The most important duty the Catholic parents have before God is to see that their children are properly brought up and educated. This is a prime and basic purpose of marriage itself. And while the process of education goes on for 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 realise the implications of that choice. If you choose, you may send your child to a public school, to a private school or to a parish school. You can hire a private tutor, even keep him home and tutor him yourself. Before making such a choice you should first determine what purpose you intend his schooling to serve. In a general way, persons of genuine 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 forever 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 is to make the child see this truth and all other truths which flow from it. All of his experiences – intellectual, physical, moral and spiritual – must be so guided that nothing is wanting to his training as a good man and a Christian.
An education that has no religious foundation cannot achieve the task of educating the youth successfully. It is destined to fail. Music without sacred music, architecture minus cathedral, or painting without the scriptural themes would be incomplete. The fact is that 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 religious basis of education.
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 recognises 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 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 recognise 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? No Catholic parent could maintain that a knowledge of history – or music or sports – is more important to a child’s development than his religious training.
The Church always has recognised that schools in which moral teaching holds first place are essential to nourish and protect the faith of the youth. 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 Catholic schools when they are available. Canon law states:
“All the faithful are so to be trained from their childhood that not only nothing be imparted to them contrary to the Catholic faith or good morals, but that religious and moral training be given a foremost place in their education.” Canon !372.
“In every elementary school the children must receive religious training suited to their age. Young people attending high schools must receive fuller religious training; and let ecclesiastical authorities take care that this be done by priests who are distinguished for learning and zeal.” Canon 1373.
“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 bishop is competent to determine, in accordance with the instructions of the Holy See, in what circumstances and with what safeguards to overcome the danger of perversion to the faith, attendance at such schools may be tolerated.” Canon 1374.
Good citizens obey the laws of their country for the common welfare of the country. Good Catholics should abide by the laws that the Mother Church gives to guide us towards heaven. We are living in a time of great confusion and crisis in the Church. Souls are falling away more and more on the road that leads to eternal perdition- especially the souls of the youth. Catholic parents have, more than ever before, a grave obligation to educate their children in the faith. Every child has an immortal soul to save. And this can never be done unless a Catholic parent gives the child a full and proper religious education. This is a grave obligation for every Catholic parent. Many Catholic children are losing their faith today, because their parents only give them a minimum of religious training. Mediocrity is one of the most dangerous vice of the contemporary Catholics. Many parents think that their children go to Sunday School and that is enough to make them good Catholics in the future. That is a great deception. It is erroneous to think that religion can be made a thing apart. The child who is led to believe that religion is a subject reserved for Sunday is likely to grow up as a “Sunday Catholic” if, indeed, he keeps his faith at all. Religion cannot be recognised only one day in the week and ignored the rest. Many are the parents who have been deceived in this way and have lost their track on the road to heaven, taking their children along with them.
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 science, geography, history or some other subject of considerably less importance in the long term.
I have heard some parents saying that religion is not everything in the life of a child. But I can tell you this: “The school, if it is not a temple, is a den.” God has created us as a soul-body, intellect –will and moral-physical unit. Nature and Supernature have to work together. That is how God has ordained things. Education, therefore, has to be done with this hierarchy in mind without ever separating this unit. Education just through the communication of knowledge does not necessarily make a good child; it can easily make learned devils instead of stupid devils. Education is successful when it trains the mind to see the right ends, and disciplines the will to choose them rather than the wrong ends. And this can only be done by a Catholic education. Because, only the Catholic Church has all the resources, natural and supernatural, to accomplish this great and noble art of education. She has been doing this for the past two thousand years.
Despite this crisis in the Church, the good Lord has allowed us to be guided by the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X, founded by his grace, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. The Society is now operating 100 (approximately) Catholic schools worldwide. Founding good and solid Catholic schools is the second most important mission of the Society of St. Pius X, after that of training proper Catholic priests. Catholic parents should well remember that God cannot give the Catholics a better help and guide than the Society of St. Pius X in this time of crisis. Catholic faith, Catholic family and Catholic education work together as the links of a chain. Blessed are the parents who understand this and do everything in their power to give their children a genuine Catholic education. “For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul?”