Each one of us will stand before God upon the end of our lives. We will have to answer to Him for how we conducted ourselves. Those of us who are parents will have to give an account as to how well we did or did not fulfill our grave responsibility to teach our children God’s divine law.
That’s right. It is the teaching of the Catholic Church, and really by natural law too that parents are seriously obligated to educate their children God’s moral precepts. The duty of parenthood extends beyond teaching children how to cook, how to swing a baseball bat, or even natural consequences to actions. The burden to teach one’s youth logically leads to a grave responsibility to teach children the highest truth: God’s divine law.
Failure in this regard could be the difference in each parent’s eternal salvation. If you neglect to teach by example in leading your children in attending Mass, praying to God, and leading a moral life, you jeopardize your soul. For, once you become a parent, impressionable eyes are watching your every move and may conclude unjustly that God is not due the respect He deserves on account of your laxity.
But don’t just take my word for it that the Church teaches parents hold this grave responsibility. What follows are excerpts from various teachings of the Church about our awesome obligation as parents to educate our children about Christ and His Church. All emphasis below is my own.
“Recite [my commands] to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise” –Deuteronomy 6:7 (NRSV).
“Since parents have conferred life on their children, they have a most solemn obligation to educate their offspring. Hence, parents must be acknowledged as the first and foremost educators of their children.
Their role as educators is so decisive that scarcely anything can compensate for their failure in it. For it devolves on parents to create a family atmosphere so animated with love and reverence for God and others that a well-rounded personal and social development will be fostered among the children. Hence, the family is the first school of those social virtues which every society needs.
It is particularly in the Christian family, enriched by the grace and office of the sacrament of matrimony, that children should be taught from their early years to have a knowledge of God according to the faith received in Baptism, to worship Him, and to love their neighbor.” –Gravissimum educationis, 3.
“Education in the faith by the parents should begin in the child’s earliest years. This already happens when family members help one another to grow in faith by the witness of a Christian life in keeping with the Gospel. Family catechesis precedes, accompanies, and enriches other forms of instruction in the faith. Parents have the mission of teaching their children to pray and to discover their vocation as children of God. The parish is the Eucharistic community and the heart of the liturgical life of Christian families; it is a privileged place for the catechesis of children and parents.” –Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2226.
“Such an education does not merely strive to foster maturity… in the human person. Rather, its principal aims are these: that as baptized persons are gradually introduced into a knowledge of the mystery of salvation, they may daily grow more conscious of the gift of faith which they have received; that they may learn to adore God the Father in spirit and in truth (cf. Jn. 4:23), especially through liturgical worship; that they may be trained to conduct their personal life in true righteousness and holiness, according to their new nature (Eph. 4:22-24), and thus grow to maturity, to the stature of the fullness of Christ (cf. Eph. 4:13), and devote themselves to the upbuilding of the Mystical Body. Moreover, aware of their calling, they should grow accustomed to giving witness to the hope that is in them (cf. 1 Pt. 3:15), and to promoting the Christian transformation of the world.” – Gravissimum educationis, 2.
“By virtue of their ministry of educating, parents are, through the witness of their lives, the first heralds of the Gospel for their children. Furthermore, by praying with their children, by reading the word of God with them and by introducing them deeply through Christian initiation into the Body of Christ—both the Eucharistic and the ecclesial Body—they become fully parents, in that they are begetters not only of bodily life but also of the life that through the Spirit’s renewal flows from the Cross and Resurrection of Christ.” -Pope Saint John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, 39.
“It is, then, also like this in the spiritual life. For some propagate and conserve the spiritual life in a spiritual ministry duly, and this belongs to the sacrament of orders; and some belong to the bodily and spiritual life simultaneously, which takes place in the sacrament of matrimony where a man and woman come together to beget offspring and to rear them in divine worship.” -St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa contra gentiles, IV, 58, 6.
“For Christian parents the mission to educate, a mission rooted, as we have said, in their participation in God’s creating activity, has a new specific source in the sacrament of marriage, which consecrates them for the strictly Christian education of their children: that is to say, it calls upon them to share in the very authority and love of God the Father and Christ the Shepherd, and in the motherly love of the Church, and it enriches them with wisdom, counsel, fortitude and all the other gifts of the Holy Spirit in order to help the children in their growth as human beings and as Christians.” -Pope Saint John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, 38.
Parents, let us neglect our grave responsibility to teach our children the ways of God. By way of the natural order of mankind, we are the primary educators of our children. As such, we have an obligation to instruct our kids in truth, and there is no higher law or authority by which we must conform ourselves to than the Divine Law.
Leaving the practice of religion up to each child to decide for themselves when they are a teenager or older punts this moral duty parents have. Yes, it is true each person will need to decide for themselves whether to make the practice of their faith genuine, rather than just a family tradition. Still, how are your children supposed to choose for themselves whether to follow God, if you don’t teach them His commands, so they know what they are deciding between? For, if you don’t see to it that they learn His commands, then who will? Certainly not the public school system or pop culture!
Of course, you cannot give what you do not first possess. If you are rather spiritually dry and don’t have much of a devout life to draw from to make attractive to your kids, then you have no time to waste. You can start now to educate yourself and to learn together as a family the ways of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Most Catholic parishes offer adult catechesis and there are numerous, often free education resources available online. With knowledge so readily available, ignorance is not so much a circumstance as it is a choice.
Do you have anything you would like to add to the discussion about our parental, grave responsibility to teach our children the Divine Law?
Do you have any personal stories on this you care to share?
Please weigh in below!