This is a talk given by the Dominican Teaching Sisters of Post Falls, Idaho. In the first part of this talk they point out the importance of a good education and the faults (sins) of their students which frustrate the learning process and the serious consequences of these unchecked vices later in life. The Sisters site the causes of the problems and give parents and teachers the remedies.
The second part gives emphasis to the influence of television and how to best combat its effect on children as well as young adults. The conclusion offers guidelines which can aid parents in combating the permissiveness of today's society. Stressed is the importance of co-operation between teacher and parent.
Dear Parents of Our Students:
It is very important for us to meet with you, after these first two months of school, to clarify certain points; and this clarification is necessary in order to pursue the work which must be accomplished both by you, parents, and by us, the school: this work is the education of your children. There are many topics which would be interesting to think over together . . . We shall attack them later this year, in future meetings, and also as the years go by. Examples of these future topics are our teaching itself, the work we demand from your children, authority and discipline, and the specific mission of the woman. It is indeed necessary that we be aware of the woman’s specific vocation of being wife and mother, and of all that is involved with this mission; from the virtues which must be developed, to proper feminine dress, which is not at all without importance. On the contrary, feminine dress works toward the sanctification of women, no matter what our modern world thinks. Our modern world tries fiercely to make a woman fall into sin, to make of her a vulgar object of lust, to steal her maternal instinct, to make her lose the idea of her sacred and noble work of being a mother, bearer of life . . . I think I will speak in January of the feminine mission. We have had to choose amongst all these topics, and one of them seemed to have absolute priority over the others, perhaps because it is the vastest and it embraces all the others: Thus we have chosen to speak to you today about the education of your children.
Being Dominican teaching sisters, our task consists in teaching your children, not only in enriching their intelligence with a large quantity of intellectual knowledge, but also in educating them by and through teaching. To educate (in Latin e ducere = ducere ex = to lead out of) is to lead children out of ignorance, and out of weakness, out of their bad inclination. And I truly mean “to lead,” which means to exercise authority, an authority willed by God, delegated by God, first to parents, and second to teachers, for the purpose of educating them. To neglect using this authority is a sin of betrayal. Your sacred duty and our sacred duty is to educate the children entrusted to us by God, which means to exercise this power and authority which are ours through the will and the grace of God. This authority is given us in order to deliver our children, to free them from the bonds of their ignorance and weakness, from the tyranny of their passions, and to attach them to the True, the Good, the Beautiful.
When a child comes into the world, he is far from being a man, an adult. A child does not possess the rational knowledge of Good, Truth, Beauty; he has no inborn ideas. The mind of a young child is a page on which nothing has yet been written, but on which will be marked all the images and ideas of what he will encounter hour after hour, from cradle to grave.
The soul of a child is new, completely receptive, and impressionable. So everything presented to him in the home, everything proposed to the awakening of his mind and his memory, will mean for him either security, peace, order, beauty, or slovenliness, carelessness, disorder. Everything which happens in the sight of a child, everything he hears, everything he receives will lead him either to virtue or to vice, either to grandeur or to meanness, either to the awareness of his duty or to cowardice.
Thus, what will this child become? Everything depends upon the education he receives. Everything depends on what is taught and demanded by those (parents and teachers) who have received the sacred mission of educating him, the mission of making an adult of him, a true adult, that is to say, someone capable of always choosing what is Good, someone who is always ready to act in accordance with what he knows to be right. For man is a free creature, which means that he can choose, that he has power over the choice he makes, and, consequently, he has the responsibility for his decisions. Unlike creatures without reason, (plants, birds, stars) that do automatically and blindly what is good for them, spiritual creatures (angels and men) have received this mysterious power to choose. And this power to choose is given to us not for what is pleasing, for what we like, but for what is good. This freedom of choice is the freedom of a creature; it is at the service of the end for which we have been created: that is, to know, love and serve God, in this world in order to be happy with Him forever in the next. It is not an absolute freedom: we are not free in order to be free, and to do all we want, we are free to deliver ourselves, from our passions, from our lusts, from evil and sin, from ignorance and error . . . and to become a true child of God. A free man is he who makes his decisions according to that for which he is made and who accordingly frees himself from that for which he is not made. A free man is he who is freed from all that is contrary to his vocation of being a child of God, of being an heir with Christ, a citizen of Heaven.
