by Bl. John Paul II
If it is true that by giving life parents share in God’s creative work, it is also true that by raising their children they become sharers in his paternal and at the same time maternal way of teaching. According to Saint Paul, God’s fatherhood is the primordial model of all fatherhood and motherhood in the universe (cf. Eph 3:14-15), and of human motherhood and fatherhood in particular.
We have been completely instructed in God’s own way of teaching by the eternal Word of the Father who, by becoming man, revealed to man the authentic and integral greatness of his humanity, that is, being a child of God. In this way he also revealed the true meaning of human education.
Through Christ all education, within the family and outside of it, becomes part of God’s own saving pedagogy, which is addressed to individuals and families and culminates in the Paschal Mystery of the Lord’s Death and Resurrection. The “heart” of our redemption is the starting-point of every process of Christian education, which is likewise always an education to a full humanity.
Parents as Primary Educators
Parents are the first and most important educators of their own children, and they also possess a fundamental competence in this area: they are educators because they are parents. They share their educational mission with other individuals or institutions, such as the Church and the State. But the mission of education must always be carried out in accordance with a proper application of the principle of subsidiarity.
This implies the legitimacy and indeed the need of giving assistance to the parents, but finds its intrinsic and absolute limit in their prevailing right and their actual capabilities. The principle of subsidiarity is thus at the service of parental love, meeting the good of the family unit. For parents by themselves are not capable of satisfying every requirement of the whole process of raising children, especially in matters concerning their schooling and the entire gamut of socialization.
Subsidiarity thus complements paternal and maternal love and confirms its fundamental nature, inasmuch as all other participants in the process of education are only able to carry out their responsibilities in the name of the parents, with their consent and, to a certain degree, with their authorization.
The process of education ultimately leads to the phase of self-education, which occurs when the individual, after attaining an appropriate level of psycho-physical maturity, begins to “educate himself on his own”. In time, self-education goes beyond the earlier results achieved by the educational process, in which it continues to be rooted.
Excerpt from ‘Letter to Families’
Bl. Pope John Paul II, 2 February 1994
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