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of advising your children to go to confession and
to receive the Sacraments if they see that there is
no confession or Sacraments for yourself? To
what purpose do you counsel them tO' go to Mass
if you stay at home yourself for nO' reason or for
some trifling pretext? With what consistency do
you counsel your children to abstinence from intoxi-
cating drink when they see you drink whenever you
can get it ? How do you expect them to avoid curs-
ing and swearing when the air is black with your
profanity and oaths and obscenity? The same is
to be said of the other vices. If it is good for them
to avoid these sins, how much more necessary even
for you, with your tremendous responsibility in
their regard, and the imminent risk of scandalizing
the souls whose salvation is in your custody?

The child in his native ingenuousness has a lofty
ideal of his father and mother; he believes that they
love good, and hate evil, and would do nothing
wrong. Instinctively the child feels that his parents
will not hate good, and love evil, and seek after
wrong. What, then, can it think when it hears
them commend the better things, and do the worse?
Why, it naturally feels that the good which they
urge is not so good, that the evil which they depre-
cate is not so evil, and that after all it cannot be
so bad to do wrong; that their parents would them-
selves do the good, and shun the evil, and never do
wrong, if it were such. They begin to feel that
their parents are only speaking bugaboos, or seek-
ing to defraud them of their pleasures for some un-


known or at least insufficient cause. What harm
if they walk crooked if their parent walks crooked?
Why should the parent want him to walk straight
when he don't walk straight himself? If straight-
ness were good for the young, it were no less for
the old. So it cannot make much difference, and
it pains to make an effort or sacrifice for little or
no gain.

This is the subtle process of self-vindication that
passes through the child's mind when admonished
of its faults or urged to virtuous habits by father
or mother whose own example certainly belies their
words and shows that they are but words bereft of

Home influence is the most essential factor in
the religious training of a child. Nothing can take
its place; it supplies nearly all and in some cases,
all that is required. Without it, even the best Cath-
olic school training is little : for the good lessons
and examples of the school are in a great measure
deprived of their good effect by the absence of
them, or, still worse, by positive evil influence at
home. The good father and good mother will have
good children : the bad father and bad mother will
have bad children. Tell me not of exceptions when
we talk of rules and of what uniformly happens.
Men do not gather grapes of thistles. A good tree
produces good fruit, a bad tree produces bad fruit :
from their fruits you shall know them. A parent
may think himself good because he has always
taught good by word : but he has failed in giving
example. He has been a good preacher, but a bad
practicer : but this never can fulfill the definition of


a good parent. Words that he failed to mind him-
self, his children, moved by his example, have failed
to mind. Good advice was no better for the child
than for the big child, — the father or mother.
Hence, parents are surprised at seeing their chil-
dren so little like what they would have them, so
much like themselves. It is parental example and
home influence that .makes or unmakes the child.

The second essential element in rehgious train-
ing is the Catholic school, and the need of this can-
not be overstated. It is only second to home in-
fluence, and is a necessary complement to that. But
how much more necessary, when there is no home
influence, and when there is nothing but bad ex-
ample for the child outside of school hours! What
will become of the child destitute of both, — not
moved to good, but impelled to evil by bad example
at home, and shut out from the precepts and ex-
amples of a Catholic school, and the imminent risk
of imbibing wrong principles and a spirit of reli-
gious indifference in a school where it is forbidden
to mention the name of God, or inculcate His w^or-
ship and love ! The Catholic school is the only
hope of salvation that remains for the great bulk
of our Catholic children. For it must be confessed
that, owing to one cause or another, our Catholic
homes and parents are not what they should be.
Daily living from hand to mouth, the eager strug-
gle to keep their heads above water, ignorance
superinduced by poverty, leave little opportunity
for the children's instruction, and have quenched
or hardened the parental religious feelings and care
for them.


