objects he has stolen, even if he must work on Saturdays or forgo his allowance for months to do so.

What about "dirty words"? It may surprise some parents that the use of what are commonly referred to as "dirty words" generally does not involve any moral problem. It is a sin only when the name of the Lord is taken in vain.

Most words which are offensive in our society have respectable origins and have become objectionable only through usage. If your child returns home and uses gutter terms which usually consist of four letters, he probably is merely experimenting to learn what effect his use of them will have upon you. More often than not, he lacks even a vague idea of what they mean. When and if he uses such words, firmly point out that the expressions are not tolerated in polite society. As with his genital experiments, his experiments with "dirty words" will probably end more quickly if you do not attach undue importance to them.

Blasphemous use of the name of God the Father, or Jesus Christ, or of the saints must not be permitted, of course. If your child uses blasphemous expressions in your presence, he probably has heard adults use them and considers them suitable, or he is bringing them home as an experiment. You should tell him that our love of God must be so strong, and our gratitude for His goodness so great, that we must never use His name in any but the most respectful way. A child should be punished if he continues to take the Lord's name in vain after you have explained why he should not do so, for reverence for God must be the cornerstone of our religious belief and practice. Without it, true Christian lives will be difficult to achieve.

If, in spite of punishment such as the deprivation of privileges, your child persists in blaspheming God, look to his environment. It is almost certain that he is in contact with an adult who blasphemes as a matter of habit. If you cannot remove your child from this influence, ask the offending adult to stop his habit because he is exerting an extremely harmful influence upon your child.

Don't stress sin too much. In giving your child the moral training he needs, avoid the extreme of referring to all of his transgressions in terms of how they will affect his relations with God. It is true that parents must never encourage children to be lax about moral matters, for a sin is always hateful in the eyes of God. Nevertheless, some parents--fortunately a very tiny minority--use their child's religious sense as a weapon to force him to do things which should not normally be expected of him. A mother discovered that she could get her daughter to comply instantly with her commands if she accused her of "sinful disobedience" for failing to do so. Soon the mother had a means at her disposal to force the child to do excessive amounts of housework. As a result, the girl grew up lacking respect for authority and with a scornful attitude toward all the commandments.

When parents constantly thunder about sin, their children may develop an abnormal fear of God, viewing Him as a judge who will thrash them for the slightest offense. Such children may come to lose their trust in God's mercy--a trust they will need in later life to meet the crosses which will inevitably be theirs to bear.

In his book "Your Child's World," Dr. Odenwald describes a nine-year- old patient who had become so terrified of the dark that he had extreme difficulty in sleeping. "This boy feared that because of his sins-- really not sins at all but rather the normal actions of a boy his age-- he would be severely punished by the Almighty," Dr. Odenwald writes. "Another boy reached the point where he confessed his sins to the priest on Saturday, but felt unworthy to receive Communion on Sunday because he might have offended God unwittingly by committing some mild offense. A five-year-old girl, who was attending a Sunday School, was so impressed by a sermon on hell and damnation that she could not get it out of her mind. Because of her one-sided introduction to the idea of punishment for sins, she displayed psychotic tendencies even at this early stage."

Attitudes on confession. Most Catholic parents fully respect their child's right to privacy in regard to confession. Of course, you should not question him about what he told the priest, or what the priest told him. To do so would be depriving him of the right to privacy in confessional matters which is his. His decision to receive or not receive the sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist also must be his to make.

While you must stand guard over your child's spiritual welfare, never place him in a position where his failure to confess or receive Communion will make him conspicuous. The reason for this warning is that a child who is unworthy to receive Communion or fears to confess his sins may be tempted to partake of the Holy Eucharist sacrilegiously if his failure to receive will make him stand out in the crowd. Before the rule for the Eucharistic Fast was relaxed, a person who did not wish to receive Communion might create an excuse by saying that he had inadvertently swallowed water. Since beverages one hour before Communion are now permitted, and water is permitted at any time, such an excuse is no longer valid. The person who does not wish to receive may find it more difficult to hide the fact that he may not be in a state of grace. Be doubly cautious, therefore, that you do not use pressure upon your child so that he receives unworthily to hide the existence of another sin.

Parents should be alert for opportunities to suggest the reception of Penance and the Holy Eucharist, however. If a child consistently resists the sacraments, they may fairly assume that he is troubled by some moral problem. Without mentioning the matter directly, a parent might tell him anew that God will forgive any sin and that any problems brought to the priest in the confessional will receive sympathetic consideration. Children may need to be reassured that they have nothing to fear in confessing their sins and that their secrets will be kept from all mankind. If your own attempts to encourage your child to frequent the sacraments prove unsuccessful, you should discuss the subject with your pastor.

When children doubt religious truths. While your children are in elementary school, they probably will accept without question what you teach about religion and morality. For example, the nine-year-old will accept your explanation of why he must abstain from meat on Friday, and will not question whether these regulations are entirely proper or within the jurisdiction of the Church to make. He will accept, without doubting their truth, the Old Testament stories of the Tower of Babel, of Jonah, of Noah's Ark, and others. When he reaches adolescence, however, you may be shocked at a change which may come over him. He may now be aware that other people do not believe as we do, that some deny the existence of God, others do not accept the trueness of the Church or the divinity of Our Lord, and still others doubt the truth of many incidents recounted in the Old Testament. Your child may quote these nonbelievers in questioning you about Catholic doctrines. Sometimes he may even give the impression that he fully accepts their errors.

It is probably unwise to betray suspicion that he is losing his faith simply because he sharply questions Church teaching. In order to understand completely why the Church holds as she does on matters of faith and morals, every adult must understand the basic principles upon which the doctrines rest. Only by examining various arguments for the Church's position can a young person truly appreciate that her teachings are based upon historical and logical truths.

Some parents show visible annoyance when their children question various Church doctrines. This reaction often results from the fact that the parent lacks enough knowledge to refute the adolescent's arguments. Obviously, the Church would be in a sad position if she could not stand up against questions raised by teen-agers. The facts are that Church teaching is supported upon a bedrock of logic and that many of the foremost thinkers throughout history have found her doctrines unassailable. Therefore if you yourself cannot cope with your adolescent's arguments, you can refer him to Catholic books, literature, and other sources of information.

Do not expect your child to accept a religious teaching simply and solely because the Church says it is so. As an individual with a growing intellectual capacity of his own, he has a legitimate right to know why the Church maintains a certain position. When helped in a friendly way to understand that position, he will become a stronger Catholic as a result.

Masturbation and homosexuality. Two serious practices--masturbation and homosexuality--may have their roots in childhood. The former is more common, and it has been said that most adolescent boys engage in it at some time. The latter practice is probably more serious from a pathological and sociological point of view, and is much more prevalent than most people imagine.

By the time your child reaches the age of puberty (about eleven or twelve years) you should have taught him that it is sinful to seek sexual pleasure outside of marriage. It probably does little good--and may do psychological harm--to warn him that masturbation will cause serious permanent damage to his body. In an older day, youngsters were usually told that this practice brought on impotence or insanity, and some became highly neurotic and guilt-ridden when they found themselves habitually unable to resist temptation. Moreover, there is no basis in fact for the old beliefs.

You will help your child resist the inevitable temptations he will face as an adolescent if you train him to practice self-denial in other things throughout his childhood. For example, one who has learned to give up pleasures during Lent--such as candy, movies or a favorite food--will come to understand that he must often resist the urge for pleasure in order to achieve a greater spiritual good. Keep a careful check over influences which may lead him astray--movies or television programs with provocative scenes, books or magazines which may stimulate passion. Encourage him to get his full quota of physical exercise; sports give him a fine outlet for energies which might otherwise be expressed in harmful ways. Above all, build up his idealism. Encourage him to read the biographies of great heroes and to emulate them; youngsters can be inspired to far greater deeds of heroic virtue than most parents realize. Always remember that chastity results only when the will is superior to the flesh, and that this superiority is not a thing apart. If the supremacy of the will is to be maintained during your child's adolescence, he must strengthen it by self-denial during his earlier years.

Homosexuality in boys is becoming increasingly prevalent, and some authorities estimate that one American man in twenty-five is a homosexual. With their increasing knowledge of the roots of this condition, psychiatrists now believe that it is primarily a psychological trouble, and that it often originates in childhood. Specific causes are not known, but homosexuality in males seems to occur more often when the mother is the dominant parent and when the father is absent for long periods or is unduly harsh and brutal toward his son. As a result of experiences and impressions developed over a long period, the child subconsciously concludes that a woman's life is more desirable than that of a man. A girl may develop tendencies toward homosexuality if she is unable to achieve satisfactory relationships with the opposite sex during her childhood. She subconsciously shrinks from fulfilling her role as a woman.

Parents who provide a normal home life need not fear that their children will become homosexuals. A boy should have a strong masculine figure, preferably his father, from whom he can learn how to act as a man and whom he can admire for his masculine traits. He should also have a mother--or a substitute for her--whom he can love; his experience will give him confidence as an adult to enter a loving relationship with a woman. He should be encouraged to enjoy the normal games and sports of boyhood. The mere fact that he prefers quiet activities by himself--likes to read or collect stamps, for instance-- does not imply that he is a "sissy." But if he prefers to play with girls when boys normally "can't stand them"--a common condition from the ages eight to eleven--and if he prefers other strongly feminine activities such as playing with dolls, psychologists say that his parents should examine his development more closely.

Girls also need a mother or suitable substitute from whom they can learn how to act when they grow up. If her mother is absent and her father is the sole influence, she may develop strong masculine traits; if, in addition, he does not treat her in a loving way, she may reach adulthood unable to express love for any man. Simply because she enjoys rough sports does not mean that she is developing homosexual tendencies. But if this characteristic is combined with others, it may indicate a strong leaning toward masculinity in her development and should alert her parents to possible danger. When conditions of this type are suspected, parents should hasten to a qualified psychologist or psychiatrist for treatment.

From a moral viewpoint, an effeminate boy or masculine girl does not sin unless he or she commits acts of impurity. It is therefore most unfair to assume that a boy with strong feminine characteristics is necessarily homosexual. In fact, he may be leading a life of heroic virtue in struggling against impulses which developed throughout his earliest years. It is likely, however, that his conditioning will prevent him from achieving the fullest measure of harmony and love in marriage.

One final warning: Even though every homosexual is probably psychologically predisposed to such conduct by any one of the factors mentioned, the growing amount of homosexuality in our society is probably due to other factors as well. For one thing, a vocal minority of our literati encourage the point of view that there is nothing abnormal or unnatural about sexual pleasure enjoyed by members of the same sex. Parents, therefore, where homosexual tendencies are suspected, must forthrightly give the child thorough and correct sex education. More important, perhaps, is their need of supervising their child's companions. It is the writer's firm conviction that because of the lax moral climate, the greatest incentive to homosexuality has been the inculcation of these habits by evil-minded companions. Oftentimes young boys or girls are initiated into this abnormal way of life at an early age. By adolescence, therefore, the habits are fixed, even among youngsters who have no psychological predisposition. And fixed habits are hard to break, even for normal people. The ruination of many lives could be prevented by watchful parents. Once a person has become an habitual homosexual, he needs serious and long-term treatment by a good psychiatrist and a competent confessor.


THE most important assignment husbands and wives have from God is to see that their children are properly educated. This is a prime and basic purpose of marriage itself. And while the process of education goes on for a lifetime, it does require today a certain amount of schooling, particularly during the formative years.

When parents, therefore, choose a school for their children, they delegate to the teachers a large part of their responsibilities and a significant portion of their child's education. It is important that they realize the implications of that choice.

If you choose, you can send your child to a public school, to a private school, to a parochial school. You can hire a private tutor, even keep him home and tutor him yourself, since the State merely establishes minimum standards of achievement. As a practical matter your choice usually lies between the parochial school and the public nonsectarian school. Before making such a choice you should first determine what purpose you intend his schooling to serve. In a general way, persons holding all shades of religious belief agree that the school should help prepare a child for life as a responsible adult. But since all men do not agree on the purpose and meaning of life, they obviously cannot agree on the type of school which can best prepare the child for it.

As a Catholic, of course, you take the position outlined in one of the first questions in the catechism--that your child was born to know, love, and serve God in this world in order to be happy with Him in the next. You either believe this or you don't. If you do, his schooling must help him achieve this goal.

This existence and eternal presence of God is the most important fact of our lives. On this truth all other knowledge is built. The work of the school, like the work of parental education itself, is to make the child see this truth and all other truths which flow from it--truths about the world, himself and other people. All of his experiences-- intellectual, social, moral--must be so guided that nothing is wanting to his training as an intellectual, a man and a Christian. The child must be taught religion, not merely for information but to strengthen his ties with the Heavenly Father, Redeemer and Sanctifier. He must be taught social studies to give him that understanding which will tie him more closely to other human beings. He must be taught science to help him appreciate and use with care the creatures of the material world.

While bringing ideas and facts to the child, the teacher must relate these to basic Christian principles and our American heritage. The child should be educated to hold sound convictions about the dependence of all men upon God, the rights and duties that belong to every man because of his human dignity and his social nature, the sacredness of the family, the great worth of human work, the obligation of men and nations to share material and spiritual goods with others. By its very nature, then, knowledge of God and His divine plan cannot be a thing apart. Rather it must be the guiding light which illuminates every other subject that we learn.

Justice Robert H. Jackson of the United States Supreme Court in 1948 said this about religion and education: "It would not seem practical to teach either practice or appreciation of the arts if we are to forbid exposure of youth to any religious influences. Music without sacred music, architecture minus the cathedral, or painting without the scriptural themes would be eccentric and incomplete.... Certainly a course in English literature that omitted the Bible and other powerful uses of our mother tongue for religious ends would be pretty barren.... The fact is that, for good or ill, nearly everything which gives meaning to life, is saturated with religious influences.... One can hardly respect a system of education which would leave the student wholly ignorant of the currents of religious thought that move the world today...for a part in which he is being prepared."

When your child attends elementary school, his teacher probably influences him for more hours each day than you do. What he learns from her will have a powerful effect upon his character. Simple prudence dictates, therefore, that the influence to which he is exposed at school should intensify and reinforce your own teachings. This is possible only in a school which recognizes God, because your child will learn to be truthful, honest and just in his dealings with his fellow man and to respect authority only as he understands God. The only true motive for these and all other virtues is the knowledge that we are dependent on God for everything and that He requires obedience to His law as a test of our love for Him.

Supporters of nonsectarian education often object when Catholics characterize public schools as "Godless." But the cold fact is that they are Godless in the literal sense of that word. Inasmuch as our society consists of citizens with every conceivable gradation of belief and those who profess no faith at all, it has been deemed necessary to eliminate such a controversial subject as God from the public school curriculum. One need not look far for graphic illustrations of this fact. In some areas, even attempts to start the school day with a prayer to the "Supreme Author of Life" have met with rebuffs from those who advocate "separation of Church and State." Some schools prohibit the observance of Christmas as a religious feast. The children may sing harmless jingles, but they may not learn that this great feast celebrates the birthday of Jesus Christ.

Ironically, attempts to teach even the simplest facts about religion are hemmed in by so many restrictions in most public school systems that such education becomes tailored to the wishes of the tiny minority of citizens who oppose every religion and even God Himself. As Monsignor Carl J. Ryan, superintendent of schools of the Cincinnati archdiocese, has pointed out, these persons are truly a privileged class. "When the out-and-out secularist pays his tax money, he gets exactly the kind of school his ideology calls for--one from which God and mention of God are entirely excluded." No less an authority than Thomas Jefferson, speaking on the teaching of religious truth, said, "The relations which exist between man and his Maker, and the duties resulting from those relations, are the most interesting and important to every human being and the most incumbent on his study and investigation."

How can your child recognize the pre-eminence of God and the necessity of religious faith for his salvation if these facts are completely ignored by one of the most important influences in his life? Even a young child will tend to question the religious beliefs and moral lessons taught to him at home when they are considered of such little importance that they go unmentioned at school. No Christian parent could maintain that a knowledge of geography--or music or dancing--is more important to a child's development than his religious training; yet public schools, by their very ignoring of God, can subtly create this impression.

Church teaching on schools. The Church always has recognized that schools in which moral teaching holds first place are essential to nourish and protect the faith of young people. For example, in 1884, Pope Leo XIII wrote to the French archbishops and bishops: "It is of the highest importance that the offspring of Christian marriages should be thoroughly instructed in the precepts of religion; and that the various studies by which youth is fitted for the world should be joined with that of religion. To divorce these is to wish that youth should be neutral as regards his duties to God: a system of education in itself fallacious, and particularly fatal in tender years, for it opens the door to atheism, and closes it on religion. Christian parents must therefore be careful that their children receive religious instruction as soon as they are capable of understanding it; and that nothing may, in the schools they attend, blemish their faith or their morals. Both the natural and the divine law impose this duty on them, nor can parents on any ground whatever be freed from this obligation."

Because centuries of experience have taught that the child exposed to schooling which ignores religious training is in grave danger of losing his faith, the Church has made it a universal rule that Catholics must send their children to religious schools when such institutions are available. Canon law states:

"All the faithful are to be so reared from childhood that not only shall nothing be offered them opposed to the Catholic faith or moral propriety, but also that religious and moral training shall be given the most important place. Catholic children shall not attend non- Catholic schools, neutral schools, or mixed schools, that is, schools that are also open to non-Catholics. Only the local ordinary (the bishop) is competent to determine, in concordance with the norm of the instructions of the Holy See, in what circumstances and with what safeguards to overcome the danger of perversion, attendance at such schools may be tolerated." Theologians interpret this law as meaning that Catholics who deliberately send their children to non-Catholic schools, when Catholic schooling is available to them and in the absence of some compelling reason, may be guilty of sin.

In view of the Church's clear teaching, why do some parents choose secular education for their children when Catholic schools are available? Let us examine the commonly cited reasons.

"A public school education is superior." This may be true in a few parts of the country--in subjects other than religion, but it is not true in the country as a whole. Despite the education and idealism which public school teachers bring to their task, it is fair to say that their dedication does not equal that of the priests, nuns and lay brothers who voluntarily give their entire lives to the young. One cannot visit a Catholic school without being deeply impressed by the sense of complete devotion which Catholic teachers display. A teacher's most important requirement is that she have a whole-hearted interest in her pupils' complete development--intellectual, physical, moral and spiritual, and Catholic teachers have this in an abundant degree.

In comparing schools by worldly standards, the usual measurement is the mark that children receive on competitive tests. When parochial and public school children compete, the former almost invariably do as well as, or better than, their rivals. Much of the explanation of this scholastic success lies in the more determined methods of discipline practiced by Catholic teachers.

We have some substantiation of the above judgment in the study made in 1948 by Dr. Roger Lennon, Director of the Test Research and Service Division of the World Book Company. He correlated data based on the Metropolitan Achievement Test results for about 100,000 elementary school pupils drawn from six dioceses, and made comparisons with a comparable group of public school students. The intelligence quotients of the two samples were about equal, while the parochial school children were two or three months younger in age.

The conclusions of the study were as follows:

1. Reading There was little difference up to the 6th grade, but the superiority of the parochial students was very apparent in the 7th grade and continued through the 9th grade.

2. Vocabulary There was no appreciable difference up to the 5th grade. But from the 6th grace on the parochial school students were superior and in the 9th grade were more than a year above the public school norm.

3. Arithmetic From the 2nd grade through the 9th grade, the Catholic school students were consistently superior.

4. Language usage Except in the 7th grade, the achievement of the parochial school students was higher.

5. Spelling The parochial school students consistently had the advantage and in the 8th and 9th grades were one year in advance of the public school norm.

6. Literature A third to a half year superiority is manifested in grades 6 through 9.

7. History, civics, geography These are the subjects in which the greatest superiority of the parochial over the public school is manifested--at least by a year in almost all cases.

8. Science Here is an area of relative weakness in parochial schools. Their students were below norm by a half year in grades 6 through 9.

With these exceptions noted, Dr. Lennon concludes: "In all other subjects and at all grade levels the parochial school achievement is consistently superior."

As we have seen, however, success in academic subjects should not be the sole basis upon which a school is judged. Even were the Catholic school in a particular community to hold a place below the tax- supported schools in scholastic achievement, it would nevertheless be superior. For it teaches the child the most important subject in his life--his position in relationship to his Creator, his fellow man and nature.

"My child can learn about religion at home and at Sunday School." This is actually a basic teaching of the secularists--the false notion that religion can be made a thing apart. The child who is led to believe that religion is a subject reserved for Sundays is likely to grow up as a "Sunday Catholic" if, indeed, he keeps his faith at all. Religion cannot be recognized only one day in the week and ignored the rest. Truths learned in religion class are more important than truths in other subjects, because religious truths must influence every thought, word and deed of every waking hour.

Moreover, a child cannot obtain in a weekly class the understanding he requires to meet the challenges of his adult life as a Catholic. In Catholic schools, the study of religion is a regular part of the curriculum and is taught just as thoroughly as reading, writing, arithmetic and other subjects. The child gains a deep and reverent understanding of the principles of his faith, and practicing his religion becomes second nature to him. Parents who believe that Sunday School instruction is adequate for a religious education would protest vigorously if their child were instructed only one hour each week in geography, history or some other subject of considerably less importance in the long view.

Father Joseph Fichter, S.J., who in 1958 completed a fine sociological study of one school system, confirms this judgment: "Here is ultimately the key to the difference between the public school child and the parochial school child. The latter gets more and better reasons for his attitudes and behavior. By systematic observation in the classrooms, and by the testimony of police and fire departments, as well as of pupils and teachers who have had experience in both types of schools, there is demonstrable proof that the parochial school children are more orderly and self-controlled than the public school children. They have a better attendance record on school days and fewer of them get in trouble with juvenile court authorities."

"I want my child to learn to live with all kinds of people." Persons making this statement are obviously aware that there are basic differences between Catholics and non-Catholics--but they fail to realize that their child may adopt the beliefs of those with whom he comes in contact.

Parochial school pupils actually do meet children of various racial origins. The Church is universal and its membership is made up of all races and classes. There is a diversity in conformity. In a typical Catholic school, your child will meet youngsters of Irish, Italian, German, Polish, English, French and other extractions.

"I went to public schools, and they did not hurt me." If so, the solid experience of the Church proves that you are an exception. In any event, one example does not prove a case. It is even true that some graduates of Catholic schools fall away from the faith while some graduates of public institutions are model Catholics. On the whole, however, a child's chances of remaining a practicing Catholic are much greater if he has had a thorough grounding in the teachings of his religion.

If parents' testimonials are the best advertisement for a school system, there is ample reason to believe that Catholic institutions would score higher than public ones. Almost invariably, parents who attended Catholic elementary schools, high schools and colleges are most insistent that their own children also be educated in Catholic institutions. An interesting observation on this point was made by Amleto Giovanni Cardinal Cicognani, for twenty-five years Apostolic Delegate to the United States.

"Fifty years ago American bishops had to insist that a parish build a school and had to exert all their influence to see that there was a good attendance," the Cardinal remarked. "Now it is just the opposite; it is from the lay people that the pressure comes. If a parish does not have a school, they come to the priest and insist that he must build one."

The Catholic school system in the United States is virtually unique in that its support depends entirely upon the people. Unlike Catholic schools in many other countries, there are no State subsidies. Yet American Catholics support thousands of elementary schools, high schools and colleges even while they also pay taxes to operate public institutions. They carry a burden of double taxation because they realize the inestimable benefits that their children can derive when religious and moral training are made an integral part of education. Parents who have been educated in non-Catholic schools often are simply not aware of the values they have missed.

The case for Catholic higher education. The reasons for education a child in a Catholic primary school apply in the case of high schools and colleges as well. Many Catholic educators make an even stronger case for Catholic schooling on these higher levels.

The typical high school student tends to analyze religious values searchingly. This is a time when he tends to rebel against authority as he has come to know it. He often will take a position directly opposite the one held by his parents, simply because by doing so he expresses his desire for independence. In addition, at this time his intellectual powers are developing rapidly and he is capable of engaging in serious, intelligent argument for the first time. He is not satisfied with answers given in a catechism. He demands a more highly developed rationale for his actions.

If he has had only an elementary background in religion, he may be unprepared for pressures exerted against the faith as he advances into adolescence and beyond. In a Catholic high school and college, he receives advanced training in religion which satisfies his own more mature demands.

Commentators on the manners and mores of teen-agers agree that a desire to conform, amounting almost to a compulsion, is characteristic of this age. The typical high school student wants to be like his fellow students from the shape of his haircut to the color of his socks. When Catholic students are in a minority--as they frequently are in public high schools--their ideals and aspirations will almost certainly be weakened as they strive to conform to what the majority thinks and the way it acts. Parents who voluntarily choose public high schools, expecting their youngsters to retain their beliefs and ideals in the face of such strong pressures, place a grave burden upon them.

There are more advantages to the typical Catholic high school than most parents perhaps realize. Recently Dr. Leonard H. Watts, a teacher at the Technical Teachers' College at Melbourne, Australia, and an exchange professor for a year at the Southern Oregon College of Education, was asked to describe the high school system of Australia. He said that boys and girls generally attend separate high schools, that students wear school uniforms and that girls are usually forbidden to use cosmetics; that students get enough homework to discourage dating; that sex education is left with the parents rather than taken over by the school; and that pupils are encouraged to participate in sports to provide outlets for their physical energies. Dr. Watts was asked this question because of Australia's phenomenally low rate of juvenile delinquency, and because high school marriages and pregnancies among high school girls are extremely rare there. If you are familiar with the typical Catholic high school in America, you will find a remarkable correlation between the Catholic and Australian systems.

If finances permit, encourage your child to attend a Catholic college. Of the hundreds of Catholic institutions in the country, he can doubtless find many which offer courses in which he is interested. Catholic colleges and universities, like Catholic schools on lower levels, have scholastic records which equal and sometimes excel those of secular institutions generally.

The student of college age usually dates; if he attends a Catholic institution and has Catholic classmates, he is more likely to date Catholic girls. Since many marriages begin with campus courtships, the danger of his entering a mixed marriage will be almost automatically reduced by his choice of a college.

Catholic college training will cap his knowledge of his faith and will give him a complete intellectual basis for belief. He will also be more likely to be governed by idealistic motives in choosing a career. He will learn to serve God and man and in doing so will be equipped to achieve far greater happiness from his life's work than one who takes up a profession only for secular or materialistic reasons.

A Catholic college education is especially recommended for young women. Here, emphasis will be placed on motherhood as a career. A common fault of secular colleges is that they educate women primarily for careers outside the home. In this process the desire to be a mother and a home- maker is weakened, if not destroyed; for all too often, nonsectarian institutions give the student the distinct impression that her college years will be wasted unless she obtains paid employment and continues to further her career after marriage and motherhood. In a Catholic woman's college, training for Christian motherhood takes priority.

Responsibilities of parents with children in public schools. Because Catholics must build and maintain schools without state aid, and also because we constitute a very small minority in some sections of the country, parochial schooling may not be available in your community. Nevertheless you should see that your children obtain adequate religious instruction and training.

First, you should co-operate fully by sending your youngsters to catechism classes at your church. From their earliest days, teach them that these classes are of the utmost importance for both their earthly happiness and the salvation of their souls.

Secondly, try to compensate at home for their loss of religious training at school. Apply the suggestions offered in the chapter on "Religious Practices in Your Home," frequent the sacraments with your children, encourage discussions on religious subjects, and make certain that they faithfully fulfill the assignments given at catechism school.

Thirdly, remain alert for indications that they may be unduly influenced by non-Catholic thinking. In communities heavily populated by those outside the faith, Catholic children seem to be especially subject to the fallacy that "one religion is as good as another." Once this idea is accepted it is an easy step into a mixed marriage and the loss of faith. You can help counteract this influence by impressing upon your child that the Church's unbroken line of authority extends back to St. Peter, whom Our Lord designated as the founder of His true Church.

Since you may be obliged to answer many questions which your children are asked by non-Catholic schoolmates, or to refute misstatements which your children hear, you might do well to equip yourself with literature that rebuts objections that non-Catholics raise against Church teaching. An excellent and inexpensive aid is the three-volume set, "Radio Replies," consisting of answers to more than 4,000 questions asked of Catholic preachers. The book is published in a paper-cover edition by Fathers Rumble and Carty of the Radio Replies Press Society, St. Paul, Minn.

Finally, if your child attends a non-Catholic high school or college, strongly urge him to join the Newman Club, if one is in operation, or even to help start one. A Newman Club is an organization of Catholic students in a non-Catholic school. Through courses of instructions and social activities, it helps to strengthen the Catholic student against influences which tend to draw him away from the faith, and also helps him to form friendships with other Catholic boys and girls. Membership in a Newman Club often makes the difference between a student's maintaining the faith and losing it.

You and your teacher make one team. A small minority of parents believe that they fulfill their moral obligations once they enroll their child in a Catholic school. Nothing could be further from the truth. Regardless of what school your child attends, the primary responsibility for his education remains yours. His teachers merely serve as your substitutes.

The implications of this principle are enormous. It means that you must supervise your child's studies at home, and maintain his moral standards by both your teaching and example. For Catholic schooling usually can only reinforce the moral training you give at home; it generally cannot substitute for it. On this point, too, you must be prepared to hold fast against the modern trend.

As Dr. Grayson Kirk, president of Columbia University, has pointed out, one of the truly terrifying developments of our time is the indifference of parents toward their children's schooling. Too many parents have abandoned too much of their responsibility to the schools, says Dr. Kirk. He adds: "These parents seem to feel that if they feed and clothe the child, and provide him with a television set, the school should do everything else. The school cannot overlook its duty, but it can be successful only if the parents realize that the home, when properly organized, is a far more potent educational unit."

There are several basic ways in which you can co-operate with the school. The first, of course, is never to lessen the teacher's authority in the eyes of your child. Just as one parent must uphold the other in matters of discipline, parents must uphold the teacher. At times you may seriously question the teacher's judgment. Rather than to express doubts before the child, however, it is better to discuss the matter with her privately. Of course, since young children especially are prone to misinterpret what an adult says, wise parents do not believe everything their youngsters tell them about their teachers.

You will avert possible crises in your child's later years at school by helping him to develop good study habits from his first grade on. If he has a homework assignment, insist that it take priority over all other activities--dancing lessons, television, comic books and other distractions. Require him to study at a specified period each day-- immediately after the evening meal is a time favored in many homes. Ask him what his assignments are and check them after they have been completed to make certain that he has done them satisfactorily. Ideally, when he arrives at high school he should accept full responsibility for his work. He should do his assignments without prodding and should habitually spend two or three hours each school night preparing his lessons for the next day. Many difficulties that youngsters encounter in high school could have been avoided if they had learned to study effectively during their elementary school years.

Take advantage of opportunities to meet your child's teacher and to discuss his scholastic record with her. Teachers in modern Catholic schools encourage parents' interest and realize that pupils make faster progress when school and home co-operate. Indicative of this trend toward mutual co-operation is the rapid growth in recent years of parents' guilds, parent-teacher associations, and similar organizations. Parents' nights, on which fathers and mothers are encouraged to visit the school and meet the teachers, are now sponsored by an increasing number of parishes. At such times, parents can learn of teachers' problems, and teachers can gain new insights into home conditions which may affect a child's record at school.

A vast field of parent-teacher co-operation lies open, however. Parents can do much to relieve nuns and lay teachers of some of their time- consuming chores, and thus give teachers time for more productive work with the children. In one parish, for instance, mothers maintain the school lunchroom and library. In another school, parents take turns keeping records in the principal's office, enabling one nun to spend more hours in the classroom. Some parent-teacher groups maintain a car- pool service. Mothers make themselves available to drive nuns to school meetings, teacher conferences, medical and dental appointments and the like. Such services, given cheerfully by parents, help build an atmosphere of warm co-operation and loyalty to the school which the child absorbs and reflects in his own conduct.

Don't push your child to the limit. Within the past few decades there has been a growing acceptance of the fact that children have different levels of intelligence and different aptitudes. Thus one youngster who achieves an average of 70 may have worked harder for it than the one with natural gifts who never goes below go, Carefully designed tests make it possible to determine with high accuracy whether your child is mentally quicker than the average, and also--in a general way--what his potentialities for intellectual advancement actually are. A person with an intelligence quotient of 100 may be average, for example, but would lack the intellectual ability to complete a college course. On the other hand, a youngster with an I.Q. of 140 should be capable of superior work at school.

As a parent, you naturally should encourage your youngster to do the best work of which he is capable. For the innately bright child, this may mean an average of 95; for a child less gifted, it may mean a passing grade of 70. The latter child should not be expected to perform as successfully as the former, and it is unjust to hold him up to ridicule because he does not equal a mark set by one gifted with superior mental endowment to begin with.

A wise priest once told the story of the elementary school boy who insisted that his teacher's main job was to "learn him." This was not bad grammar; it was hard fact. You cannot truly encourage your child to do his best work unless you truly learn him--unless you know what standards can reasonably be expected of him. Unfortunately, however, you may not be the best judge of his ability. Your opinion may be colored by natural pride and by your lack of opportunity to compare his work with that of his classmates. Often by consulting his teachers--and admitting that their objective judgment may be more valid than your own--you will be able to determine what rate of scholastic progress he should reasonably make.

Some parents literally drive a child to scholastic success. They berate him if he fails to achieve the best average in his class, instill an abnormal spirit of competition, and hold up to scorn his fellow pupils who are in the lower half scholastically. Sometimes teachers themselves contribute to this competitiveness by excessively praising the children with the highest marks and ridiculing the less successful ones. This is a mistake. For important as scholastic achievement is, it should not be established as the most important goal. Spiritual and emotional values should never be sacrificed for scholastic accomplishment. The child who is lovingly accepted for what he is--whether he be normally bright or dull--and who is encouraged to achieve in proportion to his ability, will become a better adjusted citizen than one driven to obtain high marks by perfectionist parents.

Often a young man or woman, trained in the idea that scholastic achievement is the ultimate value, discovers with a shock that many of life's important places are filled by persons whose intellectual accomplishments may be only about average, but whose qualities of soul and heart aid them far more in succeeding at their vocations. A good rule for parents, therefore, is this: Encourage your children to do their best work scholastically, but don't nag them so as to jeopardize the development of their whole personality.

