A Catholic Children’s Charter
have rights that adults do not have, and these rights come before the rights of
adults,". Janne Haaland Matlary, professor of political science
“I want my children to be normal!” wailed a Catholic friend. I did understand what she meant. I myself didn’t expect bringing up children as Catholics in our society to be so hard. However, I had taught in mainstream schools and experienced at close quarters the purposelessness that has become to be regarded as normal for the vast majority of children. It was not until the birth of our first child that I really faced the fact that if you want your children to grow up to be what our contemporary society regards as normal, all you have to do is to treat your prayer life as a private affair and sit back. You may then watch your children grow up to be good little materialists and rationalists. Their spiritual and emotional development will be stunted, they will feel a void in their lives and try to fill it with some addiction or other, whether physical or psychological; the results are all around us; frustration, emptiness and ultimately despair.
Our public life these days is full of “business plans” and “achievable targets”. No one would dare to attempt obtaining backing for a Company without setting out in detail what they planned to achieve by doing so and crucially how they planned to go about it. Yet, many of us stagger from day to day without asking ourselves what we need to do to fulfil that most important role; that of being a Catholic parent. So I began to read and to observe and after several years and a great deal of thought, I came to some conclusions.
In order to grow up in the Faith a child needs;
1) Parents who
a) Have themselves received thorough Catechesis on the basic tenets of the Faith and been well prepared for the Sacraments of Marriage and of Baptism of their children. This will mean that they have not just signed a declaration to say that a Priest has showed them the relevant section of the Catechism. Rather it will mean that that they have both read up about what is needed to live a married Christian and to bring up their children as Catholics and that they have really understood , discussed and agreed what this entails for them personally as a couple.
b) regularly receive the Sacraments, who not only pray but are seen to
pray and who are Christian role models to their children. Where one spouse is
not a Catholic that this spouse undertakes to provide respect and moral and
practical support to the Catholic spouse, in family prayer, in educating the
children and in helping keep the children happily and fruitfully engaged during
c) consider bringing up their children in the Faith to be a higher priority in their lives than material wealth or social success
d) spend time with their children, both whilst their children are freely playing with each other and also sometimes actively engaged with what their children are doing , becoming so involved at the child’s invitation
2) a Catholic home, in which one parent has primary responsibility for bringing about that order, peace and routine which is the context in which the Faith can flourish
3) the grace of Baptism
4) where ever possible, siblings and time to spend with them every day
5) A home in which prayer is part of the warp and weft of the fabric of family life, in which Christ is addressed as a valued, constant friend and in which children are encouraged on a daily basis to involve God in their daily lives by thanking Him, asking Him for help and by saying sorry to Him when things go wrong.
6) To be invited to become involved in the daily running of the home and so to develop those skills which this entails and the self confidence, feeling of freedom and sense of belonging that flows from such an involvement
7) To share at least one meal each day with their parents
8) To be allowed to take the physical risks involved in learning life skills such as cutting up fruit, washing up, climbing, riding a bike whilst being given the necessary adult modelling of skills which gives children the chance to learn them effectively
9) To receive respect for their physical self which enables them to realise that their bodies are a precious gift from God and a Tabernacle of the Holy Spirit
10) To learn about human reproduction from their parents who can set it for them firmly in the context of God’s love for us and His role in our creation
11) To be taken to Mass at least on Sundays and on Holy Days of Obligation
12) To be recognised as parishioners in their own right by their Parish Priest and their Parish community
13) Whilst at Mass, to be given the physical space and resources that they need appropriate to each stage of their development in order to develop a personal relationship with Christ, a relationship which develops alongside of their parents own relationship but which is, independent of their parents’ relationship with God.
14) To be included in Mass as part of the worshipping community just as are people of all other ages
15) To be prepared for the Sacrament of Penance and of Holy Communion in such a way that they are able to understand the awesome nature of t these and to discern for themselves whether they are truly ready to receive them.
16) To spend most of their waking hours whilst growing up in a Christian environment, whether this be the home, a Christian child-minder who takes her faith seriously enough to pray with her charges or a school in which prayer is a daily respectful reality and in which it is taught that it is better to love God than to win gold stars
17) To spend time each week with other same age Christians socially in a Christian environment
18) Other significant adult Christian role models in their lives
19) To have a variety of Saints (including Our Lady) presented to them as role models
20) active protection from the occult; to have it presented and explained to them as something they will encounter but which is very dangerous; to be taught strategies for dealing with it especially prayer
21) active protection from materialism; to be spared from the bombardment with advertising which unfettered leaves many children with impression that they are nothing at all unless they consume
22) to be protected from the great moral dangers which beset us whilst being given sufficient explanation, emotional and spiritual support and the structured choices that facilitate the development of a discerning judgement in spiritual and other matters
23) a variety and selection of books and other resources that help them find out about God’s creation and which present them with inspiring Christian role models
24) discussion of these books with an interested and well-informed parent
25) the time and space and peace at home to read good books, to pray and to reflect, free from noise and other intrusions and distractions
26) to be routinely involved with what their parents do especially at crucial moments in life such as birth and death and to have these set for them by their parents in the context of God’s love for us and His plan.
27) To receive such thorough preparation for the Sacrament of Confirmation that they will discern whether they are ready and to receive this Sacrament only when they are ready and personally willing to take on an adult Christian commitment.
I do not believe in cursing the darkness; darkness in our society has in any event far too much attention paid to it; it feeds and grows on such attention. Writing this Charter, has for me been the lighting of my candle. If it moves just one Bishop to start real in-depth Catechesis of candidates for First Holy Communion, Confirmation and for Marriage, it will have made a dream of mine come true. If it persuades just one couple to silence the chatter to pray each day with their children, I will be happy. If as a result of writing it, just one more child begins to say The Lord’s Prayer on a daily basis, it will have been richly worth the effort.
And you, dear reader, what will you do today to help free the children you know from the swirling maelstrom of materialism and relativism which surrounds them, to enable them to grow up to be truly normal, that is to discover the “Peace that passes all understanding”?
(mother, teacher and catechist)
Holy Spirit, Fill the Hearts of Your Faithful that we may set the world ablaze with your love.
For Pentecost 2007