We can never insist enough: “It is not sufficient for man to exist and to act instinctively for him to be good. Man is not an animal. He is endowed with a faculty, a light: his intelligence; thus he is free, that is, he has the ability to take care of himself, and he has power over his will and his passions. He will be good only if he consents to it and if he wills it. What will make him good is the good use, the right use of his freedom according to the divine law, the natural law, and the revealed law.” (R.P. Calmel)
But there is yet another truth very important to remember, as soon as we wish to speak of education: Our human nature, the nature of every man who comes into this world since original sin, except the most Blessed Virgin Mary, is no longer an intact, balance nature, subject to God. The human nature which all of us, except Our Lady, have inherited from Adam, is a wounded nature, a corrupted, a fallen nature, “whose will is no longer directed towards God, but is self-centered, and consequently, selfish; a nature whose tendencies and passions are no longer adapted to reason, but are carnal and opaque, permeated with the selfishness of the will.” (R.P. Calmel)
St. Thomas Aquinas writes: “Through the sin of our first parents, all the powers of the soul are left destitute of their proper order, whereby they are naturally directed to virtue. This destitution is called a wounding of nature.
“First, in so far as the reason, where prudence resides, is deprived of its order to the true, there is the wound of ignorance.
“Second, in so far as the will is deprived of its order to the good, there is the wound of malice.
“Third, in so far as the sensitive appetite is deprived of its order to the arduous, there is the wound of weakness.
“Fourth, in so far as it is deprived of its order to the delectable moderated by reason, there is the wound of concupiscence.”
St. Thomas adds: “These four wounds, ignorance, malice, weakness and concupiscence are afflicted on the whole of human nature only as a result of our first parents’ sin. But since the inclination to the good of virtue is diminished in each individual on account of actual sin, these four wounds are also the result of other sins, in so far as, through sin, the reason is obscured, especially in practical matters, the will hardened to evil, good actions become more difficult, and concupiscence more impetuous.”
And this wounded nature is redeemed by Christ. Thus, since original sin, grace is not only elevating but also healing. We are redeemed in Christ, healed by his wounds, and called to sanctity by our conformity to Christ crucified, offered in sacrifice. To resume, grace makes our human nature partake in the Divine Nature, and it is thus elevating; and since our human nature is wounded, it is also healing.
Since human nature is wounded in every man, in all our children, cute as they may be, education must strive to heal, to rectify, to purify the tendencies of their nature, with the grace of Jesus Christ, with authority that dares to command, and with the use of punishment when they refuse to obey. Baptism cleanses us from original sin, but leaves in us the four wounds of ignorance, malice, weakness, and concupiscence. The grace that it gives us makes us children of God in Christ Jesus, and through Christ Jesus. This grace conforms us to Christ, by demanding that we die on the cross of daily mortification in order to live a new life. St. Paul tells us: “Do you not know that all we who have been baptized into Christ Jesus, have been baptized into His death? For we know that our old self has been crucified with Him, in order that the body of sin may be destroyed.” These words are very strong: “in order that the body of sin may be destroyed, that we may no longer be slaves to sin.” (Roman 6:2-6) And also: "If you have risen with Christ (through Baptism) seek the things that are above, not the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1-3) This death of which St. Paul speaks in so many of his Epistles, is nothing other than the most necessary Christian mortification, the putting to death of our evil tendencies, our pride, of our selfishness, of our laziness, of our sensuality. This death is nothing other than the daily renunciation that Our Lord demands from those who want to be saved. "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." Let him deny himself each day, from the cradle, early childhood, to the grave.
