SummaryAt the heart of my parents’ decision…was the conviction that education is worthless when detached from the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
My parents’ decision to homeschool us was about much more than an education. It was about my parents providing us with a culture and an environment of faith and prayer, a school of discipleship in Christ.
The lives of the saints and the teachings of the Church were part of everyday conversations at home, and somehow my parents accomplished it all without being preachy or making it feel forced.
The fabric of the Faith was woven into the life and activities of the family.
Pictures and icons of Our Lord, the Blessed Mother, and the saints still hang throughout my family’s home, something most first-time visitors remark upon when they walk around the house.
When I was growing up, my parents always encouraged questions, especially about the life of faith. It was a priority for them that each of us understood and appreciated the Church’s union of faith and reason: “the two wings by which we fly to heaven,” as Pope St. John Paul II once put it.
This attitude of intellectual curiosity, coupled with a strong emphasis on prayer, made it natural to take seriously the life and words of Christ passed down to us in Scripture and Tradition.
Preparing the Soil
We were homeschooled in an environment open to a vocation. Mom had taken time to discern religious life when she was in college, and her brother, my uncle Father Stephen, was ordained a priest when I was ten years old.
My family’s life and the examples I received gave God acres of room to work within my heart. He was free to cultivate the desires He had given me from the beginning of my life.
All this is not to say that life at home was perfect or always ideal. Every family is a family of sinners in need of the Divine Mercy of God and the forgiveness of one another. There were times when the Baltimore Catechism became the enemy of my waking mind (I know why God made me! Why are you asking me again, mom?!) and the alarm to wake up for daily Mass was worthy of nothing but detestation.
My mom was a good teacher, but sometimes we did not finish the school year because every twenty months or so, she was sacrificing her body and energy to bring another life into the world. Schooling in all the subjects which make up the curriculum was important but not prioritized over the family’s sanity or life of faith.
The beauty and power of homeschooling are not found in the education itself. Rather, it is in placing the intellectual development of each child at the service of a deeper truth. The intellectual formation which parents cultivate in their children is at the service of formation in character, formation in prayer, and ultimately formation of disciples of Christ.
At the heart of my parents’ heroic decision to homeschool their children was the conviction that education is worthless when detached from the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
The Role of Parents
Many parents, even good Catholic parents, are worried their children might be called to the priesthood or religious life. They want them to experience the thrill of being in love, the joys of marriage, the gift of children, and the reward of owning the land you raise your family on.
These things are so good that it is easy to understand why mothers and fathers would be saddened that their son or daughter will not experience them. But it is not any parent’s job to be the architect of their children’s happiness (praise God!). Such a responsibility is far too heavy. God alone can ensure our fulfillment, both in this life and in the next.
Any vocation to the priesthood or religious life grows deep in the heart and is carefully fanned into flame by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit does this in His own time and in His own place, always for the good of the one in whom He is working. The role of parents, family, and friends is to encourage, to pray, and always to trust in God’s infinite kindness and goodness.
My vocation was received with joy, both by myself and my family, because we trusted that God wanted me to be happy and fulfilled in my service to Him.
Homeschooling allows God and His interests to be the driving force in the education and formation of each child. The information learned and mastered was subordinate to this larger picture, so entering a good university was secondary to living a life of prayer and the Sacraments.
Finding the Pearl
On the day of my diaconal ordination, the bishop thanked my parents for their role in cultivating my vocation.
I find I can only do the same, though words hardly suffice: Thank you, mom and dad, thank you for educating me, thank you for laying down your lives for me, thank you for never wavering in your support for my vocation and for teaching me to follow Christ Jesus down all roads and at all costs.
I have found the pearl of great price because my guides were those who heard the word of God and kept it in their hearts.