SummaryAround this time every year, John Clark opines, we parents must make educational decisions for our children, decisions to bring our children closer to God.
“In the end, all that matters is the end.”
I recently attended a conference at Christendom College at which Rick Santorum, former U. S. Senator from Pennsylvania, gave an inspiring talk on fatherhood, marriage, and family and delivered these words.
He was recounting the heartbreaking story of his infant son dying just two hours after his premature birth. Santorum expressed that he knew that his son was going to Heaven, and “that was the most important thing for me as a father to be concerned about.”
Santorum’s words stayed with me over the next few days; my mind and soul kept coming back to them. And for some reason, another set of words also arrived at the forefront of my mind.
They are these: “No one man can carry this burden, I tell you. It is far too heavy. Saving their souls is too costly.” These were the words mouthed by the character of the devil in the movie, The Passion of The Christ.
At first, I wasn’t sure why these two seemingly unrelated things seemed so connected. But as I thought about them, it struck me that they provided a contrast—more than a contrast, they form a polar opposition. They are words of great encouragement versus words of great discouragement; they are words of profound hope versus words of profound despair.
It also struck me how they both relate to homeschooling.
All Catholic parents—by virtue of the sacrament of Matrimony—are called to educate their children, and they are granted a latitude in determining the best way to accomplish that education. In some way that is uniquely expressed by each person, many parents believe that the best way for their children and for their families is through homeschooling.
If a parent’s job is to help his child get to Heaven—if that is the most important goal in the end—then teaching them about the faith in the homeschooling environment is thought by them as the best and most wonderful choice.
Yet, as almost any homeschool veteran can attest, homeschooling can be quite difficult indeed. Homeschooling can be exhausting and discouraging. And I think that in these difficult moments, the devils tempt us with the thought of giving up, and they tempt us with the idea that homeschooling is too heavy a burden to carry.
For many families, there are great reasons to homeschool; for many families, there are great reasons not to homeschool. But whatever road we parents choose, whatever road we parents help our children choose, each of us must remember that it is about the end.
For many parents, we need to remind ourselves not only what the end is, but what it isn’t. In his Summa Theologica, Saint Thomas Aquinas helps us clarify our journey, listing eight things that are false ends—false perfect happinesses.
The first six false ends are wealth, honor, fame, power, bodily goods, and pleasure. In other words, these are all the things that the secular world might define as man’s ends.
Indeed, the modern cynic might look at this list and ask: What else is there? The “good of the soul” is the seventh false end but Thomas explains “that which constitutes happiness is something outside the soul.” The eighth false end is created goods. No created good can be man’s end.
The common denominator among these eight things is that while they might make us happy for a time—for fleeting moments—they all leave us wanting more.
What is our end then? What is perfect happiness? Saint Thomas writes: “Final and perfect happiness can consist in nothing else than the vision of the Divine Essence.” The “vision of the Divine Essence” leaves us in desire of nothing else and nothing more; there is nothing more than God. The vision of God makes us perpetually happy. That is our end. That is our children’s end.
Around this time every year, we parents must make educational decisions for our children. Whichever ones we make, we must stop and ask ourselves if those decisions are helping to bring our children closer to God.
I don’t have all the answers, and I certainly don’t have the sacramental graces to raise your children; my sacramental graces extend only to my own children. But for us, homeschooling has been part of the answer. It has been our response to the observation that “all that matters is the end.” It is to prepare them not for the end of earthly life, but for the beginning of eternal life.
In the end, all that matters is the beginning.