We are not aware enough that, since original sin, we are off course, and that our natural tendencies are bad. All of our children are inclined to evil, through their wounded nature. Therefore, the work of education, if it is to be intelligent and fruitful, must take account of this state of their nature. And it will consist not only in shedding light, in showing the way, but it will also have to teach the renunciation of all the evil tendencies of the nature, the rectification of their original misdirection, so that little by little their reason, enlightened by Faith, govern their passions; so that little by little they learn always to choose the Good.
A first concrete conclusion stands out: The desires of our children are not naturally good. On the contrary, let us remember the four words of their souls: ignorance, malice, weakness, concupiscence.
Their passions are lawless, bestial, their desires push them to sin.
It would be stupid and criminal to try always to satisfy them.
We are guilty if we obey all the desires the children express, all the wishes they pronounce, from cookies all day long to all the whims of their selfishness or vanity.
In permitting them to govern us, instead of our being firm enough to govern them, we make of them monsters of selfishness, of laziness and of sensuality. And this is very serious.
By letting them make up their own minds, instead of our having the courage to command them, we bind them more and more to the slavery of their passions. And instead of helping them to conquer their freedom, instead of teaching them to choose the Good, thinking we are satisfying their lusts, in reality we develop them, for our flesh is made in such a way that the more it has, the more it wants.
You, parents, have received from God the mission of educating your children. So you first have the duty of harmonizing the education you give to them with the end for which you have received them from God. And, before God, you will answer for the exercise, of the lack of exercise, of the authority He has given you to be the guides, the fathers, the teachers, of your children.
Now, what do we see – too often – with many of our students –
We wish to speak to you of several problems, for we must bring to light certain inadequacies in their education, in order better to unite our efforts towards their sanctity.
It seems to us there are six aspects to point out.
First. The unbelievable greed of almost all our children.
If the food prepared for them does not please them, they make critical remarks about it, they refuse to eat it, sometimes by lying, claiming they are not hungry. But the next day they return triumphant: “Mom won't give me any more of that.” On one hand they are impolite and ungrateful towards their parents or towards us to complain of what they have been given; and on the other hand, they are gluttonous, capricious, whimsical, and rebellious to desire to eat only what they like.
If they feel like having candy or cookies, they have only to ask for them, to receive them. But we must not satisfy their animal instinct!
They eat much too much sugar, and it is bad for their health. If they had two or three cookies a day, we could let it go . . . but how many do some of them eat every day? If you yourselves do not wisely govern your children’s eating habits, never will your children learn to eat correctly.
If they are thirsty, they find it normal to go drink immediately, even during classes. What do they do at home? We do not know. But our children are not animals. We must teach them to control, to master their hunger and thirst. We must not permit them to eat between meals, each time a cookie or a piece of candy tempts them.
Second. Their astonishing capriciousness.
If one or another does want to come to school, she refuses, or has a temper tantrum until Mom gives in: “All right, get back in the car and we’ll go home.” A stomachache or a headache or a little cold is not a reason to miss school. There are too many absences for insufficient causes, and it is easy to see that many illnesses have a direct relation to tests or quizzes.
Third. Customary selfishness.
It is difficult to awaken their generosity. The small amount of household help that we ask of them . . . They try to avoid it or come dragging their feet, and they do not see anything wrong in this attitude.
It seems that they are not used to thinking of others or to helping out. They would have initiative or ideas of ways to help if they were more charitable and generous.
And amongst themselves, there is a lack of Christian charity. They do not forget themselves to think of others. They want what they want for themselves. If another girl pleases them, they are friendly with her, but if she does not please them, they reject her, they treat her like dirt, seemingly without feeling any guilt.
Fourth. An insufficient understanding of their duty of state.
They do not feel obliged to do their work seriously. Often their school work is poorly done, their lessons are only half-learned, and their writing is sloppy. They are lethargic, lacking energy and will, before the efforts demanded. And what shall we say of weekends . . . On Monday mornings, it seems as if they have just had a month’s vacation. Some of them are exhausted instead of being rested and ready to work. Look back at their weekend occupations. They need time to sleep, to study, to read; they need to walk or ride bicycles, and to help around the house.
