A consistent challenge most parents face in raising children is revealing our own habitual sinful habits right in front of them. Our human condition typically involved in a constant drama between good and evil in many ways spills over to our role as parents and teachers. This specific challenge becomes more apparent in our desire to be holy witnesses for our children and at times is thwarted because of our own sinful behavior.
St. Francis De Sales in his Introduction to the Devout life provides us with the following insight on our own human condition: “God did not create you because He had any need of you, for you are wholly useless to Him, but only that He might exercise towards you His goodness, bestowing on you His grace and glory. To accomplish this, he has given you an understanding to know Him, a memory to remember Him, a will to love Him, an imagination to recall His mercies, eyes to see the wonders of His works, a tongue to praise Him, and so with all your other faculties. Therefore, being created and placed in the world for this purpose, you should avoid and reject all actions which are contrary to it; and despise as idle and superfluous all which do not promote it.”
The Art of Teaching
The ability to transmit information is not as difficult as one might perceive, if the person’s intentions is to transmit the truth. The basis or art of teaching whether its religion, economics, philosophy and so forth is to convey truth aimed at assisting the person navigate life and apply the knowledge acquired in their daily living. When religion specifically Catholicism is the subject matter the aim as stated in the Catechism (457-460) is to partake in the life of Christ in whatever capacity the person is afforded.
A sound religion teacher i.e. pedagogue (parent) if you will, embraces a responsibility to convey and deliver the truth objectively. The message should not be contrived or convoluted where the only thing the child receives is a confusing list of words that do not convey meaning. A proposed aim of sound religious instruction is to offer the child an opportunity to seek a union and intimacy with Jesus Christ. This initial step paves the way toward a response of faith or the willingness of the child to act on what he or she has learned.
The Parent as Teacher
The primary duty of any parent is to convey the truth to their children. This requires a basic and systematic approach in handing on information, in the case of the Catholic faith delivering the holy Deposit of Faith that comes from Christ Himself. For the process to bear fruit the parent first and foremost must believe an active disciple in Christ that requires a profession of faith in the Creed of Christ and be willing to actively live. Parents serve as the primary motive of credibility and the first example of authentic love a child will see and experience. This first instance of instruction reflects a two-fold process of presenting the message of Christ (proclamation of the Gospel) and second provide instruction on how to live out Christ’s message via the sacramental life.
Teaching with Grace
The doctrine of Grace is defined as a participation in the life of God beginning with the sacrament of Baptism that allows us to participate in the grace of Christ. Grace is a favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to hic all to become children of God. It introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life by virtue of our Baptism (CCC 1996-1997).
St. Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor 5:17-18) explains the free and undeserved gift in the following way:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself.
By our Christian baptism we are already inclined to receive the gift of Grace from God whether through the habitual gift of Sanctifying grace aimed at perfecting the soul to live and act with God or, habitual grace which is a permanent disposition to live and act in keeping with God’s call (CCC 2000). As parents the role of grace reflects our willingness to listen to Christ and act on his Word. This would in turn foster a desire to share the gift of grace with our children both within and outside the home.
The way a parent can teach with grace is by expressing a desire for their child to see and know God and thus know Christ. This may occur by establishing virtuous habits within the home such as praying before meals, praying over your children before going to bed, allotting a designated time for family prayer especially the reading of sacred Scripture. It also means establishing an atmosphere of intercessory prayer where the family is constantly interceding for one another. The method behind teaching the faith should reflect God’s love. As God the Father loves us so our children must see our love for them. The human expression of divine intimacy is nurtured by our motives of credibility rooted in a joy for Christ and His Church. The words of St. John Paul II validate the importance of this formula of teaching reminding us that:
The whole of Christ’s life was a continual teaching: His silences, His miracles, His gestures, His prayer, His love for people, His special affection for the little and the poor, His acceptance of the total sacrifice on the cross for the redemption of the world, and His resurrection are the actualization of His Word and the fulfillment of revelation. Hence for Christians the crucifix is one of the most sublime and popular images of Christ the Teacher. (Catechesis in Our Time, 9)