Your “Most Solemn Obligation”

by Katie Warner | July 27, 2017 12:04 am

Without question, parents are the primary influence on the faith lives of their children. Study after study shows that when parents are strong spiritual leaders, and when fathers—yes, dads in particular—teach and witness the faith to their children, the kids are far more likely to grow up and live faithful lives themselves.

What kind of role do you want the Catholic faith to play in the lives of your grown children? That’s the kind of role that faith should be playing in your life right now. You are the primary educators of your children—not the pastor, not the youth minister, not the Sunday school catechist, Confirmation coordinator or Catholic school theology teacher. You and your spouse have the privilege and the responsibility to teach your children about their Christian faith, which also requires that you continually learn about it yourself.

Familiaris Consortio is abundantly clear about the role of parents in educating their children: “Since parents have conferred life on their children, they have a most solemn obligation to educate their offspring. Hence, parents must be acknowledged as the first and foremost educators of their children. Their role as educators is so decisive that scarcely anything can compensate for their failure in it. For it devolves on parents to create a family atmosphere so animated with love and reverence for God and others that a well-rounded personal and social development will be fostered among the children. Hence, the family is the first school of those social virtues which every society needs” (FC 36). I love how loaded this paragraph is with insight into how strong of an impact that parents, the spiritual leaders of the family, have on their children’s education:

When it is so easy to get caught up in worry over the grades our children have, what accomplishments they accumulate or extra-curricular activities they engage in, what colleges they will go to or what careers they will pursue, we must be reminded that education is first and foremost an endeavor aimed at learning how to live life well, how to exercise one’s fullest potential as a human person, created in the image and likeness of God. With effort and over time, our job as parents and spiritual leaders of the family is to ensure that home life becomes an ideal environment for raising saints.

Editor’s Note: This article is adapted from Katie Warner’s book, Head and Heart: Becoming Spiritual Leaders for Your Family (Emmaus Road Publishing, August 2015), with permission of the author and Emmaus Road Publishing. 

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