A number of years ago, I attended a meeting concerning the future of Cathedral Preparatory School and Seminary, colloquially called “Cathedral Prep”. At that time, Cathedral Prep had two campuses: one in Brooklyn and one in Queens. While a number of dioceses had similar institutions, they were all closing their doors. So the question arose on what should we do with our two Preps. One of the priests at the meeting said that we should close them since the boys were too young to make any decisions regarding their future. It was wrong, he said, to try to influence children who were so young.
I suddenly felt angry with this thought and responded quickly and a bit testily: “I would agree with you if you also banned the teenagers from watching TV, for it will not wait until they are adults to work its own formation!” I was angry because we were putting the true good of those young boys below the influence of the culture, which did not have his true good in mind.
We have a very virulent, attractive and powerful secular culture that will stop at nothing to influence our children, all for material gain. Other cultures in the world fear this power; it steals into their countries with our music, our movies, and our self-centered obsessions and completely undercuts their culture.
Parents who do not take seriously their need to protect their children from the nefarious influence of our secular culture are failing in a primary aspect of their role as generators of new life that is eternal in nature. For these children will last but a hundred years in this life and eternally, for good or ill, in the transformed life to come. The secular culture, while having many vestiges still of a God-centered culture, is truly demonic in nature. To refuse the protection of the Sacraments (we forget that in the Baptismal rite there is a minor Exorcism performed to protect the child!) and the compass of the teachings of Christ in the whole Judeo-Christian enterprise is to endanger the eternal welfare of their children. What good parent would agree to such an abandonment of parental responsibility!
Their child will be subject to watching a screen, often referred to as a ‘black mirror’, for endless hours a day. Think of it: TVs, computers, iPads, cellphones, etc. —all screens propagating a materialistic, nihilistic, relativist universe devoid of any ultimate meaning. Keep that in mind when a parent says, “I will not have my child Baptized. I will let them choose for themselves when they are adults.”
Then you add to that trend another two: not marrying with God’s blessing in Church, nor having a proper Funeral Mass at earthly death. Now you can begin to see what everlasting harm is being done.
Abandonment of religion often is abandonment of God.
Parents have a special direct responsibility to God to take care of the children God sends. To neglect the most important element of that care—I am speaking of the spiritual-religious (both are essential!)—is to take away the virtue of hope from the child. Is it any wonder that, in spite of all that a child has in this rich country, there are so many suicides among our youngsters? What are we giving to them? Perhaps a future full of things and lacking in what is the most important: purpose, meaning and the blessing of God.
It is a frightening fact that this culture is very subversive, attractive and powerful. Even when parents do all in their power to raise their children as good Catholics (i.e. they go to Church with them, they send them to the best Catholic Schools and Universities, and do everything to model real Catholicism), even then the culture can grab them and cause great harm. The fear that some modern parents have of taking away the free choice of their adult children is basically groundless. They can still choose otherwise and sometimes do.
This is a painful experience for parents who have done all they could and still find their children walking away from the faith, oblivious of the harm they are inflicting on themselves. Parents in this situation can only keep praying for their children and allowing the grace of God to slowly bring them back. I believe that the prayers of such parents are powerful indeed.