Because of specific sins in us - internal laziness, or fear, inattention, uncertainty, and avoidance - we end up neglecting the upbringing of our children.

We are busy, we feel stressed, we want to relax, we want to be liked, and our cares affect our attention to and loving correction of our own children. They’ll hate us for going against their will, at least for the moment. We hold a different standard than their friends’ parents or their school; so what will they all think of us? But consider…it’s our duty before God to raise them and to teach them to love God and their neighbor. They need our help even if they don’t like it for now.

Here is an educational story from the Dialogues of St. Gregory the Great that will help to wake us up as parents to our vital work. St. Gregory begins:

“Even though we must believe that all baptized children who die in their infancy go to heaven, we should not suppose that all children, once they have learned how to speak, will enter the kingdom of heaven; sometimes parents close the gates of heaven against their own children by not giving then proper upbringing.

For example, about three years ago, there was a man here at Rome well known to all. He had a son about five years old. Because of an all too human affection, the father was remiss in training the child. As a result, this little boy used to blaspheme the infinite majesty of God whenever anything did not go according to his wishes. A lamentable fact, indeed. During the pestilence three years ago, the boy became deathly sick. In order to quiet him, the anxious father, held him in his arms, but the boy, as eye-witnesses tell me, seeing the evil-spirits coming at him, hid his terror-stricken face in his father’s arms and shouted, “Hold them back. Hold them back!” When his father asked him what he had seen to make him tremble so, the boy answered, “Devils were after me to take me away.” Then uttering a blaspheme, he died.

By allowing him to repeat with his dying breath the blasphemy which the father had failed to correct, God wished to call attention to the sin of neglect which delivered the boy into the hands of his executioners. It was God’s patience that allowed the boy to continue his blasphemies; it was an act of His supreme judgment that the boy should die with a blasphemy on his lips. The father recognized his sin. In neglecting the soul of his little son he had made him a sinner worthy of the fires of hell.” 1

Our children clearly need our attention to help nip manifestations of sin (wayward behavior) in the bud. It’s easier when they are young.

I saw parents walking with their three year old boy around a pond. Whenever they called to him to stop, he would run away. They laughed at his defiance as though it was cute in a three year old; but it won’t be funny when he is 7 or 9 years old or a teenager.

If our children are already grown and out of the house we might find that God gives us other opportunities to “do it right”. We appreciate the mature members who pay close attention to the children in our parish as if they were their own, who help out in our schools. Their zeal is born out of experience and sometimes their own repentance. They are showing us that raising children in the Lord is a holy vocation which will be a blessing to our souls.

1. Dialogues, St. Gregory the Great, transl. Odo John Zimmerman, OSB, Fathers of the Church, Inc. N.Y., 1959, p 212-213.