Father John A. Hardon, S.J. Archives
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by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
Stated in one sentence, parents have the right to give their offspring a share in their own life of the spirit, corresponding to the share they have given the children in their life of the body. Or, in more concrete terms, parents have the right to communicate their own religious beliefs and practices to the sons and daughters to have whom they have already communicated their physical existence as human beings.
These two rights go together. No less than a married couple have the natural right to beget children for this world, so a married couple have the right to beget children for the world to come.
From whom Do these Rights Come? This is no idle question. Why not?
Parents Responsibilities. Parallel with the parentss right are their responsibilities. The same God who gave them the privilege of bringing children into the world, places on them the obligation to nurture the lives which they have freely brought into the world. And the duty of religious nurture is no less, in fact it is more grave, than the duty of providing bodily food and care.
Why is this such a grave responsibility? Because the supernatural life we receive at Baptism must be nurtured and nourished from infancy no less than the natural life of the body. And the parents are the ones who, before God, are
Cooperative Responsibility. Although it may sound strange, I think it is worth stressing that the parents should cooperate with one another, father with mother, and not mother alone, and less still mother in one direction and father in another direction.
This cooperation between father and mother in the spiritual care of their children presumes that the parents are mutually in love. You do not cooperate with someone you do not love.
This cooperation also presumes mutual understanding of their respective roles in the religious and moral rearing of the child. Behind such understanding is their mutual sharing of the same Catholic faith.
Practical Responsibility. As we get more specific about cooperative responsibility, I would like to identify the three ways that the parents personally nurture their children in things of the spirit. They do so
What am I saying?
Parents Responsibility for Influences Outside the Family. In reflecting on the parents responsibility for influences outside the family we enter the most delicate side of our subject. The title of our talk is How the Catholic family will survive for the third millennium. All we have said so far stands. And we are not speaking of the responsibility or duty of the parents to give their children the proper religious training. I would single out the four terms that I emphasized
If Catholic parents are to fulfill this responsibility according to the will of God they absolutely must be
Let me be as clear as I can. Parents must be alert and aware and I would say, aggressive in making sure that other people, no matter how powerful, are contradicting the religious formation which they, the parents, have the first and foremost duty before God to provide for their children.
Before God, parents have received a sacred trust. No one has a higher trust than they. No one has a higher responsibility. But, I must add, no one can take either the trust or the responsibility away. It belongs to the parents because it is given to them by God. The children they call theirs are first of all His. They came from Him and they are destined for Him.
That is why God became a child, to teach us how simple it is to reach heaven, if only we are humble enough to listen to His words, and for parents, courageous enough to lay down their lives, if need be, for the souls entrusted to their loving custody.
We conclude with a prayer: Lord Jesus, you have given parents the awesome duty of training their children for heaven. Give them the light they so desperately need in todays world, to know how they should live up to their superhuman responsibility. Give them the strength to be faithful to you in the care that you want their children and yours to receive. We are confident, dear Lord, that with your grace, the Catholic family will survive, and thrive, not only for the third millennium, but for the endless millennium of eternity. Amen.
Copyright © 1998 Inter Mirifica
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