And entering into the house, they found the child with Mary his Mother.--MATT. ii. 11.
Who (Joseph) arose, and took the child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.--MATT. ii. 21.

The Gospels which are read at this time pertain to the infancy of our Divine Saviour, and hence give us glimpses of the daily life of the Holy Family. There we see the tender solicitude which was exercised by the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph in caring for the infant needs of our Lord, and in protecting Him from danger. In this holy household, both at Bethlehem, and later on at Nazareth, we behold the model of the Christian family, an admirable example of the manner in which Christian parents should provide for and bring up their children.

I. Duties which parents owe to the temporal welfare of their children, 1. Parents are obliged to provide for their children's maintenance, i.e., food, lodging, clothing and medical care, such as are necessary for their health, happiness, and state of life. 2. Parents should so train and educate their children that, at the proper age, the children may know how and be able to earn their own living and choose some trade or profession for which they are suited. It is a gross injustice to children to put them out of the family circle into some public institution, unless strict necessity requires. 3. Parents should not show favoritism between their children, and should not disinherit them, except for gravest reasons.

II. Duties which parents owe to the spiritual welfare of their children, 1. Children should be baptized without delay, and from their earliest years must be instructed by their parents in their prayers, and the chief mysteries and duties of their religion. It is simply an evasion of duty on the part of parents to presume that children must learn these things at church and in the schoolroom, although parents, if possible, must also see that their children have the benefit of a Catholic school. 2. Parents should train their children in the practice of their religious duties and in piety, such as the saying of their morning and evening prayers, grace before and after meals, going to Mass on Sundays and Holydays, going to confession and Communion, and should inculcate, by word and example, right principles of conduct. It is important, however, that parents use good judgment and prudence in all these matters, so as not to disgust, or so unduly restrict and hamper their children that when the parental authority ceases, they will go to extremes in an opposite direction. 3. Parents should jealously guard their children from harm by studying their dispositions and keeping them away from bad books, companions, places, amusements, occasions, etc. 4. It is the duty of parent to correct the faults and bad manners of their children from their first years, since this is more easily accomplished in the beginning than later on. Corrections should be firm, neither too severe, nor too mild, and not more often administered than necessary, lest they lose their meaning and efficacy; they should be adapted to the circumstances of age, character, and the fault committed.

CONCLUSION, 1. As a rule children are an index of the home and parents. If the children are bad and ill trained it is a sign the parents are the same. Exceptions to this rule are very rare. 2. Parents are the makers of society for weal or woe. 3. The salvation of both parents and children depends largely on the home training. 4. If the Holy Family were made the model of the Christian families of today, how different would be the condition of society and of its individual members!

Catechism of the Council of Trent, Part III



As the law of God commands children to honor, obey, and respect their parents so are there reciprocal duties which parents owe to their children. Parents are obliged to bring up their children in the knowledge and practice of religion, to give them the best rules for the regulation of their lives; so that, instructed in the truths of religion, and prepared to make these truths the guiding principles of their conduct through life, they may preserve inviolate their fidelity to God, and serve Him in holiness. This duty is beautifully illustrated in the conduct of the parents of Susanna.(1)

The pastor, therefore, will admonish parents to be to their children guides in the virtues of justice, chastity, modesty, and holiness.


He will also admonish them to guard particularly against three things, in which they but too often transgress. In the first place, they are not by words or actions to exercise too much harshness towards their children. This is the instruction of St. Paul in his Epistle to the Colossians: "Fathers," he says, "provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged."(2) For there is danger that the spirit of the child may be broken, and he become abject and timid. Hence instead of indulging intemperate passion, the parent should reprove in the spirit of parental correction, not of revenge.

