CHRIST SPEAKS TO US
Fr. John Hardon, S.J.
Excerpted from a speech originally given by Fr. John Hardon, S. J. at a home school seminar in Oct. 1991, St. Paul, MN. Reprinted with permission. Fr. John Hardon, S.J., a noted theologian and home school advocate, is also the author of numerous books. He resides at the University of Detroit-Mercy in Detroit, MI.
I would like to address the subject of Catholic home schooling in thetradition of the Catholic Church, and my plan is to cover three areas of alarge subject.
What has the Catholic Church considered as home schooling in the Church'shistory?Secondly, why is home schooling necessary? And thirdly, howshould home schooling be done most effectively?
The focus I would like to take is of home schooling as authenticallyCatholic. I would like to begin first with a general definition ofCatholic home schooling, and then distinguish various kinds of homeschooling in the Church's history.
Catholic home schooling is the planned and organized teaching and trainingof children at home, for their peaceful and effective life in this world,and for their eternal salvation in the world to come.
I distinguish teaching from training, for I say that teaching addressesitself mainly to the mind, and training to the will; indeed, the trainingof the mind is in order to motivate the will.
We get our principles for authentic Catholic home schooling from Christ'sclosing directive to His apostles: "To teach all nations" — that's themind — "to observe all that I have commanded you" — that's with the will. Homeschooling, therefore, addresses itself to the mind in order that the willmight be motivated to do God's will. It is the teaching and training ofchildren at home that distinguishes it from teaching and training informal school situations.
Having said that, we must immediately distinguish among the differentforms that Catholic home schooling has taken over the centuries, dependingon the conditions of the Church at any given time in her history. Theconditions are as follows: first in missionary times before the Church hadbeen established in any particular country or locality; second, homeschooling once the Church had been firmly established third, homeschooling where the Church is strongly opposed; and finally, where theChurch has been disestablished, especially by civil authority.
I will identify the Church's condition in our country: the Church underopposition and not yet formally disestablished.
Home schooling in the United States is the necessary concomitant of aculture in which the Church is being opposed on every level of herexistence and, as a consequence, given the widespread secularization inour country, home schooling is not only valuable or useful but it isabsolutely necessary for the survival of the Catholic church in ourcountry.
Home schooling, in our country, is that form of teaching and training ofchildren at home in order to preserve the Catholic faith in the family,and to preserve the Catholic faith in our country.
Our second reflection is why. There are four principal reasons whyCatholic home schooling is necessary. . . . Home schooling has been necessaryin the Catholic Church since her foundation. The necessity, therefore, isnot the necessity that is the result of an emergency. No, Catholic homeschooling is necessary — period. And one reason is that it was so widelyneglected before. So many parents practically abdicated their ownobligation to teach their own children, and then found out, sadly, theirchildren were not being given a Catholic education.
How do we know that home schooling is necessary? First, we know it fromdivine revelation. The early Church is normative, not only on what weshould believe as Catholics but on how we ought to learn our faith . . . andlive it. There were not established Catholic schools in the Roman Empireback in the first 300 years of the Church's history. Except for parentsbecoming, believing, and being heroic Catholics in the early Church,nothing would have happened. The Church would have died out before the endof the first century.
CHURCH'S TEACHING AND HISTORY
There is no single aspect of religious instruction that, over thecenturies, the Church has not more frequently, or more insistently, taughtthe faithful, than of the parents on how to provide for the religious,and, therefore, also human, education and upbringing of their offspring.So true is this that it is the second and co-equal purpose for Christinstituting the Sacrament of Matrimony, for the procreation and theeducation of children. By whom? By the parents! That is why Christ instituted the Sacrament of Matrimony. So how do we know that homeschooling is necessary? Because the Church has always taught it.
Where has the Church survived? Only and wherever — and this is historicallyprovable — home schooling over the centuries by the Catholic parents hasbeen taken so seriously that they considered it their most sacred duty,after having brought the children into the world physically, to parentthem spiritually.
The necessity for home schooling is not only a natural necessity, it is asupernatural necessity. Have parents over the centuries, in all nations,from the dawn of human history, in every culture, had the obligation toteach and train their children? Yes, the same ones who brought thechildren physically into the world have a natural obligation, binding inthe natural law, to provide for the mental, moral, and social upbringingof their offspring. Yet since God became man, the necessity, and thereforethe corresponding obligation, becomes supernatural.
What do we mean when we say that Catholic home schooling is a supernaturalnecessity? We mean that in God's mysterious but infallible providence, Hechannels His grace from human beings who already possess that grace. It isa platitude to say that we cannot give what we do not have. Nobody wouldever learn the alphabet. We would not know how to read or write, or evenknow how to eat.
