By EDMUND ADAMUS, Director, Office of Marriage and Family Life – Diocese of Westminster
Yes it’s that time of year where little by little, many households are a hive of activity preparing for a return to schools, colleges and institutions of learning. But as this tsunami of new, yet familiar, demands sweeps over us, let’s not forget that ultimately the home is tasked and graced to be THE school of many things: It’s a school of love, faith, virtues, humanity, dignity, communion, fraternity, hospitality, friendship, moral courage, frugality but abundance (not wanton luxury) when appropriate, elegance, joy and above all sacrifice.
The Holy Father’s awareness of this capacity to juggle many things in his audience last week is encouraging.
We know well that family time is a complicated and crowded time, busy and preoccupied. There is always little, there is never enough, there are so many things to do. One who has a family soon learns to solve an equation that not even the great mathematicians know how to solve: within 24 hours they make twice that many. There are mothers and fathers who could win the Nobel Prize for this. Out of 24 hours they make 48: I don’t know how they do it but they get on and do it. There is so much work in a family.
Indeed it’s worth reading the whole audience especially for what he says about mothers teaching little ones to pray.
And as I have said before, the role of the simple unadulterated wisdom of the young ones in steering this sacred space and place of educational experience must never be taken for granted nor underestimated. We can (we know) learn so much, often profound things, from children and adolescents, if not always by their words then often by observing their actions. This week, the news has seen children at the heart of the headlines, not least the devastatingly heartbreaking images of the mortal remains of children washed up on a shore of a country that is not even their homeland. God knows what the solution can be to this appalling situation of migrant and refugee families banging on the doors of Europe, but we know there’s no solution without prayer – and lots of it.
There are refugees of another kind too. Spiritual and moral ones, desperately seeking love in the wrong way and the wrong places. Here at home in Britain we see the damaging impact of the dangers of so called ‘sexting’ by young people to one another. I am appalled when this sort of thing happens despite it’s frequency, and my anxiety about it is compounded when the reaction of the parents concerned almost attempt to brush it off with phrases like, “At worst he was just being a teenager.” Is that how little we think of our adolescents, especially boys? Just young developing humans with base sexual instincts that can’t be controlled or channelled to service and love?
As philosopher Roger Scruton so wisely puts it, “the problem remains for the majority of teenagers, who are left to their own devices, which turn out to be the vices of their devices”.
Thank God that, just occasionally, one’s faith in the capax Dei of young people to fully reflect the Imago Dei (image and likeness of God within them) is restored. Only yesterday a friend of mine who has a teenage son said she was delighted to receive the following text from him on his first day back at his school: “We’re allowed to use our phones in the old building outside of lessons. It feels weird, like it’s against the natural law.”
God bless him, I say, for that is knowing that modern gadgets are less and less our servants and more and more our masters – such intuitive faith-filled wisdom and, one might say, infused knowledge. Such spiritual alertness doesn’t come overnight but from years and years of learning the faith and love for God first from the knee and then from the continued embrace of a devoted Christian parent.
This column originally appeared as Edmund’s Friday FAST on 4 September 2015, part of the Diocese of Westminster’s Office of Marriage and Family Life e-newsletter.