Should a fault be committed which requires reproof and chastisement, the parent should not, on the other hand, by undue indulgence, overlook its correction. Children are often spoiled by too much lenity and indulgence on the part of their parents. The pastor, therefore, will deter from such excessive mildness by the warning example of Heli, the high priest, who, on account of over indulgence to his sons, was visited with the heaviest chastisements.(3)

Finally, in the instruction and education of their children, let them not follow the pernicious example of many parents who propose to themselves aims that are unworthy. Many there are whose sole concern is to leave their children wealth, riches, an ample and splendid fortune; who encourage them not to piety and religion, or to honorable and virtuous pursuits, but to avarice, and an increase of wealth, and who, provided their children are rich and wealthy, are regardless of their good name and eternal salvation. Can anything more shameful be thought or expressed? Of such parents it is true to say, that instead of bequeathing wealth to their children, they leave them rather their own wickedness and crimes for an inheritance; and instead of conducting them to heaven, lead them to eternal perdition.

The pastor, therefore, will impress on the minds of parents salutary principles and will exhort them to imitate the virtuous example of Tobias, that having thus trained up their children to the service of God, and to holiness of life, they may, in turn, experience at their hands abundant fruit of filial affection, respect, and obedience.


Take this child and nurse him for me.--Exodus ii. 9.


On the placid surface of a mighty river hidden among the bulrushes and water-lilies, there lay a tiny boat in which a little babe of three months old lay quietly sleeping. Watchful eyes were near him, anxious hearts were beating for him, an agonized mother's prayers went up to heaven for him; but he all unconscious lay smiling in the sunshine. And suddenly there was a stir by the water's edge, and a procession of stately maidens, their tresses bound with lotus flowers, came down to the river side. And among them, the tallest and stateliest of the band, walked one with a royal circlet clasped around her brow, clad in vesture of imperial purple. It was the daughter of the great King, and the men in the harvest fields bowed low as she passed by.

She approached the water's edge, and her eyes rested with pleasure on the fair landscape, the mighty river slumbering in the sunshine, the clusters of palm tress, that rose tall and graceful on the banks, the lotus flowers lifting their pure white cups to heaven, the gorgeous temples carven with all the skill of Egypt, and on the horizon, across the golden sand the stately silhouettes of the pyramids. But surely something stirred amid the tall rushes at her feet. A little cry, faint and low, is heard. She looks again and her keen eyes make out the little boat of rushes. Her interest is at once aroused, she sends one of her maidens to draw it from the water, and at the sight of the lovely babe thus strangely rescued, her interest quickens into royal pity. She is childless, and long has she yearned for one to bear her name, for one upon whom she may lavish the wealth of love which is penned up in her woman's heart. She will take this child for her own; he shall be her adopted son, and she will thus save him from a cruel death, for she easily guesses that it is one of the Hebrew children condemned to die by her father's edict, and will also bring him up as the child of a princess should be brought up. But first she must find a nurse for him.

And now there timidly approaches a little Hebrew maid, who, hidden not far off has been a spectator of this strange scene. With beating heart she makes obeisance and asks timidly, "Shall I go and call to thee a Hebrew woman to nurse the babe?" The princess answers, "Go!" Oh, how eagerly, how breathlessly does that little maiden run to fetch the mother, the poor mother, who as a last resource of despair has thus exposed her babe upon the river, rather than see it slain before her eyes. She comes trembling; but the good princess receives her with a gracious smile. "Take this child," she says, "and nurse it for me!"

Picture the mother's astonishment and joy. She feared her babe was lost to her forever. With streaming eyes she had torn it from her breast and laid it on the bosom of the Nile, and now he is given back to her, and given her by the daughter of the great king himself.

"Take this child and nurse it for me?" For me? What! then it is not hers any more, it belongs to another?

Yes, the princess says, "it is mine, now, and you will take care of it for me, you will watch over it, you will bring it up for me. Remember its royal destiny. I have adopted this babe as my heir, you have to bring him up in such a way that some day he may take his place at my royal court, that he may be worthy to stand in the presence of the 'King.'"

Do you think, my brethren, that that poor mother would do her utmost to show her gratitude to her royal benefactress? Henceforth, this child would not be as the rest. She would remind him as he grew older, and she would ever remind herself of his royal destiny and his future state. Many things which might be tolerated in mere Hebrew peasant children, would not be worthy of one who was the adopted child of royalty. She would gaze upon him with awe as she thought of the high place in the king's court which he would one day fill. Her affection was mingled, if I may say so, with reverence, for this babe was no common child, it was the child of destiny, the inheritor of a kingdom.