Fifth. Their lack of the spirit of making efforts, of the spirit of sacrifice, of renunciation.
Our children are too often the slaves of their selfishness, of their sensibility, of their sensuality, we must call it by its name, for their greed is nothing else.
Therefore, when we try to encourage them to make efforts, to make sacrifices in order to save souls, they stare wide-eyed, as if we were speaking a new language. But it is the language of their Baptism, of our Baptism. A Catholic cannot save himself without helping others, by his daily prayers and his daily sacrifices, for the conversion of sinners. All Catholics must be missionaries by their prayers and mortification for the salvation of souls.
Sixth. The undeniable presence of the spirit of vanity.
Many are the examples. For instance, there is no need for our children to change skirts every day, other than to exhibit their wardrobe. They grow their nails as witches, then polish them. They wear make-up, when they are only eleven years old. And what is that if it is not worship of the body, worship of the flesh? The consequences are weighty: “If you live according to the flesh, you will die,” writes St. Paul.
If we do not react, you and we, you with us, you before us, if we let our children give into the instinct of their capricious passions, we are preparing catastrophes.
When we always give our children what food they desire or prefer, we develop their sensuality. And later, in adolescence, they will not be able to defend themselves in temptations against purity. Their selfish, greedy, sensual flesh will demand to be satisfied in its lower instincts; and, having never learned to fight against these bodily appetites, the adolescents will be defeated during the strong attacks of the flesh.
If we obey our children, if we let them do what they want, if we satisfy their desires, we encourage their selfishness. By demanding of them no efforts and no sacrifices, we are preparing great falls. We are lying to children when we give them the illusion that life is easy, and that pleasure is the goal of life. And we do not develop in them the good qualities of energy, of perseverance in effort, of forgetting themselves to think of others. These qualities are indispensable to a Christian life. How will today’s selfish girls be tomorrow’s heroic family mothers? For mothers and fathers must be heroic in order to remain faithful to God amidst the paganism in which we live. The Sacrament of Marriage can never make up for education that has been a failure. Future spouses must learn, from their earliest age, to practice these humble domestic virtues in which consists the sanctity of the woman: self-renouncement, sacrifice, dedication, submission, obedience, purity, unremitting work.
And how could vocations flourish in our families, if the children do not see the virtues of Our Lord shining at home, in a very concrete way; if we do not teach them to imitate Our Lord Jesus Christ, by the renunciation of their desires, of their self-love, and of their own will?
Our prayers are worth nothing if they do not lead us to imitate Our Lord, His virtues, His absolute dedication to the Glory of the Father and the salvation of His brothers!
Through the weakness of giving into our children, we work toward the destruction of their personality. And we can never make up for this harm done, or only at the price of great heroism, so great that only a few succeed. But most of these destroyed personalities became indecisive people, victims of their contradictory passions; they have nervous breakdowns, or complexes; they are incapable of making decisions . . . An education that is too weak has shut the door to grandeur, nobleness, magnanimity, holiness . . . .
Unless the dream models are TV stars?
I am sure that your answer is, "Oh, no Mother, never!" Well, never? Then why do so many of your daughters spend so many hours in front of the television set? Do you think that it is harmless?
Television is deadly poison for their soul, and that is the most serious point.
Television is deadly poison for their world, and that is very serious.
Television is deadly poison for their studies, and that is very serious.
Television is deadly poison for your family life, and that is very serious.
Deadly poison for their soul
Often one television program is enough to push a youth into mortal sin. By letting your children sit in front of the television, you run the nearly certain risk of killing the supernatural life in their souls. There is no such thing as a harmless television program. Impurity, ugliness and vulgarity strike their eyes, their senses, their imagination and soil their souls. It cannot be avoided.
None of you would dream of risking your children's lives, for instance, by setting them in the middle of the highway at night, all ready to be run over. Setting them in front of the television is worse yet. (And the same danger is true of listening to the radio, rock music and modern music.) You endanger the supernatural life of your children which is infinitely more precious than their bodily life. What a responsibility before God!