How to help your youngster go to college. In the past few years there has been a growing realization that higher education is virtually a necessity for professional and business success, a vast increase in applications to colleges, and a failure of colleges to grow along with the increased demands. As a result, thousands of high school graduates now are turned away from college doors every year. In addition, hundreds of thousands of young persons with an intellectual ability to do college work fail to realize their potentialities, largely because they lack a clear understanding of the advantages of college training and because their parents have not created an environment in which the desire for higher education is nourished. After examining scholastic records and interviewing thousands of students, researchers have firmly established that your attitudes as a parent and the kind of home you provide may decide whether your child applies for, and is accepted by, a college. One surprising fact they have uncovered is that money is not as important for higher education as most people imagine; for instance, Professor Ralph S. Berdie of the University of Minnesota found, after examining 25,000 histories, that young men and women with the ability and desire to go to college usually can do so even if they are poor. Scholarships, opportunities for part-time employment and long-term loans are all available to worthy students.

Of course, it helps if you can give financial aid to your youngsters. But it may be even more helpful if, from his youngest days, you create an atmosphere which encourages him to develop his mind and cements his determination to gain a higher education. How can you do this?

By letting him know, from his early days in elementary school, that you will be happy if he attends. (Researchers have found that 99 per cent of college students have their parents' approval. Only one in a hundred reaches college over the outright opposition of his mother and father.)

By maintaining a home free of tension and bickering. (It has been proved statistically that children of broken marriages, or from homes where parents do not live together in peace, have a poor chance of developing study habits which will carry them above the high school level.)

By taking an active part in church, P.T.A. and community affairs. (Activities like these will help you meet other conscientious parents who also will want to give their children maximum educational opportunities. By discussing your child's development with such friends, you will also be able to gauge whether he is progressing as well as he might.)

By providing opportunities for self-education. (Many college students told interviewers that they were introduced to the public library by their parents at an early age and were encouraged to form good reading habits. A child with access to wholesome magazines and newspapers, a comprehensive reference shelf and other aids to information, has a splendid opportunity to satisfy his curiosity and develop his intellect.)

By encouraging him to associate with other boys and girls with college aspirations. (The desire to keep up with the Joneses is as strong in youngsters as in adults; if your youngster has as friends only boys and girls who intend to quit school as soon as they are legally able, his own educational ambition may be stifled.)

By encouraging him to consider what his vocation may be. (If he has a clear goal, he can more easily realize how a higher education will help him achieve it. You can encourage him by discussing the many opportunities to serve God and man which come to persons with college training.)

Where your child lives while attending college may depend mainly upon your financial situation and whether schools are within commuting distance. Educators generally agree that the typical student acquires more benefits from college if he lives away from home. By doing so, he learns to accept full responsibility for his own actions, not only scholastically but in all phases of his life.

Even if you can afford to pay for your child's education in its entirety, many authorities believe that he should be required to work during vacations to meet at least the incidental charges. Since he is learning to accept new responsibilities in other ways, he also should assume some of the burden of his own upkeep. A common arrangement is for parents to make the basic college payments--fees for tuition, board, books, etc.--while the student himself pays for his clothing and whatever spending money he may need during the year.

School costs versus "school palaces." Much controversy has developed in recent years over increasing school costs throughout the nation. The basic point at issue is whether too much money is being spent on facilities and activities which have not traditionally been considered part of a school's function. For instance, in one community a school has a "dancing room" where youngsters learn the art of ballroom dancing. Many high schools have smoking rooms for their teen-age pupils. Others have elaborate gymnasiums and swimming pools which are the envy of the most heavily endowed colleges, cafeterias with cooking facilities which most industrial corporations cannot duplicate for their employees, and parking lots for students' cars which department stores in the same town cannot provide for their customers.

Catholic parents of children in parochial schools have tended to remain aloof from the argument over "school palaces." As taxpayers, they have as much right to discuss the question as have parents of children attending the schools involved. Moreover, school costs affect not only taxes which all citizens must pay, but also the contributions Catholics must make to support their own school system. For Catholic institutions often are placed in a position where they must duplicate the facilities provided by public schools in order to attract or maintain their own enrollments.

Obviously, schoolchildren deserve the best training that the community can afford. But it is a serious mistake to assume that physical facilities alone can provide the training of body and mind which the child requires. It is ironic that often those communities which spend extravagant sums on buildings keep to a minimum their expenditures for the most important element in the school system--the teachers who must mold the characters and minds of the pupils. Persons in these communities overlook the fundamental truth that where an adequate and properly trained teaching staff exists, many frills of modern education can be eliminated without real loss to the child.

A danger of "school palaces" is that they tend to make pupils dissatisfied with their own home surroundings, which may be drab by comparison. In addition, by affording almost limitless recreational and social opportunities, the school usurps the functions of the home and helps to condition the child to accept the idea of the "super-state" where the government takes care of its citizens from the cradle to the grave. In this process, the most precious asset of any civilization-- its stable family life--is gradually undermined. Each time a school takes over a new function which was previously performed in your home, your influence over your child is correspondingly weakened.


A QUESTION that disturbs many parents is exactly how to tell their children about sex. A generation ago the question might have been whether to tell at all. Now almost everyone recognizes that children should begin to learn about sex in their early days so that when they become adults they will have proper spiritual and emotional attitudes toward this important part of life. Judging by the heavy volume of their inquiries at Cana Conferences, however, parents remain concerned about other aspects of sex instruction--when to give it, the atmosphere in which it should be imparted, and so on.

Much of this uncertainty derives from the tremendous amount of attention given this subject by psychologists, sociologists, educators and others in recent years. They have had unprecedented access to printing presses, radio and television transmitters and other means of reaching the public. To the extent that they have taught parents to educate their children about sex, rather than permitting them to learn the "facts of life" on street corners as was common a generation ago, they have performed a distinct service. However, they have contributed all shades of opinion as to how sex instruction should be given. For instance, many have taken a naturalistic view and have sought to divorce it from all religious and moral teaching. These secularists have largely won their way in some public school systems, where children often are taught about the mechanics of sex without regard to moral factors which must govern any consideration of the subject.

In view of the many opinions which have been expressed, it is perhaps understandable that American parents have become confused.

Catholic parents need not be, however, for the Church's position concerning this area of your child's development is unmistakably clear. It is based upon her centuries of experience and her unequaled opportunity to observe where and how sex education best enables children to acquire the proper reverence for the marriage act and the discipline of mind and heart that is essential for chastity. You can gain a clear concept of your obligations and opportunities as a parent, therefore, if you keep in mind five fundamental principles which have been confirmed in Christian practice over the centuries.

First, you have a personal obligation to teach your own children about sex. By God's command you and you alone are the primary educators of your sons and daughters. Certainly you would be failing Him if you abdicated responsibility in a matter of such importance. The human happiness of your own flesh and blood may well be at stake. Some parents mistakenly believe that their duty to mold and form young minds extends to all areas of knowledge except sex. This is a short-sighted view of parenthood. The reason that sex education is your job stems from the fact that you can give it better than anyone else. No matter how poor a teacher you think yourself to be, only you know best the needs of your children, their fears and their stage of development.

If parents shy away from this instruction, it is not because they are ignorant. This is one matter in which you have complete superiority, even over the most precocious child. He cannot ask any question that you cannot answer, which perhaps is more than you can say about your knowledge of other subjects.

Secondly, your children should be taught sex within the context of love, not as a thing apart. It is more important that he have proper attitudes about sex than that he always have precisely correct factual information. Without uttering a word, you as a couple can exert the potent force of example to teach a boy or girl how a husband and wife should act in their everyday relationship. They will learn only from you that sexual adjustment in marriage is really the result of deep spiritual and psychological communion. It is the love relationship in the family that gives the best education for sex training, neither implying that sex is all-important in life nor conveying the impression that it is shameful or embarrassing.

Inevitably your children will wish to know how babies are born or why women differ from men. Whatever you do--if you say nothing, evade the questions, tell a fable, such as that the stork brings children, if you elaborate unduly or without regard to wholesome values, or if you speak truthfully and reverently--you give them attitudes they will carry into maturity. As a conscientious parent, therefore, you obviously must try, by word and example, to teach him about life in a way that will best prepare him for adulthood.

The third important principle is that sex education must be intimately related to our belief in God and the natural law. A child cannot truly understand any fact of life unless he first understands that God is the author of all life. He cannot properly respect the marital act unless he knows that this was the means chosen by God for the creation of human life. And he cannot cultivate the virtue of chastity unless he also learns that by God's law the exercise of the sexual act is reserved only for persons in the married state. If your child is to achieve the proper perspective about sex throughout his life, therefore, he must be reminded continually that sex is God's creation and must be used only in the way that He has ordained. The child who is taught that his newborn sister was given to him by God, or that God has arranged the body of woman in such a way that after marriage she can become a mother, or that Our Lady and St. Joseph, both of whom were virgins, were beloved above all others by the Son of God, is always likely to approach sexual matters with reverence.

The fourth principle is that sex education should be intimate. You are dealing here with a matter of the utmost importance to the salvation of your child's soul as well as to his happiness on earth. Details of sex should not be discussed publicly, but rather treated confidentially between parent and child. Only in this way can the dignity of sex be respected and modesty preserved. Moreover, each child reacts differently when he learns of the fundamental facts about birth and life. Only by discussing these facts with your child individually can you observe his reaction and temper your approach to meet his own needs. Few people who support public sex education mention the repugnance which some children, particularly girls who are endowed with natural modesty, feel at the open discussion of sex. But it is a fact. As many people have been harmed in marriage by brutally disclosed information as by ignorance.

The fifth principle is that knowledge about sex should be acquired gradually throughout life. It starts at the cradle, where the child learns how his mother reacts when he experimentally touches his sex organs. He learns from what she says--and how she says it--when he asks her where babies come from. He learns from the way that his parents prepare him for the coming of puberty; even if they do not prepare him, he develops an attitude from that fact also. He may gain or lose reverence for marriage by what his parents teach him about dating and "going steady." His attitude will be affected by his parents' reaction to births and marriages within the family circle and by the control which they exercise over his choice of reading matter, movies and television programs. Obviously, the old caricature of the father calling in his son for a ten-minute "man-to-man talk" in which the father reveals all he knows about sex is completely out of touch with reality.

Keeping these five principles in mind, you can clearly understand why you must accept the responsibility for your child's sex instruction. As the first principle shows, you give this education inevitably, the only real question is whether you will give it properly or not. You are best equipped to apply the second and third principles of teaching the physical facts of life within the framework of God's law. You can best provide the intimate environment in which this education should be given. And, since you are your child's permanent custodian, you are also in the best position to give him the information and attitudes he should have at various stages of his development. No other individual or agency can apply the five basic principles for instruction about sex as readily and as completely as you.

In fulfilling this responsibility to your children, you should be guided by the words of Pope Pius XII, spoken to a group of Christian mothers in 1941:

"If imparted by the lips of Christian parents, at the proper time, in the proper measure and with proper precautions, the revelation of the mysterious and marvelous laws of life will be received by them (the children) with reverence and gratitude, and will enlighten their minds with far less danger than if they learned them haphazard from some unpleasant shock, from secret conversations, through information received from oversophisticated companions, or from clandestine reading, the more dangerous and pernicious as secrecy inflames the imagination and troubles the senses. Your words, if they are wise and discreet, will prove a safeguard and a warning in the midst of the temptations and the corruption which surround them, 'because foreseen an arrow comes slowly.' ...With the discretion of a mother and a teacher, and thanks to the open-hearted confidence with which you have been able to inspire your children, you will not fail to watch for and to discern the moment in which unspoken questions have occurred to their minds and are troubling their senses. It will then be your duty to your daughters, the father's duty to your sons, carefully and delicately to unveil the truth as far as it appears necessary, to give a prudent, true and Christian answer to those questions and set their minds at rest."

It is a good rule of thumb that fathers instruct the boys and mothers the girls. However, whoever is asked the questions, should give the answers. And prior to the marriage of one of their children, there are many advantages in a mutual discussion of the subject between the child and both parents.

When parents "can't talk about sex." Some parents may find it difficult to discuss matters of sex with their children. Having been reared where such subjects are not mentioned by "nice people," they may tend to maintain this characteristic of secrecy with their children. If you are one of those, reflect that your present attitude probably results directly from the way sex was regarded in your parents' home. If you also treat it in a hush-hush manner, your children may do likewise with their youngsters, and the process of inculcating in the young the idea that sex is always shameful and sinful will continue indefinitely.

Moreover, even if the duty is painful it remains a duty. Just as you would consider it your obligation to teach your child how to behave in the presence of guests, or how to eat at table, so too it is your duty to instruct him about sex. If parents failed to teach their children good manners, you would say that they were shirking their obligation. How much more important is it that they not shirk the job of instructing their young ones in the beautiful mysteries of life.

If you are extremely modest by nature, you will develop your ability to discuss sex by answering your child's first questions as easily and casually as possible. Creating an atmosphere which lets him know that he can discuss this subject with you is often the most difficult hurdle of all. Once you get over it, you will develop the confidence to respond in a similarly calm way to questions that follow. Having achieved a rapport with him, you will find yourself able to answer even his most pointed questions with truth and dignity.

If parents are unable to provide direct sex instruction to their children, they should seek a substitute who most closely complies with the principles outlined above. For example, the mother of a fatherless adolescent boy is not qualified to instruct him concerning the physical development of his sex and the intimate problems of male chastity. She might ask a male relative--the boy's uncle, for example--to do so. A priest or a teaching brother is well qualified to instruct the boy, and a nun to instruct a girl: their teaching will strongly emphasize the importance of religious discipline, and it will take place in an atmosphere that upholds the dignity of the subject matter. The sex instruction commonly provided in public schools conforms to none--or at best, one--of the five principles which should be observed.

Early sex experimentation. Since our feelings about sex are intimately related to our attitudes on other subjects--our love and fear of God, our reverence for our body, our recognition of the necessary functions of our organs and the relationship that exists between men and women-- your child begins to form attitudes about sex as soon as he becomes aware of his surroundings. If you react in a matter-of-fact way to his early exploration of his genitals--an act of exploration which is necessary for him to discover what his body consists of--you will avoid the common error of calling his attention to his sex organs from his first days and of making him unduly conscious of them.

Bowel and bladder training should also be carried out in a casual, unemotional way. Dr. Odenwald states that a normal child cannot control bowels and bladder before two or three years of age. For this reason, he states, parents should use gentleness, understanding and kindness, so that the child always feels that his elimination is a normal physiological act. "It is important to note the close association of the generative organs and the organs of elimination," he states. "This close association is not only anatomical and physiological but also psychological. Experience with mental patients gives sufficient evidence that patients who have trouble arising from toilet training also have trouble with sex."

Teach your children to use the correct words for their sex organs at the very beginning. You would not use a special, babyish word to describe your child's fingers, his nose or his heart. If you use childish words for the boy's penis or the girl's vulva, you create an impression that the correct words carry a shameful connotation. Of course, the entire sense of shame is in the adult. To the child, one word is the same as another. But many persons who did not know the correct names for their organs until they reached the age of ten or twelve are too embarrassed as adults to use those names even in instructing their own children.

As your child reaches the crawling and walking stages, you should treat any matters relating to his private organs in the same way that you would treat matters concerning his hands or feet. He will accept the fact that he must normally keep his sex organs covered, just as he accepts the fact that food is eaten from a plate, and that fathers wear trousers and mothers wear dresses.

How to answer your child's questions. Parents with the good sense to avoid making their child unduly conscious of his genitals sometimes do not know how to begin instructing him about the facts of life. The advice upon which most experts now agree is that you should not initiate the discussion. Instead, you should wait for him to ask the questions, and then answer them truthfully and within the limits of his understanding. Almost all children ask similar questions at similar stages of their development. Therefore, you can anticipate what questions must next be expected and learn the proper answers.

A basic principle to remember, however, is that inculcation of proper attitudes is more important to your child's proper understanding than is the mere recitation of facts. You want him to feel that sex is a beautiful means conceived by God to propagate the human race and to enable husbands and wives to express their love for each other. If you yourself stand in awe before the beauty of the marital act and the reproductive process, you will be able to give the same reverence and wonderment to your child. When you hold such an attitude, instructing him becomes an opportunity to impart a sense of the love and wisdom of God.

The practical value of stressing the fact that God is the author of the sexual union will become apparent during his adolescence and for the rest of his life. When he firmly understands that God made the act for use only within marriage, he will have the moral support he will need to resist the inevitable temptations he must face. The child who learns about sex without the necessary religious education to accompany it may reach adolescence merely believing that use of the sexual function before marriage is not customary or "nice." Such a naturalistic belief often falls before the first surge of passion.

At about the age of three or four, most children ask their mothers where they came from. They ask with the same innocent curiosity they might use in asking where the picture in the television set comes from. You would not reply to that question with an elaborate explanation of the marvels of the electronic age. Rather, you might say that it is sent through the air by a broadcasting station and received by the set. Similarly, the answer, "from the mother's body," satisfies the normal small child when he inquires about his birth.

If you answer your child's question calmly and confidently, he may be satisfied temporarily. Before long, however, he may ask how the baby grows in the mother's body and how it emerges. In order to develop an understanding of the proper relationship between God and the act of procreation, it is wise at this and succeeding stages to include references to the Divine plan in your answers.

You might explain to him that God devised a way to insure that babies would be safe and warm, protected by their mother's body, until they were strong enough to live outside. You might call his attention to the way mothers carry newborn babies--close to their hearts, protecting them with both hands and arms. You might explain that God devised a protective means like this to make sure that the baby received warmth and shelter within the mother's body.

Your child may not raise the subject again for months or years. At about five or six years, however, he may become more interested in pregnancy and birth, and may wish to know how long the baby remains inside the mother's body. Like the questions that usually precede it, this one is not directly related to the sexual act but to a biological fact. It is as harmless as his question as to why he has teeth or what happens to his food after he eats it.

At about the age of six or seven, he may wonder how the baby was placed in his mother. You might answer that God gives fathers a way by which they deposit seeds in the mother's body. You should not go beyond this. Sometimes precocious children sense that a mother is embarrassed over this question and ask others to upset her rather than to elicit information. At this age--or any other in which your child asks for information he should not have--you might quietly state that it is not proper for him to know the answer now and that he will receive it later. This is the natural response you would give to other improper questions--to his inquiries about how much money the father earns each week, for example, and similar queries of a personal nature.

At any age you may be called upon to restate simple truths that you thought the child already knew. Children forget, or at least seek new insight into old words. The child who is most glib in his use of terminology may be most innocent about the meaning of those terms.

Overcoming "street corner" knowledge. Your child will not need to know additional details of the reproductive process until he reaches pre- adolescence. But he may often ask questions you thought you had answered completely many times before. He may have forgotten what you told him; more commonly, however, he has acquired some information from playmates which may not coincide with the story of birth as he has learned it from you. When youngsters repeat basic questions, a wise parent will use the opportunity to cite the importance of relying on information received at home and not upon that which other children mention in the streets.

There is no reason to become alarmed if your child reports having conversations about the basic facts of life with others of his age. Such conversations are entirely normal. If you have encouraged him to ask you about this subject and have answered frankly, with reverence and without embarrassment, he will probably report his street-corner discussions to you.

The time to become concerned is when he no longer asks about sex or shows an evident distaste when the subject is introduced. He probably has heard something from his playmates which has shocked him, and perhaps even left him ashamed of the manner of his own conception. If he appears ashamed, he should be told that the marriage act cannot be shameful when viewed as God intended, for it is the beautiful means by which life was given to all mankind, including the saints and the Blessed Mother herself.

When your child is aged seven to ten, you have an unequaled opportunity to reinforce his knowledge by calling his attention to the references to birth in our daily prayers and in the Bible. In this way, you can emphasize the close relationship between Almighty God and the reproductive act. For example, you can discuss the "Hail, Mary" and explain the phrase, "the fruit of thy womb," by pointing out that the womb is the nest in which a mother carries her infant before his birth. The account of Mary's visitation to Elizabeth can be used to explain childbearing. Stories of Christmas can provide the framework for a discussion of how Jesus was born as well as how all babies are delivered from their mother's womb.

Preparing your child for puberty. While it is usually wise to wait until your child asks about sex before you volunteer information, you should take the initiative in preparing for puberty. At about the age of twelve, girls begin to menstruate. Unless they have been told what to expect, the first flow of blood may cause severe shock. You should make your daughter proud of these physical changes when they come, for she is taking an important step toward womanhood. Considerably before the first menstruation is expected, explain the exact significance of the process. She should know that God has planned her body so that blood is stored each month, ready to carry food to a baby if a new life should begin, and that the blood is discharged after a certain period if no baby has been conceived. Here, too, the emphasis should be on the Divine plan. It should be pointed out that God has forbidden the use of the organs to anyone who is not married.

Mothers must avoid indicating that there is anything terrible or shameful about this biological function. Nor should they stress the pain and sense of depression which some women feel on the days before menstruation. They might calmly explain that while such symptoms sometimes exist, medical science has appropriate drugs to ease them.

Boys attain puberty at about thirteen years. Well before this time, their fathers should tell them that they will soon release semen in their sleep--a manifestation that they are arriving at manhood. Of course, they are not morally responsible for these natural emissions, even if dreams of an exciting nature accompany them. A boy should be advised, however, that he should neither assist nor prevent the discharge of seed.

Moral teaching regarding the touching of his penis in order to obtain pleasure should be explained. Regardless of the means used, any deliberate effort to induce a discharge is a serious sin. However, it is often necessary to clean the penis, and on such occasions no sin is involved if some unintended pleasure results. Any prolonged handling of the organ beyond the time necessary for reasons of health and cleanliness is sinful. Fathers should advise their youngsters of the importance of habits of chaste thought to overcome temptations to commit solitary sins of thought or act.

In instructing your pre-adolescent son, you might make use of one or more of the excellent pamphlets written to supplement your teachings and to give him a spiritual insight into the opportunities, challenges and temptations of his approaching manhood. Such publications may be found in the pamphlet rack in the back of your church or in Catholic bookstores. You should read each pamphlet before giving it to your child, both to familiarize yourself with the contents in order to answer questions based on his reading, and to make certain that it suits his particular needs.

When boys and girls reach puberty, parents should advise them that contacts with the opposite sex might lead to sin. The emotional and physical reaction of males and females differ greatly. A boy has an intense physical drive, and kissing or other contacts may set up a fierce desire for sexual relief; with a girl, on the other hand, a kiss may merely express her companionship. A girl who does not know that a boy may be deeply stimulated by her kissing may make it difficult for him to keep his thoughts pure. Boys should be taught to respect girls because they are God's chosen vessels for the creation of new human lives and should not be despoiled in any way. Boys who learn to respect womanhood in their childhood will translate this training into respect for the girls they know.

Also make sure that your daughter understands the importance of modesty in dress. It is apparent that many girls do not realize what a source of temptation they really are when they dress in an unbecoming way and reveal parts of their body which arouse impure suggestions in boys' minds. Short skirts, low necklines, dresses that reveal every curve, sweaters that are too tight, artificial bosoms--all are age-old devices to stimulate male passion. A girl who resorts to them may cause great harm not only to boys but to herself. Many a young miss, heavily rouged and painted and wearing the most provocative styles, cannot understand why boys seem interested only in her physical attraction and not in her as a person. Her way of dressing advertises her to the world as one who seeks this kind of attention.

Some mothers object to giving their daughters information about the different natures of men and women, because they fear that the girls will lose their innocence thereby. This is an error, for ignorance and innocence are separate things. When the angel appeared to the Blessed Virgin to reveal that she was to give birth to the Messiah, she indicated knowledge of the ordinary facts of life by asking how this could be so, for "I know not man." Her knowledge did not prevent Mary from being the most innocent of humans. Giving your daughter such information will, in fact, protect her innocence. She will be guided by her knowledge to avoid situations which might be occasions of sin. In this vital matter, it is better for parents to instruct a year too soon rather than a minute too late.

Dating, "going steady" and moral aspects of courtship are discussed in detail in the chapter, "Preparing Your Child for Marriage."


THE kind of adult your child will become will depend upon his heredity and upon three environmental factors: the influence you exert over him at home, the influence of church and school, and finally the influences of the society in which he lives--the television programs and movies he views, radio programs he hears, books he reads, and companions with whom he associates.

It is true that you, as his parent, will influence him the most. But it is a serious mistake to believe that he can be exposed to bad influences without the danger of being corrupted by them. The Church has long recognized that even the best home training for a truly Christian life can be counteracted by other influences which oppose parental teaching and example. It is precisely for that reason that she has insisted, wherever possible, that children attend schools which teach principles of godly living. It is also for this reason that she firmly urges parents to watch constantly over external influences to which their children are subjected.

These outside pressures are probably more pernicious today than at any time in Christianity's history. Almost everywhere established standards are under attack. Note the trend toward secularism which seeks to remove God's influence from the everyday lives of the people. This trend prevents the reciting of prayers to the Almighty in many public schools and in many public meetings and is responsible for the shocking divorce rate and widespread practice of birth control. As a result of the secularist trend, almost half of the adults in the United States hold no church affiliation at all, and millions of others who claim to be Catholics, Protestants or Jews make no visible effort to apply God's teachings in their everyday affairs. Evidence of this movement away from God is apparent also in the growing materialism of American life. This materialism leads persons to believe that success lies not in the development of the interior spirit but rather in the attainment of things--bigger motor cars, larger homes, more efficient appliances and the like.

A second destructive trend is that toward socialism. It is reflected in efforts to remove the home as the center of influence in a child's life and to substitute the school or other state-supported organization. Because of the state's growing tentacles, for example, we see the pronounced campaign to educate youngsters about sex in the classroom instead of in the privacy of their homes.

Finally, the attack on established standards is nowhere more evident than in the flagrant obsession with sex. In modern America, sex stimulation is unending. Almost everywhere there are lurid photographs, provocative songs, enticing scenes in films, and the glorification of sexy women in popular newspapers and magazines. This flood of sex is not something which puritans alone are aware of; it strikes the eye of almost every observant foreign visitor. For as Pitirim A. Sorokin, the famous Harvard sociologist, pointed out in his book "The American Sex Revolution," every aspect of our culture is literally packed with this obsession.

"Its vast totality bombards us continually, from cradle to grave, from all points of our living space, at almost every step of our activities, feeling and thinking," Dr. Sorokin wrote. "If we escape from being stirred by obscene literature, we may be aroused by the crooners, or by the new psychology and sociology, or by the teachings of the Freudianized pseudo-religions, or by radio-television entertainment. We are completely surrounded by the rising tide of sex in every compartment of our culture, every section of our social life."

These influences--of secularism, socialism and sex--strike at our fundamental religious beliefs and actions. They are insidious poisons, and unless you control their intake with the utmost care they may corrupt the minds and hearts of your children. They exist in almost every area of public communication. They can be found on television, in movies, in books and magazines.

It is an error to assume, however, that those media are, in themselves, dangerous. As the late Pope Pius XII pointed out on many occasions, all instruments of communication can be marvelous forces for good. They can be used to uplift minds and hearts and to intensify our devotion to the Almighty and our spiritual growth. Much that your youngster might encounter in these media may be harmful or merely tasteless and--at least in a moral sense--neutral. Much, however, will also help him to gain a mature understanding of the world and a greater insight into idealistic achievements of which he may be capable. Therefore do not condemn movies, or television, or books out of hand. Rather, exercise a diligent watch over them. Encourage your child to seek out what is good and helpful on the spiritual, emotional and intellectual levels, and restrain him from the bad. In this necessary function as guardian of your child's development, use the guidance of professionals and their listings of movies, plays, books, etc., which are suitable for children of different ages Ways in which you can exercise a wise control over major outside influences are described briefly below.

Television. This has unquestionably become the major source of entertainment for Americans. Its impact upon our culture within a few years has been truly phenomenal. When it was first available to the public in the late 1940s, many persons believed that it would be a passing fad. This belief has not been proved in practice. In 1950, according to reliable research by the broadcasting industry, average elementary school pupils watched television about 21 hours a week. Today, the average pupil spends 20 hours, or about three hours per day. Thus there has been only a slight decline in viewing. About 97 per cent of elementary school children in areas where broadcasts can be received have access to a television set.

At the beginning of the "television age," many schoolteachers expressed horror over what TV would do to our culture. They foresaw the day when children would never read a book, listen to good music or pursue other worth-while intellectual hobbies. Their fears apparently have also been somewhat dissipated. Modern teachers do not decry the influence of television as much as did those of a decade ago, although surveys have established that children who watch the most do poorer school work than those whose viewing during the school week is limited.

From a moral point of view, blanket criticism of television programming seems unjustified. Most offerings do not offend religious sensibilities, nor do they become involved in discussions on religious or spiritual matters. Sometimes, however, ancient motion pictures are presented with themes harmful to impressionable minds. Some of these films were among those that forced the inception of the Legion of Decency in 1933, and their costuming, situations and dialogue are objectionable.

Most criticisms of television are based upon its taste, which is often questionable. Many programs appeal to the lowest common denominator and have little apparent intellectual or cultural value. They add nothing to the child's development. In fact, the constant diet of killing and fighting afforded by Western and crime programs have a bad effect. Moreover, they take time which he might use for more constructive purposes--reading a good book, visiting a museum, developing his body in sports activities outdoors.

Instead of deploring the quality of TV programs, Catholic parents in many places have formed committees to review shows and to encourage the viewing of those which contribute to a child's spiritual, emotional, intellectual or cultural growth. There are many such programs. Performances of world-famous musicians, orchestras and dance troupes, re-enactments of great literary classics, discussion programs in which public figures participate, and special events--the coronation of a pope, a national election convention, the inauguration of a president-- all contribute to your child's understanding of the world.

Operators of television stations in the United States are granted licenses by the Federal Communications Commission, and this agency has the power to withdraw a permit if a station fails to serve the public interest. Station owners, therefore, are sensitively alert to viewers' reactions. The huge corporations which sponsor most TV programs also want to provide material which at least does not offend large numbers of the population and which preferably meets with a favorable reception. You can influence the type of television programming available for your child, therefore, if you express your reactions to programs to these representatives of the television industry. Human beings tend to be critical more often than complimentary, but if you write letters praising advertisers and television station operators for their uplifting programs as diligently as you might condemn unsuitable offerings, you may be agreeably surprised to discover how great an effect your letters will have upon future shows.

Motion pictures. Since the coming of television, the American motion picture industry has undergone drastic and, to some extent, undesirable changes in its idea of what constitutes acceptable entertainment. It is no secret that producers' revenues have declined generally and that thousands of theaters are closing each year. In desperation, some producers have lowered their moral standards and emphasized lurid sex themes to try to attract customers. This fact is acknowledged even by spokesmen for the industry.

For example, the trade publication "Variety" recently made this comment: "Like any business fighting for survival, the film industry is making its pitch either to the very specialized audience, i.e., the teenagers, or else to the lowest common denominator among its patrons. That means an exaggeration in theme and substance, a heightened sense of the 'come-on,' a quite deliberate attempt to titillate, to shock, to astound, an extension of that trait normally known as 'showmanship.'"

Much of the ordinary product shown at theaters is unsuitable for children because of its emphasis on sensational themes, or is in poor taste artistically. On the other hand, Hollywood probably now distributes more films of superior artistic, spiritual and literary merit than ever before. These productions, often in the "spectacular" category, represent an attempt of the more responsible producers to cope with competition from television. They make use of all the modern advances of color, sound and literary imagination.

In view of the pronounced two-sided nature of present-day films, your need to consult Legion of Decency listings is greater than ever before. As a parent, you have the moral obligation to deny your support to individuals or establishments which do moral harm to a large proportion of the population. In the words of Pope Pius XI, "Bad motion pictures are occasions of sin: They seduce young people along the ways of evil by glorifying passion; they show life under a false light; they cloud ideals; they destroy pure love, respect for marriage and affection for the family. They are capable also of creating prejudices among individuals, and misunderstandings among nations, among social classes and among entire races."

Since movies can have such a pronounced effect upon the emotions and minds of viewers, young and old, it is a mistake to stumble into a theater without carefully determining in advance whether its film will be harmful. You can readily learn what qualified critics think of the movie in question by consulting Legion of Decency listings, which are probably published in your diocesan newspaper or posted in the vestibule of your church; by scrutinizing advertisements of the film, for if it has a sexual aspect the ads almost certainly will stress it; by reading reviews in your community newspaper and in Catholic newspapers and magazines; and by asking the opinion of other parents who may have seen it. If the film appears in the condemned category of the Legion of Decency, you are morally obliged to prevent your child from seeing it and to avoid it yourself. On the other hand, producers of films of high artistic and moral quality deserve your enthusiastic support. Don't just refrain from patronizing bad movies. You will achieve more constructive results if you support worth-while films and encourage other parents to do so. Producers governed by the dollars- and-cents response of the marketplace will then realize that they can gain more from wholesome movies than from bad ones.

Radio. Radio programs now consist primarily of music interspersed with news. The radio industry also is two-sided. On the one hand, quality stations broadcast a heavy diet of symphonies, concertos, sonatas and other works by the world's greatest composers as performed by outstanding musicians. Obviously, these programs are highly praiseworthy. By encouraging your children to listen to them, you can inculcate a love of good music which will delight and inspire them the rest of their lives. On the other hand, many stations broadcast little except the latest popular records presented in whichever eccentric way happens to appeal to youngsters at the moment. It has been estimated that there are now more than 2,300 "disc jockeys" in the United States- -virtually all of whom cater to teen-agers. The lyrics of many of the songs they play are unspeakably suggestive, and many involve illicit sex relations. One wonders why such songs are permitted, especially since the licenses of these radio stations can be revoked if the stations are not operated in the public interest. The only logical explanation for the fact that some stations exploit sex from morning till night is that parents pay no attention to the lyrics being heard or sung by their youngsters. If you closely heeded the meanings of some modern songs, you would not wait to call the station owner to account.

The printed word. Of all the means of communication to which your child is exposed, books and magazines probably offer the greatest potentialities to develop and ennoble his mind and heart--as well as the greatest hazard to his spiritual growth. Unlike television programs and motion pictures, books and magazines need not reach mass audiences to be profitable; and whereas film and TV producers often must tone down their productions to avoid offending large sections of the population, publishers often can make a profit by appealing to a small fraction of the public. Thus, a typical movie that did not reach millions would be a financial failure; a book or magazine with a sale of 100,000 copies might be an outstanding success.

If you doubt that the awesome power of the press is being exploited by some publishers, spend several minutes investigating the covers and contents of publications displayed by your local magazine dealers. You will probably find dozens, if not hundreds, of publications deliberately designed to incite sexual passion. They are to the soul of a young person as poison is to his body. Even so-called respectable magazines often offend shockingly. One such publication, for example, recently published an article advocating masturbation. Others accept-- if they do not openly promote--the practice of artificial birth control, divorce, and other procedures directly contradictory to moral law.

Do not underestimate the harm that obscene reading matter can do. The person who reads much of it surely--perhaps without being aware of it-- acquires the standards he finds there. It is no exaggeration to say that many crimes and sins are first conceived by the young mind as it experiences the secret thrill of seeing crime and sin glorified on the printed page. No less an authority than J. Edgar Hoover, head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has stated that "filthy literature is casting criminals faster than the prisons can absorb them."

