When you first hold your sweet-smelling newborn baby in your arms, nestling your heart to theirs, it doesn’t take long to realize that you are holding a sublime sign of hope for the world.
Their baptized soul radiates the infinite, undying mercy of God the Father; their eyes hold the capacity to discover life’s marvels; their tiny ears burn with eagerness to hear the voice of Christ; their feet long to walk one day so they can follow the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
As you cradle them, you dream of all you will get to teach them one day – everything from the prayers of the Rosary to the awe-inspiring works of St. Thomas Aquinas, to how to ride a bike, grow tomatoes, and just enjoy loving on others.
There are just so many things you can’t wait to cherish alongside of them – the sweeping beauty of the Mass of the Ages, the golden lilt of sunsets over the horizon; the sight of their chubby fingers playing with their first baby book; the glow on their face after they receive their First Holy Communion, or discover the love of their lives.
Their souls are in your hands, in a sense, and the way you direct them will ultimately guide them towards eternal life or death. If your heart may merely be guided by Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, you can help them merit the conquest of their eternal beatitude.
If your soul may only be enlightened by the Light of Christ the Sovereign King, you can help win their souls over to the Kingdom of Heaven forever. As Bishop Henri Bernard of Perpignan, France, so eloquently expressed in a pastoral letter in 1942:
“It is you above all, Christian parents, who have a capital role to play in education. Your voice, perhaps because it is the first to have resounded in the child’s ears, is the most heeded; your words are what has the most weight because they come from someone who has the child’s complete trust. It is you who have the key to your sons’ souls… It is so that you may fulfill your role as educators that Providence allows your children to live for such a long time under your care… Do not complain, God has allowed it to be thus so that by the influence you have upon them, by the education you give them, the sons of your flesh may also become the sons of your soul.”
This precious “key” we have to their souls is nothing to take for granted. It is definitely not something the Master of the Universe “had” to give to parents. He gave it out of the abundance of His charity and benevolence.
And when this key of keys is used in union with the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, it can open doors to prodigious worlds overflowing with His goodness, truth and beauty. In His omniscience, God has given this key to every co-creator that ever walked the face of this earth – but whether they have utilized it to open the right doors or not is the critical question.
Parents can bear in their hearts in a special way the words of St. John of the Cross, who once said, “At the end of our lives, we will be judged on love.” The more we parents bring the extraordinary love of God into the ordinary events of family life, the more effective conduits of His grace we will be.
The more we sincerely love our children, the more they will come to know what divine, unconditional, undying love is. The more we touch their hearts with His kindness, the more our children will come to see the God who created love, as well as the God who is Love, in whom we live and move and have our being.
As Mary Reed Newland writes in her gem-packed little masterpiece, We and Our Children, “God will be loved by our children as much as we have permitted Him to be loved. In a strange way, He is at our mercy and so are they.
In His love He has brought them forth out of us, but He must wait for us to make Him known to them. And it is God’s love – not brains, or brawn, or talent – that is the common denominator for all men.”
During the precious years in which we are homeschooling our children, God desires to shower us with plenty of lovely, intimate opportunities to inebriate our children’s minds, hearts and souls with the wonders of Our Holy Faith.
If we show them how beautiful the Faith really is, their supple hearts may naturally receive its beauty deep within, and grow to love it. Truly, it is our privilege and our obligation as co-creators working alongside the Almighty Creator to make the splendor of Catholicism come alive before their eyes.
With the help of divine grace, it may illuminate our domestic churches and our home schools, in a way that our children will never forget..
As Sr. Janet Erskine Stuart, RSCJ, writes in The Education of Catholic Girls:
“The duty is twofold, to God and to His children. God, who entrusts to us their religious education, has a right to be set before them as truly, as nobly, as worthily as our capacity allows, as beautifully as human language can convey the mysteries of faith, with the quietness and confidence of those who know and are not afraid, and filial pride in the Christian inheritance which is ours. The child has a right to learn the best that it can know of God, since the happiness of its life, not only in eternity but even in time, is bound up in that knowledge.”
And yet, what it means to reveal this beauty to each of our children is a profound mystery, but parents need not be discouraged, because the “key” He gives to parents can unlock its secrets. As Newland continues,
“There is a great difference between reading the directions and eating the cake. The bone-dry definitions in the catechism are essential as the recipe for the cake, but if we put them together with imagination and enthusiasm, and add love and experience, then set them afire with the teaching of Christ, His stories, His life, the Old Testament as well as the New, and the lives of the saints, we can make the study of the catechism a tremendous adventure.”
As we go forward this school year, let us remember not only the books, projects, assignments and tests we have before us, but most of all, the adventure of God’s great love.