My brethren, these things are a parable, and a parable whose meaning is not surely far to seek or hard to interpret. Every Christian parent is in truth in the position of that Hebrew mother, to whom the daughter of Pharaoh gave back the infant Moses.

For who is that royal lady but our holy mother, the Church, who takes the babe out of the waters of baptism and claims it henceforth for her own? It is true, she gives it back to her parents that they may bring it up; that she lays it on the mother's breast that she may nurse it; but at the same time she clearly tells them that they must bring it up, not for themselves, but for her, that they are but the guardians chosen by her, the true mother, that they must ever remember that the child she gives them is to be educated for a royal destiny, and is to be brought up as becomes the heir to a throne. "Take this child and nurse him for me," says the king's daughter, holy Mother Church, to the Christian mother. Take it as a precious deposit entrusted to your care, for which some day you will have to give account to me, to me and to the king.

And thus we see and understand, and oh, would that every one of us did see and did understand the duties and responsibilities of the Christian parent. Almighty God speaking by the Church, says in fact, to each Christian parent, as they stand at the baptismal font in which their babe has just been regenerated, new-born to a life of grace, "You have offered this child, the fruit of My blessing, to Me. I love it, and will henceforth be its true father and mother. Now, I lend it to you, but with the strictest obligation to bring it up for Me, and to restore it to Me in the same state as that in which I give it to you. I shall demand it of your hands some day again, and woe to you if you betray your trust. This child is now a child of God, a vessel of grace, a temple of the Holy Ghost, an heir of the kingdom of heaven, and it is your place to see that you bring it up for this high destiny. It is your duty to take care that it does not lose the great inheritance which I destine for it, that it does not grow up unworthy of the heavenly throne; woe to you, if, when I ask for it again, I find it no more mine, but the slave of my enemy, a vessel of sin, a brand for the eternal fire."


For, my brethren, let us remind ourselves of the undoubted fact that the souls of your children are in your power. Think, I beseech you, of the vastness of your obligation. Others share it in a less degree, of others too an account will be required--of the teacher of the school, of the confessor, the parish priest, the master or mistress, each will have to render an account, but how much more the parents! You have to bring up your children for God and Holy Church. They owe you life, but life is not sufficient. Oh, the brute beasts teach us in very truth a lesson here. Do they desert their little ones till they are full grown? Do they neglect to teach them what is necessary for them to fulfill the end for which God created them ? Only the ostrich "leaveth her eggs in the sand," and abandons her offspring, and of her it is said in Holy Writ: "She is hardened against her young ones as though they were not hers, because God hath deprived her of wisdom, neither hath He imparted to her understanding" (Job xxxix. 14).

But this is an exception in nature; we see the parent birds feeding their young ones in the nest, and teaching them how to spread their wings in flight. We see the hen, so timid as a rule, ruffle up her feathers and fight in defense of her chickens; we see her teaching them to seek their food and to run beneath the shelter of her wings when danger is nigh. The very beasts of prey love their offspring with a fierce affection, and die willingly in their defense.

Thus they nurse, feed, protect and assist their young, proving that this is a law planted in their hearts by nature. But how much more has man this duty--man whose offspring is born more feeble and defenseless than the young of animals or birds, and who need so much more time to come to perfection?

Indeed, as a rule, parents do not so greatly neglect the care of their children's bodies. Some sad cases, indeed, there are, of unnatural parents who ill-treat and neglect their little ones. But such cases, thank God, are rare among Catholics; and it is not of this that I wish to speak today.


