24 March, 2020

Lenten Pastoral 1853 : 2

Christian parents! A sacred deposit is placed in your hands. Through you the great Creator hath given existence to beings destined to be immortal; to be elevated hereafter to a higher and a far happier state - for this they are to be prepared - they are under your authority for this end; and whilst you form your children for Heaven, you will make them good members of society, faithful and loving children of our Holy Mother the Church, your own comfort, the support and solace of your old age. How great is your responsibility before God and man! The Christian education of your children is your first and principal obligation, and in the discharge of it you have several duties towards them to fulfil:

Firstly : You yourselves, or by others, have to teach them the doctrines, precepts and councils of the Holy Religion.

Secondly : You have to form them to virtue by advice, admonition, and correction.

Thirdly : You have to give to your children good example, so that you yourselves shall be as a light and staff to them in the dark and difficult paths of life.

And as your children grow up, you will not neglect to read to them or cause them to read works explanatory of our Holy Faith, illustrative of its doctrine.   Let them be so taught their religion, as to be enabled to give an account of the Faith and Hope which is in them.  Alas! The days of Christian simplicity are passed!  We live in times when by reason of the material, earth-absorbing character of the education which is sought after, and found, and prized, it is required from the Christian, not only to believe, but to hold fast the solidity of his belief in the face of the deluder and of the scorner. Portions of the Sacred Scriptures you will read or cause to be read with the greatest respect and reverence…

Moreover there is practical instruction to be communicated to your children.  They are to be taught habitually and practically so to live that the accomplishment of the will of their Creator shall be to them the primary object for which they live, the pivot on which their thoughts, words, and actions turn.  They are to be taught at how great the price they have been redeemed, that their souls redeemed at so great a price have been sanctified by the graces of the Holy Spirit, that they are the Temples of the Living God.

They are to be warned against the maxims of the world; taught and made to practise the essential duty of self-control. O! how grievously afflicting to see children indulged in all that they crave; permitted uncorrected, unpunished, to fly off into a passion, or to become sulky and pettish [petulant] when refused the gratification of their wishes!

Let your children be taught to curb their tempers, to be obedient, to be grateful for all that you do for them.  Let them be taught to say their prayers with respect and devotion.  Let them be habituated to walk in the presence of God - to commune with Him by frequent prayer or expressions of love, of hope, of sorrow for sin, to consecrate their actions to Him; to live in humble dependence on Him.  Let your children be taught to be truthful, candid and upright; to esteem a life of industry - to love honest labour, to hold in utter contempt that miserable existence made up of idleness, vanity, and arrogance, of sensuality and foppishness, which frequently is met with in this present day.

And, dearly beloved, much of this most useful of all learning is to be imbibed by your children from the conversation you hold with them or in their presence.

On the other hand, if the world and its follies are made by you the subject of praise and of admiration,  if the possession of wealth and the means of sensual enjoyment to be continually spoken of, as above all other things to be coveted and sought after;  if Religion and its consolations are seldom even alluded to;  if - thoughtlessly - things, and places, and persons, and Sacred Institutions are mentioned with disrespect, treated with ridicule and turned off as matters of secondary consideration, it may be, with contempt;  if rude indiscriminate censure is pronounced even upon Authority you yourselves would wish them to hold in reverence, do not suppose, Dearly Beloved, that an occasional abstract moral maxim [from you] will counteract the deleterious effects of your habitual conversation.

Once more, Christian parents, I repeat, the Home of your children is a church which contains most holy things, even Souls redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ - commended to your affectionate solicitude by nature, committed to your charge by Him who through you has given them an immortal existence.  Remember, that in regard to your children you are ministers of God, and in a certain sense, dispensers of the Mysteries of Christ.  How important the duties incumbent upon you!

Parents! On you or on those deputed by you, your children have a sacred claim for instruction. There is however, a duty to be discharged in their regard, which cannot be transferred to another - that duty is good example. Without the fulfilment of this duty, instruction, exhortation, expostulation, will be of little avail.

Remember, Dearly Beloved, if you do not live up to your Religion, your advice to your children is valueless, your reproofs useless;  the testimony of their eyes will prevail over the testimony of their ears.  They will contrast your conduct with your admonitions, and feel how unworthy you are to reprove or admonish - by reason of your own neglect of Religious Duty.  You will give way to vexation and anger and then - saying much that had better not be said - their respect for your authority will be lessened, the substance of your reproof will be unheeded;  but the language, curses, the oaths, will be daily remembered to be by themselves used, alas! in due season.

Parents, if your lives be at variance with your Christian obligations, how can you expect to bring up your children in the fear and love of the Lord?  How will you inspire them with a reverential regard for Morning and Evening prayer, if they never see you then to your knees in humble supplication to God?  How can you suppose they will frequent the Sacraments, which they have known you for years to neglect?  How can you direct them to keep their passions under, whilst you exercise no restraint over your temper or tongue?  How can a mother teach daughters to hold the vanities of the world in contempt, whilst she practically shows how much she regards them?  Will a covetous father form his children to generosity of disposition;  or one who overreaches, inculcate honesty and uprightness?   Do not delude yourselves into a belief that conduct and counsel so glaringly opposed will escape their notice.  Be assured, that so soon as your children are free from your control or that their own self-esteem has gained the upper hand of respect for you, your admonitions will be disregarded and your [bad] example followed.

Let your first solicitude be to give your children a good Christian education - to instruct them in their duties and obligations, and by a holy, exemplary life, to illustrate your teaching.  Thus you will discharge your consciences of your principal obligation;  you will give your children the most valuable inheritance;  for yourselves in the hour of need - on your death bed - you prepare unspeakable comfort.  Bring up your children in the way they should go, and when they are old they will not depart from it.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the charity of God and the communication of the Holy Ghost be with you all. Amen.

Excerpts from Bishop John Bede Polding's Pastoral Letter for 1853 as contained in the anthology The Eye of Faith.



The Eye of Faith was printed by the Lowden Publishing Co., Kilmore Victoria in 1977.  The editors were Gregory Haines, Sister Mary Gregory Foster and Frank Brophy.  Special contribution to the volume were made by Professor Timothy Suttor and James Cardinal Freeman.

From 1849 - 1854 the Pastoral Letters written by Archbishop Polding for the Season of Lent were published both under his name and that of the bishop-coadjutor, +Charles Henry Davis OSB.

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