When books and magazines are not instruments of direct temptation to impressionable youngsters, they may often be objectionable on the grounds of taste. Large numbers of comic books, the favorite reading matter of pre-adolescents, fall into this category. They seemingly accept brutality and torture as a way of life, and their literary standards are the despair of teachers trying to instill principles of good grammar and proper speech in the minds of youngsters.

You are completely within your rights in voicing your objections to the store owner who displays lascivious magazines and books and makes such reading matter available to young purchasers. The merchant who displays these periodicals may not even be aware of the tremendous harm that they can do, and when you call the situation to his attention, he may eagerly co-operate by removing them from view.

As a conscientious parent, you should also inform yourself of the kind of books chosen by your local library and made available for public consumption. In our society, with its various creeds and differing shades of belief, it must be expected that libraries will select books which do not necessarily appeal to all groups. Nevertheless, some books openly attack established institutions and defy our established standards, and taxpayers may rightly protest the use of public funds to support viewpoints which seek to tear down the fabric of our society.

You do less than half a job, however, when you criticize bad reading matter and fail to support writers, editors and publishers who encourage the ideals, stimulate the mind and spark the imagination of your children. For the ability of books to corrupt is exceeded by their ability to inspire. You can find inexpensive paperback reprints of the greatest classics of English literature. There are innumerable reputable periodicals which do an excellent job of entertaining, amusing, and helping you to live better. Your bookshop has countless volumes which can enrich your child's life. Your public library has many more books which uphold all the ideals of Christian virtue and encourage young people to lead lives of courage and heroism. You should encourage your youngster to choose the good.

Companions. The older your child becomes, the more he will be influenced by the youngsters he chooses as playmates and those with whom he comes into contact. By the time he reaches adolescence, it will seem to you that he values his friends' opinions more than he cares for yours, those of his teachers, and sometimes even of your pastor.

Teen-agers themselves regard their companions as the worst possible influence on their lives. A survey of young people by Eugene Gilbert, as reported by the Associated Press, revealed that 76 per cent of the boys voted that companions were the worst influences on their lives, and 64 per cent of the girls voted similarly. These youngsters were replying to this poll at a time in their lives when they lacked the experience to measure the influences of their home, church, and school. Yet at this particular time of life, there can be no doubt that the influence of companions may be of first importance. Some youngsters replying to the survey said that today's teen-agers are afraid of being thought spineless if they refuse to go along with the crowd. If you notice high school students in a group, observe how they dress alike, walk alike, cultivate the same tastes and interests. Most will do anything necessary to win acceptance.

In view of the intense desire of most youngsters to be "in with the group," it follows that group standards exert a tremendous influence over their behavior. Groups of adolescents range from members of street gangs who consider it smart to get into trouble with the police, up to groups of intelligent, clean-cut boys and girls who can clearly see that successful living lies in conforming to the laws of God and society. Neither an adult nor a youngster needs much discernment to decide in what category any given youth will fall.

Obviously, you want your child to associate with others who will exert a good moral influence upon him. You can help by creating an environment which enables him to meet more of the higher type than the lower. One way to do this is to choose a school where high standards of conduct are demanded. Of course, many non-Catholic pupils of high moral standards attend public institutions; nevertheless it is obvious that in the Catholic school your youngster is less likely to meet students who are not a good influence.

Even in what seems to be the best environment, however, do not relinquish your interest in your child's companions. You should get to know his friends and should try to determine whether they exert a good or bad influence. Obviously, no child is perfect and it will be impossible for yours to find associates who are sterling characters in all respects. Do not expect too much of them, therefore. But if there is any indication that they are a bad moral force and are encouraging your child to sin, you should prevent the friendship from proceeding further.

You can easily forbid young children to play with certain boys or girls. It is more difficult to do so with teen-agers. An adolescent is usually intensely loyal to his friends, and your criticism of those you consider undesirable may cause him to defend them out of loyalty. Instead of separating your child from his undesirable companion, therefore, you may bring them closer together. This applies to friendship between members of the opposite sex as well as to friendships between members of the same sex. Moreover, your child may see valuable qualities in other youngsters which you do not see. When you have clear evidence that his friends are a bad influence, you probably could achieve better results with an adolescent by appealing to his sense of idealism and his concepts of right and wrong. As a last resort, it may be necessary to change his environment. For example, transferring him to another school will introduce him to new friends and weaken his bonds with the old ones.

Ever since the early days of the Church, theologians have studied what are the responsibilities of one person toward another who leads a sinful life. This question may arise anew when a boy or girl is attracted by feelings of sympathy to another youngster who exerts an undesirable influence. Is a girl or boy morally justified in maintaining the friendship to try to reform one with sinful tendencies? The answer would seem to be that if the undesirable youngster belongs to a group in which the majority are of good moral caliber, it would be wrong to deny him the opportunity to improve. On the other hand, one good youngster in a group of undesirable boys would have little chance to reform them. Instead, he would probably become corrupted. A boy or girl should associate with one with evil tendencies, therefore, only when the likelihood is very great that good influences will prevail.

Community influences. Community recreation centers, boys' clubs, dancing schools, teenage canteens and similar organizations all have some effect upon your child's development. The effect may be good or evil. If the clubs are operated by adults with Christian ideals, they perform a worth-while service in introducing children to wholesome recreation. If they are not properly supervised or if their membership consists mainly of undesirable types, they can be a real source of evil. Before allowing your youngster to join organizations of this kind, you should find out who the sponsors are, what kind of boys and girls attend, and whether there will be chaperons. Teen-agers do not like to feel that they are not trusted, but they also recognize the need of adult supervision. Parents often can improve the influence that such organizations exert on the community by taking an active part in their activities.

Some general principles. In protecting your child from unsuitable community influences or from bad television shows, movies, radio programs, reading matter or bad companions, do not adopt the posture of the stern policeman. Rather, try to anticipate possible problems before they arise. Discuss them reasonably with your youngster, emphasizing your loving concern for his welfare. For instance, if an undesirable motion picture is coming to your community, you can convince your youngster that he should not see it if you discuss its bad qualities before the question of his actual attendance is raised. Similarly, you can emphasize the harm in reading salacious magazines before he reaches the teen years when he might be tempted to buy one. Some magazines and many local newspapers publish previews of forthcoming television programs, enabling you to choose in advance the most desirable ones for the children to see. If you take advantage of this opportunity to pre- select your child's TV viewing, you can help make this medium a good influence upon him.

To protect your youngster from evil forces outside the home will require much patience and application. There are so many sources of possible moral harm that you will have to be constantly alert. Your constant concern will be reflected, however, in your child's wholesome development. Eternal vigilance is the price of sanctity.


IN HIS wisdom, and for reasons which human beings often do not understand, God may give parents a child unlike other children in some important area of body or mind. Such a child is said to be exceptional. He offers special challenges to parents. Sometimes they must develop patience, understanding and trust in Divine Providence in order to enable him to overcome his handicaps and to live with sanctity, security and happiness.

One child in ten in the United States is exceptional. About one per cent of the population are thought to be seriously retarded mentally. Even as adults they will be unable to concentrate on any but the simplest directions. Reading even two-syllable words will be a difficult chore. They will be unable to keep their mind on any subject for more than a few minutes. Another two per cent are also retarded, but to a lesser degree. While they can learn to sweep a room, wash dishes or dig a trench, they too must be protected from normal problems of adult life in which use of the intellect is required. The additional seven per cent of the total population suffer defects which will handicap them in some important way. Such defects may be epilepsy, cerebral palsy, serious physical disfigurement or crippled bodily organs. Persons may be born with these handicaps or may acquire them as a result of accidents or diseases like polio. But regardless of the cause or nature of his condition, the affected child may suffer a lasting impairment of personality unless his parents train him to accept his condition without bitterness and to build a successful life despite it.

Faced with the challenge of an exceptional child, parents must first accept the fact that God has chosen, for His own reasons, to give them this obligation. It is a cross which should be borne bravely and accepted as a means by which they and their child can develop the spiritual qualities of patience, fortitude and faith in Divine Providence. Secondly, they should follow a constructive program to make the handicap more bearable for both the child and themselves. Great strides have been made in recent years in caring for the handicapped and in developing ways to help them use their resources to the fullest possible extent. Dramatic improvements now are possible which were considered beyond hope a short time ago. Parents of a handicapped child thus may look to the future with faith and courage.

The mentally retarded. It was formerly assumed that four retarded children in five inherited their condition. More precise studies have convinced most scientists, however, that about half the cases result from influences after the child is conceived. For example, mothers who contract German measles during pregnancy give birth to a larger percentage of retarded children than the average. Some types of retardation are thought to result from a malfunctioning of the mother's pituitary or thyroid glands. Long and difficult labor resulting in damage to brain tissues, accidents shortly after birth, and diseases in early infancy may also cause the condition.

In extreme cases, a doctor may suspect retardation when he sees the child shortly after birth. Usually, however, indications will not be manifest until the child is about six months old. As a result of measurements made upon thousands of children, doctors can predict when an average infant will take an interest in events around him, when he will begin to grasp objects, and when he will try to sit up, crawl and develop his muscular ability in other ways. They can observe how his nervous system reacts to certain stimuli, and can make other tests to indicate whether his development falls within a normal range. Lesser mental weakness generally cannot be verified until at least one or two years after birth. Serious physical or neurological defects generally are apparent by the third year, but sometimes the fact that the child is below normal does not become truly evident until he enters school and is compared with others of his age.

Since many cases of retardation can be helped if detected early, every child should be examined by a physician frequently during his preschool years. Of course these examinations should not be for the purpose of detecting mental defects, since proportionately few children are so afflicted; rather, they should be general physical checkups, during which the doctor will observe abnormalities if they exist.

Science has made considerable progress in enabling retarded children to achieve some measure of self-reliance. Not long ago it was generally believed that they could not be given any training that would enable them to live outside of institutions. Now we know, however, that four out of five can be taught to read, write, add and subtract, and to make simple decisions governing their own affairs. Most will need guidance in choosing a vocation, but once they get appropriate jobs, they can perform them satisfactorily. They may often be highly desirable employees, in fact, because they happily do work which brighter persons would find boring. Another 14 per cent--about one in seven--are considered incapable of learning basic elementary school subjects, but can be trained to perform simple tasks--serving as porters in a factory or housemaids--and can at least partially support themselves. However, they will always need others to guide them in their everyday affairs.

Treatment and training of a mentally retarded child should start as soon as his condition is recognized. Many federal, state and local programs have been developed to aid in such treatment. If your child is retarded, your doctor can advise you of facilities available in your community.

You may be required to decide, while your child is still an infant, whether he might better be cared for in an institution or at home. Your conclusion should probably be based on what progress he may reasonably be expected to make. If competent doctors believe that he can be trained to achieve even a small measure of independence as an adult, and if facilities for this training are available nearby, keeping the child at home might be the most advisable course. On the other hand, if expectations are not hopeful and he will need constant protective care even in adulthood, institutional life might be more fitting. In a weighty question of this kind, where your emotions may not enable you to think clearly, you would probably be wise to seek the opinion of your pastor or of social agencies with a Christian respect for the rights of parents and children.

While it will be a great sadness to parents to place their child in an institution, they should take comfort from the fact that his eternity in heaven is assured. Since he lacks freedom of will to commit sin, he stands in no danger of losing his soul. Thus parents of a mentally defective child succeed in the ultimate purpose of parenthood: they will return their child to God. Their mission is more successful, therefore, than that of the father and mother who produce a normal child who dies in mortal sin.

Other conditions which make a child exceptional include:

Cerebral palsy. This disease usually results from an injury to the brain at birth or soon thereafter. It often makes the child appear to be retarded mentally, because it causes speech and walking difficulties. Actually, many afflicted children have extraordinary, gifted minds. They--and all other palsied children--require special teaching and training to enable them to realize their potentialities.

Epilepsy. Only a few generations ago, this condition was thought to be associated with mental disease, and many doctors considered it hopeless. Now it has been established beyond dispute that most patients subject to epileptic seizures are normal in other aspects of their lives. Nine epileptic children out of ten can attend school with normal children. They will require continuing medical care, however. The remaining child in ten may need to be treated in an institution or to attend school with children similarly afflicted, where teachers and nurses are trained to deal with seizures.

Physical defects which restrict movement. One example is a boy who has suffered rheumatic fever, with a resultant weakened heart condition, and who now must sit on the sidelines while classmates play basketball. A youngster with a crippled or missing arm or leg, the result of a disease like polio or an accident, likewise may be excluded from sports and other activities of normal children.

Exceptional difficulties in seeing, speaking or hearing. Some children stand out from their classmates because of their inability to pronounce words properly, or to see or hear normally. Speech defects are more common than most persons realize. They may result from an improper formation of the teeth or jaw, from damage to the brain, or from a wide range of psychological factors. It is now generally believed that stammering and stuttering are caused by a deep sense of insecurity.

Neurosis. Emotional conflicts may often result in abnormal behavior that sets the child apart. The youngster who is overly submissive or aggressive, who refuses to play in ordinary games with other children, or who does play and always ends the game either crying or fighting, is one whose condition definitely requires special care and attention.

What parents can do for exceptional children. Probably the best attitude which the parent of an exceptional child can have is to face facts as they exist at the present, and to cultivate an objective viewpoint about the future. By refusing to dwell on the past, parents can avoid the common tendency to blame themselves or others for the child's condition. The parent who insists upon blaming himself tends to place responsibility for the child's care upon his own shoulders, and to reject the services of others better qualified to treat the condition.

By looking hopefully to the future, you will avoid a tendency to lavish pity upon the child. For one who is pitied and made excessively dependent soon comes to accept service from others as his right, and feels persecuted when he is required to do things on his own. He is deprived of the opportunity--essential to his full development--of doing things for himself and for other people.

Cultivating an objective point of view means that you will accept your child as he is. You will try to develop his spiritual qualities so that he will accept his affliction with courage and optimism. You will not burden him excessively with obligations beyond his ability, but you will allow him to develop his skills to the utmost so that they become a source of creative satisfaction to him.

You will also strive to learn as much as possible about modern methods of caring for your child and put him under the care of experts who are familiar with the latest methods of treatment. Fortunately, free care is available for all exceptional children if you are unable to pay. There also are many organizations of parents whose children have a common problem--groups, for instance, of parents of mentally retarded children, of the cerebral palsied and the crippled. Such parents can give you a greater understanding of your own child's needs, and they can advise you how to handle problems which may cause you concern. Through these contacts, you can also help your child cultivate friendships with similarly handicapped children, and help to relieve the sense of isolation which a disabled person often feels.

Emotional problems of exceptional children. Although handicapped youngsters have their individual personalities, they often react to the discovery that they are "different" in one of two ways: They either accept their condition too complacently, or they resent it excessively.

The child who reacts in the first way tends to depend almost entirely upon his parents and others responsible for his care. He often discovers that because of his condition, he can exact services which are denied normal youngsters. Unless his parents treat his excessive demands with unyielding firmness, he will gradually refuse to do more and more things for himself until he seems incapable of even the simplest acts.

Parents must decide what their handicapped child can do, and then insist that he do it. The mother of a crippled child may find it difficult to steel herself when her youngster tries to walk and falls. But if walking is within his ultimate capabilities, it is far better for his development that he suffer temporary defeats until he achieves proficiency at it than that his incentive to walk be destroyed by overprotectiveness.

The second undesirable reaction--rebellion against his condition which may soon become rebellion against all authority--also must be dealt with firmly. Few parents will discipline a handicapped child as they would a normal one. Let the afflicted youngster recognize this fact, and he is tempted to determine how far he can transgress and what his punishment will be. If his experiments prove that his parents have no effective way of deterring him, his offenses will know no limits. He will become a virtual tyrant on the loose. As one man put it: Show me the sickest member of the family and I will show you who rules the home. Obviously, parents must prevent such a development by adopting methods of discipline which are not emotionally harmful but which nevertheless let him know that misconduct will not be tolerated. Handicapped youngsters usually can be trained to follow normal rules of conduct if they are deprived of privileges--viewing television, for example--when they disobey.

Both overdependence and rebelliousness can be avoided if parents realize that their child's emotional needs differ only in degree--not in kind--from those of normal youngsters. An afflicted child needs more constant reassurance of your love, as well as a deeper sense of security, which your visible acceptance of him as a worthy individual alone can provide. More than other children, he also needs to accomplish things. Watch for signs of latent talent, and encourage him to develop it. One crippled boy has won the admiration of his classmates because of his ability to draw cartoons; another is an expert chess player; a third does entertaining card tricks.

Wherever possible, also accentuate interests which your youngster has in common with others so that he may make friends more easily. Encourage him to invite other children to your home and enroll him if possible in nursery school, day camp, a Boy Scout group, or similar activities which youngsters normally engage in. A disabled child often can participate in games, even if not as a player; by serving as score keeper or referee, he is accepted as one of them. Children quickly become accustomed to a deformity and thereafter do not usually think about it.

Brothers and sisters of an exceptional child may also need special attention. In their anxiety to give the best care to the handicapped one, some parents overlook the needs of their normal youngsters. As a result, the neglected ones sometimes develop a smoldering resentment toward both their parents and the handicapped youngster. Every child-- regardless of how normal he is--needs certain particular attention. As we indicated in the discussion on large families, parents should try to spend at least a few intimate minutes each day with each child, discussing his aspirations, congratulating him for his triumphs, consoling him in his difficulties. These moments of intimacy between each parent and each child are especially important if one child necessarily requires a disproportionate amount of care. Most boys and girls lack the insight to understand why a handicapped youngster may have so much time devoted to him if the time allotted to them is sacrificed as a result.

Your other children should be taught to treat their handicapped brother or sister as you do--objectively, and without shame or guilt. They should be taught that God has given some children different characteristics from others, and that helping those less privileged than ourselves is a means by which we can all grow in God's sight. They should make allowances for a disability and should be taught to sympathize with the handicapped one's efforts to overcome it. At times, they may be required to take turns in feeding a child who cannot feed himself, or in playing games in which he can participate.

However, they should not play the part of martyrs, for their own development may be stunted. Ever since she was eight, one sixteen-year- old girl had been required to spend almost every afternoon after school caring for her younger brother who was bedridden all that time. Outwardly the girl seemed to accept her task, but inwardly she seethed with resentment. Then, to the shock of family and friends, she ran away from home and involved herself in a series of sordid episodes. To the trained psychologist, her misconduct was clearly related to the fact that her mother had given her an overwhelming burden and permitted her almost no time for recreation with her own classmates.

The adopted child. Although adopted children usually are not exceptional in the sense that they are physically or mentally different from others, nevertheless they do have special problems. For instance, although an adopted child may not openly indicate his awareness of it, he may feel "different" because his parents are not his own and he does not have the natural relationship with them that his playmates have with their parents.

Almost everyone today accepts the experts' opinion that it is wise to tell a child, as soon as he can understand, that he is adopted, and to indicate the special meaning of this relationship. Children respond lovingly to the idea that they were specifically chosen by the adopting parents. But an adopted child will not be satisfied with simple answers throughout his life. Just as he will ask many questions on different levels of understanding about sex as he matures, so too will he seek to know various details about his adoption and the whereabouts of his natural parents.

As with their answers about sex, parents should respond to questions about adoption within the framework of love. They should emphasize that they adopted the child because of his worthy and admirable qualities, because they could provide him with a loving home imbued with the worship of God, and because they hoped to give him a spiritual upbringing that would enrich his life and lead to his salvation. Some adopted children feel a special need for reassurances of this love, especially if other children give them the idea that there is something wrong or abnormal about their situation. While the child's questions deserve honest answers, as complete as his age warrants, parents should not recite specific details--for example, the name of the agency or of the case worker--involved in the adoption procedure.

Officials at adoption agencies and other experts disagree over what a child should be told of his natural parents. Some say that he should be told that they died and that no one was left to care for him. Unless this explanation corresponds to the facts, it may be unwise as well as untrue. Often, children learn the truth in ways which cannot even be anticipated. If they learn that you have deceived them on such an important question as this, their faith in you will be badly shaken.

Even if they have never seen their parents and will never see them, children do not wish to believe anything evil of them. If the child was born out of wedlock, the adopting parents should merely state the truth that the mother, knowing that she would be unable to give her baby the care he deserved, was forced to offer him to people who would do so. Almost always, the adopting couple will lack first-hand knowledge of circumstances surrounding the child's conception. If he inquires into his legitimacy as he reaches adolescence, they should truthfully reply that they do not know. Whenever a child raises questions of this kind, however, the parents should not miss the opportunity to emphasize that he has their full, unquestioning love, and that his worth as a person will be determined by his own achievements rather than by anyone else's. Psychologists also deem it important that the child be made to feel at all times that no one responsible for his early care--his natural mother or his adopted parents--would give him up willingly unless overwhelming reasons forced them to do so.

The need to accept a child as he is--and not to look too closely into what part heredity played in giving him his characteristics--is of primary importance to parents of an adopted child. At times, like any youngster, he will resent and even seem to hate them. At other times, he may appear to display major character defects. It is easy to blame his natural mother and father for his conduct. Overimaginative parents might conclude that the boy who displays an avid interest in girls at an early age may be headed for a life of promiscuity. They may also be disturbed when he reaches adolescence and manifests the rebelliousness characteristic of that stage. They should firmly understand during such difficult times that no good purpose is served by trying to determine what inheritable factors are involved. For whether the child reaches adult life with wholesome Christian ideals will depend primarily upon the example he received during his formative years. As his foremost teachers, his adopted parents will have greater control over his moral and spiritual development than any factors in his heredity.

How to handle a "genius." About three per cent of all children have such exceptional mental equipment that they can be classified as bright or very bright. Thus about as many persons can be found in this category as among the mentally retarded. While the problems of exceptionally gifted children are not comparable to those of retarded youngsters, difficulties exist nonetheless.

First signs that a child has a greater intellectual potential than the average usually cannot be seen until he is about a year old, and real substantiation may not be evident until he is nine or ten. According to researchers at the New York University Counseling Center for Gifted Children and elsewhere, a bright child usually shows some of these characteristics:

He learns to do things for himself--to walk, talk, feed himself to read and count--earlier than the average. He is curious by nature and likes to investigate things and how they are made. He asks many questions, often puzzling his parents as to where he acquired the information upon which his questions are based. He has a long attention span and can play constructively by himself for long periods. He creates his own diversions and will collect stamps, cards, photographs and other objects without any suggestion from his parents. He learns to read early--sometimes at five years or younger, and sometimes without being taught--and he acquires a large vocabulary. He enjoys using words in unusual ways. He recalls details of events, names of objects, batting averages and other facts which the average person does not remember.

One of a parent's great joys is watching his child's intellect develop. It is like the opening of a beautiful flower. But as horticulturists know, generally the more perfect the blossom, the more careful must be the attention given its development. This is equally so with the gifted child. He must be guided carefully lest he fall into any of several traps.

You must keep him intellectually active. Many bright children become problem pupils at school because they soon discover that they can do their lessons more quickly than average children; while the teacher is trying to get her point across to the less gifted ones, the bright child may become bored. He may get into mischief, develop the habit of daydreaming or seek other escapes from boredom. Many schools recognize this danger and assign children to different classes according to their ability. Thus, the bright child is placed with other bright youngsters and the teacher can give challenging work to all without having to consider the needs of duller pupils.

Small schools often cannot direct their programs specifically to the bright child, however. If that is true in your child's case, you should try to provide intellectual challenges outside his classroom. Encourage him to read extensively in subjects that interest him. A third-grader became absorbed in the story of the American Revolution. His parents helped him select library books dealing with it. Soon he was reading about related subjects--the kind of guns used during that period, customs of life in Colonial times, biographies of leading Revolutionary figures. He acquired a depth of understanding that could not have been obtained at school alone, and his satisfaction in acquiring the additional knowledge encouraged him to do similar research on other subjects introduced to him in class.

It is also important that you do not give your child the impression that he is superior to others. Accept his intellectual accomplishments matter-of-factly, and never allow him to jeer at those less gifted than himself. Point out that God bestows different gifts in different quantities, and that a youngster who does not do well at studies may be excellent at athletics; another may have unusual talent in the arts; a third, qualities of compassion and understanding which give joy to all who know him. The bright child who is allowed to think he is superior to other children may become an insufferable prig obsessed with a compulsion to show off at every opportunity.

Until he reaches high school, at least, and possibly until he enters college, a bright youngster will be regarded suspiciously by classmates. His adjustment with others of his age often is hampered by the fact that he usually does not enjoy ordinary childhood games like football or baseball. Rather, he prefers semi-solitary sports like swimming and tennis. Not only are his recreational tastes different; his choice of words, reading matter, and other interests may tend to isolate him. Try to counteract his tendency always to do things by himself. Encourage him to acquire skills which will put him at ease with other youngsters: teach him to wrestle, play ball, dance, and to engage in group activities wherever possible.

Some parents actually become fearful when they discover that they have an unusually bright child. One reason is the belief that child prodigies invariably grow up to be inadequate adults. According to a widely held notion, they become addicted to alcohol or narcotics, are unable to work at respectable jobs, and cannot adjust to the practical demands of adult society. This idea is not founded upon fact.

Beginning in 1920, Dr. Lewis M. Terman of Stanford University began to study a group of 1,500 youngsters whose I.Q.s started at 140 and ranged upward. Dr. Terman and his colleagues analyzed the life histories of these children for 25 years, visiting their homes, interviewing their teachers, recording the jobs they chose and how they got along with employers and fellow employees. Thus he compiled a complete, factual picture of what actually happens to gifted children when they grow up.

What he found should reassure every parent of a gifted child. At every age level, he discovered, superior children usually make a better adjustment socially and in other ways than the average. They develop fewer emotional problems: there are fewer alcoholics, narcotic addicts, criminals or divorcees than can be found among the population at large. By all such measurements, they are more successful than persons with lesser intelligence.

To be sure, there have been spectacular cases of "mad geniuses"--child prodigies who lived in misery and shame as men and women. Researchers have established, however, that most cases of this kind result from a common factor: the youngsters were exploited by their parents. The children were exposed to excesses of publicity, were put on display before the public as geniuses, and in other ways were denied their precious right--the opportunity to grow normally, secure in the knowledge that their parents loved them as human beings and not because of special talents they possessed. In their need to be loved completely and without reservation for their own sakes, exceptionally bright children differ in no way from either normal youngsters or handicapped ones.

In encouraging your child to realize his intellectual potential, remember that his spiritual and emotional growth are more important. Few lives are so tragic as those lived by persons of superior intellect without sanctity. They are like a building on a motion picture set--a beautiful, photogenic front with emptiness behind.

Only with a true spiritual outlook can the highly intelligent man or woman fully use his intellect to serve God and man. So give your child the priceless quality of idealism. Encourage him to work for the betterment of humanity--the uplifting of man's heart or mind, the easing of his physical or emotional pain, the improvement of man's condition of life--and you will provide an objective worthy of the intellect which God has given him.


EXPERTS estimate that either the father or mother is missing in one out of four American families with a child under twelve years of age. In 80 per cent of those families, it is the father who is missing; in the remaining families, the mother is absent.

Several factors are responsible for the tragically high number of one- parent families in modern society. One cause is the death of a parent. In the United States, each year, about 200,000 fathers or mothers under fifty-five die, leaving their survivors with minor children. It has been estimated that 300,000 children under twelve do not have a living mother or father. Another factor is divorce. More than 3,000,000 families in the United States have been broken by it. (Catholics cannot sue for divorce, but some persons who profess the Catholic faith do so nevertheless. They leave their partners, who may practice their religion faithfully, with the task of rearing the children.(A third cause is desertion. The best available estimates are that more than 50,000 homes are broken in the United States each year by this factor. Usually the husband is the deserter--often one who cannot stand the responsibility of fatherhood.

Many more or less involuntary separations also place upon one parent almost the entire burden of parenthood. They may last only a few months or as long as the children require parental care. More than a million families are affected by this type of separation at any given time. Some causes of it are hospitalization (more than 200,000 parents are inmates of mental institutions), imprisonment, service in the armed forces, and employment conditions which require the father to be away from home all or most of the time. In addition to involuntary separation there is what is known as psychological desertion: one parent technically lives at home but is absent in fact or in spirit too often to be an important force in the children's training. A typical psychological deserter is the alcoholic, of whom there are an estimated 4,000,000 in the United States. An alcoholic parent may live with his family, but is so continually befogged that the sober partner must assume the entire task of rearing the children. Whatever the reasons for the separation, absence of a husband or wife throws extra burdens on the remaining partner.

A child who has lost one parent invariably needs much more security than does the ordinary youngster. A young child accustomed to love from both parents often becomes nervous, irritable and subject to crying spells when part of this love is suddenly withdrawn. Even when children are old enough to understand that one parent has had to go away, their need for that parent's affection remains.

How a child may react to death. Young people often cannot grasp the full significance of death; it is fairly common for a child to feel that he was deliberately deserted because he was unworthy of the parent's love. This feeling that he has been rejected intensifies his sense of insecurity. Loss of a mother is particularly disturbing to a young child, because it usually involves a new environment being created for him. Perhaps a housekeeper must be hired to care for him while his father is at work; however kind she may be, she follows a different routine than the mother did. It may be necessary to place him in a foster home temporarily; this also completely changes his mode of living.

The remaining parent must show great patience, understanding and affection to help a child regain his emotional stability. You can do this by finding opportunities to praise him for his character and his accomplishments; by doing things with him to demonstrate your interest in him as a person; and, where possible, by overlooking mannerisms--his refusal to eat certain foods, his tendency to cry easily, his reversion to undisciplined bowel habits--which reflect his feeling of loss. You will be able to correct these conditions after he has regained what is more important--his sense of security and personal worth.

Your child also needs to retain his faith in his missing parent and you should never belittle your spouse in his presence. Normally it is not difficult for a widow or widower to praise a dead mate. It may not be so easy for a mother to speak well of a father who has deserted her and perhaps abused her physically and mentally. However, she should try to remember that he doubtless had qualities which appealed to her originally; in charity--and considerable charity may be required--she should dwell on these features and leave unsavory aspects of his character unmentioned. The need to be kind to the memory of the absent one is very important because youngsters often idealize their parents. If a boy believes that his father was worth-while, he will think that he himself is worth-while. If he learns that his father was shiftless, a drunkard and a bully, he may suspect that he himself is unworthy

This need exists not only when a parent has left permanently but also during long absences. The father in one family was a traveling salesman whose job kept him on the road most of the year. In winter, he called on customers in the sunny South; in summer, he visited businessmen in vacation areas of the North. Through all seasons his wife remained at home, caring for the children and building in her mind an image of her husband enjoying continuous pleasure. She lost few opportunities to complain to her daughter that he relished his job because it freed him from responsibility at home. She would have vehemently denied that she was disloyal to her husband. But the effect was obvious Her daughter married and made it plain that she intended to avoid being "stuck" with children.

Need for a "Father Image." A child also needs someone to substitute for his departed parent. No matter how conscientious you may be, you cannot give what the combination of father and mother, as ordained by God, can provide for his total development. A child without a mother misses the sweet warmth of maternal love which no man can provide. Another woman-- aunt, grandmother, older sister, perhaps even a devoted housekeeper-- may serve as a substitute. By example, she can show a girl how women are expected to act and thus provide the image the child needs to guide her to adulthood. A woman has an unquestioned softening influence upon a boy--so much so, in fact, that some authorities assert that the lad reared without benefit of a strong feminine influence almost invariably develops a harsh streak in his character.

Boys and girls need a "substitute father" too. As we noted in discussing the father's role in the family, a son needs a male figure to show him how he should act when he reaches manhood. Without a father or a suitable substitute, he may fumble his way through the problems of adolescence and young manhood, losing confidence with each step because he lacks an experienced adult of his own sex whose example he can study and in whom he can confide.

When a father is lacking, a wise mother will create opportunities to bring her son into contact with men he can admire. This may be a godfather, an uncle, a family friend, a Scout leader. She will encourage him to become an altar boy and to join other parish societies, where he will come under the influence of priests. If possible, she will choose a high school where the teachers are men-- preferably priests or lay brothers.

Finally, your child needs to develop as a normal young person. Even though it may be economically difficult for the family to maintain itself in the absence of one parent, do not impose unfair burdens. An older girl should not be turned into a "second mother," responsible for the younger children and denied the opportunity to pursue her own life. Nor should schoolchildren be required to devote all or most of their free time to earning income, thus forgoing recreation which others normally enjoy.

Youngsters can thrive without many material things we have come to regard as necessities. Often a boy is not nearly so disturbed about his shabby trousers as is his mother; he would rather play with other youngsters than earn the income needed to maintain a more presentable appearance.

The main sufferer in a one-parent home is often the oldest daughter. She frequently gets the role of substitute mother. She may have to quit school to remain at home with the younger ones. Her opportunities to meet boys may be severely restricted. She is literally on call day and night. Daughters often resent these forced sacrifices; many grasp the first opportunity to marry simply because it affords an escape from their routine of drudgery. A good principle to observe is that older children should make sacrifices, but should not become martyrs; they should have opportunities to associate with other young people and to enjoy some recreation with them.

Dangers for parents to avoid. The loss of a husband or wife often gives the surviving parent a sense of shock and emotional emptiness. This feeling of loss is especially acute if the husband or wife has died suddenly. The survivor feels a need to shower love for the departed spouse upon someone else and the objects of this increased devotion usually are the children. Therein lies danger, for the early days of grief may set up patterns of overpossessiveness which endure for a lifetime.

Widows must especially avoid the impulse to indulge in "smother-love." A mother must realize that her children are entitled to pursue lives of their own with their own friends, and in directions in which their own talents lead them. Instead of concentrating all of her time and energy upon her children, she might seek to make new friends of her own age, to develop outside interests such as charitable work, and to try to achieve her own sense of independence. By developing her own resources as an individual, she will be better able to provide her children freedom to develop in their own way.

A second danger is that of overprotectiveness. A mother in a fatherless home often is determined that she alone will make up to her children for their loss. One such mother, left with three boys, decided that they would not suffer because of their father's death. Day and night she supervised their affairs. When they played on school teams, she was at the ball field to be on hand if they were hurt. They could not cross a main boulevard alone to reach church and school; she had to drive them. The family doctor could always count on her phone call whenever a boy developed a slight sign of a cold. Her two oldest sons are now in the army, and the youngest is in high school. All are inadequate. They are unable to accept responsibility for their own affairs because they have never been required to do so. What is more, all show intense hostility toward her. She is completely confused. She spent her life caring for them, she reasons, and in return has received only ingratitude.

