The formation that parents give their children is critical to the child’s development and, if done with love, will prepare them for their place in the world.
Here is some good advice on what to teach your children. Remember, what you do is more important than what you say.
The greatest gift a father can give his children is to love their mother.
And of course the same applies to wives loving their husbands. Personal example is the most powerful teacher in the world. Your children see everything. If you love each other, they see and learn love. If you love God, they see and learn faith. If you skip Mass, criticise priests and disagree with the Church on one issue or another … they see and learn that.
Teach your children to seek real freedom, not a counterfeit.
Choice is not an end in itself and can become a form of idolatry. Teach them to seek choices that serve the truth about the human person and their human dignity. Some choices don’t and therefore are the enemy of human dignity. In John’s Gospel, Jesus says, “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free” (Jn 8:32). Truth is the inner structure of freedom and both cannot be separated. “Choices,” such as abortion and assisted suicide, for example, cannot provide true freedom, and are therefore meaningless.
Teach your children to seek wisdom, not just knowledge.
Put wisdom first in the hearts of your children, so that knowledge serves humanity. Real wealth and power of a country today depend not on armies, but on knowledge. Today’s “knowledge” society is more and more a culture obsessed with efficiency, productivity and competition that turns people into tools. Vatican II warned: “The future of the world stands in peril unless wiser people are forthcoming” (Gaudium et Spes, 15) … The most important thing about knowledge is how we choose to use it and that requires wisdom.
Teach your children to see and remember.
Help them to see marketing, advertising and propaganda as powerful influences on the way we think and act. The Catholic faith has a rich and marvelous history, and it’s always under attack from people who want to reinterpret the papacy or the crusades or Jesus himself to prove the whole thing is a fraud. Teach them Catholic history, because a community without a sense of history is like a person with amnesia Without the past the present has no purpose, and without purpose there can be no future. History builds culture and conscience.
Teach your children to develop the virtues of the heart.
Fidelity instead of broken promises, patience instead of restlessness, simplicity in place of confusion, humility instead of pride, courage in place of cowardice, honesty instead of excuses, forgiveness in place of revenge, a hunger for justice in place of apathy.
Teach your children to revere the sanctity of human life.
Reverence for life is the glue of human community. Help them to create a culture of life, as this will help them to understand the current self-absorbed and callous culture of abortion, assisted suicide and school massacres [in the US] which confront them.
Teach your children to love.
“Faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13). Ask yourselves why, after 20 centuries, an instrument of execution the cross still the world’s symbol of hope? No greater love exists than a man lays down his life for his friends. If we really want to be free, we need to love as Jesus did. The truth is not a database or an ideology; it is a person Jesus. He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6) and “pick up your cross and follow me” (Mt 16:24), because the road doesn’t end at Golgotha. It ends in Easter and in life, when Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life” (Jn 11:25). You and your children were made for freedom and life, so teach them to love well and to choose well, remembering the words of Deuteronomy: “Choose life that you and your descendants may live.”
Archbishop Chaput serves in the Archdiocese of Denver