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District Superior's
Letter to Friends & Benefactors

March 2011

Dear Friends and Benefactors,

In my recent letters, I have explained the formation that must be given a child from the time of his birth to the time of his First Communion, and how, fed with this divine food, he must grow in “wisdom and holiness” in preparation for the teen-age years. A foundation is laid during the child’s first years; adolescence is the time to build on that foundation.

If a child is to attain maturity, one of the necessary conditions is unity of education: parents, teachers, and priests must all be on the same page; the practice of the Faith at home, at school, and at church must be in harmony. The teenager begins to recognize contradiction when it is there; he notices it, and his intelligence grasps the incongruity that exists. He does not understand the why of the contradictions, however, nor is his judgment sufficiently formed to see beyond them. His natural response to the contradictions he sees is to reject what he has received under the pretext that it cannot be right, as his educators cannot agree. Thus the importance of the “doing” corresponding with the “preaching.”

Unity, then, between the various educators—harmony between the two parents, between the parents and the priests and the teachers—is essential. How, for instance, will a child come to consider and value a vocation, or even God’s work in this world, if the priests and religious who teach him are criticized or shown to be disapproved? How can we expect a teenager to appreciate and respect the instruction of his teachers, if they are denigrated or criticized at home, if their efforts are resisted, if negative comments are made in front of the youth? How can an adolescent respect and submit to his parents, if they openly argue in front of him? Problems and disagreement between parents, or between any of those responsible for education, must be kept and attended to among adults—the child should never know or even sense the disagreement that may be there. To reveal disagreement is to bring contradiction into the life of the child, and that contradiction will undermine all that the educator has endeavored to instill in him.

A second point I would like to emphasize is the need for direction; teenagers need clear direction and proper distinctions. Never is parental leadership more necessary than at this time when the passions are so volatile, and when physical and moral transformation is taking place. The teenager needs to be overseen; he is not capable of self-guidance, simply because powerful passions are awakening and he does not yet know how to control them. To pretend otherwise, and allow him thus to do whatever he wants, or even merely give him too much freedom, is negligence that at times can amount to criminal. It is true that the teenager cannot be handled or directed the same way a child is; a teenager needs more exercise of his freedom, and he must be put in positions where he is obliged to make his own decisions. Even so, he also needs clear boundaries, guidance, and firmness—he finds nothing more confusing than limits that are forever changing; yesterday it was “no,” today “yes”…

Cardinal Pie, even in his day, said that we do not know how to forbid things to our children. We are afraid to oppose their whims; we are afraid to restrict or to ban. Our teens (and even younger children), for example, are allowed access to the Internet, and that, more dangerously, while alone; they have their Facebook account; they watch DVDs with no supervision. They are permitted to date at an age at which they have no right to, sometimes even before they have graduated from school. They are given use of a personal cell phone. The list goes on… Why are these things a problem? Why should parents forbid these things? Firstly, because the teenager has little control over his passions yet, so by these things we put him into occasions of sin. Secondly, because the new means of communication mentioned leave the parent with no control over what the child does or who he connects with. By putting the teenager in these and like situations, the educator in practice not only contradicts Catholic faith and Catholic moral teaching, but also leads the young person to uncontrolled habits from which he may suffer his whole life. How can we wonder that so many people today are the slaves of bad habit, when for so few the passions were regulated in their youth?

But, “Which planet are you from, Father?” some may say. “Our children need to be skilled with computers to compete in the professional worldThey will get married one day,” and so on. No, what our children really need is help to become authentic men and women—adults able to use their mind and willpower properly, able to control their passions; human beings elevated by grace and capable of following Our Lord Jesus Christ. Even non-Christian experts warn against the danger the modern social media pose to children. Yet, we tend to remain blind to that danger, or more precisely, we just do not want to say no; we don’t want the bother of watching, forbidding, fighting the battles that must be fought.

The next point, on this theme of the teenage years, is the fact that the teenager needs to be pushed. It is one thing to establish clear limits; it is equally necessary to see that the teenager looks for great achievement, aims for the Christian ideal. The teen needs to fulfill his duties, which firstly means his academic studies, and in this regard he needs to be encouraged and fortified. But he also needs other activities: sports, music and art, good literature, helping with the needs of the Church, involvement in parish activities… Keeping the teen occupied with worthy endeavors goes far in keeping him out of trouble, and provides many an opportunity for growth of character and confidence. He cannot be permitted to indulge in a laziness that simply follows the whim of the moment or the path of least resistance.

We must lastly emphasize the importance of the sacraments. Education prepares the ground so God may inhabit the soul, brings the soul to God and opens it to God so that He may sanctify it; the educator gives the child the tools he needs to save his soul. This work of sanctification being a supernatural one, recourse to the sacraments, the primary means of grace, is essential. The teenager, therefore, must receive the sacraments frequently; he must go to Confession regularly, and this is especially important for the boys. The role of parents in this regard is to discreetly provide sufficient opportunities for these avenues of grace. This is especially true with regard to confession, which requires a special effort—getting to Mass early, or staying after when confessions are being heard... The parents can lead also by their own frequentation of the sacraments–what a great example, when a father takes his sons to confession, and is himself the first in line! We must be careful, however. The parents’ sphere of action is limited: they must give a good example and provide the necessary opportunities, but they cannot force a free soul. It is a very delicate matter. No one can force a person to receive the sacraments, and especially not Holy Communion. To put pressure on a child to go to communion can easily lead to hypocrisy, scruples of conscience, or even sacrilege. The danger is grave, and that is why a parent or teacher who is worried about a child not receiving the sacraments should go to the priest about it, but should never question or pressure the child. To do so is to risk pushing him to sacrilegious confessions or communions, simply by his fear of being reprimanded.

A parent, then, must lead by example; he is the child’s model at every age, and continues to be so even when the child is grown. Example always speaks louder than anything a parent might say. Nevertheless, there is still one more important parental duty: to pray for one’s children. Whatever their age, their situation, their faults… pray for them. “Should a man lose the spirit of prayer, he will find it again in his realization of his son’s need,” says Cardinal Pie. Every day until the end of this life, the father and mother should pray for their children: asking God to help them in educating them, begging forgiveness for mistakes in raising them, pleading on their behalf, begging pardon for their sins… The prayers of a father and mother are powerful; they will bear great fruit both in this life and in the life to come.

With my prayers and blessing in the Immaculate Heart of Mary,

Fr. Arnaud Rostand

 

 
 

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