Another danger to avoid is that of being overly strict with your children. Fathers are especially susceptible to this tendency, because by nature they exert the stern influence in the home while mothers incline toward leniency. With the mother absent, no force remains to lessen the stern masculine impact. One father reasoned that since he could not be at home during the day to correct his children's misconduct, he would punish them so severely for their mistakes that they would toe the mark, even in his absence, for fear of being found out. Although he lived to an old age and his children appreciated the sacrifices he had made to rear them, his over-severity in their childhood made it impossible for them to feel the true sense of warmth and affection that should have existed between them.

If you must be father and mother, you must also fight the temptation toward self-pity. Some parents appear to enjoy the martyrdom they can assume when they picture themselves as prisoners of their responsibilities. For your own mental and physical health, get outside yourself. Visit relatives and friends with whom you can discuss subjects other than your children. Take up hobbies. Keep your mind active by reading good books. Above all, get the food and rest you need. Avoid the common tendency to skip meals when there is no one at home to eat them. This course soon leads to excessive fatigue, nervous tension, and other ailments--and may make you more easily prone to despair over your condition of life.

Above all, do not lose your idealism and optimism. If problems arise with which you cannot cope, seek advice from your pastor, doctor or community services. Fortify your strength through prayer, spiritual meditation and frequent reception of the sacraments.

Never underestimate the power of prayer. If your partner is dead, you can legitimately demand his intercession for you in heaven. But in any event, you can recall God's promise when you were married that His grace would help you fulfill your station in life regardless of crosses and hardships which might be placed upon you. If you seek His help in your work of bringing His children to an eternity with Him, burdens which otherwise might be unbearable will be lighter on your shoulders.

Don't abuse foster homes. When a family loses a mother or father, the surviving parent often finds it difficult or impossible to care for the children. A common solution is to place them in institutions or in foster homes where they are cared for by a mother and father and given some of the benefits of family life. The cost of such care is often borne by charitable organizations or by the local government. It is estimated that almost 200,000 children now live in foster homes in the United States.

Many devoted couples have opened their homes to these young ones and provide them with affection and understanding. But they are substitute parents at best. Other persons who operate foster homes seem to be motivated by a desire to profit from the payments they get. While their care may meet technical standards set up by social welfare agencies, they often neglect to give the child the personal attention he needs for his complete development. In any event, a foster home should not be considered as a solution to your problems unless you have exhausted all possible ways of caring for your child at home.

A youngster's need for security and love is never demonstrated quite so poignantly as in institutions or foster homes. One little girl returned to an orphanage after a short visit with her mother, clutching a dirty rag. She refused to be separated from it at any time of the day or night. It represented her sole tie to her mother, and as long as she held it she felt a kinship with home.

The typical boy or girl in a foster institution staggers emotionally under a double loss--the loss of one parent and then of a second who found herself unable to care for the child alone. Such a child deeply feels that he is unloved and rejected, and will hesitate to show love for another person because he fears rejection from the third party as well.

Once a child is placed in a foster home, there is a grave danger that he will remain there permanently. The mother who institutionalizes her child usually hopes that she will make a home for him in the reasonably near future. When some discover that they have been relieved of the day-by-day task of caring for their child's needs, however, they hesitate to relinquish their freedom and assume their rightful responsibility again. Other parents, despite their best intentions, cannot change their circumstances so that they can care for their child personally.

When parents willingly or otherwise permit a temporary solution to become permanent, their children often are the victims of heart-rending tragedies. Some parents deposit their infants at institutions and do not visit them again for years. Other children are moved from foster home to foster home, finding it more difficult to make an adjustment each time. Some parents, motivated by good intentions but lacking practical judgment, remove a youngster from a home in which he has made some adjustment and take him back to live with them. After a few months, they discover that they cannot care for him after all. Back he goes to a different foster home--bewildered, and feeling a sense of guilt and rejection which he may never fully overcome.

The right of the parents to care for their child is supreme. He can be taken from them only if a court decides that they are incapable of giving him even the semblance of normal training. And even when he is placed in an institution by order of the state, he cannot be offered for adoption without their explicit consent. Thus they retain their basic legal rights at all times. This is as it should be, for it involves a principle deeply grounded in the natural law.

Yet, although parents need not waive rights to their child, there may be humane reasons why they should do so. In one study made by the Child Welfare League, it was found that half of the children who were placed under foster care at the age of two years or younger were still being cared for by institutions or foster homes at the age of eight. In other words, they had gone through many of the most formative years of their lives without the living guidance of parents and the stable influence of a home that they could call their own. It is estimated that 250,000 such children in the United States could be adopted and given real homes if their true parents would relinquish their legal rights.

In this highly important matter, no one should presume to tell a parent that she should give up her child if she cannot hope to provide a home for him. It can be suggested, however, that she prayerfully consider whether he should be offered for adoption to a couple better able to give the loving, constant care that is so essential for his spiritual, emotional and physical growth. Perhaps few tasks are more difficult for parents than severing all ties with their child. Yet, in justice, they should try to view the problem with the eyes of a third party. If they could weigh the disadvantages of institutional life against the advantages of a home where a child can develop roots and grow under the guidance of loving foster parents, their sacrifice might be easier to make.

Guidance for stepparents. One of the disservices which ancient fairy tales have done to the cause of modern life is to place the positions of stepmother and stepfather in disrepute. In the popular belief, the typical stepparent is often a person of vicious temperament who treats her stepchildren brutally. In fact, however, stepparents often provide their stepchildren with wholesome care and affection which natural parents sometimes fail to give.

In homes broken by the death of a parent, the possibility that the survivor may remarry and thus give the children the guidance of a second father or mother should not be overlooked. When a widower with children marries a widow with children, the result--surprising to some pessimists--is often a truly stable home, steeped in religious values, which spreads its benefits to every member of the household.

Sometimes, however, it is difficult to achieve satisfactory adjustments between the two parents in such a marriage, between each parent and his or her stepchildren, and among the stepchildren themselves. To make such a marriage work for the benefit of both adults and children, the parents in particular must exercise more patience, tolerance and humility than might be required in a union of two childless persons. For instance, loyalties to the lost parents have been established. Most family units have different standards of conduct and different ways of doing things. Through trial and error and an intimate knowledge of their own children, the different parents may have adopted different techniques of discipline. Children of the two-family units may be approximately the same age and a natural competitive situation may exist between them. Such factors must be reconciled if a marriage between stepparents is to achieve its greatest mutual benefit.

If the prospective husband and wife recognize the typical problems inherent in marriages of this kind and constructively plan solutions, a harmonious merger will be achieved more readily. Basically, they should work for five key objectives:

1. Unity of the new family unit. Just as husband and wife become one in marriage, so, too, should the separate families. They can be joined together through emphasis upon family prayer, family attendance at Mass and reception of the sacraments, and recreation in which all members of the family can participate.

2. Uniform rules for all the children. An agreement between husband and wife on the upbringing of their children is essential to all marriages, but doubly so in a union of stepparents. Unless the adults agree on how to discipline the children, the father's child will tend to side with him while the mother's child follows her guidance. As a result, the family will be split in practice.

3. A spirit of compromise. No two families develop the same way of doing things, and often it would be difficult for even an objective viewer to state which way is better. In his motherless home, one father permitted his preschool children to remain up late at night. He reasoned that they could spend more time with him in the evening and could make up their lost sleep in the morning. In her fatherless home, however, a mother kept her children on a rigid schedule and required them to complete their night prayers and be in bed by 8:30 P.M. When the families were united, one procedure obviously had to change. In this case, the father realized that since his children now had a mother, they should follow the schedule best suited for her. Many similar differences must be ironed out in a union of this kind.

4. Unqualified love and fairness. A new stepmother must face the possibility that her new children may reject her at first out of a mistaken sense of loyalty to their natural mother. A new stepfather may face similar rejection. However, given clear indications of the new parent's love, the children will respond in time. This response will be made easier if parents treat their own children and their stepchildren with strict equality. Children are quick to sense favoritism; if they believe that they are being discriminated against, and by one who seeks to replace their departed father or mother, the antagonism may be intensified. This condition probably is more responsible than any other for legendary tales about the cruelty of stepparents.

5. Firm discipline. The average child will be tempted to discover exactly to what extent a new parent means what he says. This experimentation is probably necessary. Few children feel secure unless they clearly understand what they may and may not do with impunity. A new stepparent must therefore avoid a tendency to be too lenient in disciplining a child. For while kindness is always necessary, firmness is equally so. The stepchild who breaks a rule should be told why it is necessary to punish him, so that he cannot justifiably conclude that the punishment is unfair.

One parent's disciplining of a child should be fully upheld by the other parent, of course. Stepchildren need constant confirmation of the fact that mother and father now are in complete unison and are both motivated by love for him and constant concern for his welfare.

Challenges and problems facing a stepparent are usually greater than those which confront natural parents. Yet the rewards are greater too. For a stepparent can bring love and guidance of a special kind to children who would otherwise be without it; and the love which the children will bestow in return will be a source of comfort throughout the parent's life.


PROBABLY no family exists that does not have some deep and serious problems. Sometimes the problems may result from personality conflicts between husband and wife or from a difference in their objectives. Perhaps they derive from the interference of in-laws; from a harmful habit of one partner, such as drinking or gambling to excess; from the failure of children to respond to the training by parents, church or school; or from an almost unlimited variety of other factors.

When you were married you were not granted immunity from difficulty. Your marriage contract, in which you agreed to take your partner "for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness or in health," clearly foresaw that your future life as a husband and father or wife and mother would be strewn with problems. Therefore your success or failure as a parent will not depend upon the number of difficulties in your life, but rather upon how you handle those thrust upon you. To some extent, at least, the manner in which you deal with your problems is the primary measure of your adequacy as a marriage partner and a parent.

One of the greatest attributes you can develop is the ability to determine what is important in your life, what constitutes a danger for your family's future, and whether you yourself possess resources to deal with any dangers that you foresee. Of equal, if not greater, importance is the attitude that any cross can be made bearable--if you display the courage and optimism which faith in God and His goodness can provide.

You must expect difficulties. To achieve a truly happy family life, you must learn how to deal with troubles and tensions that are an ordinary part of existence together in a family unit. As "The Catholic Marriage Manual" points out, a husband and wife will view and do things differently. They come from different backgrounds, and thus they will have different ideas about how money should be spent, how the household should be run, about recreation, eating, sleeping and many other activities of daily life. No couple can reasonably hope to live together in a continuously serene atmosphere, unmarred by disagreements.

Since children have their own distinct personalities, they too will differ with their parents alone and together, and with other children in the family. You must expect some difficulties. But when disagreements go beyond normal levels, or when parents or children develop habits which continuously endanger their spiritual and emotional development or the happiness of the family at large, real trouble may be said to exist.

Danger signs of trouble. One might cite an almost limitless number of attitudes which, if unchecked, could produce serious trouble. For example, probably every child cries at some time to obtain what his parents do not wish him to have. If they give in to him to stop him from crying, he will always wail to gain his way, as a matter of course. Let them persist in giving him what he wants when he wants it and they will have a tyrant on their hands--a self-centered individual who will never adjust to the wishes and needs of others. As he meets other children not so responsive to his tears, he will be unable to deal with them. Personality disorders of children have developed from such beginnings and have grown so severe that the help of outsiders was needed to make family life normal again.

A child may become shy and withdrawn, unable to do adequate work at school, because his mother or father treats him harshly and denies him love. Another may stutter because of an overdominant parent, or because a new brother or sister threatens his hold upon his parents. A teen- ager rebels against authority and continually refuses to do his homework. A daughter reared in a very strict home cultivates undesirable companions to torment her parents.

Such conditions occur often. All have their starting point long before they reach a state where outsiders must be asked to help correct them. However, they do not typify the normal family problem. They are exceptional for the very reason that mothers and fathers, acting on their inherent instincts as parents, can usually foresee dangerous tendencies in their family life and can forestall the development of major troubles. Most parents have the qualities--patience, tolerance and willingness to admit their own faults--that are needed to handle the normal difficulties of living.

What should you do, however, when some condition upsets you and threatens to become more disturbing unless it is checked? First, try to ascertain what is normal behavior. Many husbands have spells of irritability; one berates his wife because dinner is not ready at the regular time, but there is no reason to think that real trouble exists in his marriage. If, however, he continues resentful for hours after dinner, or if she delays meals every night despite his reaction, perhaps deeper and more serious factors than mere irritability are involved. Likewise, some nagging by the wife is probably normal; if she did not continually remind her husband to repair a leaky faucet, the water bills might drive the family to the poorhouse. Again, husband and wife should realize what degree of nagging is reasonable. If she continually refuses to allow her husband to read his evening paper in peace, she probably nags to excess and there may be a more serious emotional disturbance beneath the surface.

You should have no difficulty in determining what behavior patterns to expect of your children. By recalling your own childhood, observing other youngsters in home and play situations, talking to teachers, and reading even a small amount of advice on child care problems, you can form a clear picture of what is normal. Thus, you can expect that a brother will deliberately tease his sisters; that your children will often fight among themselves and that you will be required to separate them forcibly; that occasionally your child may accuse you of treating him unfairly; that sometimes he will disobey you--perhaps by reading in bed after lights should be out; that once in a while he will fail to do homework lessons assigned to him. You probably should handle any of these problems by yourself.

When to seek guidance. As a general principle, you should seek guidance when a problem presents a present or future serious danger to the well- being of one or more family members; when your own efforts to deal with it have failed; and when the disturbing condition is growing worse, rather than improving, with time. Some cases that conform to such a formula are described below.

A normal young child may have occasional nightmares. They are a subconscious reaction to fears or experiences in his waking state. One child, however, had them almost as a matter of course. Although his parents tried to assure him that he had nothing to fear, he began to dread going to bed. They then permitted him to leave his bedroom door open and kept a light burning in the hall. Soon he resisted going to bed even under these conditions, and his fears began to affect his schoolwork, his relations with other children and with his parents. His mother took him to a counseling center. A psychiatrist discovered after talking to him that he had become addicted to blood-and-bullets television programs, and spent most of his allowance each week on comic books of the horror type. His parents had been unable to discern the real cause of his nightmares, for he did not appear to be unduly affected by what he read or saw on television. Clearly, therefore, this was a case calling for outside guidance.

Another boy seemed to be a model of good behavior until he reached his teens. When he entered high school, however, his parents noticed a striking change. At some times he appeared to be strangely listless and to be given to excesses of daydreaming. At other times, he returned home in a state of feverish excitement. And on still other occasions, he responded in a violently quarrelsome way to gentle remarks by his parents. The change was so marked, and the parents' attempts to cope with it so ineffective, that they rightly consulted a doctor. What he discovered shocked them. The boy had taken a dare to smoke marijuana, and after a few experiences he had gone on to even more habit-forming drugs. Fortunately, his parents acted quickly enough, and he was treated without the excruciating pain which more confirmed addicts often feel when they try to break the habit.

A young husband and his wife seemed to have made a fine adjustment to marriage until their first child arrived. Then he became quarrelsome and found fault with her conduct at the slightest provocation. She began to dread his return home at night, because she knew the evening would not end without angry words. With greater insight, she might have realized that his attitude stemmed from immature fears that the infant might replace him in her affection. The couple's relations continued to grow worse until a marriage counselor advised her to reassure her husband constantly of her love and to help him develop a responsible adult attitude. Had experienced guidance not been available, the relations of this couple might have degenerated to a point where their future happiness would be endangered.

Where to take your problems. Knowing when you need help to solve family problems is not sufficient. You must also know where to take your problems. Some persons are eager to discuss their troubles with outsiders, but unfortunately the outsiders often are even less qualified to help than the individuals personally involved. One social scientist asked sixty husbands and wives to whom they confided their troubles. He discovered that all discussed their problems with friends, relatives, neighbors and even the corner bartender--but none consulted a spiritual adviser, doctor or other person truly equipped to help. One can only wonder how much continued heartbreak and misery is caused by the tendency of those blinded by their own emotional problems to seek guidance from those who are not capable of assisting them. This tendency is even more disturbing because more guidance, backed by scientific knowledge of physical and emotional processes, is now available than ever before.

Many persons think that their trouble is unique--that no one has ever faced so many complex problems before. The reverse is actually true. Any difficulty you experience in your married life or as parents has almost certainly been experienced by countless others. Consequently there exists a vast body of experience and understanding that you can draw upon. For instance, almost 600 nation-wide agencies exist specifically to help persons in trouble. This list of organizations includes the National Association for Mental Health, which spreads information about mental illnesses and encourages the proper care of persons so afflicted; the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, organized to aid the poor, sick and helpless; the National Epilepsy League; Alcoholics Anonymous, which has helped to restore hundreds of thousands of men and women to useful, sober lives; the Institute for the Crippled and Disabled, which aids handicapped persons to find useful work and lead normal lives. Almost every diocese has a Catholic Charities' office which provides a multitude of services to troubled parents and sick children. In addition, there are countless hundreds of books, pamphlets and other publications written to help you solve specific problems. Clearly, there is no lack of help available for you; all you need is a willingness to be helped.

Where can you get help? Any problems involving morals, which you cannot resolve after your prayerful efforts to do so, should be taken to your parish priest. By virtue of his long experience and whole-hearted dedication, he draws upon a reservoir of knowledge which is not available to you. He probably can provide you with insights which you have overlooked. You should consult him as soon as you become aware that a serious moral danger exists. Many persons wait too long; by the time they appear at the rectory, great harm has already been done.

A typical problem which should be treated early is that of a wayward parent setting a bad example to his children. In one home, a father of three boys was firm in requiring them to attend Mass each Sunday. However, he always remained in bed and failed to perform his own duty. The mother watched with apparent indifference when the boys reached adolescence and began copying their father by missing Mass when they felt like it. Not until the oldest son announced his intention of marrying a non-Catholic girl before a judge, did she seek the advice of her priest; by then, he could merely sympathize with her. Had he had an early opportunity to discuss the danger to the family that would result from her husband's indifference, he might have convinced the father that his children would follow his example and would be placed in moral danger as a result.

Moral problems often have roots elsewhere. For instance, when a couple are unable to spend the husband's income intelligently, they may be tempted to practice artificial birth control. The priest can refer them to agencies which will help them budget their money in a careful way. In other families, serious conflicts may arise over the inability of husband and wife to achieve sexual compatibility. They may be referred to special courses held under Catholic auspices and designed to give men and women deeper insights into the responsibilities and potentialities of their life together.

Sometimes problems stem from emotional disturbances. One girl of eight suddenly became, in her father's words, "a pathological liar." The girl seemed incapable of distinguishing truth in any area of her life, and especially when chided by her parents for committing acts she had been specifically forbidden to do. She spread absurd stories to friends, neighbors and even her teacher. The wise priest to whom the parents took the problem, realized that the child lied because she was deeply upset emotionally and could best be treated by a psychiatrist.

Many behavior problems do not have a direct moral or religious connection, but result primarily from physical factors. For example, if your child fails to do school work expected of his age, you probably should consult your family doctor. Some youngsters have trouble hearing or seeing normally, but their defects show up only upon investigation. Or they may suffer from diseases which are severe enough to keep them from doing good school work but not serious enough to force them to remain in bed.

Family troubles may result from economic factors. Sometimes a mother is distraught because her husband is ill for protracted periods of time and she lacks money to buy necessities for her children. False pride should not keep her from seeking aid from agencies established to help in such emergencies. Every diocese has a charitable organization to aid the needy, and communities usually also have nonsectarian welfare agencies. Sometimes a mother is bedridden for long periods and receives inadequate care while her children are without the attention they require. Voluntary nurses' associations will give her the home treatments prescribed by her doctor, and, if necessary, Catholic Charities or community agencies will provide temporary homes for her children until she recuperates.

If problems center around your child's conduct at school, do not hesitate to ask his teacher or the school principal for advice. If you approach them with a determination to help your child, rather than to justify him or yourself, you will often gain a truer understanding of conditions that will enable you to handle his difficulties more successfully. School principals report, however, that the typical parent appears with a chip on her shoulder. She ignores the experience of the educator which is based upon observations of thousands of children in various stages of development. She would do better to pocket her pride, admit that either she or her youngster has been responsible for the difficulty in question, resist the impulse to accuse the teacher or principal of prejudice when there is no concrete evidence of it, and resolve to follow the advice given her.

A priest, doctor, principal or other expert may suggest that your problem can best be treated by a psychologist or psychiatrist. Generations ago, such a suggestion would have met great resistance, for the average person believed that consulting a psychologist or psychiatrist was a virtual admission of insanity. Some persons also saw psychiatry as a threat to religion--a threat which rarely existed and does not now exist from any competent psychiatrist. Others felt that it was intrinsically shameful to admit that they could not solve their own problems and had to seek professional counsel. While we cannot automatically be absolved of blame for emotional disturbances which require the services of psychiatry, nevertheless when a condition exists, it is all the more shameful to let false pride prevent us from doing something constructive about it.

Many persons are confused about the functions of a psychologist and a psychiatrist. A qualified psychologist has intensively studied the workings of the human mind and human behavior. He is often a doctor of philosophy and is equipped to treat common difficulties of family life- -the husband and wife who chronically do not agree about the upbringing of the children, the youngster who wets the bed long beyond the normal time, the intelligent child who seems unable to learn to read. A psychologist also can usually handle the problems of neurotics--those whose personality disorders are out of the ordinary but who are not considered insane. Such neurotics may be a father who drinks or gambles to excess, harming his family thereby; a child who constantly resorts to temper tantrums when he is denied his own way, even in trivial matters; an older child who has an apparent fixed determination to torment his younger brother at every opportunity. A psychologist is trained to probe beneath the surface of actions and to suggest treatment for the emotional disturbance basically responsible for them.

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who primarily treats problems of the mind or emotions. He can handle all cases which might be brought to a psychologist, plus those where there are definite manifestations of more serious neuroses or insanity. The psychiatrist should be consulted when emotional problems are coupled with physical ones, as in psychosomatic disorders. For instance, a child who was confronted with important school examinations reported intense pain in his writing hand. Naturally, this condition prevented him from taking the test. A medical examination disclosed no physical basis for the pains. The child was found to be suffering from hysteria--he imagined pain which was nonetheless very real to him, in order to avoid taking a test he feared he would fail. The care of a psychiatrist may be indicated when a wife fails to respond normally to her husband's physical advances, when he is impotent, or when their physical relationship produces revulsion instead of satisfaction. Many patients of psychiatrists are unable to manifest love for other human beings. Many cannot make decisions or accept normal responsibilities.

A psychiatrist may use a wide variety of treatments--drugs where they are indicated, water baths or electro-shock therapy. He may use play therapy with a child: he invites the youngster to participate in games so that he can observe the patient in everyday circumstances. A boy playing checkers will indicate how he tolerates frustration and defeat. A girl who "plays house" may treat her doll as she has been treated by her mother, and will thus reveal many of her innermost feelings. With insight thus gained, the practitioner can more easily determine the basic conflicts beneath the problem. Techniques of play therapy are also used by psychologists.

When emotional disturbances have lasted for a long time, possibly since early childhood, the psychiatrist will use psychoanalysis. This is the much publicized procedure in which the patient is encouraged to talk freely and confidentially of his life problems. In these unguarded discussions, the patient often reveals factors in his early training which have caused his present condition. Because of the findings of psychoanalysts, parents now are urged to give their children greater freedom in training for bowel and bladder control and to refrain from demanding excessive cleanliness. For a fear of germs was implanted so deeply in some children, psychoanalysts discovered years later, that they were unable even to kiss their marriage partners without inner qualms.

Talking over one's deepest feelings with a sympathetic, objective listener often helps a patient gain a new perspective about his problem. Once realizing why he feels and acts as he does, he is often enabled to change his patterns of reaction. Sometimes patients achieve an understanding of their difficulties after a few hours of psychoanalysis. But treatment often lasts for months, even years. Obviously, the longer the condition has remained in the patient s subconscious, the more difficult it will be to reach and remove. For this reason, psychoanalysis is often spectacularly successful in reaching the roots of youthful behavior problems. But since the child depends almost entirely upon his parents, the causes of most if not all of his problems rest in their conduct. Therefore parents who bring their child to a psychiatrist usually must be prepared to hear that the child's condition will improve only if they change their attitude toward him in one or several important particulars.

If you must choose a psychologist or psychiatrist, do so with the utmost care. Some persons will shop at half a dozen different stores before buying a pair of shoes, and then will choose from the phone book a professional consultant about whom they know nothing. Responsible professional organizations like the National Association for Mental Health and the American Association of Marriage Counselors have warned of the widespread existence of psychological "quacks" who pose as experts on family problems. Ask your pastor, school principal, family doctor, an official of Catholic Charities or another responsible welfare organization to recommend a reputable practitioner. They will gladly do so. This simple precaution may save you inestimable time and money and insure you of the best possible help in solving your problems.

"Disgrace" in the family. Often, despite the most sincere efforts of parents, a child for some inexplicable reason fails to develop into a normal adolescent or adult who lives up to his responsibilities respectably and honorably. A son or daughter may be attracted to evil companions and may lead a life which causes public scandal. An offspring may drink, gamble, or develop other habits that become occasions of sin, if they are not sinful themselves. Or, after acquiring a limited education, he may become sophisticated and turn away from the teachings of the Church because they are not modern enough for him.

Whenever such conditions occur, good Catholic parents are sorely tried. If they could they would correct their child's conduct and place him once again on the path to Christian virtue. Unfortunately, however, their influence over a child begins to wane after his early years. A tendency toward evil that you can correct easily in your child of six will be difficult to eradicate when he is fourteen and may become impossible to remove when he is twenty-two. The plight of parents with offspring who cause shame should remind all mothers and fathers that the time to implant habits of virtue is when children are young--not when they are adults.

With our present knowledge of the causes of delinquency, promiscuity, and other shameful deviations from normal behavior, we can advise parents that scoldings, recriminations and threats are almost always foredoomed to failure. Our Lord clearly taught in his gentleness toward Mary Magdalene that sinners can be won over by love, affection and sympathetic understanding--and that one may legitimately hope for reformation regardless of the depth to which the sinner has declined.

Parents must never cease to strive, by prayer, example and teaching, to help their wayward child to save his soul. They should create a framework of love and affection in which to discuss his problems with him and, by reasoning with him, try to get him to mend his ways.

Of course, you cannot condone sin. If your child uses your home for sinful purposes, you are morally obligated to prevent him from doing so. If he refuses to be married in the Church, you cannot attend a civil ceremony and thus implicitly bless his action. You must always avoid giving others the impression that you support your child in actions which violate moral teaching. On the other hand, you should make it plain that while you deplore and detest the sin, you love the sinner. By your unquestioned concern, kindness and sacrifice, and despite obstacles which seem insurmountable and disappointments which bring you to the border of despair, you may yet see a reawakening of his conscience and his ultimate return to you and the Church.

The need for sympathy and love is especially important in the case of a daughter who becomes pregnant outside marriage and faces the awful prospect of bearing a child without a father. In older generations, such a sin was often considered justification for her parents to turn her away from their door and to thrust her, hopeless and friendless, upon a scoffing world. Such cold-blooded lack of charity was often a greater sin than the act which prompted it. Fortunately very few modern parents so lack compassion that they would reject a daughter at the moment when she needs them most.

Girls in such a predicament often have not received the parental love to which they are entitled. Some grow up in an atmosphere where they are deprived of natural objects for their affection, and they respond unthinkingly to the first individual who offers them kindness. Of course, every person must fully accept the consequences for his or her own sins. But parents should also humbly consider whether their actions have not contributed to the tragedy. Even where they are not at fault, they should have charity.

When pregnancies occur outside of marriage, the question usually arises of whether the girl should marry the man responsible for her condition. Experience teaches that marriages based solely upon a physical relationship which has produced unforeseen consequences stand little chance of providing happiness for either man, woman or child. If a strong bond of affection exists between the boy and girl, however, marriage may be considered a wise solution.

If marriage is impossible or undesirable, plans should be made for the girl to live away from her home community in the later stages of her pregnancy. Many institutions exist to provide kind care and sympathetic attention to unmarried mothers. Often, they also arrange for the infant to be adopted, because the unmarried mother almost invariably lacks resources to provide the proper home environment for her child during his long years of dependency. The parish priest will know where institutions of this kind are located within convenient distance of the community where the girl lives.

When this procedure is followed, the unwed mother can return to her home without becoming the subject of a public scandal. Now, as during her pregnancy, her parents should display the Christian virtue of forgiveness. They should do all within their power to encourage her to turn from past habits and associations and to build a new life with courage and trust in God.


ONE of the most significant changes of our time--perhaps the most important of all--has been the gradual and insidious breakdown of the family unit which has served man since his earliest moments. And no aspect of this breakdown is more alarming than the growing number of mothers who spend their days at work outside the home.

The extent of this trend is dramatically illustrated by figures compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau. In 1890, about 4,000,000 women in the United States--one in seven--were employed outside the home. By 1920, there were about 8,000,000 female jobholders--and most were single women, widows, or mothers whose children had grown and no longer required their care. Even after World War I, the typical American husband considered it his shame if his wife worked to augment his income; it meant to him that he was an incompetent provider.

Contrast those statistics with today's. In 1958, according to the same government sources, about 23,000,000 women were in the labor force. One worker in three was female. For the first time in our history, more married than single women are employed by business and industry. Even more startling is the fact that one of every five mothers with children under five has a full-time job. Economists have estimated that if present trends continue, the married woman between 35 and 65 who remains at home will be in the minority within fifteen years; before this century ends, the woman who strives to fulfill her historic role as educator of her children will be virtually extinct.

What lies behind the frantic effort by so many American mothers to relinquish their position in the home and to place themselves on a payroll?

An obvious answer might be that their family needs the money. Actually, however, a survey by the U.S. Department of Labor has revealed that only about one woman worker in seven is the sole support of her family. Such bread-winners are usually widows or are separated from their husbands. They can see no alternative to work. They either take outside employment to support their families or go on relief.

The vast majority of mothers work for reasons other than absolute economic necessity, however. Most seek to provide higher standards of living than would be possible on the husband's income alone. For instance, many take jobs so that the family may have a more expensive home, better furniture, an automobile, the opportunity to take vacations and similar privileges. Another category of working mothers consists of those who seek creative satisfactions which they feel that they cannot obtain by caring for their children. Many in this group have been educated to work in the professions, or as secretaries, typists and the like.

Other factors--and combinations of factors--doubtless contribute to the decision of mothers to work. A woman may desire to avoid the loneliness which frequently accompanies the job of caring for small children. She may want to feel independent of her husband. She may seek the excitement often found in the business world where there are new challenges and people to meet. But regardless of why a woman leaves her children in other hands and becomes a wage-earner, one fact is paramount: unless she has a compelling economic reason for doing so, she is downgrading motherhood as her career. And since civilized people have long agreed that the development of young minds and souls is the greatest and most rewarding task that can be entrusted to humans, it is obvious that the woman who voluntarily turns away from her responsibility is changing the function of motherhood which has existed for ages. She is thus encouraging a revolution which will have a powerful effect upon society for generations to come.

In fairness to working mothers, however, it must be stated that the majority probably do not fully realize the consequences in terms of harm to their families and themselves that result from their long daily absences from the home.

Harm to the child. The young child needs his mother. No one else can adequately substitute. A child needs her constant affection and tender guidance, because only upon these foundations can he build the sense of security he needs for his full emotional development. He cannot get this affection at a nursery school. Nor can he obtain it from a succession of trained nursemaids who--however conscientious--cannot give the continuity of love essential for his growth.

The obligation of the woman who bears a child to care for it during its early formative years is recognized even by primitive societies. But what every woman instinctively knows is confirmed by the cold, analytical studies of scientists. For example, in a historic report on "Maternal Care and Mental Health," published in Geneva in 1952, Dr. John Bowlby declared that the child's entire personality development depends upon the continuity of his relationship with his mother. If the child learns to give his love intimately and consistently to one person throughout his early years of growth, he develops a trust in human goodness and an inner security that enables him to meet confidently the problems of growing up.

What are the effects upon a child deprived of his mother's love during his early, crucial years? Medical records provide a voluminous and terrifying answer. During World War II, governmental authorities in Europe decided to evacuate children from zones in danger of enemy attack. Doctors had the opportunity to compare the psychological effect upon evacuated youngsters separated from their mothers, and upon children who remained with their mothers in areas where bombs fell. The doctors found that the incidence of neurosis and psychosis was fantastically higher among the evacuated children. Those who remained at home could endure even the threat of death without permanent psychological injury, because the security of their mothers' love sustained them in every time of danger.

The feeling that he has been deserted is one of the most terrifying experiences a young person can face. As proof, consider the hysterical scenes in a hospital ward. A child deposited in strange surroundings may experience such an intense fear of the unknown that it etches itself into his memory for the rest of his life. Psychiatrists report that the loss of their mother--through death, desertion, divorce or other factors--gives some children a fear and insecurity that they never entirely lose. Such a child may revert to infantile habits--his attempt to recapture the days when he had his mother's love. He may resist all efforts at discipline, and may whine or cry for no apparent reason. As an adult, he may require psychiatric care, for the adult patient who lost his mother during his early childhood sometimes is unable to give unstinting love to his wife--or to any human being-- because he dreads the pain he would feel anew if his love were rejected again.

Of course, few children suffer in this acute way if a working mother shows her love when she and her child are together. Nonetheless, the child suffers more psychological damage than a parent perhaps realizes. The extent of the damage depends, naturally, on the amount of maternal deprivation.

Dr. Bowlby, in a report quoted by the "Ladies' Home Journal" of November 1958, says that the commonest result is a tendency to feel anxious and unhappy and to dread solitude. These symptoms are related to a feeling of basic insecurity. Dr. Bowlby says that children who have never received continuous loving care from one person cannot learn to love and develop emotional depth. "They act from whim," he says, "and are very sad, unreliable people indeed.

"Children who have known real mothering for a time and then have lost it before they are three sometimes grow up full of hate and mistrust, mixed with a desire for love that they are afraid to admit but which comes out in such things as stealing and promiscuity--lone wolves and lost souls, they are. Deprivation after the age of three isn't quite so bad, but it still results too often in excessive desires for affection and excessive jealousy which cause acute inner conflict and unhappiness."

Many working mothers report that on Saturdays and Sundays, when they are at home, their little ones are with them constantly and do not want to let them out of their sight. The mother interprets this as an indication that she retains her child's love and trust. True, but it also indicates the child's insecurity and his fear that she will again leave him.

Harm to the husband. The damage that a working wife may inflict upon her husband may be almost as great as that done to her child. Man by nature must be the head of the home. From our earliest day, and through all stages of our civilization, he has been the family's provider. He is best fitted for this role: he is naturally active and decisive; he is muscularly stronger than woman; his physical reflexes are better developed. These characteristics have enabled him to hunt, fish and provide the other necessities of life to enable the family to live together. Even today, when physical prowess is not the most important attribute for the provider, typical masculine traits are required to achieve success in the business world.

By taking a position outside the home, a mother throws the historic relationship with her husband out of balance. How can he be the head of the house when he is not considered capable of performing his basic function? The very qualities she must develop in the working world-- masculine traits of aggressiveness, decisiveness, coldness, impersonality--are the antithesis of those she needs in dealing with husband and children. She no longer complements her husband as nature intended. She becomes his rival. However much husbands sometimes encourage or accept the employment of the wife outside the home, the situation is not normal and not conducive to a good husband-wife relationship.

In other days, the mother always was responsible for the care of the home, and boys and girls knew that it was her job to mend clothes, prepare meals, wash diapers and clean the house. Today, husbands of working wives often do all of these tasks. Their youngsters have a difficult time in determining where Father's job begins and ends, and where Mother's function begins and ends. But as we have seen, a human being's full development can come only if he knows clearly what is expected of him as an adult. Boys must know what a man's work is. Girls must know how mothers should act. When there is a vast neutralized area, neither clearly masculine nor feminine, the sexual development of youngsters and their ability to comprehend their own responsibility in marriage are impaired. One of the great causes of marital unhappiness is the uncertainty of partners as to their respective roles. This confusion was first created in their childhood experience.

In view of the fact that her act of working outside the home downgrades her husband, his resentment might often be expected. Researchers of the Marriage Council of Philadelphia found this to be a fact. They studied the causes of troubled marriages referred to them for help, and they concluded positively that tensions in a home tend to increase when both partners produce incomes. The largest number of disagreements centered around management of the house, finances, the wife's job, the husband's work, the sharing of household tasks and the upbringing of the children. The researchers concluded flatly that the very existence of the marriage is threatened if a wife works against her husband's wishes.

Harm to the family unit. A working mother may cause more subtle damage to the family unit. For instance, if she works merely to improve material standards of living and not from sheer necessity, she may tend to put false values in first place. The family may come to believe that a new rug, steak on the table instead of hamburger, or clothes that reflect the latest decrees from Paris all are necessary to the enjoyment of life. Such standards may accustom her children to view life's successes and failures from a materialistic point of view. They thus may be taught, by example if not by word, to put spiritual and emotional values in a lower place.

Once materialism takes over in a home, the birth-control mentality almost surely follows. When a mother works to raise her family's living standards, she may more easily succumb to the temptation to prevent the birth of a new life which would force her to quit her job and thus lower her standard of living. Or if she becomes pregnant, the child may be held responsible for reducing the family income--and may never receive the loving acceptance which is his right. Family limitation almost always goes hand in hand with the young working mother. The great tragedy of this arrangement is that it deprives children of brothers and sisters who contribute to a well-rounded and affectionate family life.

Harm to herself. The harm a working mother does to her children and her husband may be equaled by that she does to herself. First, she takes the risk that once she gets a job--even a temporary one--she will not be able to become a full-time homemaker again. As millions of working wives can testify, it is all too easy for a family to live up to its new income.

One mother, by no means atypical, once took a sales clerk's position to earn extra money for Christmas. She boarded her two small children, four and two years old, with her married sister who lived a mile away. Thanks to her earnings, her children had better clothes and her husband purchased expensive photographic equipment he had always wanted. After Christmas, however, the family was as badly off financially as before, and the mother decided to continue working--just for a few months more, of course. But soon the family was spending the additional income as soon as it came in. The husband was a salesman who could take days off at his convenience--without pay--and now that his wife had a dependable income, his days off became increasingly frequent. Before long the family depended as much upon the mother's earnings as they had upon the father's. The children continued to spend their days under their aunt's care. It is now eleven years since the mother took her "temporary" job. Her husband has become steadily lazier and her children respond less warmly to her than to her sister. She has been trapped into a lifetime of unrewarding drudgery.

The emotional harm that working mothers may do to themselves is often overlooked. One group of researchers interviewed young mothers and found that 64 per cent cited neglect of their home, their family and their housework as the main disadvantages of working. It would be an odd mother who did not feel concern when she went to a place of business leaving her sick child behind to be cared for by someone else. Few mothers can remain totally serene as they give their young sons latchkeys so that they can let themselves into the home after school to spend several hours without adult supervision. Indeed, one psychologist has described the typical working mother as a person subject to opposing pressures--the pressure to concentrate all her energies and efforts on succeeding at her outside job, and the pressure of being a good wife and mother. When she devotes herself to business, she cannot help but be aware that she takes time and energy away from the service she owes her husband and her children. Few mothers can avoid the nagging, emotionally harmful sense of guilt that results.

In order to compensate for this time spent away from home, some seem determined not to let their home and family suffer. After working outside all day, they plunge into frantic housework, preparing meals, scrubbing floors, mending clothes--tasks which stay-at-home mothers perform during the day. By trying to fill two jobs, they often become so tense that they cannot relax and enjoy their family's company. They become martyrs to their dual obligations--and their conduct hardly presents to the child an appealing picture of the burden of motherhood. It is likely that more than one spinster is unmarried today because she was determined not to duplicate the life endured by her mother who worked outside the home by day and inside it far into the night.

Does it really pay mothers to work? Many economists have pointed out that the actual financial gain achieved by the average working mother may be considerably less than she imagines. Many go further and state that she often is not substantially better off financially than if she remained at home.

Economists of the Department of Agriculture recently interviewed 365 wives with jobs outside their homes. This survey established that for every dollar a working wife earns, only sixty cents is actually added to the family's income. The average wife earned $2,200 a year. But she paid almost one third of that sum--$614--for transportation, lunches and other items. In addition, she had to pay $184 for laundry, child care, etc. She also paid $105 for clothing and personal grooming which she probably would not have needed had she remained at home. Instead of $2,200, therefore, she actually had only $1,297 to show for her year's work--before taxes!

Other economists have found that a working mother's expenses may be much greater even than this survey shows. For instance, taxes must be deducted from her salary and the government usually takes a greater percentage from her than from her husband, because the tax rate increases as family income increases. A typical working woman no longer has time to prepare low-cost meals or to shop for food bargains. As a result, her family eats more prepared foods--canned or frozen foods or restaurant meals--which are naturally more expensive. Out of her earnings, she often must pay someone to care for her children, and medical bills tend to shoot up sharply. Unable to care for her children personally and often distrustful of the person she hired to do so, she seeks a doctor's advice more often than would normally be the case. There are also extra expenditures for cleaning help, laundry, and possibly for the sheer luxuries she feels entitled to because she is doing two jobs. When these factors are considered, it can be seen that the working mother often merely changes jobs and does not receive any substantial financial gain from doing so.

Alternatives to work outside the home. Deploring the fact that more and more women seek work satisfactions outside their family circle will not reverse this trend, of course. Women must come to realize anew that their greatest contribution to God and society, and their greatest personal accomplishment, can come only when they bring new lives into existence and teach these beings to walk a path to earthly and eternal happiness. Frank Gavitt, one of the country's outstanding public relations executives, has recommended that universities award honorary degrees to outstanding mothers as they do to distinguished political, business and professional leaders. His suggestion would help to confer on motherhood the dignity and prestige it apparently needs before modern women will give it their total commitment.

It is ironic that a major trend of recent years has been that of "doing it yourself." It seems that men obtain so few satisfactions from their work that they develop projects at home to give their creative energies an outlet. But while fathers return to the home, mothers are neglecting the creative aspects of home-making. Many of us can remember mothers or grandmothers who baked bread and cake, canned fruits and vegetables, and made their own clothing. The work not only saved money but gave a feeling of worth-while accomplishment. If today's mothers used fewer of the costly products that take much of the creative joy out of homemaking, they might contribute almost as much to their families economically as they do by taking outside jobs.

What about mothers who must work because of real financial need? They should try to obtain employment which will enable them to be near their young children when they are needed most--during the daytime. There are more of such jobs than one might imagine. One mother obtained a position soliciting magazine subscriptions; she wheels her infant in a carriage from door to door, meeting his needs whenever they arise. Another woman runs a "day nursery," caring for the children of neighborhood mothers who wish to shop in freedom. A mother of three small children earns the family income as a typist, working at home for local businessmen while her children play under her supervision. Books listing hundreds of jobs which mothers can profitably perform in or near their homes are available at most public libraries.

Mothers of school-age youngsters can find many opportunities for part- time employment. A typical job is that of sales clerk. Most shoppers are women with children, and they visit the stores while their own young ones attend school. Many stores therefore require special help to handle the extra crowds from 10 A.M. to 3 P.M. Women who work during those hours can see their children off to school and can return home when they do.

The problem of "moonlighters." Some of the reasons which prompt mothers to take outside employment also are responsible for the growing number of "moonlighters"--men who hold jobs at night as well as in the daytime. According to the Census Bureau, one male employee in twenty holds a second job.

Like the working mother, the father who holds two jobs can harm the family unit, his mate, his children, and himself. The family suffers because in effect it lacks his leadership. The man away from home sixteen hours a day, who returns only to sleep and to eat a quick meal or two, hardly gives the personal example which his children need to learn to be adults. When mother and children do not see the father except when he is asleep, they cannot be said to have a real family at all.

The wife suffers, because she is denied her husband's companionship. As is pointed out in detail in "The Catholic Marriage Manual," mothers are justifiably tired of childish company after a long day spent exclusively with their little ones. They have a right to expect the attention, companionship and affection of their mates for at least a few hours of the twenty-four-hour period. The man who is busy earning money may love his wife and may want to make life easier for her. But a willingness to spend his free hours with her, even at the expense of material comforts, would be a greater indication of his affection--and would do far more for her.

The "moonlighter's" children suffer because they lose the opportunity of knowing their father at leisure. It is usually only after his day's work is done and the evening is at hand that he can talk to his children--recount his own experiences, prepare them for their future, and instill standards of conduct that will guide them throughout their lives. It is the father who gives his son his ideals and ideas of manhood and who teaches his daughter by example what to expect in her own husband when she marries. By his absence for prolonged periods, therefore, the "moonlighter" may be denying his children direction and example as much as does the father who does not live at home.

Nor should we overlook the fact that the man who holds two jobs for long periods may cause intense physical harm to himself. When he must bolt his meals to get from one job to another, when he works such long hours that he cannot get adequate sleep, when his schedule denies him any opportunity for recreation, he increases his nervous tension and susceptibility to the many diseases, such as heart trouble, high blood pressure and ulcers, which result at least partially from an inability to develop relaxed habits of living. The man who "moonlights" over a long period of time certainly will find that some, if not much, of his increased earnings must be used to pay doctors' bills.

We Americans make a fetish of our high standard of living. Advertisers and others bombard us with the concept that we can achieve happiness only if we have a better house, richer food, thicker rugs, more powerful cars than those commonly possessed even ten years ago. Acceptance of this false set of values is generally what prompts the mother to work and the father to "moonlight." They overlook the basic fact that a family's essentials for life--food, shelter, clothing--can generally be obtained on the father's salary. When misguided ambition makes it necessary for the mother to work or the father to take a second job, the family achieves not true happiness but only a few materialistic substitutes for it.


NOT long ago, newspapers told the story of a twenty-seven-year-old man who had shot and killed his father. In prison, the man defiantly explained why he had done it. Throughout his life, he had been interested in teaching as a career. But whenever he mentioned his aspiration, his father ridiculed it and told him that he must enter the family business. After completing a college course in business administration at his father's dictation, the young man was placed at work in the family store. It was evident that he was not equipped to do the kind of sales work necessary for success in the business, but his father drove him on with ridicule. Finally, he could stand it no longer and in frustrated rage performed the deed which shocked the public everywhere.

Like most occurrences which reach print, this was an extreme case. Few men kill their fathers because of differences over their careers, and few fathers callously demand that their children pursue vocations unsuited to them. Yet this story serves the useful purpose of pointing out that parents should give intelligent and sympathetic consideration to their child's ambitions.

Another moral of the tragedy cited is, of course, that every person should decide his own course in life. A consistent objective of his training as a child, adolescent, and young adult should be to enable him ultimately to be completely free in the sense that he can make his own decisions and accept complete responsibility for them. Thus he alone should choose his life work, because its success or failure will depend upon him only. He alone has the intimate knowledge of his talents, motives and aspirations required to make a choice and to succeed in what he chooses.

But while your child must in the final analysis select this vocation by himself, you can help him to determine what his objectives should be. Indeed, as a conscientious parent, you must do so. You must take a part in formulating standards which will guide him regardless of whether his future station, in the eyes of the world, is high or low.

Your child will often ask you what you want him to be when he grows up. By your answers, you can implant ideals which will serve as his own guideposts. Moreover, you can help him recognize the importance of high objectives by your own daily conduct. A father will strongly influence his son's choice of a life work by his attitude toward his own occupation; by the respect he shows to priests, brothers, doctors, teachers and others who give of themselves to serve mankind; by his own attitudes about the monetary rewards of work and the things that money will--and will not--buy. Likewise, a mother will influence her son and daughter by the amount of cheer she radiates as she does her daily household tasks; by the way she greets the nuns at school, whether it be with deference or indifference; by her attitudes toward neighbors and acquaintances with greater or fewer material possessions than she has.

Any worthy vocation should fulfill three requirements.

1. It must help your child save his soul. At the very least, it must not, by its nature, constitute a hazard to salvation.

2. It should serve mankind in some constructive way. As an extreme example, the young man who inherited a large sum of money and decided to devote his life exclusively to his own pleasure could hardly be said to have a worthy objective. Nor could the young woman who hoped to marry and practice artificial birth control so that she could lead a social life unhampered by the responsibilities of parenthood.

3. The work should be within his capabilities. The youth who is helped to select a kind of work in which he has a reasonable chance of making progress is also more likely to achieve his first and second objectives as well.

It is worth noting carefully that this listing of basic objectives omits such goals as wealth, glory, power and similar allurements. For implicit in this listing of worthy objectives is the teaching of Jesus: "For what does it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of his own soul?" (St. Matthew 16:26) The emphasis is on true and lasting values--"treasures in heaven, where neither rust nor moth consumes, nor thieves break in and steal." (St. Matthew 6:20) The Bible teaches us that "covetousness is the root of all evil" (1 Timothy 6:10) and that it is "easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.' (St. Matthew 19:24) Not only does an ambition to achieve wealth for its own sake violate Our Lord's repeated teachings; it is not even suitable as a worldly ambition. One can search in vain for the man whose riches have brought even earthly happiness; the rich who achieve the serenity of those less favored financially usually do so only by using their wealth to serve others.

When you encourage your child to keep these three objectives constantly before him, you do not limit his number of choices in any substantial way. He can achieve all of his great goals--attain salvation, perform tasks which benefit mankind, and properly use his God-given talents--in either the religious or secular life.

The religious life. If your child accepts the ideals of creative service which you have implanted, he or she will be more receptive to a call to serve as a priest, brother or sister, should such be God's will. And if the call is heard and heeded, rejoice; by Divine plan, your child has been offered the privilege, for which few humans are chosen, of devoting a life to the complete, unquestioning service of the Creator and of participating in the noblest work of mankind.

You should not try to force your children into a religious life, or to assume that a vocation exists when it actually does not. Equally, you should not try to discourage a child to whom the religious life appeals. What, then, is the proper environment to provide? It is simply a natural, Catholic home--one in which you and your children experience your faith as a vital factor in your daily lives; where you demonstrate the importance of your spiritual beliefs and show proper respect, admiration and gratitude to persons in the religious life. In such a home, a child will learn that the standards for a priest, brother or sister are high--but not so high that a normal boy or girl with a wholesome Catholic upbringing cannot, with all modesty, aspire to them.

How can one know if he or she is being called to a religious life? The answer may be found in part by considering the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual requirements for priests, brothers or sisters. A religious must be in reasonably good health, because demands of this life are often more rigorous than those of secular professions. For the priesthood, teaching brotherhood or sisterhood, the prospective candidate needs a good--but not necessarily exceptional--mentality. But even youngsters with a less gifted mentality may serve in religious orders as workers in the kitchens, in hospitals, as helpers to missionaries and in other ways.

The prospect must also have at least a normal amount of piety, along with spiritual and emotional qualities which encourage his superiors to hope that he can advance in grace in the religious life. He must have a sense of service--a willingness to sacrifice his own comforts and even his life, if need be, for others. He should be optimistic and enthusiastic--a buoyant spirit will enable him to establish great goals for his work and to triumph over the inevitable disappointments which threaten his achievement of them. He will need unusual strength of will--he must always keep his mind fixed upon his vocation and resist temptations which threaten to blind him.

The most important quality of all, however, is a voluntary desire to serve Our Lord in the religious life. It is this desire, instilled by God, and combined with the other qualities outlined above, which is evidence of a vocation. When these conditions exist in a young person, God is saying that He will have the boy or girl in His service. The young person may, by the exercise of free will, accept or reject the call.

Can Catholic parents thwart a religious vocation? This question should not need to be asked. But it must be asked, because parents who consider themselves good Catholics in other respects sometimes openly ridicule aspirations toward a religious life or even forcibly prevent their child from entering a seminary or convent.

Many reasons are given for this animosity toward a religious vocation- For instance, their child is "too young to make up his own mind." This suggestion overlooks the fact that a youngster enters a seminary, religious house or convent only to train for a religious course, and never takes final vows until he is old enough to assume full personal responsibility for his decision--usually at the age of 25 or more.

"It is not an appealing kind of life." Parents base this statement upon their own interests and preferences--not upon those of their child. Obviously, the young person finds strong appeal in a religious life, else he would not consider it. Moreover, if the life is as unappealing as the parents picture it, the child has ample opportunity to discover this for himself and withdraw from training with good grace.

"My child knows nothing about life and does not know what he would miss in a religious vocation." If this argument were valid, the person who decided to become a doctor would first be encouraged to spend several years as a sea captain or merchant mariner, visiting the ports of the world. Only then would he know what he was giving up by starting a practice which would confine him to one place. To carry the analogy even further, the girl who intended to get married should first become a nun, for the nun experiences many compensations which the wife misses.

"Once he joins a religious community he will be lost to us for life." This argument also lacks validity, because parents usually do not object to other careers in which a similar loss might ensue. For example, the young man who makes the Army his career might be transferred to overseas bases and would see his parents much less frequently than if he were a priest or brother. Since World War II, Americans have moved around at a faster rate than ever before and it is not uncommon for a young man or woman to marry and set up a home thousands of miles from where the parents live. Few parents would actively object to the marriage of a son or daughter on those grounds.

What should you do when your child expresses an interest in the religious life? In the first place be grateful that God has blessed your own family life by giving you a potential religious. Certainly the presence of a priest, brother or nun in a family is often as much a reward to parents for their efforts in God's behalf as it is due to any special qualification in the candidate himself. If your instinctive reaction to the call is one of joy and thanksgiving, you manifestly possess a healthy Christian outlook. If, on the other hand, you resent or reject the stirring of a religious vocation in the soul of your young one, you should take stock of yourself. In either case, permit him the basic privilege of making up his own mind about so vital a question. Encourage him to think about his vocation and to seek advice from priests, brothers or sisters who can discuss its rewards and difficulties most effectively and intelligently. Provide him with good spiritual reading--Catholic books, magazines and newspapers--from which he will learn about the many kinds of service a religious may perform. See to it that he consults a priest immediately. Pray that he will see God's will and follow it--and that you will accept God's will as well. If he does embark upon a religious life, always remember him in your prayers. For the religious, no less than the layman, must fight against his human nature in order to achieve his own salvation.

Marriage and the single state. Obviously, most boys and girls will not be called to a religious life. Their vocation will be to serve God and their fellow men as husband or wife or in the single state. Regardless of their state in life, they should be taught to approach it with the sense of reverence and respect that the priest, brother and nun manifest for a religious vocation.

How can you best prepare your child for the vocation of marriage?

First, by giving him the example of your own lives. As he observes you and your mate in your everyday experiences, he can readily agree that marriage is an institution in which mutual love and respect thrive, and is a means by which he may achieve earthly happiness as well as eternal salvation.

Secondly, by making it plain to your children precisely what marriage is. It should not be regarded merely as a convenient arrangement which two persons can enter without preparation. Rather, it is a lifelong sacramental contract involving serious responsibilities and producing great rewards. Children should know that a husband and wife must be prepared to procreate and educate children to take an ultimate place in the Kingdom of God.

The parent who loves his children and takes pleasure in training them in right conduct gives the best possible testimonial to marriage. On the other hand, the parent who constantly complains about his physical, financial or emotional burdens breaks down his youngster's vision of marriage as a worthy state in life.

While marriage makes a glorious vocation in which the opportunity to serve God through parenthood is second only to that of the religious life, your child would not have a true choice if he were taught that it is the only course open for a person who remains in the world. Some mothers make this mistake in teaching daughters especially, and it is a mistake to which society contributes by giving an unpleasant connotation to the term "spinster." Numerous conditions are worse than living in a single state, as any person chained to an intolerable marriage might affirm.

There are many reasons why a person might remain unmarried. For instance, he might choose to care for dependent parents. His choice should be voluntary, however; parents should never encourage a child to refrain from marriage because of their selfish interests. A man or woman may be unable to find a suitable partner; by refusing to marry simply for the sake of marriage, he or she exercises admirable prudence. Or the man or woman might be unwilling to accept the responsibilities of marriage. One who, rightly or wrongly, feels inadequate to train children, for instance, makes a wiser choice in remaining unmarried than one who marries and then practices birth control.

Ambitions for the laity. The fact that most young men and women will spend their lives in the world does not mean that they should not be fully dedicated to the ideal of serving God and man. In fact, this ideal can be brought to almost every occupation.

Our society needs teachers who will zealously help young persons achieve a sense of the true values in life. It needs writers who will uplift man and awaken him to his highest aspirations, as opposed to many who emphasize the degraded aspects of life. It needs men who will bring selfless dedication into public service and labor unions. It needs nurses, hospital workers, scientists, businessmen who place human values above those of the cash register.

One could cite almost innumerable illustrations of dedicated workers who benefit mankind in a spiritual, physical or emotional way. The laboratory researcher who puts self-interest aside to search for a cancer cure is truly a successful man, regardless of the amount on his pay check. The young woman who becomes a librarian to implant a love of good reading in young people makes far better use of her talents than if she took some other job simply because the salary was greater. The salesman who chooses to sell a product which will benefit humanity, even though his earnings are less than they would be if he sold a harmful one, brings worthy ideals to his work.

Father James Keller, M.M., director of the Christophers (18 East 48 Street, New York 17, New York) has made millions of Americans aware of the tremendous amount of good that one dedicated person can do. The Christophers aim to encourage each individual to show a personal, practical responsibility in restoring the love of Christ to the marketplace and to government, education, literature, entertainment and labor unions. They emphasize the importance of positive, constructive action and have adopted the slogan, "Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness." Father Keller has encouraged countless thousands to undertake less glamorous, lower-paying jobs in order better to serve in Christ's name. "Individuals who pursue this unpopular path receive a recompense which is a foretaste of the everlasting joy of heaven," he states.

He lists nine considerations which you should strive to impress upon your children and which you yourself might apply. These are:

1. You are important. You, as a distinct human being, have been created in God's image. All of humanity is nothing more than you over and over again.

2. No substitute for you. God has assigned to you a special mission in life which He has given to no one else. No matter how small it may seem to you or others, it is important in His sight.

3. Don't cheat others. The Lord sends blessings to some people through you. If you fail to pass them on, you deprive others of what is rightfully theirs.

4. You are needed. If everyone figured "I don't count," imagine what disastrous consequences could result.

5. Spiritualize your least efforts. Begin to be a Christopher or Christ-bearer by serving others in small ways. Remember Christ said that if you do no more than give a "cup of cold water" for his sake (Matt. 10:42) you shall gain an everlasting reward.

6. Start in your home. If you develop a sense of personal responsibility in your own home, school, business and every other place, you will soon wish to reach out to wider horizons.

7. Don't bury your talent. Even if God has given you only one talent, put it to work for the good of others. Don't be like the man in the Gospel who said: "And being afraid I went and hid the talent in the earth." (Matt. 25:25)

8. For better or worse. What you do--by prayer, word and deed--to see that God's will is done "on earth as it is in heaven" affects the well- being of everyone to some degree. Yes, the world itself can be a little better because you have been in it.

9. You count as one. When tempted to play down your own individual importance, recall this old saying: "I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. What I can do, I ought to do. And what I ought to do, by the grace of God, I will do."

Even if a person is forced by economic necessity to take work which does not permit him to exercise his influence as fully as he might, he can still accomplish much in his spare time. A mother works in her parish library a few hours each week, making possible the dissemination of inspiring books and reading to her community. A man who played on his varsity football team in college spends his Saturdays coaching sixth-graders in the parish school. A bookkeeper by day runs for office as a member of a village board, because he feels that the board needs greater religious motivation in its actions. A group of parents persuade newsdealers in their town to remove from their shelves lascivious magazines and books which are a source of temptation to young people. Concerned by the complete ignoring of God in her community's public schools, a woman campaigned for a year and a half and finally succeeded in having plaques bearing the words "In God We Trust" installed in eighteen institutions. Noticing that inadequate care was provided for patients in their community hospital, a group of high school seniors became nurses' aides, bringing a touch of Christ's charity to patients who desperately needed it. Thousands of similar examples could be cited. They indicate what can be done when an individual is motivated by ideals of service, and they also suggest the sense of dedication which you can instill in your children by teaching and example.

The child who "disappoints." Probably every parent expects, or at least hopes, that his child will do great things with his life. The common statement that every American boy has a chance to be President reflects not only our democratic processes, but also the kind of aspiration in every parent's heart.

One need not look far to observe parents' "disappointments." The youngster who was going to become a lawyer instead takes a job low in prestige. The mother who hoped that her son might become a priest is disappointed when he shows no tendencies in that direction. The father who expected his son to enter his profession may discover that his son prefers an entirely different occupation.

All of these "disappointments" stem from the parent's failure to recognize that the child is an individual with a right to make up his own mind. Since he, and not you, must choose, it follows that you should not be chagrined if he selects a career which you have not anticipated for him. There is only one occasion when parents should be disappointed in a child's free choice of a vocation. That is when he adopts and pursues a career that hinders him in his struggle for salvation. In considering your child's life work, always remember the basic reason why he was born. He was created to know, love and serve God in this world and to be happy with Him in the next. Any work which enables him to achieve that objective is truly a noble vocation.


TWENTY-FIVE years ago a book on the upbringing of children could skip lightly over problems of youngsters in their teen years. There would necessarily be a discussion of physical and emotional changes as children reach the age of puberty, but in general adolescence was considered to be merely an extension of childhood, and the problems of teen-agers were thought to be only slightly more acute than those of eight- or nine-year olds. Today, of course, a book that failed to consider adolescence in detail would be held lacking in an important-- and according to some people, the most important--respect.

No one can read current newspapers or magazines without concluding that the adolescent and his mannerisms are a major problem of our times. Stories of juvenile delinquency hit us from all sides. Scrapes of teen- age drivers; the defects of high school students, who, the experts tell us, are poorly educated, ill-mannered, badly fed; horrifying statistics on teen-age pregnancies--all emphasize why parents have become so concerned about this stage of their children's development.

Visit your public library and you will find shelves sagging with books which strive to enlighten parents about ways to cope with adolescents. A common theme is one which tells parents how they can "get along" with their teen-agers. This is highly significant. It highlights the fact that conditions have so changed that parents must study ways of adjusting to the demands of their children, rather than the other way around. The very existence of titles such as these strongly suggests where the "problem of adolescence" truly lies. In fact, so much has been written about the responsibilities of parents to their teen-agers- -and the difficulties of adjusting to the demands of young people--that some mothers and fathers look ahead to their child's pubescence with genuine horror.

How modern conditions vary from those of even a generation ago is revealed dramatically by the fact that one of the most comprehensive sociological studies of American life, "Middletown," published in 1929, in its chapter on education in a typical city does not even mention the existence of a teen-age problem. Moreover, eight years later--in 1937-- the authors returned to the scene of their study to determine what changes the depression had wrought. Again, although their other findings were exhaustive, they omitted mention of adolescent delinquency. This evidence, plus recollections by modern adults of their own teen years, supports the statement that never before have parents faced such a problem with adolescents as exists today. And the ramifications of this problem exist on all levels of life--spiritual, emotional, physical.

What has occurred within recent years to create the "teen-age crisis" and to cause many mothers and fathers to admit that they do not know what to do next?

Many factors have been at work. One is that the modern youngster is exposed to more outside influences than his predecessors, and that he learns the facts of adult life much earlier. For example, he may spend twenty or more hours before a television screen each week. He is exposed to adult situations and learns about courtship and the sexual relationship. He begins dating at an earlier age; as we shall see in Chapter 14, many parents actually encourage their elementary school children to date, and "going steady" has become a standard procedure in many high schools. There is also an increasing tendency of Americans to marry earlier; the average age of the modern bride is only twenty.

What used to be characteristic of young men and women in their late teens and early twenties--their strong desire for good times and preoccupation with their own interests--has been passed on to the teen- agers. A generation ago, high schools forbade smoking by students; today some institutions set aside smoking rooms for them. The family of a generation ago considered itself fortunate if it owned an automobile; now a high percentage of teen-agers drive their own cars, and the planner of a new high school must allow acres of space for parking.

The modern youngster also has more money to spend on himself. According to Eugene Gilbert, a researcher who specializes in exploring interests of young people, the average adolescent had only about $2.50 a week to spend in 1944. He derived this total both from his parents and his own earnings. Today the typical teen-ager spends almost $10 a week. Even after allowances for inflation, this figure reflects not only an increase in the amount he receives from his parents, but also his ability to get high pay for jobs like baby-sitting, lawn-mowing and car-washing. As a result, he often spends more money on luxuries than do his parents. The Motion Picture Association of America recently conducted a survey which revealed that more than half of all the patrons of movie theaters in a typical summer week were under twenty years of age. Makers of cosmetics have found that most of their business comes from adolescents, and many manufacturers of phonograph records would probably face bankruptcy without them.

Each year, America's 17,000,000 teen-agers are estimated to spend almost $10,000,000,000 which they have earned or received as allowances. This great spending power gives them a feeling of independence. Moreover, advertisers have been quick to note the potentialities of the huge adolescent market. As a consequence, youngsters are encouraged to consume products which parents traditionally have opposed their using. For example, the manufacturers of one brand of cigarettes depict smokers with schoolbooks under their arms. The implication--that it is permissible for high-schoolers to smoke--is unmistakable. Another cigarette firm studied the prevailing musical tastes of teen-agers to guide its choice of songs for the radio and television programs it sponsors. A beer advertiser shows young people enjoying his product while on the type of date that teen-agers might have. In effect, therefore, many businessmen who deplore teen-age activities in one area foster it in another by encouraging youngsters to spend their money for products of which parents generally disapprove. Business has a vested interest in "teen-age rebels."

A third, and perhaps most important, reason, for the emergence of adolescence as the "problem age" is that today's youngster lacks the security which previous generations felt. He lives with a gnawing fear that he may be forced to fight in the most terrible of all wars, and that the society in which he is growing up may not even exist for his lifetime. No other generation has ever foreseen its possible annihilation in an atomic holocaust.

Even without threats of a civilization-destroying war, modern youngsters would have reason to feel insecure because of other revolutionary changes in our lifetime. Fifty years ago, a boy could usually expect to follow his father's occupation, and a girl knew that her future would lie either in the religious life or in the home. A father and mother could train their child from an early age in the type of work he would do as an adult. He could face his future with confidence that, thanks to their help, he would be competent in his occupation. Today, however, society considers it ignoble if a youngster does not aspire to a "better" place in life than his parents held. The shoemaker's son must try to become a doctor; the daughter of a successful, happy housewife must aspire to a career as well as motherhood. Geoffrey Gorer, the famous British anthropologist, has noted that the American father is considered a success only to the extent that the son advances to a social rank above his. As Mr. Gorer wrote in his study, "The American People," father never knows best. He expects his son to know more than he does.

But in inspiring our children to move upward in social position, we ask them to enter uncharted areas where we cannot guide them. The father who began to work at fourteen and who now is asked to help his youngster master the high school subjects of algebra and Latin cannot perform a service which fathers have traditionally performed. Thus, when you ask your son to attain a superior position in life you may also be urging him to put you aside as his guide. For how can you help him travel unknown fields that lie ahead, when you yourself have not traveled them?

These three pressures--the earlier awareness in today's youngsters of the many facts of life, the pressures exerted upon them by advertisers and others, and the requirement that they reject their parents as they advance in the "American way of life"--all contribute to making adolescence of the present day a more difficult time for youngsters and their parents than ever before.

Physical and emotional changes of adolescence. Even under the best circumstances--those in which no external forces speed up the normal tendency of the adolescent to strive for emancipation from his parents- -factors within himself would tend to make this a period of stress. These factors are mainly physical and emotional.

The physical changes involve the development of glands which are necessary for the performance of the sexual act. This development sometimes throws the system out of balance and causes moodiness, irritation and outburst ranging from exhilaration to depression. The male glands become capable of producing semen, the fluid ejaculated by the penis in the act of copulation. At the same time, the boy develops the external signs of manhood--enlargement of his sexual organs, growth of hair on his face and various parts of his body, the deepening of his voice. Similar glandular changes occur within a girl. Her breasts develop and she begins to menstruate--the sign that her body is acquiring the capability of motherhood.

As these events occur, the adolescent experiences an awakening of sexual desire. This is a new and sometimes frightening experience. The boy will discharge seminal fluids in his sleep, perhaps with erotic dreams as an accompaniment. Unless his father has prepared him for the discharge by telling him that it is nature's way of harmlessly releasing these fluids, the boy may fear that his masculinity is defective. A girl may also have dreams of a sexual nature, and may feel a strong sense of guilt unless her mother has taught her that they are normal, natural and not sinful.

Even when boys or girls have a clear understanding of the physical changes of adolescence, they cannot be made completely aware of how the changes will affect them. The first stirrings of sexual desire and the youngster's realization that they must now resist sexual temptation on their own responsibility are experiences so intimate that no one could fully prepare them for it. If they cannot curb temptation and turn their minds to safe thoughts when it threatens, or if they succumb to the temptation, they may develop a keen sense of guilt and despair about their future. In particular, young persons who have masturbated may mistakenly believe that they have thereby impaired their ability to function as men and women in the marital act.

