By: Virginia G. Guzman-Manzo, MD
Nowadays, the raging issues about contraceptives, divorce and same-sex marriage threaten and destroy the Catholic marriage, the sacrament of matrimony and the family institution. If marriage and family is broken, the basic unit of society is destroyed and chaos, disunity and unhappiness follow.
It is good to be reminded of the reason for our existence. Why did God create us? God is the fullness of all good things. God is Love Himself and His love is overflowing. In His goodness, He wanted to share His tremendous love so that anyone He shares that love with will have the joy of loving God and being with Him in eternal happiness. He thought of creating man so that he can have a share of His wonderful and perfect love. He created Adam and Eve in order to perpetuate that love for generations to come.
Blessed Pope John Paul II explains that when God created man in His image and likeness, He called him into existence out of love and at the same time calls him to love. Love is something that God incorporated in our nature. We cannot live without loving and without being loved.
God created the family in order to be an arena to give and receive love between the spouses and their children. To those to whom God gave the vocation of marriage, they must take care to carry out that vocation well because God has chosen it as their path to heaven.
God instituted the sacrament of matrimony because it is only in marriage that we can have and raise a family which is composed of a husband who is a male, and a wife who is a female, and children procreated out of the marriage bond. Therefore, marriage between both males or both females is against God’s plan especially because such kind of union cannot comply with the first purpose of marriage which is procreation.
A Catholic marriage has its definite goals: a) Procreation and education of children b) Mutual help c) Remedy for concupiscence. This article will more or less be confined to the first goal which is the primary one – the procreation and education of children. Getting married but not wanting to have children goes against the purpose of marriage. Contraception is against Natural Law and therefore against God who is the Author of Natural Law.
With husband and wife and their children, then we have a family. But a family does not only mean the presence of these protagonists – husband, wife and children, sometimes including other relatives – but it is necessary that this small and basic unit of society is bound by mutual love and respect.
It is the primary duty of parents to bring up their family according to God’s plan. There is a beautiful book by Jesus Urteaga entitled God and Children. The dedication on the first page of this book reads, “For Him who could work wonders with your children. And for you, if your generous ambition is to help them become men, Christians and saints. Is there any human task more noble or more beautiful? If you help many children to reach heaven, you will shine eternally, bright as the stars.”
In the introduction of the same book, the author wrote, “Rejoice all you who have children for you have cause to rejoice. Whoever you may be, you have responded to your vocation, you have answered the call of the Lord. You have cooperated with God in giving birth to your children. And He who began that good work will also complete it. (Parenthood) itself is the Lord’s gift.”
How should parents carry this most important and noble job? Remember there is only one chance and very little time. Suddenly you find your children already grown up. Either you pay now or pay later.
Children acquire habits and attitudes every single day whether parents are aware of it or not. If parents are conscientious, they will do their best to turn habits into virtues and attitudes into conscience.
The thought that someday parents will have to render a strict accounting to God for the souls of their children is such a sobering one. Parents should bear in mind that raising children in a peaceful, happy and Christ-directed home is the main business of their lives.
Parents are the role models for their children. They should be aware of the following rules: 1) Do not preach what you don’t practice. You cannot give what you do not have. Parents should have the virtues themselves so that they can impart them to their children. 2) Christian parents should have a strong Christian faith to understand what the Church says concerning children – that each child is a gift and a blessing from God. Otherwise they will not understand their role in rearing their children towards the ultimate end – to bring them to God.
What are the principal duties of parents to their children? 1) The basics or essentials – physical care, food, clothing, shelter, medical care. 2) Intellectual development to the degree that the children’s talents and the parents’ financial resources will permit. Send children to a good Catholic school if this is possible. 3) Raising their children to be good, well-informed, intelligently-patriotic individuals. 4) Spiritual needs and development. If a good Catholic school is not possible, the child should be sent to regular religious instructions for as many years as he remains in school. As the mind of the child begins to unfold, teach him about God and how to pray. Piety cannot be taught unless the children see it practiced by their parents.
