Learning Detachment is Very Hard


From How to Raise Good Catholic Children by Mary Reed Newland

Encourage Your Child to Love the World Rightly

No one can teach you detachment. It’s something you must learn by yourself. And learning it is very hard, because perfect detachment is final death to self. It’s being so caught up in God that, like a star that has no light but the light it reflects from the sun, life has no other meaning but as a reflection of the honor and glory of God.

But that isn’t what most people think of when you say detachment. They think it means being disinterested and aloof, walking on the clouds, feeding on airy nothings and paying no attention to what’s on the ground, and they decide that people who talk about detachment belong lumped together in a combination of the absentminded, the poetic, or those rare and peculiar creatures, the contemplative religious.

This just isn’t true. The more people grow in Christian detachment, the more they’re concerned about all things and all other people — but these things and these people in relation to God.

St. Paul said, having arrived, “Now I live, not I, but Christ lives in me.”

That is detachment. But to propose detachment for children looks like asking the impossible. It isn’t.

Pope Pius XII said, “In the kingdom of grace, there are no children; all are adults.” And when you understand that detachment is the end of all this knowledge and love of God we’re trying to give our children, we ought to hope that it will be inevitable.

Dom John Chapman wrote that we receive first the knowledge of God and the Faith, then we make it solid in us by the use of our reason (thinking about it and, with the help of parents and teachers, using it in daily life), and then: “By grace, this becomes a passion.” So detachment is there, waiting at the end of it all.

Of course, children don’t become easily detached, but neither do grown-ups; so that doesn’t mean a thing.

Because it’s a thing you have to learn painfully, it takes a long time. But we can help our children form a detached vision, or at least set them on the path; and it starts with the simple things that fill the world around them, building up to all the human relationships, both at home and in society.


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