Parents need to realise that they are not the only ones involved in bringing new life into the world. They simply co-operate with God in this amazing venture.
The parents provide everything material (the body), while God infuses the soul at the moment of conception. Also, parents do not give themselves the power to be able to produce a new human body either – ultimately, they have also received this from God, who created everything.
As a result, children are actually ‘on loan’ to parents. God is the real owner of their children. He gives them to parents so that they will look after them and bring them to the goal which He has created them for. Parents, then, need to know what this goal is before they can even think of raising children. Because, if you don’t know where you’re going, chances are you won’t get there!
So, what is the goal that God has given to all human beings? Ultimately, this goal is happiness together with Him in heaven. The Catechism tells us: ‘God created me to know Him, love Him and serve Him in this life, and by this means to be happy forever with Him in the next’. So, it’s quite simple: the most important duty of parents is to make sure that their children acquire everything they need to be able to make it to heaven. If they accomplish this duty, they have succeeded. If they do not accomplish this duty, then they have failed. ‘For, what does it matter if a man gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of His soul’.
But, how can parents accomplish this duty? It’s difficult to summarise in such a short space, but ultimately, they can accomplish it simply by a good Catholic education. This means making sure that the children grow up as faithful members of the Church, going often to the sacraments, especially Confession and Holy Communion. It also means ensuring that the children know and understand the teaching of the Church, passing on to them the main Truths of the Faith from a very early age, so that they are as familiar with God their Father as they are with the air they breathe. The parents must also train their children to be virtuous – in other words, make sure that they acquire good habits and stamp out bad ones from the very beginning. Education of children starts very young. Parents should not wait. Original Sin has left its mark on all of us and it will not wait.
But, parents must also remember that, even though their children are destined for heaven, they are not angels – they are human beings! God has given us human nature, and we must respect this as part of His plan for us. Grace does not destroy nature! So, part of the job of training children to make it to heaven is training them to simply be good human beings. This means that parents must prepare their children to take their place in human society. One day their children may be nuns, priests or even bishops … but they may also be doctors or nurses or teachers or engineers or carpenters. They will be the leaders of human society and parents need to make sure that they receive everything which they will require to carry out these roles to the best of their ability.
Educating children to be good members of the Church (future citizens of heaven) and good members of human society are not goals which are opposed to one another. They are complementary. Of course, it is more important to make it to heaven than it is to be a good doctor. But being a good doctor, using the talents which God has given for the good of the weak and the sick, is one way of getting to heaven. A good doctor does not love and serve God, and then cure his patients. He loves and serves God while curing his patients!