Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Secrets of Catholic Homeschooling

The secrets I will share with you in this message are not my secrets. In fact, they are not really secrets but simply common sense - the kind of which St. Thomas Aquinas would surely approve. After all, it was the Angelic Doctor who best explained the truth about human reason illuminated by the Catholic Faith.

Dr. William Marra (Bill to his many friends and acquaintances) was a faithful Catholic who gave all his God-given talents toward the continual setup and restoration of the Catholic City. For many years, he was a "regular" at Catholic homeschooling conferences sponsored by Seton Home Study and was an ardent promoter of the need to "Keep It Catholic" in education long before our "Keeping It Catholic" Network existed. A Catholic man of wit and humor, Bill Marra was one of the "pioneers" of what we used to call the "Catholic homeschooling movement." (I haven't heard that particular phrase in years, have you?)

Dr. Bill Marra's usual "lecture" theme was the restoration of Catholic culture - which naturally included Catholic education of the authentic kind. By authentic is meant the kind which follows the outlines of the encyclical, Divini Illius Magistri (On Christian Education of Youth, 1929) When speaking on the subject of Catholic home education, Bill would offer a brief, true yet humorous guideline for Catholic homeschooling parents, which he usually introduced along these lines:

You Can't Take It With You!
Everything God gave you or allowed you to have on this earth will be left behind when you die. There is only one thing you can take to heaven with you, and that is your children.

To that end, consider the following three steps to get your family to heaven:

1. Think of Hippocrates and His Oath for Physicians: Do No Harm.
By taking your children out of the secular humanistic culture, with which the public school system is permeated, you have achieved this step even if - as Bill Marra would quip - you have done nothing more than play cards all day.

(Note to the very serious minded: Bill's remark about "playing cards all day" was intended to be humorous and to alleviate stress for parents who worry when they can't accomplish all of their daily homeschool goals. I mention this because I sometimes hear from those who did not grasp Dr. Marra's wit. His remark should be taken with the spirit with which it was intended - as an over-exaggeration which some speakers make in order to drive home an important point, especially if they think members of their audience possess a healthy sense of humor.)

2. Lead to Heaven the Souls Entrusted to You
Surround your children with the culture of Christ. Supply - and use - Catholic music, books, and artwork. This step begins to lead your children toward Heaven.

3. As You have Time, Add Academics
Now that remark would usually bring forth a wave of laughter (or sometimes, a titter) across the audience, but let's be clear! In no way was Dr. Marra offering a blanket endorsement for laziness when it comes to providing your children a Catholic education at home. Nor was he proposing a host of outside activities which would eclipse academics. Dr. Marra was known to emphasize the restoration of Catholic culture, and - educated yet humble man that he was -Dr. Marra knew that Catholic education holds its place in that restoration.

What he was striving at was the absolute need for a total immersion into Catholic life at home so that it would be carried into the future regardless of worldly achievements or viewpoints. Dr. Marra would conclude this point about academics with the following reminder: "It is important to remember that it is better to have a son who may be employed as a trash collector but who is, first and foremost, a good, solid, practicing Catholic than a son who is a Harvard-educated lawyer damned to Hell."

Dr. Marra was right, of course. The Church teaches that the means of Catholic education is intended for one end: heaven.

God rest your soul, Bill, and may His perpetual light shine upon you. I remember you with fondness and respect, and I have always taken your good advice to heart. Thanks to God's grace and courageous Catholics like you, there is another generation who pray and work daily to "Keep the Faith" and "Keep It Catholic!"

(First posted January 19, 2005 to the original blog, Keeping It Catholic - with Marianna Bartold)

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