For after all, what is the end for which your children, for which we all of us have been created? Is it to get on in the world, to obtain a good position, or to make a rich marriage, or save up a fortune? We. know from the catechism the answer of God's Church. "God made me to know Him and love Him and serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next." This then is the end for which we have to educate our children; we have in a word to bring them up for God. And it will not do for the parent to say, "Oh, I leave that to the priest or the schoolmaster!" No one can relieve him of this responsibility. None can supply the parents' place in this regard. Of what use are the exhortations of the priest, are the lessons of the school, if at home the child finds his parents neglecting those very sacred duties which he has been told are the most important of life? Who has not heard the sad remark of some little child: "Oh, yes, I go to Mass; but when I am grown up, I shan't go any more, like father." And yet so blind are parents that over and over again one has been told by a negligent Catholic: "It is true. Father, that I don't go often myself to Mass, but I always send the children." They do not go themselves, and the children soon learn to copy their example. Instead of going to church they play about the streets with unbelieving and vicious companions, and learn their lessons in the devil's school instead of in God's house. They well know that the careless parents will not find them out, for they will not be there themselves. And even if the child goes while still at school, as soon as it has left school, it too often leaves the Church as well, and the pastor's heart aches as he looks over the benches where they used to sit, and where he finds them now no more. Where are the Catholic young men and women of this great town today? How many of them have fulfilled their obligation to hearing Mass ? They are not found who return to give glory to God, save a small proportion, a faithful remnant.

And whose fault is it? I answer unhesitatingly: that of their parents.


I wish you, my dearest brethren, today, to ask yourselves: "Do I realize to the full my responsibility for the souls of my children ? Do I really strive to bring them up for God? Do I remember that they are a sacred deposit entrusted to me by the Almighty, a deposit for which I shall have to render a very strict account?"

St. Paul tells parents to bring up their children "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." "For this they are responsible," cries St. Chrysostom, but alas, how few think of it.

But at the Judgment Day, you will not be asked what fortune you left your children, or what position you were able to get for them, you will be asked if you have watched over their souls, if you have trained them for God. Alas! there are some parents who neglect this duty so frightfully, that it would seem that if they had been commanded by God under pain of eternal damnation to bring up their children for the devil, they could not have done more than they do now. Such parents as these, by evil example, draw their little ones down to hell. They impress upon those infant minds the lessons of a wicked world and a Godless age, they teach those little lips to blaspheme almost before they know how to pray, they inculcate on them the dishonest maxims of the world in order that they may get on well in life. They forget that if their children lose their immortal souls, they will hardly thank their parents much for the trouble they took for their worldly advancement. What shall we say of a mother, who, instead of watching over the innocence of her daughter teaches her to dress so as to attract attention, sows in her young mind the seeds of vanity and display, and brings her up with the idea that to get married is the end for which she was created? What of a father who takes his boy to the saloon, what of parents who let their children run wild in the streets ? What again of those Catholic parents who do not hesitate to send their children to a Protestant school, on the slightest pretext of convenience, to save a walk of half a mile, or because they have quarreled with the priest.

Others again will not hesitate to risk their children's souls at a Protestant middle-class or upper-class school, on the pretext that there is no Catholic school of the kind in the town, and that they cannot let them go to the parochial school. By this silly pride they expose their children's innocent souls to the most frightful perils. I am myself a convert, brought up in a Protestant public-school of the very highest name and reputation, and I do not hesitate to tell you that were I a parent, I would sooner see my sons dead before my eyes than send them to such a school of vice and immorality. True, it is that some pass unscathed through the flames and come out from them strengthened in character; but who would knowingly expose innocence to so terrible a trial? Some parents are like those of the blind man cured by Jesus. "We know this is our son, but who hath opened his eyes we know not."


A good parent must be Argus-eyed. He must be watchful over his children by day and night. He must see that they are trained in habits of implicit and unquestioning obedience, that the first signs of evil propensities be checked and corrected; he must not shrink from punishment where it is necessary, lest he incur the doom of the high priest Heli of whom God said, "I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knoweth, because his sons made themselves vile and he restrained them not." And why was this? Because he was foolishly fond and indulgent, because he would not correct or punish. The Christian parent dare not leave this duty to another. God has given him authority such as none other can exercise over the hearts of his children. A child's character is like wax or soft clay. At first you have no difficulty in moulding it as you will. If you neglect to do so the fault will be at your door, and the efforts of other teachers will be of little avail. I know that most of you are good parents who bring up your children like Queen Blanche, and the mother of St. Edmund did. God will reward you, and some day your children will rise up and call you blessed.