What, then, remains ? Priest and sister must come
to the rescue, and save the soul which its legitimate
protectors neglect or cannot provide for. And this
can be done only by the Catholic school, — necessary
for every Catholic child, but beyond all exaggera-
tion absolutely necessary for those who have not
been blessed with the edifying homes and parents
to which I have referred.

What then is Catholic education, what is the
Catholic school ? Is it a knowledge of the catechism
merely? By no means; such a knowledge is only a
mental acquaintance quite compatible with want of
Catholic or moral principle. A good memory, little
judgment, and short application would suffice for
learning the catechism. In this there would not be
necessarily any training of the heart or any educa-
tion of the moral faculties. It would only be a
knowledge of the truth without necessary inclina-
tion to practice it and without any dispositon to
virtue. It is not enough for the child to know
that there is a God : it is necessary that he learn to
worship and love Him. It is not enough that he
learn what faith is, what hope is, what charity is :
it is necessary that he learn to bend his mind to this
faith; that he is animated by this hope; that he is
inflamed with this love. It is not enough that he
knows what contrition is : but he must have it. It
is not enough that he knows there are Ten Com-
mandments and Six Precepts of the Church : it is
necessary that he learn to observe them and place
them before him always. It is not enough that he
knows there is a hell : he must live in the fear of it.
It is not enough that he knows there is a heaven:


he must live so as to earn it. Deep convictions of
eternity, the shortness of hfe, the certainty of death,
the vanity of all human pursuits, must be lodged in
his mind v^hile yet young. The love of God and
virtue and hate of sin must be breathed into his
soul while yet open, in all its native ingenuousness
and longing for God, to such holy influences. This
is the scope of Catholic education ; and he who takes
a less view of it is in error, or the Catholic school
that does not realize this ideal, does not rise to the
exigeant requirements of Catholic education.

I hear it said that the child at the non-Catholic
school hears nothing against his faith. But it is
not enough that he hears nothing against his faith,
it is necessary that he hear much, even everything,
in favor of his faith. It is not enough that the
plant or flower be screened from the withering frost,
but it must be nursed in the genial soil, or cherished
by the warm atmosphere. It is not enough that the
mind be merely saved from ignorance, but it should
be made vigorous by thorough training, and stored
with useful knowledge. It is not enough that the
body merely escape starvation, but it must be nour-
ished and strengthened with wholesome and well
assimilated food. It is not enough that our mem-
bers be protected from accident or injury or that
disease be guarded against, but they should be de-
veloped by manly exercise, and our bodies invig-
orated against the inroads of disease. So, in like
manner, the soul must be not merely shielded from
the poison of defilement or the shafts of prejudice
against our faith, but it must receive full religious
knowledge, a definite religious influence must be


brought to bear upon it, it must unfold in a kindly
Catholic atmosphere, it must breathe the thoughts
that find a home only in a Catholic school, it must
be illuminated and warmed with the life-giving
truths that only burn in a Catholic hearth or school.
There are passions in the soul that are to be re-
pressed, vices to be corrected : this can be done only
by grace and good habits early formed. There are
virtues to be planted : and this requires a genial soil
which can only be prepared in religious faith.
There are graces to blossom into foliage or fruit :
and this can only be done in an influence warm and
prolific with our life-giving, breathing truths.

The mind cannot be properly trained while the
soul remains in indifference. The process of edu-
cation comprehends both, and must effect both
simultaneously. Soul and mind are one: the edu-
cation of the one is the education of the other. If
their education be not what it should be, both the
mind and the soul suffer. Mental faculties are not
distinct from moral faculties: let education be pro-
vided for one and not for the other, and you have
a monstrous development ; which cannot fail to pro-
duce lamentable results. It was not a fortuitous
occurrence but the dictate of nature that religion
was always the custodian of education, and the
priest its teacher: it was because of the oneness of
the soul which is at once the subject of religious
knowledge and of knowledge in general.