Deadly poison for their mind
Watching television requires no intellectual effort whatsoever. In front of a television people are passive, that is, they receive what is presented without making any effort to think. They are comfortably and lazily seated on the sofa, with a little snack on the TV table, why not? And like this, everything is at hand, and they swallow and swallow all that the television pours out, without their mind's having the time, or even the possibility, to react. The pictures strike the imagination and leave their trace on the mind, where they destroy any personal life, any personal thought or reaction. And television creates millions of people who do not think, who are no longer themselves. They are all alike, all blinded by the illusion that they are knowledgeable. And thus, news replaces culture; public opinion dispenses people from thinking for themselves and replaces God's judgment; even the stupidity of television shows does not awaken the apathy, the listlessness of their brains under anesthesia.
But personal reflection is so important. It is necessary to our supernatural life. We shall not be saved automatically. We cannot be saved without conquering our liberty of judgment and of choice, without making all our decisions in favor of Good, whatever be the obstacles and traps which come from the world, the devil, or our own lusts. Television prevents us from attaining this interior liberty of judgment, without which we can never truly be human persons.
Deadly poison for their studies
Ask an intellectual effort of children who watch television . . . you will obtain no response. These children have, firstly, an inability to concentrate, and inability to be attentive, which comes directly from television. They are unstable, superficial, incapable of maintaining an intellectual effort, and intellectual reasoning. In addition, they have lost their liking for this sort of work – it is so arduous! With television, we just turn it on and . . . the whole world is before our eyes! These television watchers are full of illusion thinking they know so much.
What is more, their interests become as superficial as the programs they watch. This is why some children, even some only ten or twelve years old, are so worried about how they look; this is why they wear make-up etc. Certain twelve-year-olds look like sixteen-year-olds. It is a shame that they lose the innocence and the simplicity of their age.
And when this artificial world of television, this world of sin, of ugliness and of stupidity has captured their intelligences and their hearts, irreparable harm has been done. Their intelligences and their hearts remain untouched by the language of the Faith and of education. And all your efforts, all our efforts are made sterile.
Do not think that attending Sunday Mass is enough to save your children. But refer everything to this Mass, to Jesus Christ and to His love. If you do not, there is a lie in your life. It has always been necessary for Christians to cut themselves off from the world: "You are in the world, but you are no longer of the world," Jesus tells us. This means that your behavior must be different from the world's.
It would be too long to quote St. Paul, but reread his Epistles. In all of them he enjoins his faithful to abandon their pagan customs and to put on the Christian way of living. And he goes into detail. He does not tell them, "It is good enough if you go to Mass on Sunday and say your morning and night prayers." He tells them all to overturn their idols; this is the other side of adhering to God. And all the missionaries after him always overturned the idols in order to install a Christian city.
Today's idols are no longer Zeus or Venus. Today's idols are television, singers, sports stars, rock music, movies, . . . We are to be as firm towards these idols as the first Christians were toward their false gods. "No alliance is possible between the light and the darkness." None.
Deadly poison for your family life
Your homes must be sanctuaries where God is honored, loved, served, where the parents watch vigilantly over the education of their children.
What is television doing in the middle? It is breaking family life. It is keeping the father or the mother from talking, rectifying, advising, encouraging. The television is the stranger who has the place of honor in the home, the place that belongs to God, the place that belongs to the parents.
And there is no more family life, no more home where the flame is burning, from where it lights and warms all those who come near. You have simply people next to each other, separated, in fact, instead of being united; for the bond of unity is lacking, it is ruptured by the presence of television, which dictates its programs, its opinions, its lies. Well? What is the conclusion? It is easy. Get rid of the television. Throw it into the garbage. That is where it belongs. Do it this evening. Do not wait until tomorrow; your courage might fail. Tonight while your children are sleeping, without asking their opinion, of course!
And you will be surprised to see how much time you will then have to enjoy your family life and to look after each other. You will be surprised to see how fast the level of your conversations will go up, to see how docile your children will become to your authority. Family prayer, morning and night, family rosary, will take back their place of honor. Soon you will fell how much this new beginning of a natural life will pacify each and every one, will solder them to each other. The artificiality of a life which goes on in front of the television kills the personality of everyone in the family, and the result is mediocrity, laziness, slavery to fashion, and always impurity in one way or another.
