Our Neighbors – Part One


Artist Charles Freitag

Part Two is here.

From Beginning at Home by Mary Perkins, 1950’s

We believe, of course, that every human being is, in one way or another, a sign of God his Creator and Sanctifier and of Christ his Redeemer. We ourselves, incorporated into Christ by Baptism, are meant in God’s plan to become more and more Christ-ened all our lives long, increasingly perfect undimmed signs of Christ, through whom He can love and serve His Father and His brethren. And He has so identified Himself with the human race that we can recognize and serve Him in every person we meet, baptized or not, sinners or saints.

Every human being is made by God, called to share God’s life in Christ, and, therefore, actually or potentially a child of God, a brother, co-worker and co-heir with Christ, a temple and instrument of the Holy Spirit. We are, in fact, to be judged as fit for heaven or not, on the basis of whether we have treated other people as signs of Christ Our Lord: “Come, blessed of My Father–when I was hungry, you fed Me…”

There is no need to go into details as to how this sacramentality, this sacredness of each human being, should affect our own actions, and our family life in general. We are all accustomed to try to act in the light of these truths. But we must now consider some of their implications in education.

On the side of self-development, each child is meant to become another Christ in his own individual way. Surely, then, all the long process of caring for his needs, physical, mental and spiritual, and of training him to take over his own care and development, can and should be ordered to this high purpose. And surely, also, the truths that God has told us about human nature will afford us a guide as to how to order all our training to this purpose of forming ‘other Christs.’

The children, as they are given to us, are, first of all, signs of God their Creator; they are God’s creatures, made to His image and likeness. Their bodies and souls and all their powers are then fundamentally good, planned by God to be used for good. Consequently, as the children become aware of their own bodies and of their physical prowess and powers, we can teach them to reverence and admire God’s workmanship, and to want to cooperate with God’s purposes.

When the children want to know, for instance, what happens to the food they eat, we can tell them the basic scientific facts in simple language, and lead them to praise the Maker of these marvels. We can also lead them to see the reasons for eating proper food, for taking reasonable care of their health so as to cooperate with His plans.

Such a habit of mind fostered all during childhood should likewise prepare the children for a real appreciation of our remaking in Christ.

These bodies, so wonderfully made to begin with, have been re-made by Baptism, Confirmation, the reception of the holy Eucharist, to be Christ’s own members, the temples and instruments of the Holy Spirit.

And if we should use them and develop them properly because they were made by God, how much more since He has given them this added wonder and sacredness.

In the same way, as the children come to be aware of their own emotions, and of their own spiritual powers, we can teach them what God actually intended these powers for–that Tommy’s explosiveness, for instance, was given him by God to be harnessed as a driving force to help him overcome obstacles in doing God’s Will. He has to learn to control this power with God’s help, but in itself it is as good and necessary as is the explosive power of gasoline in making a motor run.

And, along the same lines, we can show the children gradually what the graces of the sacraments do, and will do to bring all their powers to perfection.

But our children are, as is only too evident, fallen children of Adam, even as we are. (If anyone of us did not believe in original sin, surely the experience of being a parent would soon convince him of its truth, so evident are its effects not only on the children but on ourselves!)

Even when God’s life has been given us in Baptism, even with the grace of the sacraments, we all still have weak wills, tending to sin, uncertain minds, tending to error, emotions tending to run away with us rather than work for us.

But our incorporation into Christ by Baptism means that we can share in His victory over sin, sinfulness, and the devil who would lead us into sin. By the grace of His Passion and Cross, even our weakness and our tendency to sin can work for our good and His glory. We can be brought in His strength to the glory of His Resurrection.

As the children, then, become aware of their own weaknesses, of their own tendencies to sin and sinfulness; as they begin to realize how much easier it is to do the wrong thing, or the less good thing than the right one, we can try to show them that all this is no cause for surprise or undue alarm or worry.

Every human being has these tendencies because of Adam’s sin; they can somehow, in God’s love, finally work for our greater happiness; our job is to try to accept the hazards of our special weaknesses patiently, to ask God’s help in overcoming them; to realize that overcoming them perfectly a long, long job, but that God has promised the victory if we hope in Him and keep on trying.

But any parent who tries to teach the children self-control and self-discipline and to deal with their faults along these lines, soon discovers that it involves a great deal of discipline for him (or her) also. We find that we have to discard those handy parental weapons of

“How could you…!”, “To think that a child of mine…!”, “Well, I am surprised!”

Why in the world should we, fallen children of Adam ourselves with all our own so evident failings, have any right to be so surprised that our children take after us also in having faults? Yet it is a rare parent who has never said something similar!

And we have to discard also those other easy lines of attack, “Where is your self-respect…?”, “What will people think?–“, and try to work instead along the lines of respect for God’s making and re-making, recourse to God’s help and His love, the desire to carry out His plans and do His work.

Again, the effort to direct all our teaching and training of the children along these lines soon shows us the reasons for positive discipline and training. We see that we not only have to try to keep our tempers with the children–which is hard enough, God knows!–but that, on the other hand, we have no right simply to make ourselves the servants of their impulses and whims.

We see that we need to learn to serve Christ in each child, not by giving in to him in his various phases of growing up, but by helping him to develop the raw material of his nature into the image of Christ that God intends him to become. We have to make ourselves the intelligent servant of his true needs as a Christian-in-the-making, and this includes the need for discipline and necessary punishment as well as for positive training in obedience, self-control, and self-development.

The wise wife recognizes her need of God. Frequently she tells Him of her insufficiency. To inspire her husband, to be patient, to be unselfish and loyal, to be the dozen and one other wonderful things a desirable wife must be –all this postulates the presence of God always at her side. – The Wife Desired, Fr. Leo Kinsella http://amzn.to/2sxl4Al (afflink)

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