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Becoming ‘The First Educators’ of our children

Seeing the need for a renewal of Catholic culture in families and society, and desiring to fulfill their vocations in the process, six dads from St. Mary’s Parish in Littleton set out to implement the great treasures of Catholic thought in their own families, and help other families do the same, through a series of monthly talks titled “The First Educators,” which began Sept. 14 and will continue through October and November.

The Catechism states that parents “have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule.” Thus, they create a home “well suited for education in the virtues” (CCC 2223). They have the “privilege” of evangelizing their children and should educate them in the faith from the children’s “earliest years” (CCC 2225-2226).

“We started asking questions about how we can make our kids’ formation more authentically Catholic, where we fit into that, how we fulfill our vocation as parents, and how we can harness the power that we have on our God-given role,” said Bryce Carson, once of the six organizers, parishioner at St. Mary’s, husband and father of five. “We were also looking at what the future looks like in terms of middle school and high school … It’s easy to get critical about whatever schooling option you are part of, but, what are we doing in our own home to really fulfill our role as first educators of our children?”

Supported by their wives and the Disciples of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, the Madrid-based religious congregation at St. Mary’s Parish, the six men — Bryce Carson, David Holman, Ashely Lessard, Tim Truckenbrod, Tyler Kolden and Chris Meyer — put together a series of talks with world-class speakers to help parents obtain practical strategies to raise saints in today’s culture and maximize their role in their kids’ education, teaching them to love the pursuit of love and virtue, as stated on their website, thefirsteducators.com.

“We’ve had great help from our wives and the Disciples, [who] have fostered this. They’ve met with us, they’ve hosted us and also pressed us spiritually and intellectually on what does this look like and who is our audience,” said Holman. “[Although], most immediately, the fruits of this project will be intangible, I think parents reading to their children, parents maybe teaching catechism to their kids and leading an active prayer life, will help parents begin educating their kids in an authentically Catholic way.”

“I’d like to see the highest principles of the Church — philosophical, theological — translated into practical things that we do in our homes,” Carson added, “whether that is prayer or reading aloud great works of literature at an appropriate level, listening to music and performing music in our own home — just things to make our home more beautiful and reflective to Christ in our family.”

Handing down an authentic education

Christopher Check, President of Catholic Answers, initiated the series Sept. 14 with a talk that centered on the meaning and purpose of true education and the role of storytelling in the process of its communication.

Quoting Father Edward Leen’s book What is True Education?, Check said: “A man is educated when he understands human experience as the Divine Author of human experience understands it. When he appreciates the beauty that comes from the Creative Mind and Supreme Artist, he’s better educated. When he can express with reverence and eloquence the truth and unity of the beauty he has grasped, he’s highly educated.”

“In other words, the purpose of education is a human person who understands his relationship with his Creator and the unity with his Creator that he seeks. Everything else is in the service of this end,” Check explained.

“There is no proper understanding of education outside of the context of the Incarnation or, as Pope Pius XII puts it in Divini Illius Magistri, ‘There is no education that is not Christian education,’” Check continued.

The purpose of education is a human person who understands his relationship with his Creator and the unity with his Creator that he seeks. Everything else is in the service of this end.”

This is because all things, even non-Biblical works of literature and history, such as those of the Greeks, are part of salvation history, since all things were tending to the Incarnation and, after the Incarnation, all things come from it, Check assured.

Thus, the great classic works of the West, which served as pillars of the same civilization, allow Catholics to understand who they are as heirs and citizens of the West, citizens of Christendom, by grasping the rays of truth about morality and the human person that were in its foundation, he explained.

The stories that shaped the West are also key in the education of the next generation and its virtues, Check continued. Storytelling itself helps a kid not only to understand a concept or virtue but to embody it. Check also emphasized the importance of literature, art, music and poetry in an authentic education, for they all are key to achieving its end.

Practical insights

Check concluded by giving parents a few tips as to how to provide an authentic education for their children.

He said the first step was to “turn off the noise,” which would allow parents to be more present at home.

Secondly, he encouraged parents to “guide the love and practice of reading, silence, study and meditation” for their children.

Thirdly, he encouraged them to engage in “thoughtful” family conversations that touched on these topics.

Furthermore, he said that “pulling out the guitar” and practicing poetry by praying the Divine Office were other ways of handing down an authentic education to their children.

Check urged parents not to be discouraged by the difficulty of providing this type of education for their children in our society. “There’s a lot of ground to recover,” he told the Denver Catholic. Nonetheless, he says the best way to accomplish it is to look for a community with the same goal, for education is meant to be communal.

“I hope that parents are inspired to lead, that they take an active leadership role and show their children that leadership even if they are sending them to school or using a home-schooling program,” Holman said. “To the extent that both the father and the mother together can pursue an authentically Catholic education for the kids, kids are going to see that… That’s the only way we’re going to turn this culture around — it’s by starting in our own families and building that beautiful Catholic culture at home, and the best way to do that is through education.”

“I would really encourage people to come to the next event, we have amazing speakers here. We are incredibly blessed to have Rich Moss come next month and he’s going to get into more of the practical side of things,” Carson concluded. “I think that’s what our speakers are really going to focus on that is useful to parents. It’s taking those high-level principles and turning them to practice.”

The First Educators Series

Oct. 19:     Rich Moss – The role of technology in our homes

Nov. 17:    Dr. Andrew Seeley – Directing the education of our children

To RSVP, visit thefirsteducators.com

Vladimir Mauricio-Perez
Vladimir is the editor of El Pueblo Católico and a contributing writer for Denver Catholic.
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