These words which I command thee shall be in thy heart, and thou shall tell them to thy children.--DEUT. vi.


Of all the responsibilities which life imposes on human beings there is none greater than that of parenthood. It is all the heavier, because it is mainly a responsibility to God, and only in a very minor degree to man. Within very wide limits, parents may bring up their children as they please; all that society requires of them is that they should provide sufficient maintenance for their children, and take some sort of precaution against their growing up in a state of complete illiteracy. But God requires much more of parents, or of those who take their place. The training of children is, from the Christian point of view, nothing less than a branch of what St. Chrysostom calls "the art of arts, the direction of souls." Of it the same Saint says: "What is a greater task than to guide the souls and mould the character of the young? I hold him a greater artist than any painter or sculptor who knows how to form the youthful mind." It is to this "art" that parents are called; and on the way in which they respond to this vocation the future, humanly speaking, of their children, and their own eternal welfare in great measure depends. Just as a well-fed and well-cared for child will normally grow up into a strong man or woman, so one that is trained in Christian duty, and nourished by divine grace will grow up into a well-principled and well-conducted Catholic; and on the other hand, just as a moment's neglect or carelessness on the part of nurse or parent may make of the child a life-long cripple, so a little neglect, even a thoughtless word or action, may cause a moral or spiritual deformity which may never be cured in this life, or even perhaps, in the life to come. The reason is, in the one case as in the other, that childhood and youth are the periods in which body and soul are plastic; as the years pass they harden, and never can wholly lose the impress they received at the beginning of life. It has been said that what is learned before the age of five is of greater importance than all that can be learned afterwards. Whether an age can be so precisely fixed or not may be doubtful; but it is at least certain that generally speaking the bent and character of adult life are determined in very great measure by the experiences of childhood. It is then that the ideas are assimilated and the habits of mind formed on which the child's whole outlook depends. Such ideas and habits make, as it were, the background on which all subsequently acquired knowledge is projected; they impart shape and color to all after-experience, and provide the terms in which it will be interpreted. In other words, it is the formation of the child's character that is the special province of parents; and this, it need hardly be said, is by far the most important part of the education it is the parents' duty to provide. For education, it must be remembered, is not the same thing as instruction, but is the "bringing out" of the latent powers of mind and body in their right proportions and due subordination to each other. Instruction is as a rule best delegated to those whose business it is to give it; but for the training of character the close and intimate contact, from the very beginning, of parents and children is of incomparably greater importance than any influence than can be exerted by the ablest of teachers. It is true that instruction is not without its effect on character, and that some amount of instruction is inseparable from any kind of training. But instruction is addressed primarily, if not solely, to the understanding; whereas character is formed by countless influences, which affect body, mind, will and affections all at once or in turn, and act in all directions, but make their way by obscure channels into the "depths of personality" itself.


The proper object, then, of parental or home training is above and before everything the formation of character--to habituate the child to right ways of thinking, believing and acting, so that they may become like instincts, never to be forgotten and hard to disobey. Such training will be a spring and inspiration of conduct through life, and in every possible situation. But here arises the question of detail; and it is here that serious difficulties really begin. Children are not all alike; they differ not only in sex and age, but in natural disposition and ability; they are naturally inclined to different virtues and different faults--some are forward and some are shy, some are demonstrative and others self-restrained, some are precocious and others are backward--no two are precisely alike in any one respect. Then, too, parents differ as much as children, and in the same ways; a line of conduct that comes natural and easy to one parent is practically impossible for another; moreover, the way in which children are brought up must depend to a considerable extent on their parents' worldly position and circumstances; and these again vary endlessly. Is it possible to lay down any rule or principle that can be of general application to such a variety of conditions? Certainly no scheme can be framed which will provide for every detail of circumstances and idiosyncrasy. Nevertheless there are certain general rules which if rightly applied will solve all the difficulties to which special circumstances can give rise. The first is that children must be individually studied in regard to their moral qualities, as well as in regard to their physical ones. Every decent mother studies her children's health; she takes precautions against the development of particular weaknesses and pre-dispositions to disease, and tries by all means to encourage the elements of strength in their constitutions. The same individual care and forethought are needed for their moral health; indeed, since the subject is more complex and more obscure, even greater care and more constant study are required.