Catholic parents, you must not be accomplices of such an undertaking of dehumanization and of dechristianization.
Do not renounce educating your children.
"To educate your children," wrote Rev. Fr. de Chivré, "is to secure them with the means of attaining the full exercise of their spiritual lives as baptized Catholics, of making the most of their natural lives, and of facilitating their future lives." Thus one can understand the importance of the language in conversations, in readings, in warnings, in scoldings, in encouragements and in corrections coming from the parents. The education of a child's interior life is the only things that will arm him against the false appearances of the world. Helping him become accustomed to the truth, attracted to what is simple, energetic in the faithful accomplishment of his duties, proud in upholding moral values, aware of the presence of God, of an interior voice . . . teaching him to bear the arms of a Catholic who is baptized, who is confirmed . . . all these things galvanize the undecided frailty of teenagers and forge their characters.
And their duty belongs primarily to parents: the heart of a father and the heart of a mother, constantly burning with flames which are conducive to the awakening of the soul, the conscience, the reason, the heart, and the sensitivity of children.
"The home is a church in which dwells the True Presence. Not just anybody may come in; not just anything may be said, no unfitting or vulgar tunes may be sung. The home is like a tabernacle; one enters to be grasped by a need for respect, to be stolen over by a certain depth, to be sheltered from intellectual and moral degradation.
"It is the parents who have the responsibility, before the school, of teaching their children to live and to love what is Good and what is True. And it is precisely because childhood is characterized by both a lack of sufficient reason and an excess of anarchistic and unreasonable desires that intelligent imperatives are needed from parents, and intelligent refusals must be pronounced by parents when the need arises.
"To educate a child is to dare to choose for him, in order to deliver him from his ignorance, his weakness, and his personal inclinations. It is to dare to choose in accordance with what one knows to be Christian, that is, Christ like."
To give commands is to love, precisely, with due measure and mild firmness.
In the realm of your children's physical life, we do not hesitate to impose the necessary treatments to safeguard their health. And in the all-important realm of their conscience and knowledge, could we stand by and allow just anything to be said, or anything to be done? If we no longer dare to ask, no longer want to instruct, or decide no longer to allow or forbid, we annul and abandon our teaching functions.
It would also make all of our labor fruitless . . . We can obtain nothing from your children if you yourselves do not have the same requirements in their education. Children must learn the same truths and contemplate the same examples to follow at home and at school. If the case were to be the opposite we would be obliged, God forbid, to send away the children whose parents would educate them in a different direction: an atmosphere of carelessness, permissiveness, or liberal ideas in the intellectual, moral, and religious domains.
So, for the love of your children, be courageous enough to take heroic steps, of which only the first steps are hard, then the others come easier . . . .
Whatever the causes may be, whatever weaknesses we may have or mistakes we may have made in the area of education, we must take courage and remain confident; for we have the graces to accomplish this work well, and where necessary, to correct and improve our methods of education.
Everything is possible as soon as the family and the school have decided to work together, in the same direction, with the same firmness. It is never too late to do something well or to make resolutions. We must have Faith!
Don't give up! It will be easier than you think. Youth is made for heroism. The more you ask of a youth, the happier you will make him; for you are giving him a true moral, intellectual and spiritual value.
At the origin of all great saints, there were almost always saintly mothers and fathers. Look at St. Pius X, St. John Bosco, Archbishop Lefebvre . . . Prayer, work, sacrifice, poverty . . . these were the conditions in which they lived . . . walking in the traces of the model which we all must follow: the Holy Family at Nazareth. If Our Lord felt it necessary to spend 30 years of His life hidden, in humble and laborious circumstances, it was to teach us what our Christian homes must be like. Let us live up to His expectations, and glorify Him by putting all of our zealous energies to work, in order to live in imitation of the Holy Family.