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Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

My dear encountered couples:

Happy times are here again - for parents. Summer vacation has ended. School bells are ringing. It is once again time for the very serious business of getting educated. For some this will be a new experience, for many it will be a continuation of what has already begun. As our Scripture readings say, “Eyes will be opened, ears will be cleared, tongues will be made so that they can speak plainly.” And let us hope - intelligently.

Education is something we can never get too much of, no matter how young or old we might be. To be able to read, to be able to write, to be able to count, multiply, and divide, to learn how to think and reason, these are wonderful skills. To gain knowledge of the world and the universe, history and geography, people and things, what can be more important?

THIS IS WHAT’S MORE IMPORTANT! To learn how to take all the knowledge we’ve been taught and use if for doing good and not bad! And this, I’m afraid, is often what many schools neglect to teach.

Knowledge that is given and received without a sense of morality accompanying the use of that knowledge can be more dangerous than an automobile driven by a blind man. Knowledge not used as God intends it to be used can be more deadly than an assault rifle in the hands of a madman. It is absolutely necessary that we learn the morally right way to use whatever it is that comes into our possession. And knowledge is one of those possessions.

Students must be taught how to use all their acquired knowledge in accordance with the will of God. They must be taught the ten commandments of God, the principles of Christ; they must become familiar with his Sermon on the Mount, with all his teachings if they are to be expected to know how to use their knowledge. God’s standards and values, God’s rules of right and wrong must become imbedded in the minds and consciences of all students, if anything they learn in school is ever to truly benefit them and the world. Many educated people have already, and still are, destroying themselves and the world with the misuse of their knowledge. Do your best to avoid that ever happening with your children.

With the high price of private schools, with the closing of many parish schools, more and more Catholic children are going to public schools - probably more than ever before in this country. That means that the burden of seeing to it that Catholic children learn the teachings of Christ fall more and more upon their parents. Extreme interpretations of Separation of Church and State have led to the policy of banning anything at all from our public schools that smacks of God.

Atheism seems to have taken over. Not only is prayer forbidden in public schools, so are also pictures, banners, slogans, and discussions of what is moral and immoral. It has gotten ridiculous. Let me give you an example:

In the early part of the summer ABC reported on its nightly television news about a youngster in kindergarten (or was it the first grade?). When the class was told to draw something, he drew a picture of a church.

The teacher, when she saw it, took it, tore it up, and threw it in the wastebasket, telling the child he was not allowed to draw pictures of God and churches.

Another teacher who was interviewed said he had the custom of keeping a Bible on his desk. He also had books on Mohammedism, Buddhism and the like. When the Bible was discovered by his superiors he was told he must get rid of it; it was not allowed in the classroom. Nothing was said about his getting rid of the books on the other world religions.

It is becoming increasingly evident that God who is Knowledge and Truth is no longer welcome in our public educational system. And the results of this practice are obvious. Many of the children of America are growing up without moral foundation. The rise in the crime rate among children is proof enough of this. We must not let that continue, at least not among our Catholic children.

What can you do? Do your best to see that your children, and if possible your grandchildren, not only attend the weekly, parish religion classes, but that Christ and his morals are spoken of, taught, and practiced at home. Children are gifts from God to be cared for and educated. And returned to him someday as close to the likeness of Christ as they can get. What they do with what you teach them after they leave home is their responsibility. But while they are with you, it is your responsibility to teach them how to love God and their neighbors. It is the parents’ responsibility to try to instill in their children a respect and love for themselves and their own worth. Besides the gift of life, knowledge of the teachings of Christ is the greatest gift you can give your children.

Let me say just one more thing in regard to that little boy whose teacher tore up his picture of the church. As can be expected his mother was furious about it. “Don’t worry, mother,” the little boy told her. “She can tear up the picture I drew, but she can’t tear out God from my heart.”

The school doors are now open to receive our children. Let us all do our best to see that the doors of heaven are also open for them. And while we’re at it, let’s make sure we enter with them. Let us all continue our education — in the knowledge and truths and morals of God.

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