The children in non-Catholic schools may not
have to listen to discourses against their faith, for
the period for that has gone by. Yet even this
would not be the greatest risk to which they may


be exposed. What is to protect them from the inci-
dental remark, the side-long fling, the passing in-
nuendo, the sarcasm or sneer, which teacher, or text
books, or the words of their comrades, poisoned by
the calumnies against the Church which from their
infancy they have heard from Protestant parents,
to which they are continually exposed. These
things are more dangerous to the faith of the Cath-
olic child than formal and open attacks. For these
the child recognizes as such, and instinctively he is
on his guard, his courage is elicited to defend his
faith, and he repels the attack. While his mind is
poisoned and his faith undermined by the insidious
and poisoned underhand weapons of scorn and con-
tempt. A slieer will do a work and mischief for
which no lengthened discourse would suffice and
which no lengthened discourse can undo. For,
when refuted, the prejudice engendered yet re-
mains, the stain in the imagination is indelible, and
the mind is perversely biased.

Even the profound silence which is sometimes in
these schools affected on the subject of God and
religion is productive of the worst effects upon the
child. For what can he think of religion when he

sees that it is a forbidden subject, that it is

rigidly excluded from the school? The very pro-
hibition must raise doubt in his mind as to the exis-
tence of God and His revelation. For if there be
such, why can it be wrong to mention them? If by
such means his faith in religion is not entirely elimi-
nated, the best to be hoped for is that he will come
to think one religion is as good as another. And
what a fatal error this ; how necessarily does it lead


to the rankest indifference in the matter of rehgion
and salvation.

Tell me not that the public school is better in
mental instruction than the Catholic. Such is not
the case, as I know from personal experience. But
even if it were, there can be no question that the
public school is inferior to the Catholic in that
which is the supreme end of all education and true
wisdom: ''to know God and Jesus Christ Whom
He has sent." And no mental superiority can com-
pensate for this grievous and fatal deficiency. Un-
less you l>e apostates from Christ, you cannot pre-
fer this life to the life to come; if necessary, you
must lose this to gain that; "he that loses his Hfe
in this world shall gain it in the next ; he that gains
it here shall lose it hereafter," is the Divine Word.

While the teachers of secular schools are gen-
erally very exemplary in character, and correct ac-
cording to the notions of the world, yet how can
they or their pursuit, as a means of livelihood for a
season, be compared with those who have bound
themselves by vow to Christ, and who make the
care and teaching of the young, a labor of love for
their life-time, and even a divine vocation? What
must be the respective influence of these two sets
of teachers upon the impressionable mind of youth,
— the one, howsoever irreprehensible and even
pious, yet the representatives of this world and its
life, and the others, even the most ordinary among
them, the betrothed spouse of Christ, and repre-
sentatives of the world to come and eternity? In
these devoted women and men, the child has always
before him in his studies, the concrete exhibition,


the actual personification of the life which Christ
in His Gospel, and specifically in His command to
the young man, required that we may enter into
life-, nay, more; they are the living embodiment of
the evangelical counsels which He proposed to^ those
w^ho would be perfect, who would take up His cross
and follow Him. What a fruitful and undying in-
fluence must not their example have upon the ten-
der minds committed to their Christ-like care and
solicitude ?

A word as to the duty parents owe their chil-
dren of sending them to a Catholic school is fit now
at this time when after vacation the schools are
about to reopen. This matter is not party or parti-
zan in its character; it is not a question of the rela-
tive excellence, or superiority or inferiority of the
one school or the other. For if it were such it
should ahvays be decided that even granting, which
we by no means do, the superiority of the public
over the Catholic school in mere secular training,
the latter would always be superior to the former
in that which concerns the soul of the child, — some-
thing of supreme importance and necessity. But it
is not a question of this kind; it is question of the
need, the absolute need of preparing the soul or
spiritual nature of the child for its eternal destiny.
This is the great duty that devolves upon all whom
God has blessed with the priceless privilege of pa-
ternity, this is the condition of the grant, that they
train these souls for their immortal bliss. And
these souls will at the last day demand justice upon
their parents who may have neglected this duty to
their and their own eternal ruin.