Emotional changes during adolescence are equally profound. A boy's budding physical powers encourage him to look ahead to his manhood, and he now discovers that he can make many decisions independently of his parents. For instance, once he enters high school, he usually can remain away from home from early morning until dinnertime without having to report in detail as to his whereabouts. He may have an independent source of income, possibly derived from delivering papers or working at a store on Saturdays, while his sister earns money by baby-sitting. Often he will select his own clothes, and possibly even pay for them out of his earnings. Away from home during lunch hours and on Saturdays, he can decide what food to eat. He enjoys his new independence and quite naturally wants more of it.

But his parents remember his complete childish dependence of a few years ago. They are not ready to believe that he can handle his obligations maturely. Thus they tend to deny him freedoms which he thinks he should have. He would like to attend a theater with friends and return about midnight; his parents know that since he must arise early the next morning, he will need more sleep. They insist that he return at 10:30, and he complains that they are trying to keep him a baby. Similar conflicts arise over how he wears his clothes and maintains his room, how much food he eats for breakfast, and so on. He fights constantly for independence while his parents struggle to retain their authority.

Unfortunately, neither the adolescent nor his parents usually know how much emancipation should be allowed. The parents realize that he should achieve complete independence at about the age of twenty-one, but they may not be sure how much of it to permit at sixteen. A great deal of confusion and inconsistency results. A boy is told in one instance that he is not old enough to take an overnight trip with classmates, yet too old to expect his mother to help him keep his room neat. His parents urge him to develop confidence in his own opinions and not to be swayed by others without good reason. Yet they are dismayed when he stands by his convictions and refuses to agree with them on some important matter. On the other hand, he acts as though any parental controls over his conduct are no longer necessary. Yet he is uncertain of his ability to control himself. And he feels let down when, for instance, he stays out later at night than he should and his parents do not reprimand him.

Emotional needs of adolescents. A wise teacher once observed that the best aid a parent can have in training a teen-ager is a good memory. He meant that if you can recall your own doubts and indecisions, your striving for independence, your rebellion because your parents would not give you the emancipation you sought, and above all, the stresses, strains and temptations of your own teen years, you will be able to deal much more sympathetically with your youngster. Some parents are guilty of precisely what their children accuse them of--they have forgotten that they too were once young, inexperienced and troubled by secret fears of inadequacy and failure. If you recall your own adolescent problems, you will more readily give your child four basic helps he needs at this critical time.

First, he needs your love. He must know that you have a full, unqualified interest in his welfare and a confidence in his worth as a human being. The need for this love has been well expressed by Father Robert Claude, S.J., in his excellent booklet, '"The Training of the Adolescent." Father Claude states:

An atmosphere of affection and understanding is absolutely indispensable in the training of the adolescent.

Adolescence is as a flower that is opening upon life, a flower that needs the sun of love for its full blooming. All training, of course, must be accompanied by kindness, for more flies are caught with honey than with vinegar. And this is particularly true of the age at which a young person first becomes conscious of love and realizes for the first time the importance of this emotion.

Besides, in the solitude with which he surrounds himself, the adolescent is more than ever eager for the solace of affection. Affection will encourage him to give you his confidence, and without that no true training is possible. The adolescent who is taken to task in a matter of discipline is on the watch for the least kind word, the smallest sign of sympathy, to apologize and admit his fault. However, if he feels that he stands before an indifferent tyrant who thinks only of strict discipline, he freezes into an attitude of obstinate revolt.

Be patient, devoted, affable, and that with a gentle smile.

The love you must show has to be founded on understanding and esteem. Esteem: Never forget that you have before you a being who is about to enter on the most serious part of his life, a being whose eternal salvation perhaps is at stake. Esteem him for the magnificent gift of life that God has given him.

Understanding: Always give your child the impression that you understand him or at least that you are trying to understand him. Nothing is more effective in making the adolescent retire into his shell than the impression that he is not understood. He believes that he is interesting, he has a high idea of his own worth, and yet his parents continue to treat him as a child; they seem to be unaware of the harvest that is preparing. Sometimes they make fun of him, or simply smile. How often has that smile, the all-too-frequent recourse of his elders, been the inspiration for secret revolt; how many young hearts has it wounded and even closed irrevocably to all beneficial influence from authority!

Secondly, he needs your encouragement. Despite the air of supreme knowledge which young persons affect, they often inwardly doubt their ability to handle the problems which they expect to face as adults. In fact, psychiatrists and psychologists state that the greater the arrogance, usually the greater the fear of inadequacy that lies beneath the surface. Thus the typical juvenile delinquent--the insolent youth who puts up such a bold front before the world--is actually beset by deep-seated feelings of inferiority which he tries to hide by his swagger.

Adolescents often worry excessively about their sexual development. They may fear that they will not be able to function effectively as a male or female. Many fear that they will not be attractive to the other sex; a physical condition--enlarged features, skin blemishes, being taller or shorter, stouter or slimmer than the average--may contribute to this feeling. Many fear that they will become unpopular with members of their own sex; they want to do what everyone else does and they will resist parents' efforts to make them different in any important respect.

To help your child achieve the feeling of personal worth he needs for his development, find ways to praise progress he has made. Look for examples of adult conduct and compliment him for them. In this way, you will encourage him to continue moving toward independence. For example, compliment him if he goes to his books at night without your urging. Especially seek occasions to praise him for spiritual, intellectual and emotional growth. The teen-ager who voluntarily decides to refrain from dessert as a sacrifice during Lent evidences admirable self-control which, in fact, some adults do not possess. If you engage in an intellectual discussion with him, look for signs indicating a growth of his reasoning powers and willingly admit it when he scores a good point. Many a parent wins an argument of no great importance to the family, and in doing so helps to weaken his child's confidence in his own thinking processes. Adolescents often are idealistic and have strong instincts for the underprivileged. Seek occasions to compliment your boy or girl on this virtue, and point out the great opportunities which exist to serve mankind in a selfless way.

Thirdly, your child needs responsibility. In this area, perhaps more than in any other, the typical mother fails. She knows that her child must ultimately maintain his own room, clothe himself, appear cleanly dressed before the public and with clean face and hands, wear rubbers when it rains and a topcoat in cold weather. Yet long after he should be doing such things for himself, she is either doing them for him or constantly reminding him to do them. He has no reason or opportunity to develop responsibility for himself. Such mothers deny that they prevent their child from achieving independence; they argue that they merely keep him from making mistakes. They overlook the fundamental point that most of us learn only from our mistakes--and that when we have to accept responsibility for them, we soon correct our errors. Mistakes are the steppingstones to independence; if you would help your child, you must view with sympathy his fumbling efforts in that direction.

The boy who is personally responsible for how he looks at school may appear for a few days with hair uncombed, shoes unshined, and shirt grimy with dirt. Let him spend a few hours in detention, or suffer the sneers of classmates, and he will soon make certain that his appearance is more acceptable. In one home, a mother habitually pleaded with her son to arise early enough each morning so that he might eat a nourishing breakfast and arrive at high school before the first bell sounded. Each morning the lad resisted. Soon he was running from the house with toast in his mouth. One day the mother decided that thereafter he would face his own responsibilities. The next morning the boy left home with clothes barely pulled on, without breakfast, and with no chance of reaching class in time. After a week, however, he realized that he was an object of scorn because of his sloppy appearance; that as a result of his failure to eat a good breakfast, he had headaches all day; and that two hours spent in detention after school for being late was not worth twenty minutes of extra sleep in the morning. Forced to accept the responsibility--and consequences--for his own actions, the boy soon developed an adult attitude. Thus he completed another step in the process of growing up.

Finally, your child needs direction. Some parents of adolescents find this fact difficult to believe. Teen-agers often seem to resist all of their parents' efforts to direct their actions, but their desire for direction exists, nevertheless. Probably no adolescent is unhappier than one who knows that he has no parental check over his conduct.

Educators of high school boys and girls attest to their need for guidance. In discussions among themselves, youngsters frankly admit that they lack the will power, the experience and the judgment to be provided with a free rein. Not long ago, a news commentator appeared before a group of high school students to discuss current events. He probably thought that he would strike a popular note if he deplored the "censoring" of reading matter offered for young people. In his view, high school students should have free access to everything published and they alone should judge whether or not the material was morally harmful. The speaker ended his talk and immediately discovered that he had erred seriously. Far from striking a responsive note, he had set the youngsters against him. For they vigorously affirmed that they wanted and needed adult supervision of their reading matter because they lacked the maturity to choose wisely by themselves.

Another evidence of adolescents' willingness to accept direction is the enthusiasm with which "teen-age codes" are followed in communities where they are adopted. These codes are usually devised by committees of student leaders, sometimes in consultation with parents, and thus represent the views of responsible young people.

A typical code of social behavior, adopted in Rye, New York, is a model of good judgment. It opposes open-house parties which i tend to get out of hand, and advocates only parties to which specific persons are invited. It emphasizes that one adult must be present at all teen-age parties. Parties should end at specified times--at 10 P.M. for seventh graders, 10:30 P.M. for eighth graders, 11 P.M. for high school freshmen, midnight for sophomores, 12:30 A.M. for juniors. Youngsters should always tell their parents where they are going and should know where their parents can be reached at night in an emergency. A girl should always tell her escort when she must return home and he should comply.

Another code, devised by the St. Louis Archdiocesan Councils of Catholic Men and Women, was adopted enthusiastically by teen-agers in that locality. This code, similar to the one formulated at Rye, also bans dates at drive-in theaters, alcoholic beverages at teen-age parties, and steady dating unless there is a possibility of marriage within a short time. A comment by a St. Louis youth reveals the true desire of youngsters for firm rules showing how far they may reasonably go. "More than anything else, the code eliminates confusion," he commented. "How late a person should stay out, what he should and shouldn't do--the code settles those questions for us and our parents. Now all we do is to refer to the book."

This desire for direction is evident in the workings of high school student governments. When youngsters know the rules and the penalties for violating them, they have a true feeling of freedom. They know exactly how far they can go and they expect to be brought back into line if they cannot control their conduct.

In their response to codes of conduct, and their willingness to be governed by rules, adolescents deliver a message which parents should heed. If your teen-ager knows what is expected of him and your demands are reasonable, and if you make it plain that he will be deprived of privileges or punished in other ways for violations, you should achieve highly successful results.

Practical problems of adolescents. It is easier to state a principle than to apply it. Many parents know all the answers provided in books, yet seem unable to achieve satisfactory results in training their adolescents. What is wrong? A review of problems recounted by mothers and fathers reveals several recurring and fundamental causes.

The first is the unwillingness or inability of parents to recognize that there is some truth in teen-agers' assertions that conditions have changed. As we noted earlier, the modern youngster faces a greater variety of pressures, all applied with a greater intensity, than modern adults were exposed to. The modern parent probably is shocked to think that a fifteen-year-old boy attends movies at night unescorted and is on the city's streets at 11 P.M., or that the high school girl of seventeen smokes cigarettes while doing her homework. Such incidents, almost unthought of twenty-five years ago, are commonplace today. A generation ago, parents could instruct their fifteen-year-old boy to be home at 9:30 P.M., and could forbid their daughter to smoke until she reached twenty-one, if at all. The modern parent who sets up rules based on his own experience and contrary to the common custom, can expect to encounter resistance.

A second area of difficulty stems from parents' unwillingness to give responsibility. They sometimes overlook the fact that youngsters have the same human failings to which adults are prone. This is evident in the frequent complaint, "My son won't take responsibility." What the complaining parent overlooks is that the son--like his father and most other human beings--will not assume a burden if it is unnecessary for him to do so. Like the rest of us, he is inclined to laziness. But if you give him the responsibility and make it plain that it is his to succeed with, or to fail, you will discover that he is capable of carrying heavier burdens than you imagined.

One sees vivid proof of this fact when the family is suddenly deprived of the father or mother. The youngsters pitch in and do work that would have been considered impossible for them before the emergency arose. In one home with five children, the mother became seriously ill and was required to spend several months in a sanitarium. The father could not afford a housekeeper and distributed many of the housekeeping chores to his two daughters--one fifteen and the other thirteen. When their mother was home, the girls had seemed to lack every shred of responsibility. They had to be prodded continually even to make their own beds and keep their room neat. They resisted all efforts to get them to help wash the evening dishes and to keep the main rooms clean. They knew that if they did not do this work, their mother would do it ultimately.

With the mother hospitalized, however, they realized that they would have to do the work--or it would not get done. Now that they could not avoid the responsibility, the change in their attitude was striking. They performed their tasks with enthusiasm and vied with each other in preparing tasty meals for the family. The house was as neat as it had ever been.

When the mother returned, however, it soon became obvious that she would do any work that her daughters neglected. And so they too soon reverted to their former ways. Many parents who have found "seven-day wonders" in their homes when emergencies arose, can recognize the importance of thrusting responsibility upon youngsters.

This principle--that parents must give responsibility if they wish adolescents to take it--is often strikingly evident in the way that youngsters respond to school assignments. As we have noted, a high school student should be mature enough to carry out his homework assignments without prodding from his parents. If they must correct his work every night, they probably have not instilled proper study habits- -and a sense of personal responsibility--during his formative years in elementary school. If you canvass parents of students in the upper quarter of their class, you will probably be unable to find one who finds it constantly necessary to prod his child to study. The reason is that the good student has been forced to accept personal responsibility for his work.

Parents of an irresponsible student find themselves squeezed by pressures. They realize that he will lose an important advantage in his adult years if he fails to obtain a college education or, at the very least, a high school diploma. On the other hand, they note his apparent unconcern over his lack of scholastic achievement. What should they do?

They may try to nag him to scholastic success, but whether this procedure ever works is doubtful. Instead, they should make certain that he is fully aware of the disservice he does to himself by neglecting his opportunities for education, and they should remove any conditions standing in the way of his achievement. Does he seriously worry over his health or that of other members of the family? Is there a tense or troubled family atmosphere which makes study difficult? Does he have too easy access to distractions like television, radio or phonograph, or reading matter not related to school work? Does he lack a suitable, quiet place for study? You should change this and similar home conditions which may be responsible for poor schoolwork. You should make certain, after talks with the school principal or teachers, that there are no difficulties of a psychological nature in his relations with the school itself. Then you should put responsibility for scholastic achievement directly upon your youngster--and let him know it.

Adolescents also must be taught to accept responsibility for their spiritual welfare. You must keep a vigilant eye over your youngster's conduct, of course, but it is also wise to extend the area of his personal responsibility in spiritual matters, so that as an adult he will not need others to tell him when to perform his religious duties. When he reaches his mid-teens, for example, he should be fully responsible for all of his basic religious obligations--attending Mass on Sundays and holy days, observing the laws of fast and abstinence, saying morning and night prayers, obeying regulations covering the sacraments, etc.

While you must correct him if he does not faithfully perform his duties, it is usually more desirable to operate on the assumption that he will meet his responsibilities. The parents in one suburban home developed a habit of attending the last Mass on Sunday. Their eighteen- year-old daughter rode the two miles to church with them. But each Sunday she slept later and later, resisting her mother's efforts to awaken her, until the parents themselves were reaching Mass late because they waited for her. Finally, one Sunday, the father told his daughter that if she was not ready at a specified time thereafter, the parents would leave without her; if she missed Mass, the sin would be hers alone. The first Sunday that this procedure was followed, she refused to arise in time. The parents kept their word and went to church without her. She arrived in a state of disarray while the priest was delivering his sermon. The parents were naturally embarrassed but determined to hold their line. It took a few more weeks for the girl to realize that attendance at Mass was her entire responsibility. And once she learned that lesson she was ready to leave with her parents every Sunday.

When you give responsibility, you must reconcile yourself to the thought that your youngsters will make many mistakes. Some, like that of the girl arriving late at Mass, may prove embarrassing. Some, like that of the high school student who spends his entire allowance on entertainment and is forced to eat peanuts for lunch all week, may be foolhardy or stupid. Other steps toward independence, such as your child taking work in an office where he will be exposed to unknown influences over which you have no control, may involve a possibility of danger. But all of these risks are necessary. We all learn by making mistakes. Only by actual experience can most human beings acquire the confidence to assume greater responsibility. The parent who says, "I don't want my son to make the mistakes I did," may truly wish to protect his youngster from harm. But in quarantining him from mistakes of any kind he may also be stunting the growth of a personality.


IF YOUR child chooses marriage as his state in life, his mate will exert a tremendous effect upon both his eternal and his earthly happiness. In fact, your son's relationship with his wife and your daughter's relationship with her husband may be the decisive ones of their lives. And while parents today probably have less to say about whom their children marry than at any time in world history, you can do much to make your child's relationship a wholesome one.

Even before his first date with a girl, your son will develop a full set of impressions about the opposite sex. He will form attitudes from his experiences with his mother and sisters; from watching his father's treatment of women; and from many other sources. He may regard women as drudges, placed on earth merely to cater to the superior male. He may regard them as creatures whom men can never fully understand, and who should be tolerated at best. He may consider them to be God's fairest flowers, made to be treated with the utmost care, whose every whim must be satisfied. Regardless of what he thinks, his impressions will probably come from the experiences of his home. Your daughter also will regard the boys she meets in the light of her home experiences with her father and brothers. Whether she dominates or is dominated, whether she strives to appeal to males on the basis of her physical attraction, her intellect or her personality--these too will depend upon what she has learned about them in her own home.

As it does in so many other areas of life, your influence will exert a profound effect upon your child's attitudes concerning dating, courtship and marriage. The man who wrote the popular old song with the line, "I want a girl just like the girl who married dear old Dad," revealed a remarkable insight into psychology, for every boy seeks in a girl those qualities he has known in his mother, and every girl seeks those qualities she has seen manifested in her father. This psychological fact helps to explain why happy marriage tend to go on from generation to generation, for statistics prove that a young person from a happy home has a better chance of entering a happy marriage than if his parents were divorced or separated. There is likewise a continuity of unhappy marriages: children of divorce are more likely to enter unions which will end unsatisfactorily. Therefore, although modern custom decrees that you should not interfere in your child's choice of a marriage partner, your influence over the selection, while subtle, will be significant indeed.

Not only by your example, but also by your teaching, you can vitally affect your child's attitudes toward the other sex, and toward dating, courtship and marriage generally--and all of these attitudes will, of course, affect his selection of a partner and his happiness in marriage itself. Some specific ways in which you can do this are described below.

Parties and dances. Many parents push their children into social activities before the youngsters themselves are interested. In the suburbs, one can observe mothers requiring their nine- and ten-year-old boys to study dancing and to attend parties with girls, when the boys themselves actually abhor the company of the other sex. Such parents wish their children to acquire social graces so that they will learn to feel at ease in mixed company. But the parents are like horticulturists who use artificial light or heat to force a plant to bloom before its normal time; the plant spends its blossoms before those which develop naturally are in bloom. Children who associate socially with the other sex at a prematurely early age tend to become engaged and to marry at a younger age than the average. So it is probably that they do not get to know more about the opposite sex; instead, they simply learn at an earlier age.

What is the right age for boys and girls to attend parties and dances? While parents must bow to some extent to the prevailing customs in their parish, normal children usually do not feel deprived if their social life does not start until they reach high school.

All parties and dances should be chaperoned. Adults need not be present in the room where the party takes place, but they should remain in the house where they can be inconspicuously alert to what is going on. Before a party begins, the boys and girls should be told that it will end precisely at a specified hour. A girl's parents should tell her escort what time they wish her to be home and he should accept the responsibility of obeying their instructions. In the chapter on teen- agers, there is described a typical teen-age code which specifies hours at which parties should end for various age groups.

Parents who sponsor parties for their youngsters should plan enough activities so that the guests will not become bored and resort to kissing games or other pastimes to create excitement. There should be an ample supply of records, suitable parlor game materials, and other diversions.

Cautions on dating. In our society, many boys and girls of high school age go out together on dates. Such occasional dating generally does not harm the moral or psychological development of the youngster. However, several important cautions should be observed.

When your youngsters begin to date, stress the importance of avoiding the kinds of dancing, kissing, and other contacts which might stimulate sexual desire and thus constitute an occasion of sin. In impressing their teen-agers with the fact that God has reserved intercourse for the married, many parents effectively cite other acts which are restricted only to those who may legitimately perform them. For example, although a seminarian learns how to say Mass and administer sacraments, he may not use his knowledge in a practical way until he is ordained. A medical student who has passed all his courses may not legitimately practice medicine until he has been officially licensed.

The most effective deterrent to premarital intercourse is a fear of God and a desire to enter marriage without profaning the organs He has provided for the sacred act of procreation. Other useful deterrents, in a secondary way, are appeals to chastity based on worldly reasons. For example, marriage counselors have found that young men and women who marry without having violated their chastity have a better chance of succeeding in marriage, because they have acquired the self-control which all husbands and wives must practice on many occasions. On the other hand, the young woman who has engaged in premarital relations often retains a sense of shame all her life.

Venereal disease often results from intercourse outside of marriage, and while new drugs have proved useful in treating syphilis and gonorrhea, these scourges are prevalent to a far greater extent than most people realize. In fact, venereal disease rates among teen-agers have shown a steady and shocking rise over the past several years. You should make your youngsters aware that such a loathsome disease may result from sinful intercourse. Girls should also be told of the stigma which attaches to unmarried mothers in the eyes of society. But do not make this point so forcefully that your daughter may come to consider the act of marriage itself, when indulged in lawfully, as a possible source of sin or shame.

Adolescents also have sufficient reasoning power to appreciate that children who might result from sex outside of marriage would lack mature parents to care for them. The thought that an innocent child might suffer all his life because a boy or girl lacks sufficient self- discipline to refrain from intercourse, is one which youngsters can use to strengthen their own will.

When boys and girls begin to date, mere warnings about moral and social dangers may not be sufficient. You should provide safeguards to eliminate or remove possible occasions of sin. Parents sometimes believe that youngsters who have received adequate instruction can always be depended upon to obey the moral law. Unfortunately, young men and women sometimes are completely unprepared for the powerful urge for sex fulfillment within them and are swept into sin from what they may think are innocent beginnings.

Older cultures, wise in the power of the sexual urge, adopted the custom of the chaperon--the adult who always accompanies young people on their dates. Modern usage has rendered the idea of the chaperon distasteful, but a need for supervision exists nevertheless. Try to prevent situations which enable a boy and girl to be alone together for any length of time. They should go out in groups, should not sit alone in parked cars, and should never be left alone together at home. Sometimes a girl who is baby-sitting seeks to invite a boy to visit her; such a practice should be strictly prohibited by both her parents and the couple who hire her.

Another important rule is that there should be no drinking of alcoholic beverages on any date. A generation ago, young Catholic men and women often took a pledge to abstain from alcohol until their twenty-first birthdays. Such a custom if practiced today would save many souls, help avoid many sins and prevent much heartbreak.

Many youngsters drink on dates because they think it is smart. They are unaware of the tremendous damage that drinking can do. At the very least, it provides a stimulation which they do not need; if they need alcohol to enjoy each other's company during their youth, one shudders to think what they will find necessary in middle age. It is physically dangerous, especially when a car is used. Accident statistics confirm that most fatal accidents at night involve drivers who have been drinking. Finally, and most dangerously, it deadens the conscience and releases inhibitions. The boy and girl who drink on dates lose control over their wills and may fall more easily before the impulse to passion which constantly lurks beneath the surface.

The importance of modesty in dress. When your son and daughter begin to date, they will almost certainly be exposed to influences which encourage immodest dress. Such influences are almost unavoidable in today's world. Actresses on television and in motion pictures appear in garments designed to reveal every contour of their bodies. Newspapers publish pictures of semi-clad women and discuss them in admiring language. On the beaches and athletic grounds, contestants almost invariably wear a minimum of apparel.

When the young girl observes that the scantily clad woman seemingly evokes the greatest admiration, it is perhaps natural for her to want to dress in a similarly daring way. She should be taught the truth that men do not want their own loved ones to appear in public in this fashion. Moreover, the immodestly dressed girl who attracts the attention of males usually soon discovers that their interest is entirely selfish and that they lack respect for her as a person. It is the girl who dresses and acts becomingly, and who is attractive in a pleasant and unoffensive way, who wins lasting respect and affection. Your daughter will form a true judgment as to where the lasting values lie if she realizes that the so-called "glamour girls"--those who appear in public in revealing costumes--usually are failures as women. Their record of divorces proves this fact.

Many girls also must be told that their daring dress might be an occasion of sin to boys. They should know that boys naturally are more excitable, and may harbor sinful thoughts at the sight of an improperly dressed girl. This point is discussed in greater detail in Chapter 6.

Boys also can commit offenses against modesty in dress. A present fashion among adolescents--the practice of wearing trousers that are too tight and emphasize the contours of the body--may be an occasion of evil thoughts by girls.

Does the Church's continued warnings against immodest dress mean that she expects men and women to dress somberly and without attractiveness? Not at all. For as Monsignor Lawrence B. Casey has pointed out, "the magazine "Vogue" is not on the index of forbidden books."

A young girl need not walk about with stringy hair, a plain, pale face, or in the clothing of a widow; she can make herself attractive, using appropriate cosmetic aids and colorful fabrics. Above all, if she has a smiling, friendly disposition, it will be reflected in her appearance, and will make her more attractive than any product from the beautician's laboratory.

For modern dress, these standards may be a helpful guide: Dresses should fully cover the upper arm, shoulders, bust, chest and midriff. They should have sleeves extending at least halfway between the shoulder and elbow. If they have leaves, nets, or other transparent material, there should be full cloth coverage beneath. Skirts should extend to below the knees, and dresses should conceal the outline of the breasts and other parts of the body.

Going steady. One of the most disturbing trends of postwar America is the sharp lowering of the age at which boys and girls pair off and begin to go steady. This phenomenon has been observed by educators and social scientists throughout the country. For instance, the idea of a boy in the seventh grade in elementary school taking the same girl to a movie each week, and returning home at 11 P.M. each time, has become commonplace in many sections. Many high school freshmen and sophomores date steadily, which means that they do not feel free to attend any social events without their "partner." And many juniors and seniors are virtually, if not actually, engaged; at the age of sixteen or seventeen, they have apparently already chosen their life mates.

The Church has always maintained that a male and female should not deliberately confine their companionship to a single member of the opposite sex--to go steady, in today's language--unless they are prepared to marry within the very near future. This means that a young man and woman should not begin to keep company if they will not be reasonably able to marry and maintain a home within about two years. Obviously, in our society which requires extensive schooling to fulfill the normal responsibilities of men and women, the boy and girl of high school age cannot hope to marry successfully within any such period of time.

Some parents of teen-agers apparently find it difficult to understand why priests object so firmly to early dating and going steady. The fact is that from their vast experience, priests know that early dating often leads to serious sins of impurity, teen-age pregnancies and illegitimate births, and to teen-age marriages which have scant hope of success.

Scores of researchers who have interviewed teen-agers who go steady report that such youngsters increasingly believe that they are entitled to take sinful liberties with their boy friends or girl friends. For example, Eugene Gilbert, a specialist in studying the habits and opinions of adolescents, made a survey of 5,000 high school students for "This Week" magazine. He asked the pupils how far they thought a boy and girl who went steady could go in intimate contact with each other. Only one teen-ager in ten thought that such a couple should do no more than kiss. Another one in ten thought that "light necking" should be permitted, while two in ten thought that petting would be allowable. The most shocking fact was that six teen-agers in ten thought that the boy and girl who went steady should be permitted to engage in "anything they want." In a newspaper poll, fifty teen-age girls were asked if they petted on dates. Thirty-six replied in the affirmative, most of them adding that "everyone else does."

The consequences of such beliefs are what one might expect. In November 1958, the "Ladies Home Journal" quoted a high school educator as saying, "many of our high school girls get married because they have to get married, and an equal number of girls in school get pregnant every year but don't get married--they just disappear for a semester and then come back without any baby. Another high school principal reported. "We had so many marriages this last year that I can't even keep track of them. Students start going steady when they're thirteen and during high school most of the girls are wearing a boy's ring on a necklace. If they aren't officially engaged by the end of their senior year, they think their life's ruined."

Largely as a result of the growing practice of going steady in the teen years, the average age at which Americans marry has become lower and lower. In 1900, the average American bride was twenty-two; in 1957, she was twenty, and one bride in three was nineteen or younger. About 300,000 boys and girls under eighteen in the United States are now married. With rare exceptions, those who enter such early marriages are ill-equipped emotionally and intellectually to accept the responsibilities of marriage and parenthood; usually the bride soon runs home to her mother and the bridegroom runs home to his. If there are children, the likelihood that the father will desert his family to evade the responsibilities is greater than in any other age group.

In a significant study made by Dr. Henry Bowman of Stephens College, it was found that more than half of all broken marriages occurred when the couples were in a hurry. They started going together when they were too young, they were too impetuous to investigate the qualities of their prospective mates, or they married at an earlier age than the average.

Parents who permit--or worse, encourage--their teen-agers to go steady allow them to be harmed in many other ways. Few young men realize how terribly their whole future as a bread-winner and provider is being affected by a serious romantic attachment at an early age. By going steady, a boy and girl lose the common enjoyment of adolescence of doing things with a crowd. Through being tied down continually by one person, a youngster loses the opportunity to meet others of the opposite sex and to learn how to be congenial with them. Going steady also tends to discourage the development of gracious, pleasant habits. The boy and girl usually take each other for granted, and do not feel that they need extend themselves, make sacrifices or practice their best behavior in each other's company. Some girls prefer going steady so that they always will have an escort at social affairs. But when a teen-age girl places such a premium upon security, she becomes completely dependent upon her boy friend. It is not unlikely that he will recognize his position of superiority and demand that she "give in to him" lest he form an attachment elsewhere.

Kinds of men and women to avoid. Researchers have devoted much time to studies of thousands of marriage failures, and their findings confirm the observations and experiences of priests and other authorities that certain types of men and women are extremely bad risks in marriage. Young Catholic men and women endanger not only their chances for earthly happiness but also the salvation of their souls by associating with such types, with marriage as an immediate or remote prospect. These types are:

1. Persons who are now married. Of course, Catholics may not wed anyone now validly married in the eyes of the Church, for a valid marriage is for life. However, occasionally doubt exists as to whether a marriage is valid, and the man or woman involved may hope to contract a valid union when the previous one is annulled. In the vast majority of cases, such hopes are unrealistic, for of every hundred annulments that are sought, only about two are granted. Moreover, annulment cases often take years to decide. Often, when an annulment is denied, the person who sought it unsuccessfully resorts to marriage outside the Church-- and if your child is his partner, the two together may lose their souls.

2. Non-Catholics and indifferent Catholics. The hazards of mixed marriages are becoming so great in this country that the entire next chapter is devoted to the problem. But simply because a prospective husband or wife professes to be a Catholic is no guarantee that he or she is a good marital risk. You should tell your son or daughter to avoid those who are Catholics in name only, who adopt a disrespectful tone toward their religion, who scorn the virtues of chastity and modesty, and who indicate a desire to practice birth control. Such persons will threaten the spiritual growth of their mates. And, as we have seen, the lack of a strong religious sense characterizes those homes that are beset by tension in many other areas of activity.

You should also advise your son or daughter to beware of the following types: the man or woman who drinks or gambles to excess (those habits usually grow rather than decrease after marriage, and if they are not stopped at courtship the chance that they will ever be curbed is remote); the man or woman who is overly ambitious and determined to achieve a higher social position regardless of its cost (such persons may throw over all worth-while ideals and emotional values in their passion for success); and the man or woman with a hardness of character (if he or she lacks a spirit of compromise and of charity and kindness toward others, beware!).

3. The emotionally immature and those who show no willingness to accept responsibility. One wise priest, after observing thousands of marriages, remarked that he can see hope for any type of troubled union save one--and that is the one in which the husband or wife refuses to accept the responsibilities of the marriage state. The girl who has had everything done for her and who--through her physical beauty--has discovered that she may need neither brains nor a pleasant personality to attract men, is typically the type who whines over the difficulties of childbearing, child-rearing and the normal tasks of running a home. Likewise, the man who moves from job to job every few months and who habitually seeks help from his doting mother and father whenever he gets into debt, is a type seen often in the divorce courts--or sought throughout the country for having deserted his family in their time of need.

Impediments to valid marriages. In rare cases, impediments exist which make a valid marriage impossible. The most common impediments today are insufficient age (to be validly married, a male must have completed his sixteenth year and a female her fourteenth); consanguinity (persons closely related by blood--for example, first and second cousins); spiritual relationship (a godparent cannot marry his godchild, nor can the person who baptizes marry the one baptized); impotence (a marriage is invalid if, at the time of the ceremony, one of the parties was permanently incapable of performing the sexual act); and want of the use of reason (for instance, one who is insane, drunk, drugged or hypnotized is incapable of marrying, since free will is lacking at the time the ceremony is performed). Occasionally, and for good reasons, the Pope may dispense from certain impediments.

Qualities to seek in a mate. Encourage your offspring to consider carefully the qualities a person needs to perform the responsibilities of marriage properly. Any serious thought will convince the normal intelligent youngster that many of the popular standards for choosing a mate lack intrinsic merit. For instance, contrary to what movie and television plays suggest, the ideal husband is not the wisecracking playboy who is tall, handsome and a smooth dancer. Nor is the ideal wife necessarily the one with the most beautiful face and most curvaceous figure. The fact is that the husband or wife who contributes most to the happiness of a marriage need not have physical beauty at all. While it is true that a man and woman should feel physically attracted toward each other, the qualities that produce a lasting, loving relationship are those of the soul and heart rather than of the body.

If you would have your children make a good choice in marriage, encourage them to look for a sense of unselfishness in their prospective partner--a willingness to deny self, if need be, in order to serve others. Encourage them to look for a deep and abiding religious sense, for trust in Almighty God will enable them--and their partners--to surmount the difficulties, trials and disappointments which will inevitably come their way. The ideal marriage partner is courteous, kind and considerate; he is mature enough to recognize and accept responsibilities without complaining; realistic enough to know that compromises are necessary to make any marriage succeed, and humble enough to know that he must make his share.

Young men and women of earlier generations had an advantage over modern youngsters because they usually could observe their prospective partners in everyday work situations. Because the average man worked near his home, and generally married a woman who also lived nearby, she often could see how he went about his everyday job, accepted responsibilities and behaved when confronted by the serious functions of living--how, in brief, he acted in a role like the one he would play as a husband. And since the unmarried woman of an earlier day worked about the house caring for the younger children and doing similar home- making tasks, her prospective husband could observe how she might act as a wife.

Today, however, young men and women know each other almost solely as recreational partners. They attend movies or dances on dates, and their major interest is having good times together. But the woman who chooses a husband solely on the way he acts on dates may face a lifetime of disappointments. The "Good-time Charlie" of courtship days may remain that way after marriage, and the wife who needs his wages to pay for the baby's milk may discover that he has spent them having fun. Likewise, "Midnight Mary," who is always the last one to leave the party, may not seem quite so glamorous to her husband when he must make the children's breakfast because she is too tired to do so.

