On the Christian Training of Children - Early Ages
Taken from the Book “Mother’s Love” 1951 Edition.
As soon as the Christian Mother becomes aware that a new being has been engendered in her womb through the power of God, she should immediately offer it up to God, and again and again commend it to His fatherly care and protection in aspirations and words which her own mother-heart suggests. During the months of its development she must carefully avoid unwholesome food, undue exertion, and still more all passionate outbursts of impatience and anger, of grief and worry, of excessive sorrow and care. She must, moreover, refrain from vain and proud thoughts.
On the other hand, she should constantly strive to remain calm and unruffled in all adverse circumstances, foster a devout and contented disposition, pray earnestly, and receive the Holy Sacraments frequently and worthily; briefly, she should seek to be as she expects her child to be some day. All her troubles and pains and sufferings she should offer to God as so many means to draw down upon herself and her child heaven’s choicest blessings and graces, and she should gratefully acknowledge God’s goodness not only in joyous events but also in unpleasant and disagreeable affairs.
After the child’s birth she should look upon it as a gift of God and as His image, created for His greater honor and glory. She should consider herself as God’s agent to whom the child has been entrusted and, therefore, she should love it, watch over it, provide for it and protect it. All this should be done in a systematic manner and under the guidance of the moral teaching of Holy Church as well as the approved methods of pious and prominent educators.
The new-born child has at best a frail physical constitution and, if it were not tenderly cared for, it would soon become a victim of death. But its spiritual condition is even more delicate. In consequence of the original sin in which it is born, it is a child of wrath, and if it should die in that state, it would be forever deprived of the vision of God and of the incomprehensible happiness and bliss connected therewith. Surely, no truly Christian mother would endanger the eternal happiness of her child by letting it remain in this state of original sin even one day longer than is absolutely necessary. The first duty, then, of a Christian mother is to provide for the Baptism of her child within one week or, at least, within two weeks after its birth. The Baptism must take place in the church of the parish in which the parents live. A godfather and a godmother should be provided according to the instructions of the Church.
The godparents should be well-instructed in the rudiments of the Faith and also true to its practices, because before God and the Church, they take upon themselves, together with the parents, and second only to these, the responsibility for the Christian education of the child.
The choice of a name for the child is most dear to the mother’s heart. It may be her own or that of the father, of one of the sponsors, or of any other, provided it be the name of a saint whose life-story she knows, to whom she has a great devotion, and from whom she expects for the little newcomer every loving and powerful protection. She may look forward eagerly to the time when she will relate to her child the beautiful incidents in the life of its patron or patroness, and when she will tell of the love and care with which its powerful patron watches over all its footsteps.
Even now ardent ejaculations arise from the mother’s heart ejaculations which, later on, will form in the consecrated heart of the child and on its innocent lips those devout aspirations will pierce the clouds.
At the time of its birth or immediately thereafter the life of the child may be in danger. If such be the case, the mother should at once insist on the private Baptism of the child. The minister of the private Baptism may be the attending doctor or midwife or a relative or one of the attendants; but if none of these would know how to administer private Baptism, either the father or the mother should administer the sacrament.
The proper manner is the following: The one who baptizes should take ordinary water, pour it on the head of the child, and, while pouring it, should speak the words: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” If the child should recover, it should be taken to church as soon as advisable, to have the ceremonies of solemn Baptism supplied. The priest who performs the ceremony, should be informed of the previous private Baptism and also of the manner in which it was administered.
When the child has received holy Baptism, the first and most necessary thing has been accomplished; namely, the greatest evil that had befallen it has been removed, original sin has been removed, original sin has been washed away, and the wrath of Almighty God has been averted from another of Adam’s posterity. The young soul now shines with a lustre and beauty that make it more like an angel than a mortal. He may now raise his eyes to Jesus Christ and call Him his Friend, his Brother, and his Spouse. With Jesus’ lips and Jesus’ Heart and Jesus’ confidence, he may now call the Eternal Father his own dear Father, and himself His beloved child. He is now all this in perfect truth. Is there a dignity on earth to be compared with this? If emperors and kings had jurisdiction over the whole world, but were not in the state of grace, their honor, majesty, and glory would be far beneath, indeed, would be nothing in comparison with the dignity of this little child of God.
If the child, having received valid Baptism, dies before reaching the age of reason, before being capable of actual sin — it goes straight to heaven, there to praise God among the choirs of blessed spirits. The happiness secured to it for all eternity, no human tongue can express. The delights that earth can offer, the joys of the earthly paradise, all are nothing compared with the joy prepared by God for His chosen ones in heaven. The difference between the former and the latter is far wider, far greater than that existing between a drop of water and the vast ocean, a ray of sunshine and the sun itself.
Whether the child be living or dead, the Christian mother does not neglect, on making her first visit to church, to beg the priest to church her. In either case she owes God thanks for protection and deliverance from greater danger; and she cannot offer thanksgiving more pleasing to God than that which the priest utters over her in the name of the Church. If the child is living, there rests upon her the responsibility of providing for its temporal and eternal welfare. Her first outing should be to the church.
The priest sprinkles her with holy water and presents her with a lighted candle as a symbol of the good example which a Christian and a Catholic, and still more a Christian mother, should give her child and her entire family. The priest’s stole is then laid on her hand, because the treasures of salvation which the Church holds for her and her child, are to be dispensed to her by the hand and the power of the priest. The priest offers prayers of thanksgiving for her and her child, and ends with other prayers, blessings, and sprinkling with holy water. A Christian mother will esteem as most important this touching ceremony instituted by the Church for her alone, and which every priest will, at her request, consider it his duty to perform. Much is contained in it for her and for the child.