Nevertheless, parents are found who neglect this
duty to their offspring. They allow them to grow
up without any knowledge of God and of their
eternal destiny. They are not taught religion at
home, nor in a Catholic school, nor elsewhere. As
for religion they grow up little, and in time become
big, barbarians. Parents are continually intending
to do better for them, but are continually neglecting
it. Just as they neglect their own religious welfare
and eternal salvation, they neglect that of their chil-
dren. If you asked one of these negligent parents
what did he or she think of a neighbor who sent
their children to the protestant Sunday school, or
to a school where infidelity is taught (and these are
now to be found), or to a synagogue to be circum-
cised and taught Judaism, they would have no
words strong enough to condemn such parents;
they would truly say that it was equivalent to re-
nunciation of the faith. Well, what is the differ-
ence between such conduct, and your own? You
allow your children to grow up nothing, absolutely
destitute of religious knowledge or training: you
do not explicitly renounce the faith, but virtually
and in fact you act as if there was no faith to re-
nounce: you allow your children to become pagan
while you profess to be Christians and call them
such : your neglect is, in a manner, as criminal as
theirs. You show yourselves unworthy of the trust
which God has put in your hands.

What is education? how many talk of education
as if they knew what it is, while in fact they do not
know the meaning of the word. Consult any stan-
dard dictionary: take the Century; what does it


say. Education is an intellectual and moral disci-
pline by which all the faculties of man are trained
and developed. Of course it does not stop with
the mere improvement or culture of the faculties,
it cannot rest in itself, but these faculties must be
trained in reference to the various relations w^hich
man holds to God, to his neighbor, and to himself.
Culture, short of this, would render education but
a mere means of gathering fag ends of knowledge;
for the domain of knowledge is all but infinite, and
no one could ever comprehend it in all its circum-
ference and detail.

The dictionary says, that education is an intellec-
tual and moral discipline : intellectual, of course, be-
cause it is imparted by the intellect of the teacher
to the intellect of the taught : it must pass through
the intellect as its medium and subject. It con-
tinues ; and "moral discipline" : it is by moral in-
fluence that all the moral faculties (and man has
moral no less than intellectual) are developed.
Morality must be in the instruction imparted, which
will affect the moral faculties as its receptacles and
subjects. In this absence of the moral discipline is
the essential defect of all mere secular education.
Such instruction is like any object viewed with one
•eye, or a burden sustained with one arm. Hence
it is that such education does not secure upright-
ness or any other virtue. Morality in its basis does
not rest upon any principle which underlies or pro-
motes secular knowledge as such.

The dictionary continues : "by which all the fac-
ulties of man are trained or developed." Not, then,
it seems only the faculties necessary for the acqui-


sition of profane knowledge, or its expedite use.
For man has a moral nature no less than mental or
physical. All three must be included in a perfect
definition. Intellect must ever remain the instru-
ment of religious training; and when intellectual
training is attempted without religious, an intellec-
tual abortion is the result; just as the neglect of the
body injures, may be seriously and fatally, the mind.

I have said that education must be imparted to
man in his various relations to God, to his neigh-
bor and to himself : that is, as regards his salvation,
his duty to society, his duty to himself in this world.

That education is the most important, indeed is
alone necessary, which concerns man in his relation
to his God and Creator and last end. The duties
w^hich concern his neighbor, and himself as an in-
habitant of this world, will cease with the world
and with his death, but that v^hich concerns his
salvation shall survive all else, and continue into
the unending days of eternity. This, then, is the
reason of that supreme duty that lies upon every
parent to give or provide for his children the reli-
gious knowledge and training that will enable him
to save their souls. And experience abundantly
teaches that, practically, and in the circumstances
in which parents are placed, the only means for this
is the Catholic school.