We have to be taught everything we know. The real necessity for Catholichome schooling is not because we naturally need someone else to bring usinto the world, nor to teach us what we need to know and do as humanbeings. Since the coming of Christ we are no longer mere human beings.
BECOMING CHANNELS OF GRACE
At baptism, we receive the life which is the very life of God shared byHim with His creatures. And just as no one give himself natural life, sono one receives or nurtures or develops or grows in that supernatural lifethat we receive at baptism.
The main reason for home schooling is that only those who have God's graceare used by Him as channels of grace to others.
Over the centuries, our principal Jesuit apostolate has been teaching. Andwe are told, in the most uncompromising language, "You will be able toteach others, you will share with them, only what you are yourselves."
No one else can teach the faith...except the person who has it. Butpossessing divine grace, beginning with the virtue of faith, is not only acondition, it is also the measure for the communication of grace.Weak-believing parents will be weak conduits of the grace of faith totheir children. Strong-believing parents will be strong conduits of thegrace of faith. This is not good psychology and it is not good example.This is Divine Revelation.
In the mysterious providence of God, this is the law: Only those whopossess the supernatural life and the measure of the possession of faith,hope and charity will God use as the channels of His grace to theirchildren.
LIVE OUR HOLY FAlTH
How are parents to provide for the Catholic home schooling for theirchildren? First, the principal and most fundamental way is by livingstrong Catholic lives. All the academic verbiage and planned pedagogy areuseless. Only persons who have God's grace will He use as the channels ofHis grace to others, and no one, but no one, cheats here.
What then is the first way to be an effective home schooling parent whileliving a good Catholic life?
For Catholic parents to live good Catholic lives in our day requiresheroic virtue. Only heroic parents will survive the massive, demonicsecularization of materially super- developed countries like America.
And consequently, far from being surprised, parents should expect thathome schooling will not be easy. Any home schooling in the U.S. which iseasy today is not authentic Catholic home schooling. If it is easy, thereis something wrong.
Today, Catholic parents must not only endure the cross, resign themselvesto living the cross, but they are to choose the cross. In case no one hastold you, when you chose home schooling, you chose a cross-ridden form ofeducation.
This is the age of martyrs . . . and a martyr is one who suffers for theprofession of his faith. There is red martyrdom and white martyrdom. Thereis bloody martyrdom and unbloody martyrdom.
You have to live a heroic Catholic life in America today. God will use youand provide you with the knowledge and the wisdom, providing you areliving the authentically heroic Catholic life.
KNOW AND IMPART THE FAITH
Secondly, if you want to teach and train your children, you must know yourfaith. You must grasp and understand the faith. Read the 14th chapter ofSt. Matthew where Our Lord tells the parable of the sower sowing seeds.Seeds fell on four kinds of ground.The first three kinds wereunfruitful. As Jesus said, birds came along and picked up the seed, andnothing grew. The disciples asked Jesus for the meaning. The Lordexplained that the seeds falling on the wayside are those persons who havereceived the Word of God into their hearts and fail to understand it, andtherefore the evil one comes along and steals it from their hearts.
That is why America now has millions of ex-Catholics. They have neverunderstood their faith.
I have strong encouragement from the Holy See to train parents. You areall welcome to learn your faith so that you grasp and understand yourfaith. Then God will use you to teach your children as a channel of faith.Teach, not only by rote memory, but to grasp the faith.
Many Catholics, before they finish college, discard their faith as aremnant of childhood. They don't understand. I myself had 16 years ofJesuit education, and 15 more years before I started teaching. There areoceanic depths to our faith, and you must learn as much as you can, sothat God will use you as an effective channel of grace so you cancommunicate your faith to your offspring.
TRUE SCHOOLING and THE SACRAMENTAL LIFE
Next, Catholic home schooling must be schooling. There must beorganization, administration, a pattern, a schedule, and a program.Somebody has to be in charge.Mother and father must cooperate in thehome schooling.
Home schooling must be sacramental. In other words, the Church that Christfounded is the Church of the Seven Sacraments, especially the Sacramentsof Eucharist and Confession.
You, yourselves, should receive the sacraments of Holy Communion andConfession.Train your children to live a sacramental life.
Finally, to be authentically Catholic, home schooling must be prayerful.The single most fundamental thing you can teach your children, bar none,is to know the necessity and method of prayer.
You must pray yourselves. Without prayer, all the schooling in the worldwill not produce the effect which God wants home schooling to give,because home schooling is a communication of divine grace, from Christ tothe parents to the children. And the principle way parents communicatefrom Christ to their children, the grace upon which those children will besaved, is prayer.
The June/July 1994 issue of
The Catholic Family's Magnificat!
P.O. Box 43-1015
Pontiac, MI 48343-1015