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District Superior's
Letter to Friends & Benefactors

September 2006

Dear Friends and Benefactors,

I thank you for all your prayers during our General Chapter held in July. Most of you are probably aware of the outcome of the elections held during the first week of the Chapter. The members showed their confidence in Bishop Fellay’s leadership, shown over the past twelve years, by re-electing him to the position of Superior General, which he accepted. Fr. Niklaus Pfluger, a Swiss priest and former District Superior of Germany, was elected First Assistant, while Fr. Alain Nely, a French priest and former District Superior of Italy, was elected Second Assistant. Please continue to pray for them in their arduous task during these difficult times.

Let us now return to the consideration on Responsibility begun in June.

So far, we have considered the importance of the principles of penance and atonement as well as proper discipline for training in responsibility. We also touched on the importance of proper supervision as children are, by trial and error, allowed to start exercising responsibility in their daily lives. Chores are one of the best ways to do this and at the same time help to prepare them for social living by helping them to overcome their selfishness through participation in family life.

There are many other aspects we could consider, but let us conclude this consideration of training in responsibility by looking at the most important underlying element in this training. We have already touched on it in our consideration of respect. The element I am speaking about is good example. Indeed, in all that we have considered thus far, there is the presupposition that parents set a good example. How can parents expect their children to be respectful or responsible if they are not so themselves? Whether we speak of the principles of penance and atonement, or discipline, or self-sacrifice, parents must lead the way by their example. Children are very quick to see contradictions. Thus when parents tell their children to be respectful or responsible but are not so themselves, their children will follow their example rather than their words. An old proverb, example draws, describes this strong inclination, which God has put into the heart of children, whereby they imitate what they observe in their father or mother.

Nor is it sufficient to have only the mother, or only the father setting this good example. Neither the mother alone nor the father alone gives the child life. Should we then expect that the mother alone or that the father alone is responsible for the proper upbringing? The mother may strive to give the child a good training, but if the father does not assist, if he does not bring a salutary influence to bear on the child, its training will scarcely be accomplished, or at least not in the desired manner. However much the mother may do to supply what the father fails in, the reparation will always be difficult, at least without particular grace from above.

Consider the ways of nature. The Creator has made for every plant and animal a circle of salutary influences, on which its prosperity and growth depend. If any of these influences are found wanting the development of the plant or animal will be retarded.

It is the same for man. As God provides for the existence of the child, so He has ordained parents for its further development; not father or mother alone, but father and mother. The influence of both must unite in the child and act on it if the design and will of God is to be accomplished. God has more fully endowed the feminine nature of the mother with those peculiar qualities and dispositions of heart which are required for salutary training, while He has endowed in a higher degree the masculine nature of the father with those qualities of mind and will which secure the good results of education. And as father and mother, when working together, bring the divinely appointed work of education to a successful issue, it follows that in this union of husband and wife all the influences which the great all-wise Father has ordained for a salutary education become operative.

This is true in all relations and conditions, but it is more particularly true in the Christian education of children. Christian piety takes certain shades or coloring from the peculiarities and characteristics of the man or woman, and is different as it proceeds from the father or from the mother. This shade or coloring coming from the piety of the mother will have the peculiarities of the feminine nature, heart, and disposition, and therefore a certain fervor or ardor, while in the piety of the father judgement and sternness prevail, even at the expense of tenderness. Thus the more both father and mother influence the child in the right way–the mother with her amiability and gentleness, the father with his intelligence and masculine force–the more perfect will the Christian piety of the child be. But if the mother or father work alone, the characteristics of the one will prevail in the child to the exclusion of the other, and the training of the child will not be effected in a desirable manner.

The greater the task of father or mother, and the more imperative their duty to take its fulfillment scrupulously to heart, the greater and holier appears the obligation of their being themselves true, practical Christians. For they can never accomplish this great task if they are not themselves animated by Christian sentiments, if they do not themselves lead true Christian lives.

Imagine a father who does not meet these requirements (in today’s world this is not too difficult). He is indifferent to God, religion and to virtue, lazy and negligent in prayer; seldom is he seen to pray at home. If he goes to church on Sundays it will be only to a low Mass; he seldom listens to the sermons; he goes very rarely to communion and confession; he never indulges in talking about religious matters, or perhaps when he does it is only to the detriment of religion. Because of this perversity of conduct, he is given to expressions of impatience and anger, unkindness and severity, hatred and enmity towards others, and rash judgements in judging their thoughts and deeds. He is given to every kind of disorder, intemperance in eating and drinking, insincerity, lies and deceit. How can a child who grows up under such circumstances and influences acquire Christian sentiments and training? And what if the mother is no better, if she is given to like practices? How can the foundation for true happiness in time and in eternity be laid in such conditions? Must not a child of such parents become almost necessarily wicked and depraved? Our times afford many sad proofs of this.

But suppose that a child with such a father has yet a good mother, and receives from her a good Christian training. All depends on the child, from infancy up, receiving salutary, religious impressions at home; that religion and virtue appear to it the most important and honorable; that it be accustomed to see and judge everything in the light of the faith; that it learn from the faith how to live. All this may be accomplished by the efforts of a good mother; what a great grace it is for a child to have a good mother. Yet it will still be lacking if the child perceives that what the mother represents as worthy and important is a matter of indifference to the father; that he concerns himself little about it; that he seldom or never speaks of it or, when he does, he speaks against it. The child will, on account of the natural disposition to imitate especially the father, and on account of the greater authority and influence which the father exercises over the child as it grows up, easily become by degrees negligent in prayer and other exercises of the Christian life. The mother may exhort and urge the children by her words, but the example of the father will draw and be imitated by them. Remember the old proverb: Example draws. Virtue is contagious but, unfortunately, vice is as well.

Therefore, in order to properly train children in responsibility, especially in their most important responsibility as Christians, it is not enough to merely explain what is needed and what must be done; both parents must also give the example by fulfilling these duties themselves. To bring up their children in piety and fear of God is one of their holiest duties, one on which their children’s salvation intimately depends; and this they cannot do unless they themselves are confirmed in piety and fear of God.

To be Christian it is not enough to know the teachings of our holy religion and believe them, a man must make these teachings operative in his life; he must publicly profess them in word and act, and make manifest by his public conduct that he is a Christian. It is the condition of being in reality a Christian, and not being merely a so-called one; it is a condition of salvation.

A good parent, father or mother, will present to their children a picture of what a Christian is, how he judges, what he loves, what he shuns, how he speaks, how he is silent, what he avoids, what he does, and how he does it.

This good example will daily present a series of living pictures to the children, who will learn in the simplest manner their holy religion, its teachings and precepts, and the various relations of a right Christian life and lead them on to the practice of their holy faith.

Most fathers and mothers do love their children. The wish to see them happy grows with their heart. But this wish will never be realized if they do not bring them up as good Christians who have the proper sense of Christian duty. If this is not done, parents place a cause that will destroy their happiness and bring them to eternal misery. Children must be made good Christians if parents wish to secure their welfare. To do so, parents themselves must be good Christians.

Therefore, let us act responsibly in fulfilling the directives of Pope Pius XII towards our youth and "plant in their souls the seeds of those early moral habits which fashion and sustain a character, train it to self-control in moments of crisis and to courage in the face of conflict or sacrifice, and imbue it with a deep sense of Christian duty."

Sincerely in the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary,

Fr. John D. Fullerton

 
 

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