You delude yourselves when you say that you
will teach the child his religion at home. You will
not do it, because you have not done it heretofore.
It is only a temptation ; a pretense by which you try
to speak peace to your conscience for not sending
the child where he belongs. You have not the time,


nor the inclination, nor the quahfications for this
duty. You do not seek to instruct yourselves in
religion, nor in its practice : you will not have
greater zeal for your children. Show me one that
does this duty and I will show you a thousand and
more that neglect it. You cannot prove to me that
you will l>e the one : the struggle for life is too
pressing, the inclination for such work is too slack,
your want of the qualifications is too obvious. The
only salvation for the Catholic child is the Catholic
school. Even with this, you will have enough to
do, for you will have to supplement it by the influ-
ence of the Catholic home.



"And He went down with them, and came to
Nazareth: and He was subject to them. And His
mother kept all these things in her heart." St.
Luke ii, 51.

It cannot be a matter of doubt, that parents are
to be vehemently loved and faithfully obeyed; but
religion in the first place requires that to God, Who
is the Father and Maker of all, the principal honor
and homage be given, and our mortal parents to
be so loved that the whole force of our love be
referred to our heavenly and immortal Father. But
if the commands of parent be ever at variance with
the precepts of God, there is no doubt but that
children must prefer the will of God to the desire
of parents, mindful of the divine maxim: "We
ought to obey God rather than men."

To honor is to think honorably of any one, and
to esteem highly all that belongs to him. To this
honor all these are conjoined : love, respect, obedi-
ence and veneration. Designedly is the word
"honor" put in the law, not the word love or fear,
although parents are to be very much loved and
feared ; for he who loves does not always respect
and venerate, he who fears does not always love :



whom, however anyone honors from the heart, he
likewise loves and fears.

While this law refers principally to our natural
parents, it is to be extended to pastors and priests,
those in authority, rulers and magistrates, guar-
dians and teachers and masters, those venerable for
age, and conspicuous for virtue and services to their
fellow men.

Our parents are, as it were, so many images of
the immortal God; in them we behold the image of
our origin; by them life has been given to us; God
used them, that He might impart to us soul and
mind ; by them we have been led to the Sacraments,
trained to religion, to human and civil education,
and instructed in moral integrity and holiness. With
the best of reason the name of mother is expressed
in this precept, that we may bear in mind her
benefits and claims toward us, with what care and
solicitude she bore us in her womb, with what
travail and pain she brought us forth and bred us up.

Parents are entitled to an honor which springs
spontaneously from love and inward sense of soul.
For us they fly from no labor, no exertion, no dan-
gers, and nothing affords them more pleasure than
to feel themselves beloved by their children, whom
they most fondly love. Joseph, when he enjoyed
next to regal honor in Egypt, received his father
most honorably when he had come into Egypt; and
Solomon, rising at his mother's approach, and hav-
ing reverenced her, seated her on a royal throne at
his right hand. We also honor them, when we
earnestly beg of God that all things may turn out
prosperously and fortunately for them; that they


may be in the greatest favor and esteem among
men; that to God Himself, and the saints, who are
in heaven, they may be most acceptable.

Likewise, we show honor to our parents when
we submit our affairs to their judgment and deci-
sion. Of this Solomon was the entreator: "My
son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake
not the law of thy mother, that grace may be added
to thy head, and bracelets about thy neck." "Chil-
dren," exhorts St. Paul, "obey your parents in the
Lord; for this is just"; and again, "Children, obey
your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing
to the Lord." Isaac, bound for sacrifice by his
father, meekly and unhesitatingly obeyed; and the
Rechabites, never to depart from the counsel of
their father, perpetually abstained from wine. —
This would be most wholesome example, to-day,
for both fathers and sons. We as well honor our

Online LibraryJohn McQuirkSermons and discourses (Volume 3) → online text (page 10 of 43)