Saturday, October 23, 2010
MY LETTER TO OUR SCHOOL CHILDREN'S PARENTS
I don't know about the parish you attend, but in my parish both with some of our school parents and parents of our CCD children, there is a failure to bring their children to Mass every Sunday. It is a sad malaise! I believe it to be a part of the causality we have been discussing in the previous posted blogs. We haven't handed on our Catholic principles and moral perspective as we should have. People have lost a sense of sin, altruism, and authentic love for God when they absent themselves from Sunday Mass and the other sacraments of the Church.
So, hot off the press, I copy to you the letter that I am writing for our school's November newsletter. You are seeing it before them! What do you think?
The proper Christian moral development of a child will remain with them for the rest of their lives. Psychologists tell us that the first stage of moral development is the law and order stage. Rules are to be followed and punishment for failure to follow the rules will occur. Most children until their teenage years are in this stage. Rules are made clear and just punishments for breaking rules must be clear also.
Later, as we mature, the next stages of moral development should lead us to internalize these rules, follow them altruistically out of love for God and neighbor. In other words, we are capable of doing good and avoiding evil not just from the point of view of the consequences of punishment that follow if we break the rules.
As we advance in our moral development, we never eliminate an earlier stage, but build upon it. Sometimes in difficult situations in moral choices we might have to revert to an earlier stage, doing the right thing based on rules and out of the fear of punishment.
For example, we teach our Catholic children that it is a mortal sin to miss Mass on Sunday. We’ve taught that from time in eternity! We teach them that a mortal sin is a serious offense against God. To avoid punishment, we must repent of our sins, confess them to a priest, and receive penance and absolution and avoid the sin in the future. Failure to do this could result in eternal punishment if one dies unrepentant.
We teach our elementary school children that if their parents are not bringing them to Mass as they should, which is a very serious obligation every Sunday of the year as well as Holy Days of Obligation, that the mortal sin is not theirs, but their parents. We encourage them to beg their parents to take them to Mass every Sunday if this is not occurring in their Christian home.
So I ask you parents reading this. What stage are you in your moral development and Christian pilgrimage? Have you abandoned even the first stage for something bogus in terms of moral decision making or are you making progress in maturing in your moral decision making and teaching your children by word and example to progress as well?
The highest form of moral development in terms of Mass attendance and all other forms of Christianity is to do what needs to be done out of love for God rather than fear of damnation. But evidently, many people have a corrupt understanding of love, not only for God but for others. It is far from altruistic and other oriented. It is narcissistic. In these cases, one’s skewed understanding of love corrupts one’s moral decision making. It is intrinsically flawed. Therefore one is incapable of making moral decisions solely out of love for God and must resort to fear of hell in making the right decision.
The traditional “Act of Contrition” is very wise in acknowledging the corrupt motives of the confessing sinner:
O MY GOD, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell; but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to confess my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life. Amen.
Attend Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation with your children. Hopefully you will do so out of love for God but if that doesn’t work for you, dreading the loss of heaven and the pains of hell is a great motivator as well.
God bless you.
Father Allan J. McDonald