Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family. God values family life so highly that He willed that the Savior would be born into an ordinary family. In fact, Jesus spent the vast majority of His life living an ordinary life with Mary and Joseph. Rather than go with the obvious “feel good” message about family life, I’m choosing instead to use this opportunity to remind all parents of their responsibilities to their children. In today’s society, the family is under constant attack and it’s all too easy to lose sight of the importance of the role of parents. Long days at the office and endless after-school activities can pose a serious threat to the unity of the family when abused. As parents, we need to remember that we are going to be judged for how we raise our children.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC):
Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery – the preconditions of all true freedom. Parents should teach their children to subordinate the “material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones.” Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children. By knowing how to acknowledge their own failings to their children, parents will be better able to guide and correct them. (CCC 2223)
Furthermore, educating our children about the Catholic Faith is not only a privilege, but is a serious responsibility:
Through the grace of the sacrament of marriage, parents receive the responsibility and privilege of evangelizing their children. Parents should initiate their children at an early age into the mysteries of the faith of which they are the “first heralds” for their children. They should associate them from their tenderest years with the life of the Church. A wholesome family life can foster interior dispositions that are a genuine preparation for a living faith and remain a support for it throughout one’s life.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. (CCC 2225-2226)
My wife is a religious education teacher at our parish and the majority of her students DO NOT attend Mass on Sundays! This is a serious problem and will cause many parents to answer some difficult questions on their day of judgment. Aside from the obvious duty to ensure that we take our children to Mass, we also need to be aware of the example that we’re setting for them at home.
Do we gossip about others?
Are we negative?
Do we use offensive language?
Do we speak about our relationship with Christ?
Do we pray with our families?
Do we constantly lose our temper?
Do we watch immoral TV shows?
As a father, I need to reflect on these questions daily. Sadly, many times I fall short of the mark, but I have to keep trying. Calling on the grace received in the sacrament of marriage, I constantly ask the Lord to help me be a better father. How about you? Could you do a better job with your children? On this feast of the Holy Family, ask Mary and Joseph to help you to better live up to your responsibilities as a parent.
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe [in me] to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. (Mark 9:42)