What a child learns in school is doubly reinforced by what he sees at home. A child absorbs so much more fully by what he sees than by what he is told.
Being good parents begins, not with the child, but with a genuine love between husband and wife. The first duty of the parents is to love each other and that love must continue to be evident up to the end of their life. Children are very sensitive and they can feel affection or animosity, harmony or disunity, joy or discord between their parents. The relationship between husband and wife greatly affects the rearing of the children.
According to psychologists, parents who depend upon their children for emotional satisfaction rather than upon each other can never be successful in the proper upbringing of their children. In such cases, love for the child is likely to be an over-possessive and jealous love that seeks satisfaction of self rather than the child’s best interests. Out of such love arise spoiled brats.
When parents genuinely love each other, not much is needed to build a bright and cheerful home and the children will grow up loved, secure, emotionally well-balanced and spiritually strong.
The husband puts his wife first and the wife puts her husband first. The happiness and welfare of one another is their priority and the children know this from their own observation. They can see and appreciate the sacrifices of their parents in their self-giving for each other and for their children.
The husband shows his respect and love for his wife and leads the children to do the same. If the children show disrespect or disobedience to their mother, they answer to him for it. Likewise, the mother leads the children to honor their dad. She never belittles or contradicts him in front of the children and never undercuts his authority for this would lead the children to disrespect him. She leads their children to see their dad as a heroic man – a pattern for each son’s manliness and a model for each daughter’s choice of a husband. And dad should be conscious that his children look up to him as the model of a good husband and father and therefore strives to meet their expectations.
Both parents are a collective team enterprise. They present a united front to the children. They discuss their arguments privately and settle their differences with understanding and self-giving. They draw on each other’s strength. In different but complementary ways, they support and reinforce each other. And the children know this.
The home must be a place where the members of the family want to go home to in order to find affection, rest, peace, solace, understanding, sympathy and support. Otherwise, they will seek these things from people or places outside the home where, most of the time, danger is lurking.
Parents set aside fatigue, anxiety, laziness and temptations to take things for granted – putting off duties ahead of self-centered pursuits. They correct their children’s faults, not them personally. They know the dictum,” Hate the sin, not the sinner.” They combine correction and punishment with affectionate forgiveness, understanding and encouragement. They do this personally and effectively. Talking to them in a gentle manner and touching their conscience and their innate sense of goodness have been found to be more effective than corporal punishment or harsh and hurting words. Be firm but gentle.
Never allow bad humor in the home. Always be careful with your words – no sarcasm, no insults, no demeaning remarks. Never destroy the self-esteem of your child. Speak with authority without being narrow-minded.
Mom and dad should never fear to be “unpopular” with their children. Your child may be sulking with bruised feelings from your correction but his long-time happiness is more valuable. The important thing is the “why” and not the “how” of their punishment. In the future, the children will look back and thank their parents for their steadfast guidance.
A Christian home has Christ in the center. Teach your children piety and love of God. Formation does not simply entail academic education but a very important part of human formation is the acquisition of virtues. Virtues are repeated good habits such as charity, humility, patience, perseverance, honesty, justice, generosity, fidelity, kindness, cheerfulness, graciousness etc. If they are trained everyday in good habits and good manners, then these habits become virtues.
Formation also entails making them realize and understand to behave with integrity and human elegance. Human elegance is the air found in the extraordinary finesse of a person in treating others. Our behavior, even in times of recreation, is always characterized by polite manners, eagerness to serve others, cordiality and pleasantness.
St. Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei advised: “Cultivate the art of pleasantness. Be courteous in dealing with others and avoid arrogance. Be generous. Never be an icy model that others admire but not love.”
In the end, parents will see their greatest accomplishment in the form of virtuous, good-hearted, well-behaved and God-fearing children. A great reward is waiting for them in heaven.
The Second Coming of Christ will take place in your lifetime.
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