The Australian Catholic Truth Society Record
May 20, 1953 (No. 520)
Fr J W Gleeson
RELIGION IN THE HOME
Religion must be a vital force in family life — something to be lived by all its members. If religion is regarded merely as a nuisance on Sunday mornings, or only as a subject for children at school, there can be no true religious life in the home. Have you ever thought of the consequences of this?
Perhaps we are inclined to think that delinquent or troublesome children only come from poor and neglected homes — from the sub-standard dwellings that form the slum areas of big cities — the houses; with broken windows and rickety doors and furniture—the houses where filth lies undisturbed and where dirty and shabbily clothed children are subjected to obvious immoral companionships and environment. From these houses we more or less take it for granted that there will be troublesome children coming forth—children who lack love and respect—respect for others, respect for the law. We are usually, though not always, correct in this judgement.
Unfortunately, however, with the decline of religion in public life, we have adopted an attitude of mind in which we think that, provided all the material needs of the children are satisfied, everything else is satisfactory for sound home life and training of children. Experience teaches us almost the opposite. If there is real love and respect in the home, it does not matter how poor that home is.
Let us consider a few examples from real life which have come to my notice.
The first was a case of over-indulgent parents. Their girl had been given a very expensive church schooling. When she reached the age of 18 years, she received a car for her own personal use and was allowed to go wherever she liked. Her parents, though nominally Christian, were in fact pagans, but good, "nice" people. The daughter, in spite of her respectable parents, on leaving school was soon in constant trouble with the law because of her immoral life and association with criminals. In other words, according to the common statement, "She had let her family down." But had she? They did not lift her up. They supplied everything on the material level, but nothing on the spiritual level. Now she is living solely on that material level on which, though admittedly in a more "respectable'' manner, her parents have lived.
Another is the case of a Catholic girl who always went to a convent school. Three months after she left school she dropped the practice of her religion. On investigation, it was found that there was absolutely no religious life whatsoever in her home. The parents did not attend Mass. In their home there were no private or family prayers, no reverence for God, no religious pictures; there was a picture of nudes in the front room. The girl afterwards lived with a married man and said, "I hate my parents." Yes—she hated the parents who gave her a Catholic schooling and all that went with it, but who did not give her a love of spiritual things; they did not give her a love of God and a respect for the laws of God and man.
These two examples happen to concern girls, but boys are concerned just as much, if not more. I could quote more examples but these two suffice to illustrate how important it is for parents to be .aware of their obligation to supply more than the material needs of their children. In other words, the home must provide a real and vigorous religious life, supported by the mutual love, respect, sympathy and understanding of parents and children.
Sometimes this parental concern comes too late. When one of the girls to whom I referred had reached the age of 18 years and had disgraced her parents, the father wanted to whip her. If perhaps he had used his discipline with love and respect when she was younger there would have been no occasion for severity later. But this particular father had been too indulgent all along. He had let the child do what she liked. When she satisfied her whims as a young woman, he did not appreciate it. But that was the way he had trained her.
THE ATTITUDE OF PARENTS