The serious purposes of courtship. Instead of being a time for heedless pleasure, courtship should be one of the most serious periods in life. It should be a time of discovery, employed to gain insights into the personality of the prospective mate. Now is the time when the girl should learn whether her prospective husband is closely tied to a mother's apron strings or is so wrapped up in himself that his ego must be fed constantly.

The prospective husband and wife should seriously discuss their attitudes toward parenthood. As we noted in Chapter 2, those marriages are happiest in which husband and wife are united in their interest in the home, and it has been demonstrated in many different ways that the man and woman who desire children generally make the best partners. Other discussions should center around each person's conception of his or her future role. These discussions will be most revealing; a man usually will seek in his wife those qualities which his mother possesses, and she will seek in her husband the qualities of her father. For this reason, the man and woman from similar backgrounds-- those whose parents have essentially the same attitudes toward religion and children--have the best chance of succeeding in marriage.

How long should engagements be? Ideally, a man and woman should not agree to marry unless they can do so within two years at most. This period should provide ample time for them to learn more about each other and to discuss religious values and their concepts of other phases of life. Longer engagements are inadvisable for several reasons. The man and woman may take each other for granted and some of the bloom may fall from their romance. The longer the courtship lasts, the greater is the danger of premarital intercourse or other sexual excesses. Finally, the engagement that drags on often becomes a way of life in itself. Many a spinster at thirty became engaged at twenty but made life so attractive for her fiance that he never saw the point of legalizing the relationship.

The question of "rights" often arises when two young people are engaged. The simple fact is that they have none: the marital act, together with the preliminaries normally considered to be a part of it, is reserved for marriage. As a practical matter, an engaged man and woman should intensify their chastity, rather than diminish it. They are about to enter a holy state and their regard for its sacramental nature--and the privileges of both sexual communion and of procreating children which it involves--should inspire them to retain the greatest purity in their relationship with each other.

Preparations for marriage. Let your children decide the details of their own wedding. One often meets a young bride who would prefer a quiet church wedding, followed by a simple reception for relatives and close friends. But her parents are determined to make this event a showcase for their prosperity. Often they hire an expensive hall and invite scores of persons whom the bride and bridegroom will never see again. Thousands of dollars may be spent in this way, and the young couple may then be required to endure severe sacrifices to save a similar amount for a down payment on a home.

Parents should make sure, however, that all regulations of the Church are complied with. The prospective bride and groom should visit the bride's pastor to make arrangements as soon as the engagement is effective. Church law states that the ceremony should be performed in the Church of the bride and that a priest and two other witnesses are normally required to make it valid. When the prospective bride and the bridegroom are Catholics, the banns of marriage must be proclaimed in the churches of both on three successive Sundays, so that anyone knowing a reason why they should not be permitted to marry may make his objection known. For good reasons, these rules may be suspended.

Catholics should be married at a nuptial Mass, which can be celebrated at any time of the year. However, the solemn nuptial blessing cannot be given during Advent or Lent.

After your son or daughter becomes engaged, firmly encourage him or her to attend a Pre-Cana Conference. Pre-Cana is the most immediate preparation for marriage which the Church has to offer. Its purpose is to impart to the couple those attitudes and points of information which are crucial to the successful launching of a Christian marriage. Priests, medical doctors, and married couples put themselves at the disposal of the young unmarried tyros.

Within months of the marriage the engaged man and woman are brought face to face with the realities of family life. Parenthood, the roles of husband and wife, the sex differences of the couples, even such ordinary experiences as paying the bills, are discussed frankly and wisely from a variety of view points. And because the couples themselves participate by their own questions and answers, many initial doubts and troubles that plague young marriages are eliminated before they can cause harm.


IT IS well known that the Church firmly opposes marriage between a Catholic and a non-Catholic. Her opposition is based not so much on practical considerations as it is on principle. Christian marriage is the sacred union of two people called by God to assist Jesus Christ in the work of the redemption. And the mixed marriage, no matter how successful it may occasionally be socially or psychologically, can never be a perfect sacramental union. Lacking a common divine faith, the couple will always be found wanting as a worshipping and redemptive unit of the Church. How can they teach, rule and sanctify each other and their children in Christ's name when one of the parties is not committed to the fullness of the Christian gospel? How can they build up the Mystical Body of Christ--and be channels of grace to each other- -when the non-Catholic does not comprehend the mystery of sacramental marriage? How can the mixed marriage signify the union of Christ and the Church and be characterized by total dedication to supernatural purposes and complete Christlike self-sacrifice when there can never be agreement on the goals of marriage, even on its nature?

In the practical order human imperfections mar every marriage. Catholic marriages unfortunately are no exceptions to this rule. But the mixed marriage is something special. The very sacrament itself is radically affected by the denial of faith on one side. It can never be a perfect union of mind, heart and soul, and can never realize the supernatural potential of the sacramental Catholic union. To avoid greater evils the Church may accept less than the ideal, but never does she compromise this basic truth. And it is the hope of Mother Church that more and more of her parents will strive to see this ideal realized in their children.

Her teaching is fortified by her experience of centuries. Through almost two thousand years of her history, she has seen the results of such unions--their harmful effects upon the marriage relationship itself, the tensions between mixed couples, the loss of faith by spouses, the confusion and irreligion of children and the frequent dangers to eternal salvation resulting from them. Despite her solid principles and her constant warning, many Catholic parents appear to believe, first, that a mixed marriage for their children is neither a bad thing nor as dangerous to their happiness as priests commonly assert, and second, that the danger of contracting one is remote or magnified.

Statistics covering marriages in all parts of the United States prove otherwise. If you have three children, the mathematical chance is that one will marry a non-Catholic, either validly or invalidly. If you live where Catholics are a small minority, the danger may be even more acute. In some parts of the South, four out of every five marriages performed in the Church are mixed.

These statistics reflect disturbing pressures which result in the marriage of more and more Catholics every year to persons outside the faith. These pressures result, ironically, from the improved living conditions of American Catholics. Not many years ago, the typical Catholic was either an immigrant or the child of immigrants. He lived in a section where similar Catholic families lived and thus had many opportunities to meet members of his own faith. Now, however, second- generation Catholics have moved into the general population stream. As likely as not, a Catholic family today finds a Jewish neighbor on one side and a Protestant neighbor on the other. Opportunities to meet members of other faiths in social and business contacts have increased tremendously, while chances to meet members of our own faith have decreased correspondingly.

Sociologists refer to the movement of Catholics into all levels of society as our "social mobility." Generally, it indicates progress: we are taking a rightful and necessary place in all areas of our country's life. But as Catholics become better educated and occupy more and more places of importance in the professional, business and civic worlds, the tendency to form friendships with non-Catholics is intensified. Obviously, we should not retreat into a shell and should take our place in society. At the same time, however, we should become conscious of the increased dangers which this social progress creates, and of the need to protect the faith of Catholic children against them. For if present trends continue, when your young children reach adulthood, their statistical chance of marrying a Catholic may be no greater than that of marrying outside the faith.

Why the Church opposes mixed marriages. Statistics compiled by the Bishops' Committee on Mixed Marriages and by other investigators establish that three out of five Catholics who are involved in a mixed marriage (including those performed outside the Church) turn away from their religion in a significant way. They stop attending Mass. Or they attend infrequently. Or if they attend regularly, they are unable to receive the sacraments because they live in a state of sin.

An even greater percentage of children born to such marriages are lost to the faith. The child's path to salvation is strewn with hazards. He may never even be baptized a Catholic. If he does receive baptism, he may grow up in a home where spiritual values of any kind do not exist, or where he is taught that "one religion is as good as another." He is less likely to attend Catholic schools than is the child whose parents are both Catholic. And when he marries, he is more likely to choose a partner of a different belief. He is, in fact, psychologically ripe for a mixed marriage: didn't his father (or mother) marry a non-Catholic, and didn't that marriage turn out well?

In view of the Church's primary concern with saving souls, she cannot remain indifferent to the spiritual loss resulting from interfaith unions. But even if the all-important consideration of your child's salvation were not involved, as a conscientious parent you would still have the responsibility of opposing mixed marriages for earthly reasons.

For instance, such unions are more likely to break up in divorce, separation or desertion than those in which both partners profess the same faith. One study shows that the rate of divorce and separation is about three times higher in Catholic-Protestant marriages than in those without religious differences. Even when religious difficulties seemingly have been resolved, numerous students of marriage have found that latent tension remains beneath the surface. This often reflects itself in disputes over other matters--the training of children or the observance of religious feasts like Christmas and Easter, for example-- and in similar ways.

In their textbook "Building a Successful Marriage," sociologists Judson T. and Mary G. Landis stress that an important characteristic of most happy marriages is the similarity in the partners' backgrounds and interests. In dozens of vital areas, the basic beliefs instilled in a non-Catholic home differ substantially from those of the Catholic. The non-Catholic often has different beliefs about divorce, birth control, and the ideal conditions in which to educate his children. He may even differ about the omnipotence of God, the divinity of Christ, the importance of the sacraments, and the existence of heaven and hell.

Your religious beliefs touch the very roots of your being. You cannot disagree about such basic matters as why you have been placed on earth, where you will go after death and how you should live your life without affecting the basic fabric of your marriage. Thus Catholic and non- Catholic partners who resolve not to let religious differences interfere with their happiness often find that the gap between them is too great to be bridged. If there are no outward disagreements, at the very least, there is lacking the essential ingredient for true mutual harmony--a complete understanding of and agreement with the partner's viewpoint.

Another hazard in mixed marriages is that the strain of adjusting to in-laws will probably be magnified. Despite great strides made against racial and religious prejudices in America, parents of all faiths tend to be deeply shocked when their children marry outside the fold. Even when the Catholic wife is accepted personally by her in-laws, for instance, they often bitterly complain that their son has "been forced to degrade himself" by agreeing to the rigid conditions the Church requires before validating such a marriage. Or if the Catholic party is accepted, it may be with the in-laws' silent or spoken reservation that other members of the faith are ignorant, superstitious, or lacking in some moral quality. Or even where Catholics as a body are accepted, the non-Catholic relatives may display prejudice against the Church as represented by the clergy.

The non-Catholic may receive similar treatment from relatives of the Catholic partner. As a result, two conflicting forces are set up. Even if the man and wife themselves try diligently to live in harmony, they will find that they must proceed with their in-laws with the utmost caution lest the religious animosity bubbling beneath the surface suddenly boil up to engulf them.

Finally, the children of mixed marriages will surely be subjected to greater tension than those whose parents agree on religious matters. One can see evidence of such tension in countless ways. An eight-year- old boy was taught that man was made to worship God and that one way of doing so was by attending Mass on Sundays. But his father never attended Mass. The loyal child believed in the Church's teaching, yet also found it difficult to believe that his father was offending God. He was torn between two sets of values--one taught at school and by his mother, another by his father. It was not difficult to understand why a psychologist found strong evidence of insecurity in the boy's personality.

In another family, the non-Catholic mother faithfully observed her promises to rear her children as Catholics. But her sister seemed to be engaged in constant travel between justices of the peace and the divorce courts. On the one hand, the children were taught that divorce was evil and that those who remarried after divorce committed sin; but how could they believe that their beloved aunt was dooming herself to hell? Such divisive influences make it extremely difficult to give children lasting values on which to build their lives.

A sensitive boy of twelve has a Catholic mother and a Jewish father. Sometimes he is in the company of Christians and at other times of Jews. When with Gentiles, he often hears disparaging references to Jews; and when with Jews, he hears them sneering at Catholics. In either place, this child is a stranger without roots. He now attends no church. However, he spends several hours each week with a psychiatrist.

All faiths opposed mixed marriages. In view of the natural hazards which exist in all interfaith unions, it is easy to see that the Church's opposition is neither narrow nor bigoted, as some critics allege. The fact is that religious leaders of all denominations--as well as nonsectarian experts on marriage--universally warn young people to marry within their own faith.

Because of the diversity of Protestant belief, no uniform position is adopted by their clergymen and spokesmen. However, the vast majority oppose mixed marriages and they especially warn their members against marrying a Roman Catholic. For example, the Presbyterian "Confession of Faith" warns members not to marry "with infidels, Papists, or other idolaters." In 1948, the general conventions of the Protestant Episcopal Church adopted a resolution as follows:

"Resolved, that this convention earnestly warns members of our Church against contracting marriages with Roman Catholics under conditions imposed by modern Roman Catholic common law, especially as these conditions involve a promise to have their children brought up under a religious system which they cannot themselves accept; and further, because the religious education and spiritual training of their children by word and example is a paramount duty of parents and should never be neglected nor left entirely to others, we assert that in no circumstances should a member of this Church give any understanding as a condition of marriage, that the children should be brought up in the practice of another communion."

Similar statements have been made by spokesmen for the Lutherans, Southern Baptists, Methodists, Disciples of Christ and other sects.

The Jews have struggled throughout history to preserve their religion from infiltration by outsiders. Even today, orthodox Hebrews stand unalterably opposed to marrying a Gentile, and the orthodox Jew who does so is thought to have rejected his religion and to have left the fold forever. Reformed and liberal Jews also strongly disapprove of interfaith unions.

Despite the indisputable fact that chances for happiness are considerably lessened when husband and wife profess different religions, many thousands of couples persist in undertaking such marriages every year. They prefer to overlook the unhappy marriages and to consider instead those unions which have achieved some success. It is true that some interfaith marriages work out satisfactorily for husband, wife and children. In some cases, the home which results from a mixed marriage is a model of sanctity. From such homes have even come priests, brothers and nuns, as well as respected laymen whose piety many of us with both Catholic fathers and mothers might well emulate.

These brilliant exceptions do not alter the fact, however, that the typical person entering a mixed marriage enters a life of difficulty. He may succeed in it; but he will require a greater sense of sacrifice and greater understanding, patience and love than most humans are able to give.

A young man once announced to his pastor that he planned to marry a Protestant girl. To the priest's argument that mixed marriages are filled with danger, the young man said he knew of such unions which had succeeded. The pastor then asked if the man would drive his car down a main street of the city at midday at eighty miles per hour.

The young man laughed. "Of course not, Father," he said, "I'd get killed."

The priest smiled. "Not necessarily," he said. "I know a man who did it and is still alive."

The caller got the point. He later broke off with the girl, because he realized that only extraordinary luck would enable them to contract a mixed marriage and not regret it.

Church rules on mixed marriages. From her beginnings, the Church has always insisted upon her right to protect the soul of the Catholic against all dangers to salvation that he may encounter. She has this authority because she was established by Jesus Christ as His means by which human beings can be saved. The Church's divinely ordained function therefore makes it necessary for her to prevent any conditions which hinder men from reaching the Kingdom of God. For this reason she forbids mixed marriages. Only by obtaining a dispensation from this rule may a Catholic marry outside the faith. The Church grants a dispensation only when it appears that a greater danger might result from her unwillingness to do so.

To protect the souls of the Catholic and of any future children, however, she always requires the non-Catholic spouse to promise solemnly that his partner will be completely free to practice her religion and that all their children will be educated as Catholics. The Catholic spouse must also promise to practice her religion and to educate her children in the faith.

Most non-Catholics object to these conditions. In fact, some ministers maintain that a Protestant who sincerely believes in his own religion cannot possibly sign such promises in good faith. One Protestant leaflet characterizes the antenuptial agreement as undemocratic and un- American "because it is essentially unfair."

Many Protestant writers have striven to point out exactly what these promises mean. They truthfully assert that the non-Catholic who understands them fully would lose most--if not all--of his enthusiasm for a mixed marriage. The simple fact is that the non-Catholic must sign away rights and privileges which he perhaps holds in the highest esteem. For instance, by agreeing not to interfere with his Catholic wife s practice of her religion, he must follow the moral law as regards birth control: to practice contraception would be to encourage his wife to sin. Because it may not be practical to prepare separate dinners on Friday, he may find himself involuntarily obeying Church law regarding abstinence. He must steel himself to the realization that his wife will tell her sins to a priest, pray to the Blessed Virgin and the saints, bow to the Pope's authority in matters of faith and morals, and indulge in other practices which he may have been taught from childhood represent "superstition" and "'ignorance."

Promises he must make regarding his children's upbringing have even greater implications. As a conscientious parent, he must help instruct them in doctrines which he himself believes to be false. He usually will not. Regardless of what he thinks is wrong with the Church or of his personal feelings about the sacraments, the necessity of confession and Communion, the infallibility of the Pope, or the need to abstain from meat on Friday, he is now expected to teach his own flesh and blood the very antithesis of his own convictions. He usually does not.

Moreover, as his children develop their own religious beliefs within a Catholic framework, he must watch them grow apart from him. At the sacred moments of family life--when a child is baptized, receives his First Communion, or is confirmed; during times of family tragedy, like the death of a beloved parent; during great holy days like Christmas and Easter which should be occasions of family unity--the non-Catholic parent will find himself alone. His partner and children will go to their own church to worship God in a way he does not understand.

The prenuptial promises are merely part of the bitter medicine that the non-Catholic must swallow. He must take a series of six lessons in Catholic doctrine which will give him a general understanding of his wife's religious practices. He must submit to questioning by a priest to determine whether he is free to marry in the eyes of the Church and whether he fully and unreservedly intends to observe the laws of God forbidding divorce. Finally, he must agree to be married before a priest. He cannot have a second marriage performed elsewhere.

From the forgoing it can be seen that the non-Catholic who lightheartedly signs the prenuptial promises is making a grievous error. Many lifetime tragedies would be averted if every non-Catholic could be made to realize that he must make great sacrifices if his marriage to a Catholic is to achieve any degree of happiness. It is not correct to say, however, that all mixed marriages require more of the non-Catholic. In many cases, when the solemn pledges are discarded and ignored, the Catholic must become a veritable martyr to make the marriage work. In the matter of religious instruction of her children, for example, a Catholic wife may find that she must be father and mother both and must also resist attacks upon the faith within her own household. She must try to educate her children in a Catholic atmosphere while they draw examples of a different kind from their father. She may have to perform her own religious duties without any encouragement or help. In order to keep peace within the family, she may even find herself watering down her own religious convictions.

The Catholic entering a mixed marriage often fails to understand one vital factor. It is that she is literally at the mercy of the non- Catholic in fulfilling the terms of the prenuptial agreement. The stark truth is that the promises solemnly made before marriage are worthless if the non-Catholic chooses to make them so. And many non-Catholic partners choose to do so. In their book "Marriage and the Family," Dr. Clement S. Mihanovich, Brother Gerald Schnepp, S.M., and Father John L. Thomas, S.J., cite figures indicating that the prenuptial promises are not kept in about 30 per cent of all mixed marriages. Moreover, there is no practical way to make a person keep his promises. For instance, in a recent decision the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that a Catholic could not employ the court to enforce the contract--meaning, in effect, that prenuptial pledges are valid only so long as the non-Catholic partner cares to fulfill them.

Another point which the prospective Catholic partner in a mixed marriage should ponder is that she stands to lose considerably more than her partner if the union proves to be unsatisfactory. The non- Catholic may adopt the attitude that since the marriage has not worked, he can obtain a divorce and remarry. But the Catholic is married for life. Even if her partner obtains a divorce and remarries in the eyes of the State, she remains married in the eyes of God. Because of this factor, the non-Catholic sometimes assumes a domineering position, knowing that the Catholic has no recourse if he chooses to end their relationship A Protestant in a mixed marriage once summed up in a sentence how he managed to gain his own way whenever differences of opinion arose with his Catholic wife. "I just tell her I can walk out and get married again any time I please, and it works every time," he said.

Because a mother is closest to the children in their formative years, a Catholic wife might succeed in raising them in the faith even if their non-Catholic father refused to fulfill his promises. But the Catholic father who can educate his children as Catholics if their mother opposes him is a rarity. As an indication of the difficulty the Catholic man faces in an interfaith union, one survey shows that the divorce and separation rate is three times greater when the mother in a mixed marriage is a non-Catholic than when the father is.

Do mixed marriages make converts? Catholics seeking to justify such a marriage sometimes say that they are sure they can convert their partner. In the prenuptial promises, the Catholic must agree to work for conversion, of course. But actually the hope that the non-Catholic will enter the Church after marriage is a somewhat forlorn one.

Studies by the author in one large diocese in Florida showed that there is one chance in five that a mixed marriage will result in the conversion of the non-Catholic party. Surveys made in other areas have indicated that as few as one person in twenty is brought into the fold as a result of marriage to a Catholic. On the other hand, it has been established that about 25 per cent of Catholics in valid mixed marriages sever their connection with the Church and 20 per cent might be classified as indifferent since they attend Mass only occasionally. Thus the Catholic who marries with hopes of converting her partner faces a likelihood that not only will he not be converted, but that she will lose the faith as well.

Sometimes when a non-Catholic's offer of marriage is refused, he volunteers to take the necessary instructions and to become a Catholic. A person who lacks deep religious roots of any kind will make this proposal merely for the sake of marrying the girl. The religion itself means little or nothing to him. On the other hand, some of the most admirable of present-day Catholics, and of Catholics throughout history, turned to the Church in adulthood. For this reason, no expression of interest in Catholicism should be rejected without the most careful consideration.

The sincerity of a prospective convert can be tested easily. His intended bride could attend the instructions with him and judge by his questions and his general attitude whether he is accepting the Church because of sincere belief. A person who truly believes in Catholicism and is anxious to become a convert will discuss doctrines enthusiastically and attend devotions voluntarily. The man who displays little or no interest in discussing religion and does not desire to attend Mass and other devotions until his baptism, hardly manifests an attitude which will enable him to remain true to the faith after the first glow of conversion has worn off.

How you can help your child avoid a mixed marriage. How can you minimize the danger that your child may marry outside the faith?

1. Teach him from his early days about its danger. Of course, you should not use the false approach that Catholics are "better" than other people. But you can stress the fact that we are different--and that we have different views on our responsibility to God and our fellow man, on the divinity of the Savior, on the permanence of marriage, on moral questions such as birth control, and on many other points. When questions about marriage or divorce arise in the family circle as a result of news developments, use the occasion to discuss with your youngster the Catholic teaching on these subjects, emphasizing the importance of marrying a person who shares the same views concerning them. At the same time, instill in your child a reverence for his religion so that he will abhor the thought of endangering it through marriage.

2. Provide ways for your child to meet other Catholics naturally. You can do this by enrolling him in Catholic schools or by encouraging him to join the Newman Club where Catholic schooling is not available. Try to get him active in church groups like the Catholic Youth Organization, the parish choir, and similar bodies. By increasing his contacts with Catholics, you will magnify his opportunities to meet attractive Catholics of the other sex. In communities where Catholics are a small minority, make a conscious effort to form friendships with other Catholic families and to encourage their youngsters to associate with yours.

Parent groups can do much to develop parish programs which will enable Catholics to meet and marry their own. Where ambitious social programs have been developed, the increase in all Catholic marriages and the corresponding decline in mixed marriages has been spectacular. For instance, at St. Mark's parish in Cincinnati, Ohio, a co-ordinated program was set up. It included social and athletic events, C.Y.O. activities, a social club for high school students, glee club, and a clubroom where young people could meet. Before this program was started, the mixed-marriage rate was 26.2 per cent. After the program was developed, it dropped to 15.6 per cent. Thanks to a similar program, the proportion of Catholic-Catholic marriages in Little Rock, Arkansas, has doubled.

3. Discourage your child from dating any non-Catholic. To many youngsters, whose only interest in dating is to enjoy an evening's recreation, this proposition may seem unduly severe. Their common response is that they do not intend to marry the person with whom they are having a first date.

These youngsters overlook the fact that almost every marriage starts with a date which neither partner expects to end at the altar. But one date leads to another. The boy and girl who are strangers on their first date become good friends on their third or fourth date. And as dating proceeds, they become emotionally involved, often without being consciously aware of it. Suddenly, they discover that they are "in love." By then the parents may be helpless to end the relationship. Thus the tragedy of each mixed marriage starts with the seemingly innocent first date.

Long before your child begins to date, let him know that he must not date a non-Catholic. He will show no resistance to this instruction when it is presented as a principle and before any personalities are involved. Your teaching may be too late if it comes after he has become emotionally involved with a member of another faith and marriage is a serious consideration.


IN ORDER to provide an environment where your child will grow to love God and the things of God, make your home a little sanctuary--a place where he will be constantly reminded of the Lord, and where family devotions will instill habits of deep and lasting Christian piety. Saint John Chrysostom said that the home should be a "little church," a miniature Kingdom of God in which the father strives to represent the qualities of Christ and the mother seeks to make herself like Blessed Mary.

In your home, try to give your children a deep and abiding sense of the goodness of God and an intimate relationship with Him and His Church. In developing family religious rituals--those which establish patterns of devotion which will continue for the life of your family--try to inculcate moral principles, to develop a sense of family solidarity, and to create a deep and lasting love for the beautiful liturgy of the Church and the sacraments which Christ gave for our redemption. In this way, the religious practices of your home will supplement those of the Church, not supplant them, and thus will help your child to achieve a many-sided development of his religious personality Every Catholic home should contain constant reminders of the fact that we were born to know, love and serve God in this world in order to be happy with Him in the next. Such reminders might include a home shrine--a simple altar consisting of a table with votive candles beneath a crucifix is probably within the means of all. In your living room and bedrooms, you should have at least one symbol of your faith--a statue of the Savior and the Blessed Mother, a crucifix, pictures which bring to mind events in the life of Our Lord. In Catholic countries, it has long been the custom to place a holy water font in the front hall, so that all who enter or leave may bless themselves and ask God's grace; such a custom might well be established in the United States. Another custom, worthy of greater usage, is the establishing of a grotto--a shrine to Jesus or Mary in your yard or garden. By all such means, you and your children help to make your faith an intimate part of your daily lives.

Family prayer. The importance of family prayer was taught by Our Lord himself. For he said: "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, then am I in the midst of them." What a pleasing sight must it be to God, therefore, to see the family unit which He ordained gathered together to worship Him.

The beautiful practice of family prayer has been formally endorsed by the bishops of the United States in a pastoral letter to all American Catholics. As they have stated: "The presence of Jesus will surely be a source of blessing to the home where parents and children unite to offer up prayer in common. The spirit of piety which this custom develops will sanctify the bonds of family love and ward off the dangers which often bring sorrow and shame."

As we learned in childhood, we should pray at least upon arising in the morning and retiring at night, and before and after meals. It is much more beneficial to all members of the family, and especially more inspirational to the children, when everyone habitually says such prayers together. Because of different rising times, it may be difficult for all to pray at the same time in the morning. However, the saying of grace before and after meals should become a family habit. No food should be eaten until grace is said, and no one should leave the table until thanksgiving is offered after the meal.

Many families have developed the admirable habit of saying evening prayers immediately after dinner. Other families set aside a period just before the children's bedtime. Regardless of the hour chosen, the reciting of prayers at a specified time each evening establishes habits which will last throughout the years and will give a sense of kinship in God to all in the family.

An especially worth-while custom is the evening recitation of the Rosary. It was most earnestly advocated by Pope Pius IX, who in his last days said: "Let the Rosary, this simple, beautiful method of prayer, enriched with many indulgences, be habitually recited of an evening in every household. These are my last words to you; the memorial I leave behind me." Every member of the family will have a greater feeling of participation in the Rosary if the leader is rotated each evening or for each decade. One time Father may lead; next, Mother; next, the oldest child; and so on until everyone has had his turn. Then the cycle is repeated. Before each decade, the father might briefly discuss the meaning of the specific mysteries in the lives of Jesus and Mary which the Rosary reminds us of. The children should be taught to meditate on these mysteries so that they do not say the prayers without thinking.

A custom of some homes consists of the nightly reading of the Bible. Prayers are said before and after the reading, and there is a discussion by the father or mother of the particular passages read. Another worth-while custom is the reading of the Gospel and Epistle for the particular Mass of the day.

Family unity in prayer can also be achieved if the family attends Mass together. One of the most inspiring memories which many adults now hold is that of their father, mother, brothers and sisters lined up with them at the altar rail, receiving the flesh and blood of Our Lord as a family unit, and then returning home for a festive breakfast.

Celebrating the great feast days. As a Christian parent, you should emphasize the spiritual importance of the feast days of our religion. Secular influences of our times have done much to destroy the significance of such feasts as Christmas and Easter in the minds of the unthinking. As a result, the great holy days commemorating the major events in the mission of Our Lord have degenerated into meaningless holidays in many places, with their true importance minimized, if not desecrated. You should make a special effort, therefore, to prevent your children from being so perverted by Santa Claus or the Easter bunny that they forget that those feasts celebrate the birth and resurrection of Our Lord.

Children everywhere respond warmly and enthusiastically to the spiritual Christmas--much more so, in fact, than they do to secular aspects of the feast. Even tiny toddlers can grasp the fact that when you set up a little manger in your home, you are symbolically preparing a place where Jesus may come as He did in Bethlehem. Dozens of similar customs can impress the spiritual nature of the occasion upon your youngsters.

One such custom involves the Advent wreath--a hoop of wood or wire covered with evergreens and with holders to which four candles can be attached. The wreath may be used as a centerpiece on your table. On the first Sunday of Advent, call the family together and extinguish all other lights in the house. Let the youngest child light the first candle, while the family joins in prayers in honor of the coming of the Savior. Each evening at dinner during the week, the candle may be lit again. The next Sunday, the next youngest member of the family lights the second candle; the Sunday after that, the third youngest; and on the fourth Sunday, the fourth youngest. Each time, the family recites appropriate prayers and the father stresses that the candles symbolize that Christ is the Light of the World and that His coming on the first Christmas made it unnecessary for men ever to remain in darkness again. On the few days after the fourth Sunday and until Christmas, all four candles are lit at dinnertime. In some homes, the evening meal is eaten without any other illumination. This simple custom, when observed by the family from year to year, establishes a ritual which the children will inaugurate in their own families and thus pass on to new generations.

A beautiful custom from France consists in adding straw to the bed of the Savior. About four weeks before Christmas, set up your manger in your home and leave it without straw. Each evening, before dinner, give pieces of straw to each child in proportion to his good deeds for the day. If he has obeyed promptly and cheerfully, he may place straw in the manger; if he has failed to perform his little duties satisfactorily, the Babe will have a less comfortable bed as a result. Youngsters are moved to acts of heroic virtue to show their love for Jesus in this tangible way; they also learn the invaluable lesson that by their self-sacrifice they may often give comfort to others.

Every Christian country has contributed delightful and inspiring customs which will intensify your children's reverence for Christmas. From Germany comes the custom of the Advent candle. A large candle, representing Jesus, the Light of the World, is placed on the home altar or on a table before a picture of the Infant in His Blessed Mother s arms. It is lit each evening during Advent when family prayers are said. From Ireland comes the practice of lighting three candles in each window on Christmas Eve--the candles representing Jesus, Mary and Joseph--while the front door is left unlocked throughout the night so that the Holy Family may enter and obtain shelter. From Slovakia comes the Christmas supper. A strict fast is observed throughout the day, and in the evening family members come from near and far for an annual reunion. When all are present, the head of the family leads in prayer, during which God's forgiveness is asked for all sins committed during the year, His mercy sought for those who have died, and His blessing invoked for the family in the coming year. From Poland comes the "Oplatek"--a large wafer representing the Christ Child which is divided equally among the family. Before it is eaten, everyone seeks forgiveness for offenses committed during the year and all quarrels are considered finished, and the family vows to greet Christmas in complete peace and harmony.

A custom gaining popularity in America is the telling of the Christmas story. The family gathers on Christmas Eve and the father reads the account of the birth of Our Lord from the New Testament. The family then joins in appropriate carols, like "Silent Night," which display a proper sense of awe and reverence for the mystery of the Incarnation. When such practices become a tradition, they assume the status of a ritual, bind the family more closely together, and are often observed by the children when they themselves become parents.

Similar family customs can honor the great feast of Easter. In preparation for the Lord's Resurrection, the family should participate together in Lenten sacrifices. Before Ash Wednesday, for instance, parents and children might decide what practices all will follow during the Lenten season. You may decide to attend Mass together each morning, to abstain from desserts, to recite extra prayers during the evening holy hour, or to pass up favorite television programs in favor of spiritual reading. In many homes, when parents and children forgo particular luxuries the money they save is donated to the poor.

Some families always attend Church in a body on Ash Wednesday for the imposition of ashes which reminds us that we are dust and will return to dust, and that we should observe the forty days of the Lenten season in contrition and prayer. Many families also serve little pretzels with the evening meal during Lent. The pretzel has a deeply religious origin: Once it was the only food eaten during Lent, and its shape represents a person with arms folded across his chest in the form of prayer used in early Christian times.

Holy Thursday may be commemorated by serving an evening meal similar in some respects to that eaten by Our Lord at His Last Supper. In some homes, unleavened bread--still used by Hebrews in the form of matzos-- is served, to represent the bread which Our Lord blessed when he instituted the Blessed Sacrament. On Good Friday, the home altar may be stripped bare; members of the family may stand throughout the evening meal, eating food prepared with severe plainness. On Holy Saturday, there may be a ritual made of renewing the baptismal vows before the home altar. At this ceremony, all members of the family join in the recitation of prayers of thanksgiving for having received the faith. Also on Holy Saturday, it is part of the liturgy for the priest to bless the Easter water which may be sprinkled on the children and over the Easter dinner which traditionally consists of lamb symbolizing the risen Christ.

On Holy Saturday night, your family might gather for a reading of the Gospels which narrate the suffering, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Our Lord. In this way, your children will be impressed with the overwhelming religious significance of the feast which proves to mankind that Jesus was indeed God and symbolizes our own life after death.

Special observances throughout the year. Every day of the year gives you a special opportunity to instill a greater religious appreciation in your children, to broaden their knowledge of Our Lord, the Blessed Mother and the saints, and to strengthen their dedication to the laws of God and the Church. Each day is set aside by the Church to honor a particular event in the life of Our Lord or the Blessed Virgin, or to honor a particular saint. Consulting your religious calendar and one of the many books recounting the lives of the saints, you can discuss these events with your children, stressing the qualities in the saints' lives which we might cultivate. Typical dates, together with suggestions for spiritual development which they offer, are described below:

First Sunday of January: Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. On this day, encourage your children to recite the Litany of the Holy Name often. Explain why we must show reverence for Our Lord by bowing our heads whenever we hear His name, and by making prayers of reparation to Him whenever His name is taken in vain.