In the next place, it must be remembered that the object of training is to make men and women. Children will not be children all their lives; and to aim simply at making them model children is to neglect the true purpose of education altogether. It has often been remarked that model children seldom turn out well in after life. The reason is that they have been taught how to be good children, but not how to be good men and women. If training is to be efficient, it must be adapted to the gradual growth of the child to maturity; it must provide opportunities and incentives for initiative, for self-reliance and enterprise, for perseverance and self-restraint, for courage and resolution in the face of difficulty and failure; and these things are as a rule learned only by making mistakes and correcting them. Children must be helped to learn gradually, as their age advances, to stand alone morally as well as physically, to solve their own difficulties, to make rules of conduct for themselves. They are like plants that must be "hardened off" before they are set in open ground; if they have to go straight from the hot-house of home to the garden-bed of the world, they will in all probability wither and die in the keener air.

Thirdly, it need scarcely be said that religion must hold the chief place as an influence in moral training. Children should learn, as soon as they can learn anything, to regard prayer and the Sacraments as the channels of grace and blessing; and the familiar and untechnical instruction in the elements of religion, which parents are evidently better able to give than anyone else, is the foundation on which all later knowledge of whatever kind will be most securely based. A child that has learned to know and love God is already prepared, as otherwise he cannot be, to understand rightly the teaching of life; and the earlier this knowledge and love can be implanted in him, the more thoroughly will they be absorbed and assimilated, and the less danger will there be of their eradication by the temptations, intellectual and moral, which must sooner or later be encountered. Children have as a rule a remarkable aptitude for religion, due no doubt to the absence of the corrupting influences of the world; and parents should take the earliest and fullest advantage possible of their receptivity in this respect. It is the greatest of all the privileges of parents that they have an opportunity which no one else has of leading their children at the earliest possible moment into the presence of God.


Lastly, a word must be said as to the methods to be adopted. These must of course vary indefinitely, according to the various temperaments and circumstances of children and parents. But there are some general considerations which should be carefully remembered. First, there must be authority; and consequently rules, which must be enforced if they are not to be worse than useless. Parental authority is of divine institution, and upon its recognition depends the recognition of all the other forms of authority which are more or less directly related to it. There is little prospect that an undutiful child will ever make a good Catholic or a good citizen. But, in the second place, parental authority must be evidently grounded on love. Home should not be like a school or an Institution; it is not impersonal law that should create the atmosphere of home, but personal affection. Parents have, as a rule (though not invariably), a natural affection for their offspring which they share with the lower animals. But in Catholic parents there must be also the supernatural love which alone is proof against domestic worry and anxiety, and is alone able to devote itself unselfishly to the child's welfare. Again, example is at least as important as precept. Children are exceedingly observant, and quick to draw practical conclusions. It is utterly useless for parents to teach their children a religion that they themselves neglect to practice, or to exhort them to kindness and forbearance if they are witnesses of constant bickerings between father and mother. "It is quite time for you to go to bed," said a mother to a reluctant child, "all the little chickens are gone to bed." "Yes, mother," said the child, "but the old hen has gone to bed too." In few things is it more important to be scrupulously careful than in the matter of truthfulness. Children should never be told lies, even on those subjects about which parents may feel unable to tell them the whole truth. An American mother once told her growing daughter that there was really no such person as Santa Klaus. "O mother," the child replied, "and is there no God either?" A child that can no longer believe its parents is like a ship that has lost its compass. Confidence is essential between parents and children; but it must not be forgotten that confidence cannot be forced, and is quite incompatible with fear. And in the difficult task that parents undertake God's help and direction are above all things needed, and must be specially sought by frequent and earnest prayer.

1. Dan. xiii. 3.
2. Col. Hi. 21.
3. I Kings ii. 3, 4.