If Not Us, Then Who?
I’ve recently been conversing with other Catholic parents about the level of involvement we should have in pro-life and other moral issues. There seems to be a perception that, while the world is morally disintegrating before our very eyes, it isn’t wise for parents to play an active role in trying to reverse the dangerous trends that threaten our families. It seems some think that we are wise to be aware of the threats but unwise to expose them. And that spending time exposing the threats will necessarily be detrimental to our children.
I think we all know of mothers or fathers who have been too caught up in activity outside the family; some of us have experienced this as we grew up, or seen it in families who were close to us.
To me, this shows an imbalance which would perhaps not exist if an active prayer-life were practised by those parents. Perhaps there was also an emotional or psychological need being filled by an activity outside the home, which pointed to unhealthy relationships within the family. Such problems need to be acknowledged and addressed, but their existence does not necessarily mean that all activity by parents is unwise or unhealthy.
Advice from the Church
Here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about parental responsibilities:
- Parents are called not only to co-create children, but to educate them morally and spiritually, and to choose a suitable school for them, or to home-educate them (CCC 2221, 2229)
- Parents are called to respect their offspring as children of God and to teach them God’s law (CCC2222)
- Parents are called to show ‘tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity and disinterested service’ in their homes, to educate in the virtues and by their example of holiness, to discipline lovingly, to ‘subordinate the material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones. (CCC 2223)
- Parents are called to teach their children communal responsibilities and to avoid those evils that threaten society (CCC 2224)
- Parents are called to evangelise their children, to hand on the faith and to love the Church (CCC 2225)
- Parents are called to teach their children to pray and to discover God’s Will for their lives - their vocation - without exerting pressure to follow a path of the parent’s choosing, and also to become part of the life of their parish. (CCC 2226, 2230)
- Parents are expected to grow in holiness through the demands of family life (CCC 2227)
- Parents are called to provide for the physical and spiritual needs of their children, and as they grow, to help form their consciences. (CCC 2228)
Does being actively pro-life mean we can’t fulfil our parental duties?
As far as I can tell, being actively pro-life helps us perform our duties, rather than hinders us: our discussions about our work educate our children - in everything from moral theology and the virtues, to our legal and political systems. We help our children mature by including them in age-appropriate discussions about abortion, relationships and the real meaning of sexuality. We take them from this culture’s preoccupation with celebrities and gaming to the real world of morality and life-saving interventions. We pray with them for our pro-life, pro-family intentions and teach them the arguments they will need in the real world to defend marriage and life.
How Much is Too Much?
But, as we know, there must be a line that stops us from going too far with activism and compromising our ability to parent - so where exactly is that line? Here are a few things to consider:
- Are we regularly eating dinner together as a family?
- Do we usually attend Sunday Mass together?
- Is the household generally well-run and not chaotic?
- Are we spending time with each child individually and affirming them?
- Are we attempting to personally grow in holiness?
- If applicable, are we spending enough time with our spouses?
- Do we pray together regularly as a family?
- Are we getting adequate rest?
If we can answer the above questions with an affirmative, then our duties are most likely being fulfilled. Note that there is no requirement in the Catechism to have an immaculate home, a very active social life, or to be exposing our children to as many worldly pursuits as possible.
If not us, then who? If not now, then when?
There may have been a time when families could survive by being inward-looking, and by happily ignoring the outside world. But now is not that time.
We are living in war-time - we’re in a battle for our Christian culture. It is a moral war which has the threat of physical war attached to it. We no longer have the luxury of living insular lives, and of using our family life as an excuse for not getting involved in the fight.
If we who see the truth won’t fight, then who will?
If we don’t do it now, then when will it be the right time?