Second Sunday of January: Feast of the Holy Family. This feast affords an opportunity for the family to receive corporate Communion at Mass, for parents to renew marriage vows, and for both children and adults to resolve to model their lives upon those of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The Epistle for this day is worthy of extra consideration: "Brethren, put on, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, patience. Bear with one another and forgive one another, if anyone has a grievance against any other; even as the Lord has forgiven you, so also do you forgive. But above all these things have charity, which is the bond of perfection. And may the peace of Christ reign in your hearts; unto that peace, indeed, you were called in one body. Show yourselves thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you abundantly; in all wisdom teach and admonish one another by psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing in your hearts to God by His Grace. Whatever you do in word or in work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." (Col. 3:12- 17)

January 6: Epiphany of Our Lord. This day commemorates the visit of the wise men to Jesus in the stable and marks the end of the Christmas season. In Europe, bread, eggs and salt are taken to the Church to be blessed. The bread and eggs are donated to the poor, and the salt is retained to remind Christians that we should be "the salt of the earth." In telling your children of the visit of the Magi, you might point out that they traveled from afar and endured great hardship to lay their gifts before the Savior. God allows us to receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist without such hardship or sacrifice. Therefore, we should avail ourselves of the opportunity to do so whenever possible.

February 3: Feast of St. Blaise. He was a physician before he became a priest and then a bishop, and he was martyred in the fourth century. He once miraculously cured a boy on the verge of death with a bone stuck in his throat. A special sacramental--the blessing of throats--takes place on this day, and the aid of St. Blaise is asked in delivering the faithful from throat ailments and other evils.

February 14: St. Valentine's Day. St. Valentine was a priest who was put to death in the year 270. From early times, he was the patron saint of young lovers, but the exact reason why he was so designated has been lost in history. Youngsters can ask him to help them maintain a chaste relationship with those they love.

March 19: Feast of St. Joseph. On this day, children might be taught to emulate St. Joseph for his sense of duty which impelled him to take such loving care of the Blessed Mother and the Infant Child. Because St. Joseph was a humble carpenter, he is regarded as the patron saint of workers everywhere; and the fact that his trade was not highly regarded by worldly men should teach us that it is more important to develop the spiritual qualities which he exemplified than to strive for material success.

March 24: Feast of the Annunciation. The story of the Visitation of the Angel Gabriel to Mary never fails to interest children and to give them a sense of reverence for the beautiful gift which God bestowed upon mankind by permitting His Only Begotten Son to come into the world. You can explain how every Jewish maiden hoped that she might be chosen as the mother of the promised redeemer. The words of the Blessed Virgin, when told that she was to be the mother of Jesus, carry a moral in themselves. Her reply, "Be it done according to Thy word," teaches us that we must always be ready to do the will of God.

May: Month of Mary. During May, encourage your children to show special devotion to the Blessed Mother. Daily recitation of the Rosary is one way of doing so; keeping fresh flowers before the painting of the Mother and Child in your home may be another. The Litany to the Blessed Virgin may be recited in addition. Instruct your children about the many benefits which can be derived from a wholesome devotion to Our Lady.

June 24: Feast of St. John the Baptist. Modern Catholics lack the sense of devotion to this saint that was evidenced in earlier times. So great was the regard for the son of Elizabeth who baptized Our Lord that priests were once permitted to celebrate three Masses on his feast day- -a privilege they had at no other time except Christmas. The story of the life of this saint interests children, from his birth to his beheading at the request of Salome.

June 25: Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. In many parts of the world, this is a Holy Day of Obligation. You might tell your children that St. Peter was designated by Our Lord to lead His flock, and that St. Peter's authority extends to the present Pope in an unbroken line. The Apostle Paul, a convert to Christianity, reminds us of the billions of souls who remain ignorant of Christ and who must be brought into the fold so that there will be one fold and one shepherd.

July 25: Feast of St. Christopher. If you carry a medal of St. Christopher in your car--as millions do--your children will be especially interested in his life. According to legend, he carried a child on his shoulders across a treacherous river one day, and in midstream almost collapsed under the weight. Only when he reached the other shore did he realize that he had carried the Savior upon his back. St. Christopher is widely venerated as the patron of travelers. In some places cars are blessed on his feast day.

September 29: Feast of St. Michael the Archangel. He has a special appeal for young people, for he represents the strength, courage and idealism they admire in their heroes. It was St. Michael who drove Lucifer's bad angels out of heaven when they turned against God.

October 2: Feast of the Guardian Angels. This day has a personal appeal for your child. You can remind him that he has an angelic protector to whom he can turn for aid in time of danger.

November 1: Feast of All Saints. We commemorate the countless martyrs and others who cannot be honored individually because there are not enough days in the year to do so. It is an excellent occasion to discuss the possibility that all of us may achieve sainthood. Some children believe that saints lived only in ancient times; you might point out that many thousands of persons are leading lives of sanctity at this present day.

November 2: All Souls Day. In some countries, family members attend Mass together to pray for their departed ones and perform other acts of devotion in their memory throughout the day. A point sometimes overlooked in teaching young people is that while we can do much by our prayers and good work to ease the suffering of the souls in Purgatory, our loved ones in heaven can also intercede before the throne of God.

December 26: Feast of St. Stephan. The story of St. Stephen--the first martyr--teaches us amidst the joyous Christmas season that we must always be ready to make any sacrifices that the Lord requires. St. Stephen was stoned to death for his beliefs--a reminder that we may suffer ridicule, scorn, and possibly punishment and death for adhering to the teachings of Jesus.

Your child's "special days." One of the best ways to develop active and joyous participation in your family's spiritual life is to observe feasts which have a special meaning for each child. When you do so, you accentuate the religious sense of the particular youngster involved.

For example, in addition to observing your child's birthday, why not observe the anniversary of his baptism to celebrate the day when he became a member of the faith? Some families mark this event by serving special food in the child's honor and giving him little gifts as tokens of love. Sometimes his godparents are invited to the dinner to emphasize their importance for his spiritual welfare.

In Europe, a special ceremony often is built up around the baptismal candle which the parents provide for the christening service and bring home afterward. Each year, on his baptismal day, the child lights the candle on the home altar and renews his baptismal vows in the presence of the family.

Another important observance to a child is the celebration of the feast day of the saint after whom he has been named. In some homes, all members of the family attend Mass and receive Communion on a "name day." The child chooses the food for the main meal that day, and during the evening the father reads a short account of the saint's life. By calling your child's attention to his namesake in this way, you encourage him-to regard his patron as a friend upon whom he can rely for assistance before the throne of God.

Your child's First Communion day should also be a special occasion--one which will impress him with the great spiritual step he takes when he can receive Christ in the Holy Eucharist for the first time. In many places, Mother and Father receive Communion with their child, and celebrate in a special way afterward. In some families, presents are given to First Communicants; these should be of a spiritual nature-- perhaps a crucifix or holy picture for the child's room--rather than one lacking spiritual significance.

His Confirmation day should also be one which your child will remember reverentially and gratefully. Both parents should attend Mass and receive Communion, if possible, and attend the Confirmation ceremony itself. Presents given the child should be of a religious nature. In some homes, special prayers of thanksgiving are said by the newly confirmed youngster before the evening meal, which usually features the food he especially likes.

Articles for the sickroom. Your home should have in readiness the furnishings which a priest will use if he visits it when one is ill. These articles should consist of the following: a table covered with a white cloth; a crucifix with lighted, blessed candles on each side; a glass of water with a spoon and clean napkins by its side; a small bell to summon the family to the room after the patient's confession. If anointing with Holy Oil is to occur, a small supply of cotton should also be on hand for the use of the priest, together with a dish in which a spoonful of salt or a small slice of lemon and some bread crumbs will be placed.

As soon as your children can understand (probably at about age seven) they should be taught that if a person falls ill and appears to be in serious danger, a priest should be called without delay, regardless of the hour. Parents should also remember to advise the priest in case of an illness which may become serious and endanger life; he will call upon the sick person and provide the necessary spiritual attention. Since every Catholic should confess and receive the Holy Eucharist before entering a hospital for surgery, make sure that the priest is given ample time to visit the patient at home.

When he arrives to hear a confession or administer the last rites, he should be met at the door by a male member of the family if possible. The man or boy, carrying a lighted candle, then leads the way to the sickroom. If confession is to be heard, everyone but the patient and priest should leave the chamber. They will be called back by the ringing of the bell. They should kneel reverently when the Blessed Sacrament or Extreme Unction is administered or prayers for the sick and dying are recited.



At baptism, your child should be given the name of a saint who will serve as his patron in heaven, and whose life will be a model for him to follow. According to canon law, "Pastors should take especial care that a Christian name be given to all whom they baptize. If they cannot do this, they shall add to the name given by the parents the name of some saint and enter both in the Baptismal Record."

This rule need not restrict parents who seek a distinctive name for their child. Literally thousands of names are available for selection, and in addition variations of a saint's original name may be used, to conform to different languages or national customs.

For example, the name Mary may also be used in the following forms: Mae, Malkin, Maria, Marian, Marianna, Marianne, Marie, Mariette, Marilyn, Marion, Maris, Miriam, Marot, Marr, Maureen, Maryath, May, Molly, Murchie and Murrock.

In honor of St. Elizabeth, you might name your child not only Elizabeth but also Bess, Beth, Betty, Elise, Elissa, Eliza, Elsa, Elsie, Oseult, Isolde or Lisbet.

St. Charles might also be the patron of a boy named Carl, Carlo, Carlos, Carolo, Carolus or Charley, or of a girl named Carlotta, Charlotta or Charlotte.


Fast: The rules of fasting oblige all between the ages of 21 and 59, unless they are in poor health or obtain a dispensation from their confessor for other reasons.

Fast days are all the days of Lent except Sundays; the Ember days at the beginning of each of the four seasons of the year; and the Vigil of Pentecost; the Vigil of Christmas; and the Vigil of the Immaculate Conception.

On fast days, only one full meal is allowed. Two other meatless meals, sufficient to maintain strength, may be taken according to each one's needs, but together they should not equal another full meal. Eating between meals is not permitted, but liquids may be taken in any quantity.

Abstinence: The rules of abstinence oblige all Catholics from their seventh birthday, unless they are excused by their confessor for serious reasons.

Days of abstinence are all the Fridays of the year. Ash Wednesday, Holy Saturday, the Vigil of Christmas and the Vigil of the Immaculate Conception are days of both fast and abstinence.

On days of abstinence, meat may not be eaten.


Persons intending to receive Holy Communion may not eat solid foods or drink alcoholic beverages within three hours of the time when they will receive. They may drink other beverages (coffee, tea, milk, etc.) up to one hour before they receive. They may drink water at any time, even immediately preceding their reception of the Sacrament.


1. The priest (vested in surplice and white stole) with his assistants (vested in surplice) awaits the couple at the communion table. At hand are the holy water stoup and the altar missal. As the man and woman come forward with the two witnesses they have chosen, the following antiphon and psalm are spoken or sung on the eighth psalm tone:

ANTIPHON: To the Lord I will tender my promise: in the presence of all His people.

Psalm 126

Unless the house be of the Lord's building, in vain do the builders labor. Unless the Lord be the guard of the city, 'tis in vain the guard keeps sentry. It is futile for you to rise before daybreak, to be astir in the midst of darkness, Ye that eat the bread of hard labor; for He deals bountifully to His beloved while they are sleeping. Behold, offspring result from God's giving, a fruitful womb won the regard of His blessing. Like arrows in the hand of the warrior, are children begotten of a youthful father. Happy the man who has filled therewith his quiver; they shall uphold him in contending at the gate with his rival.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and forever, through endless ages. Amen.

ANTIPHON: To the Lord I will tender my promise: in the presence of all his people.

2. The priest now addresses them:


Beloved of Christ: It is in the dispensation of Divine Providence that you are called to the holy vocation of marriage. For this reason you present yourselves today before Christ and His Church, before His sacred minister and the devout people of God, to ratify in solemn manner the engagement bespoken between you. At the same time you entreat the blessing of the Church upon your proposal, as well as the earnest supplications of the faithful here present, since you fully realize that what has been inspired and guided by the will of your heavenly Father requires equally His grace to be brought to a happy fulfillment.

We are confident that you have given serious and prayerful deliberation to your pledge of wedlock; moreover, that you have sought counsel from the superiors whom God has placed over you. In the time that intervenes, you will prepare for the sacrament of matrimony by a period of virtuous courtship, so that when the happy and blessed day arrives for you to give yourselves irrevocably to each other, you will have laid a sound spiritual foundation for long years of godly prosperity on earth and eventual blessedness together in the life to come. May the union you purpose one day to consummate as man and wife be found worthy to be in all truth a sacramental image and reality of the union of Christ and His beloved Bride, the Church. This grant, Thou Who livest and reignest, God, forever and evermore.

R.: Amen.

3. The priest now bids the couple join their right hands, while they repeat after him the following:

THE MAN: In the name of Our Lord, I, N.N., promise that I will one day take thee, N.N., as my wife, according to the ordinances of God and holy Church. I will love thee even as myself. I will keep faith and loyalty to thee, and so in thy necessities aid and comfort thee; which things and all that a man ought to do unto his espoused I promise to do unto thee and to keep by the faith that is in me.

THE WOMAN: In the name of Our Lord, I, N.N., in the form and manner wherein thou hast promised thyself unto me, do declare and affirm that I will one day bind and oblige myself unto thee, and will take thee, N.N., as my husband. And all that thou hast pledged unto me I promise to do and keep unto thee, by the faith that is in me.

4. Then the priest takes the two ends of his stole and in the form of a cross places them over the clasped hands of the couple. Holding the stole in place with his left hand, he says:

PRIEST: I bear witness of your solemn proposal and I declare you betrothed. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

R.: Amen.

As he pronounces the last words, he sprinkles them with holy water in the form of a cross.

5. Thereupon he blesses the engagement ring:

V.: Adjutorium nostrum in nomine Domini R.: Qui fecit caelum et terram.

V.: Domine, exaudi orationem meam. R.: Et clamor meus ad te veniat.

V.: Dominus vobiscum. R.: Et cum spiritu tuo.

V.: Oremus

Omnipotens Deus, Creator et conservator humani generis, ac largitor aeternae salutis, permitte digneris Spiritum Sanctum Paraclitum super hunc annulum. Per Dominum Nostrum Jesum Christum, Filium Tuum, Qui Tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum.

R.: Amen.

Et aspergatur aqua benedicta.

English Translation:

V.: Our help is in the name of the Lord, R.: Who made heaven and earth.

V.: O Lord, hear my prayer. R.: And let my cry come unto Thee.

V.: The Lord be with you. R.: And with thy spirit.

V.: Let us pray.

O God Almighty, Creator and preserver of the human race, and the giver of everlasting salvation, deign to allow the Holy Spirit, the Consoler to come with His blessing upon this ring. Through Our Lord, Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for endless ages.

R.: Amen.

The ring is sprinkled with holy water.

6. The man takes the ring and places it first on the index finger of the left hand of the woman, saying, "In the name of the Father," then on the middle finger, adding, "and of the Son"; finally placing and leaving it on the ring finger, he concludes, "and of the Holy Spirit."

7. The priest opens the missal at the beginning of the Canon, and presents the page imprinted with the crucifixion to be kissed first by the man and then by the woman.

8. If Mass does not follow (or even if Mass is to follow, if he deems it opportune), the priest may read the following passages from Sacred Scripture:

Tobias 7:8

Tobias said: I will not eat nor drink here this day, unless thou first grant me my petition, and promise to give me Sara thy daughter.... The angel said to Raguel: Be not afraid to give her to this man, for to him who feareth God is thy daughter due to be his wife; therefore another could not have her.... And Raguel taking the right hand of his daughter, he gave it unto the right hand of Tobias, saying: The God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob be with you, and may He join you together, and fulfill His blessing in you. And taking paper they made a writing of the marriage. And afterwards they made merry, blessing God.... Then Tobias exhorted the virgin, and said to her: Sara, arise, and let us pray to God today, and tomorrow, and the next day; because for these three nights we are joined to God; and when the third night is over, we will be in our own wedlock. For we are the children of saints, and we must not be joined together like heathens that know not God. So they both arose, and prayed earnestly both together that health might be given them.

R.: Thanks be to God.

John 15:4-12

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abide in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine; you the branches. He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If any one abide in Me, he shall be cast forth as a branch, and shall wither, and they shall gather him up, and cast him into the fire, and he burneth. If you abide in Me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask whatever you will, and it shall be done unto you. In this is my Father glorified; that you bring forth very much fruit, and become my disciples. As the Father hath loved Me, I also have loved you. Abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you shall abide in My love; as I also have kept my Father's commandments, and do abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and your joy may be filled. This is My commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you.

R.: Praise be to thee, O Christ!

9. Lastly, the priest extends his hands over the heads of the couple and says:

May God bless your bodies and your souls. May He shed His blessing upon you as He blessed Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. May the hand of the Lord be upon you, may He send His holy Angel to guard you all the days of your life. Amen.

Go in peace!

10. Before leaving the church, the betrothed couple as well as the witnesses will affix their signatures to the document previously prepared for this purpose.



O Jesus, our most loving Redeemer, Who having come to enlighten the world, with Your teaching and example, willed to pass the greater part of Your life in humility and subjection to Mary and Joseph in the poor home of Nazareth, thus sanctifying the Family that was to be an example for all Christian families, graciously receive our family as it dedicates and consecrates itself to You this day. Defend us, guard us and establish among us Your holy fear, true peace and concord in Christian love: in order that by conforming ourselves to the divine pattern of Your Family we may be able, all of us without exception, to attain to eternal happiness.

Mary, dear Mother of Jesus and Mother of us, by your kind intercession make this our humble offering acceptable in the sight of Jesus, and obtain for us His graces and blessings.

Saint Joseph, most holy Guardian of Jesus and Mary, assist us by your prayers in all our spiritual and temporal necessities; that we may be able to praise our divine Savior Jesus, together with Mary and you, for all eternity.

Our Father, Hail Mary and Gloria three times.

* * *

Lord Jesus Christ, Who, being made subject to Mary and Joseph, hallowed domestic life by Your ineffable virtues; grant that we, with the assistance of both, may be taught by the example of Your holy Family and may attain to its everlasting fellowship Who lives and reigns world without end. Amen. (Roman Missal)


Every family should pray together. The time for prayer should be convenient to parents and children, perhaps shortly after the evening meal. It is suggested that prayer be led by the father of the family.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Our Father. Hail Mary. Gloria. Apostles' Creed.


I confess to Almighty God, to Blessed Mary, ever Virgin, to Blessed Michael the Archangel, to Blessed John the Baptist, to the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and to all the Saints, that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word and deed. (Strike breast three times, saying:) Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault. Therefore I beseech Blessed Mary, ever Virgin, Blessed Michael the Archangel, Blessed John the Baptist, the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and all the Saints, to pray to the Lord our God for me.

May the Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to life everlasting.

May the Almighty and Merciful Lord grant us pardon, absolution, and remission of all our sins. Amen.

Make an Act of Contrition.


Visit, we beseech Thee, O Lord, this home, and drive far from it all snares of the enemy; let Thy holy Angels dwell herein to preserve us in peace and let Thy blessing always be upon us. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.


Lord God! Thou hast called us to the holy state of matrimony and hast been pleased to make us parents. We recommend to Thee our dear children. We entrust them to Thy fatherly care. May they be a source of consolation, not only to us, but chiefly to Thee, Who are their Creator. Be watchful, O Lord; help and defend them.

Grant us the grace to guide them in the way of Thy commandments. This we will do by our own perfect observance of Thy holy law and that of our holy Mother, the Church. Make us conscious of our grave obligation to You and bless our efforts to serve You. We humbly ask this blessing from the bottom of our hearts, for ourselves and for the children whom Thou hast been pleased to give us.

We dedicate them to Thee, O Lord. Do Thou keep them as the apple of Thy eye and protect them under the shadow of Thy wings. Make us worthy to come, at last, to heaven, together with them, giving thanks unto Thee, Our Father, for the loving care Thou hast had of our entire family, and praising Thee together through endless ages. Amen.


Dear Lord! Fill our parents with Thy choicest blessings, enrich their souls with Thy holy grace; grant that they may faithfully and constantly guard that likeness to Thy union with Thy Church, which Thou didst imprint upon them on their wedding day. Fill them with Thy spirit of holy fear, which is the beginning of wisdom; inspire them to impart it to their children. May they ever walk in the way of Thy commandments, and may we their children be their joy on earth and their crown of glory in heaven. Finally, Lord God, grant that both our father and mother may attain to extreme old age and enjoy continuous health in mind and body. May they give Thee abundant thanks because Thou hast bestowed upon them the great gift of parenthood. Amen.


Lord Jesus Christ, Savior of the world! We humbly beg of Thee to manifest in Thy Church the Spirit Whom Thou didst so abundantly bestow upon Thy Apostles. Call, we pray Thee, very many to Thy priesthood and to the religious life. And may zeal for Thy glory and the salvation of souls inflame those whom Thou hast chosen; may they be saints in Thy likeness, and may Thy Spirit strengthen them. O Jesus, give us priests and religious according to Thine own Heart!

O Mary, Mother of Jesus! Obtain for fervent souls the grace to hear and the courage to follow Thy divine Son in the path of religious perfection.

Queen of Apostles, pray for us. Queen of Virgins, pray for us.



Almighty and Eternal God, the everlasting health of those who believe; hear us for Thy sick servant (name inserted here) for whom we implore the aid of Thy tender mercy, that, being restored to bodily health, he (or she) may give thanks to Thee in Thy Church. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Jesus Christ, my God! I adore Thee and thank Thee for all the graces Thou hast given me this day. I offer to Thee my sleep and all the moments of this night, and I beseech Thee to keep me without sin. Wherefore, I put myself within Thy Sacred Side and under the mantle of our Lady, my Mother. Let Thy holy angels stand about me and keep me in peace; and let Thy blessing be upon me.


May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.


{Books that are still in print will have a ">" before them. Books or pamphlets already electronically on Catholicism-On-Line will have an asterisk in front of them (*). If you have access to any of the books and pamphlets below, please contact the System Operator so that they can make arrangements to borrow the materials so that they can be put on the system.}

Below are some of the many excellent books and pamphlets, dealing with various phases of family life:


Banahan, John S. "Instructions for Mixed Marriages." Milwaukee: Bruce, 1957.

Bossard, James H. S., and Boll, Eleanor Stoker. "The Large Family System." Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1956.

Carney, Frances W. "The Purposes of Christian Marriage." Washington, D. C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1950.

Clemens, Alphonse H. "Marriage and the Family." New York: Prentice- Hall, 1957.

Coomes, A. Francis, S.J. "Mothers' Manual." St. Louis: The Queen's Work, 1946.

Doyle, Charles H. "Sins of Parents." Tarrytown, N. Y.: The Nugent Press, 1951.

*Filas, Francis L., S.J. "Family for Families." Chicago: Paluch, 1951.

Geisles, Eugene. "You and Your Children." Chicago: Fides, 1955.

Giese, Vincent "Patterns for Teen-agers." Chicago: Fides, 1955.

Haley, Joseph C., C.S.C. "Accent on Purity: Guide for Sex Education." Chicago: Fides, 1948.

Healy, Edwin F., S.J. "Marriage Guidance." Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1948.

Imbiorski, Walter (ed.). "The New Cana Manual." Chicago: Delaney, 1957.

Kane, John J. "Marriage and the Family." New York: The Dryden Press, 1952.

Kelly, George A. "The Catholic Marriage Manual." New York: Random House, 1958.

Leclerq, Jacques. "Marriage and the Family." New York: Frederick Pustet and Co., 1949.

Lord, Daniel, S.J. "The Guidance of Parents." St. Louis: The Queen's Work, 1944.

>Mary, Sister, I.H.M., Mary Roberta, Sister, O.P., And Mary Rosary, Sister, O.P. "The Catholic Mother's Helper in Training Her Children." Paterson, N. J.: St. Anthony Guild Press, 1948.

Mary De Lourdes, Sister, S.M. "Baby Grows in Age and Grace." Norwalk, Conn.: Gibson, 1951.

Mersch, Emile, S.J. "Theology of the Mystical Body." St. Louis: Herder, 1951.

Mihanovich, Clement S., Schnepp, Gerald J., S.M., And Thomas, John L., S.J. "A Guide to Catholic Marriage." Milwaukee: Bruce, 1955.

*Newland, Mary Reed. "The Year and Our Children." New York: Kennedy, 1956.

*-----"We and Our Children." New York: Kennedy, 1956.

O'Brien, John A. "Happy Marriage: Guidance Before and After." Garden City N. Y.: Hanover House, 1956.

Odenwald, Robert, M.D. "Your Child's World." New York: Random House, 1958.

Patrice, Sister Jean, C.S.J. "Your Family Circle." Milwaukee: Bruce, 1952.

*Perkins, Mary. "Beginning at Home." Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1955.

*Plus, Raoul, S.J. "Christ in the Home." New York and Cincinnati: Pustet, 1951.

Poage, Godfrey, C.P., and Treacy, John P. "Parents Role in Vocations." Milwaukee: Bruce, 1959.

Sattler, Henry, C.SS.R. "Parents, Children and the Facts of Life." New York: Doubleday, 1952.

Schneiders, Alexander A. "The Psychology of Adolescence." Milwaukee: Bruce, 1951.

Strecker, Edward A., MD. "Their Mothers' Sons." New York: Lippincott, 1951.

Strecker, Edward A., M.D., and Lathbury Vincent, M.D. "Their Mothers' Daughters." New York: Lippincott, 1956.

Theodore, Sister Mary, O.S.F. "The Challenge of the Retarded Child." Milwaukee: Bruce, 1959.

Thomas, John L., S.J. "The American Catholic Family." Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall, 1956.

-----"A Catholic Viewpoint on Marriage and the Family." Garden City, N. Y.: Hanover House, 1958.

Ward, Maisie (ed.). "Be Not Solicitous." New York: Sheed and Ward, 1954.

Zimmerman, Carle C., and Cervantes, Lucius F., S.J. "Marriage and the Family." Chicago: Regnery, 1956.



Noll, Bishop John F. "Seven Instructions Before Marriage." Huntington, Ind.: Our Sunday Visitor Press.

O'Brien, John A. "The Christian Home: A Nation's Bulwark." Huntington, Ind.: Our Sunday Visitor Press.

Pius XI, Pope. "Encyclical Letter on Christian Marriage." New York: America Press.

Schmiedeler, Edgar, O.S.B. "Your Home: A Church in Miniature." Washington, D.C.: National Catholic Welfare Conference.

"Towards a Better Family Life." Washington, D. C.: National Catholic Welfare Conference.


"Concerning Your Children." Washington, D. C.: National Catholic Welfare Conference.

"Father, the Head of the Home." Washington D. C.: National Catholic Welfare Conference.

Hynes, Emerson. "Seven Keys to a Christian Home." Washington, D. C.: National Catholic Welfare Conference.

Lord, Daniel A., S. J. "Parenthood." St. Louis, Mo.: The Queen s Work.

Lovasik, Lawrence G., S.V.D. "Making Marriage Click." St. Paul, Minn.: Radio Replies Press.

Miller, Donald F., C.SS.R. "How to Be a Good Husband." Ligouri, Mo.: Ligourian Pamphlet Office.

-----"How to Be a Good Wife." Ligouri, Mo.: Ligourian Pamphlet office.


Arnold, Oren. "Love Enough to Go Around." Notre Dame, Ind.: Ave Maria Press.

Baruch, Dorothy. "How to Discipline Your Children." New York: Public Affairs Pamphlets.

"The Parent-Educator Series in Five Volumes": "Parental Responsibility," "Teaching Prayer in the Home," "Teaching Obedience in the Home," "Teaching Honesty in the Home," and "Teaching Citizenship in the Home." Washington, D. C.: The Confraternity of Christian Doctrine.


Dougherty, Daniel M. "Catholic Child Guidance." New York: The Paulist Press.

Lord, Daniel A., S.J. "Questions People Ask about Their Children." St Louis, Mo.: The Queen's Work.

Miller, Donald F., C.SS.R. "Questions Parents Ask about Raising Children." Ligouri, Mo.: Ligourian Pamphlet Office.

Schmiedeler, Edgar, O.S.B. "Parent and Child." New York: The Paulist Press.


Lord, Daniel A., S.J. "Go to a Catholic College." St. Louis, Mo.. The Queen's Work.

Miller, Donald F., C.SS.R. "Rules for Schooling." Ligouri, Mo.: Ligourian Pamphlet Office.

"Should Children Learn about God in School?" St. Louis, Mo.: Knights of Columbus Religious Information Bureau.


Bruckner, P. J., S.J. "How to Give Sex Instructions." St. Louis, Mo.: The Queen's Work.

Conway, Msgr. J.D. "What They Ask about Modesty, Chastity and Morals." Notre Dame, Ind.: Ave Maria Press.

Kelly, John R., S.J. "The Right Answers to Teen-age Boys Sex Questions." St. Louis, Mo.: The Queen's Work.

Kirsch, Felix M., O.F.M., Cap. "The Sex Problem: A Challenge and an Opportunity." New York: The Paulist Press.

-----"Training in Chastity." Huntington Ind.: Our Sunday Visitor Press.

Lord, Daniel A., S.J. "Love, Sex and the Teen-agers." St. Louis, Mo.: The Queen's Work.

Sattler, H.V., C.SS.R. "Educating Parents to Sex Instructions." Ligouri, Mo.: Ligourian Pamphlet Office.

Schmiedeler, Edgar, O.S.B. "Training in Chastity." Washington, D. C. Family Life Bureau, National Catholic Welfare Conference.


Broderick, Msgr. Edwin B. "TV and Your Child." New York: The Paulist Press.


Jacob, Walter. "New Hope for the Retarded Child." New York: Public Affairs Pamphlets.

Wishik, Samuel, M.D. "How to Help Your Handicapped Child." New York: Public Affairs Pamphlets.

Yahraes, Herbert. "Epilepsy--The Ghost Is Out of the Closet." New York: Public Affairs Pamphlets.


Dunn, Margaret M. "Careers Do Not Make the Woman." Washington, D. C.: National Catholic Welfare Conference.

Senser, Bob. "Should Wives Work?" Notre Dame, Ind.: Ave Marie Press.


D'orsonnens, J. I., S.J. "Choosing Your Career." New York: The Paulist Press.

Ganss, George E., S.J., "On Thinking Out Vocations to Four States in Life." St. Louis, Mo.: The Queen's Work.

Gartland, Frank, C.S.C. "Best Source of Vocations." Huntington, Ind.: Our Sunday Visitor Press.

Krieger, B. J. "How to Recognize a Vocation." Ligouri, Mo.: Ligourian Pamphlet Office.

Miller, Donald F., C.SS.R. "Can Single Women Be Happy?" Ligouri, Mo.: Ligourian Pamphlet Offiice.


"The Adolescent in Your Family" Washington, D. C.: Children's Bureau Social Security Administration, Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

Burnite, Alvena. "Tips for Teens." Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Co.

Claude, Robert, S.J. "The Training of the Adolescent." New York: The Paulist Press.

Donnelly, Antoinette. "Tips for Teeners." New York: Catholic Information Society.

Kelly, Gerald L., S.J. "Modern Youth and Chastity." St. Louis, Mo.: The Queen's Work.

Landis, Paul H. "Coming of Age: Problems of Teen-agers." New York: Public Affairs Pamphlets.


Breitenbeck, G., C.SS.R. "How to Arrange for Your Wedding." Ligouri, Mo.: Ligourian Pamphlet Office.

Connell, Francis J., C.SS.R. "Marriage--Human or Divine?" New York: The Paulist Press.

Conway, Msgr. J.D. "What They Ask about Keeping Company." Notre Dame, Ind.: Ave Maria Press.

-----"What They Ask about Love and Dating." Notre Dame, Ind.: Ave Maria Press.

-----"What They Ask about Engagement." Notre Dame, Ind.: Ave Maria Press.

Gartland, Frank E., C.S.C. "Boy Meets Girl the Christian Way." Huntington, Ind.: Our Sunday Visitor Press.

Healy, Mary Lanigan. "When to Train for Marriage." New York: Catholic Information Society.

Miller, Donald F., C.SS.R. "Questions Young People Ask about Marriage." Ligouri, Mo.: Ligourian Pamphlet Office.

Lord, Daniel A., S.J. "The Girl Worth Choosing." St. Louis, Mo.: The Queen's Work.

-----"The Man of Your Choice." St. Louis, Mo.: The Queen's Work.

O'Brien, John A. "Choosing a Partner for Marriage." Notre Dame, Ind.: Ave Maria Press.

-----"Falling in Love." Huntington, Ind.: Our Sunday Visitor Press.

-----"How to Get Married." Huntington, Ind.: Our Sunday Visitor Press.

Poage, Godfrey, C.P. "What You Ought to Know Before Marriage." St. Louis, Mo.: The Queen's Work.


Carroll, Thomas. "Mixing Your Marriage." Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press.

Conway, Msgr. J.D. "What They Ask about Mixed Marriages." Notre Dame, Ind.: Ave Maria Press.

-----"What They Ask about Marriage Outside the Church." Notre Dame, Ind.: Ave Maria Press.

Ginder, Richard. "A Mixed Marriage?" New York: Catholic Information Society.

Lilly, Warren, S.J. "The Mixed Marriage Prenuptial Contract." New York: The Catholic Information Society.

Lord, Daniel A., S.J. "Marry Your Own." St. Louis, Mo.: The Queen's Work.

Miller, Donald F., C.SS.R. "Can Mixed Marriages Be Happy?" Ligouri, Mo.: Ligourian Pamphlet Office.

O'Brien, John A. "Catholic Marriage--How Achieve It?" Huntington, Ind.: Our Sunday Visitor Press.


Busch, William. "Family Prayers." Collegeville, Minn.: The Liturgical Press.

Byles, Katherine Delmonico. "Religion in the Home for Elementary School Children." New York: The Paulist Press.

-----"Religion in the Home for the Pre-school Child." New York: The Paulist Press.

*McLoughlin, Helen. "Family Advent Customs." Collegeville, Minn.: The Liturgical Press.

*-----"Family Customs: Easter to Pentecost." Collegeville, Minn.: The Liturgical Press.

*-----"Christmas to Candlemas in a Catholic Home." Collegeville Minn.: The Liturgical Press.

*Mueller, Theresa. "Family Life in Christ." Collegeville, Minn.: The Liturgical Press.

Schmiedeler, Edgar, O.S.B. "Prayers for the Family." Huntington, Ind.: Our Sunday Visitor Press.

Stokes, Bernard, O.F.M. "How to Make Your House a Home." Washington, D. C.: National Catholic Welfare Conference.

*Weiser, Francis X., S.J. "Religious Customs in the Family." Collegeville Minn.: The Liturgical Press. (Reprinted as "The Year of Our Lord in the Christian Home")



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