TCC: May our children be saints and heroes

June 12, 2018

My great-grandmother used to say: “anyone can have children; not anyone can be a mother or father.” Our abuelita’s difficult lesson makes me wonder what it means to be a good father.

The Catechism (2221-2231) provides an answer by teaching that my wife and I have the first duty to educate our children and that we fulfill our duty by filling our home with tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity and disinterested service. We do this to teach our children the virtues of courage, moderation, justice, prudence, faith, hope and love.

We begin to fulfill our duty by teaching infants a language and naming all things. In doing this, we give our children an interpretation of the order of heaven and earth. We define acts as good or evil and provide examples of what is beautiful or ugly. Above all, we do this through books and especially through the Book (“Bible” is the English translation of the Greek word for “book”).

Through the Bible and Great Books we learn about right and wrong, good and bad, and why they are so. We inherit authority and wisdom about heaven and about humanity. In this way, our families become sacred unities, founded on the permanence of the lessons we have inherited, and offering our children a wonder in the moral law.

This way of life is opposed to two prominent alternatives which we should avoid.

The first way provides merely for physical needs and wants, and neglects defining acts as “good” and “evil.” If we become devoted only to physical needs, we’ll eat, play, and live beside our children, but not think or believe together.

We’ll lose the idea that the highest aspiration we can have for our sons and daughters in this life is for them to be wise — as priests, prophets and philosophers are wise. We should set our sights higher than specialized competence and financial success. 

The second alternative forgets what’s really important in a different way: when the morning paper replaces the morning prayer, the busy, cheap and ephemeral replaces our daily devotion to the eternal.

The Internet’s newsfeed continues this trend in a way that is both limited and limiting: limited because it contains little concern with virtue and eternal happiness; limiting because it pulls us away from concern with that which is most our own: our soul, our spouse and our children.

When I’m scrolling through my phone or channel surfing, can I fill my home with tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity and disinterested service?

Let us take time to read out loud with our children. While each family is slightly different, one starting point for young children is the New Catholic Picture Bible.

Next, let us recommit ourselves on a daily basis to being tender, forgiving, respectful, faithful and helpful to our children. Finally, let us seek out good and great books which teach our children right from wrong.

Whichever path we choose, let us educate our children in the hope that they may be saints and heroes. 

Michael Barba is the associate director of Public Policy at the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops.