Our Catholic Church, more than two thousand years old, has always placed emphasis on evangelization, as Our Lord’s final words to His disciples were: “Go into the whole world and preach the Gospel to every creature.” For the Catholic family, evangelization begins in the home with the children. The Mission of Seton Home Study School is to help parents fulfill their mission to educate their children for eternal salvation, as well as to form good citizens in this world to influence others to live the Christian life.
Pope Pius XI wrote the encyclical Divini Illius Magistri, the classic education document which has directed the Catholic Church and Catholic schools since 1929. It was issued to all the leaders in the Church as well as the Catholic Faithful throughout the world, and has been quoted time and time again in subsequent papal documents.
In the first paragraph of that document, Pope Pius XI reminds us that Jesus Christ, while loving all mankind, had a special love for children. Suffer the little ones to come to Me; these words encourage the Church to give helpful advice to mothers and fathers as well as to teachers regarding the Christian education of children.
Seton Home Study School exists because we are committed to the education of Catholic children within their families. We are committed to the education for Catholic children being truly Catholic. We are committed to affirming and endorsing the rights and responsibilities of parents as upheld by the Church. The statements from Divini Illius Magistri cited below are essential to our mission and purpose of existence, and serve as the guideline for Seton Home Study School.
The whole work of education is necessarily and essentially connected between preparing man for what he must be eternally and what he must do here below to attain the eternal end for which he was created. There can be no true education which is not directed to man’s last end. Thus Christian education is of supreme importance for the individual, for families, and for all of human society. St. John Chrysostom said, “What greater work is there than training the mind and forming the habits of the young?”
Cardinal Arinze with Dr. Clark
Photo courtesy of Christendom College
Since Christ gave the mission of education to the Church, parents must give their children the proper education as directed by the Church. Christ conferred infallibility upon His Church, as well as the command to teach His doctrine. The Church has the right to decide what may help or hinder Christian education. With full rights from the Divine Master, the Church works for the salvation of souls by means of schools and other institutions, even adapting every branch of learning and culture to help Christian education. The Church has the right and the duty to watch over the education of her children.
“The family therefore holds directly from the Creator the mission and hence the right to educate the offspring, a right inalienable because inseparably joined to the strict obligation, a right anterior to any right whatever of civil society and of the State, and therefore inviolable on the part of any power on earth. (32)
“That this right is inviolable St. Thomas proves as follows: The child is naturally something of the father…so by natural right the child, before reaching the use of reason, is under the father’s care. Hence it would be contrary to natural justice if the child, before the use of reason, were removed from the care of its parents, or if any disposition were made concerning him against the will of the parents. (33)
“And as this duty on the part of the parents continues up to the time when the child is in a position to provide for itself, this same inviolable parental right of education also endures. ‘Nature intends not merely the generation of the offspring, but also its development and advance to the perfection of man considered as man, that is, to the state of virtue’ says the same St. Thomas. (33)
“The wisdom of the Church in this matter is expressed with precision and clearness in the Codex of Canon Law, can. 1113: ‘Parents are under a grave obligation to see to the religious and moral education of their children, as well as to their physical and civic training, as far as they can, and moreover to provide for their temporal well-being.’” (34)
“It does not however follow from this that the parents’ right to educate their children is absolute and despotic; for it is necessarily subordinated to the last end and to natural and divine law, as Leo XIII declares in another memorable encyclical, where he thus sums up the rights and duties of parents: ‘By nature parents have a right to the training of their children, but with this added duty that the education and instruction of the child be in accord with the end for which by God’s blessing it was begotten. Therefore it is the duty of parents to make every effort to prevent any invasion of their rights in this matter, and to make absolutely sure that the education of their children remain under their own control in keeping with their Christian duty, and above all to refuse to send them to those schools in which there is danger of imbibing the deadly poison of impiety.’” (35)
“This incontestable right of the family has at various times been recognized by nations anxious to respect the natural law in their civil enactments. Thus, to give one recent example, the Supreme Court of the United States of America, in a decision on an important controversy, declared that it is not in the competence of the State to fix any uniform standard of education by forcing children to receive instruction exclusively in public schools. It bases its decision on the natural law: the child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right coupled with the high duty, to educate him and prepare him for the fulfillment of his obligations.” (37)
“The Church placing at the disposal of families her office of mistress and educator, and the families eager to profit by the offer, and entrusting their children to the Church in hundreds and thousands. These two facts recall and proclaim a striking truth of the greatest significance in the moral and social order. They declare that the mission of education regards before all, above all, primarily the Church and the family, and this by natural and divine law, and that therefore it cannot be slighted, cannot be evaded, cannot be supplanted.” (40)
“Disorderly inclinations then must be corrected, good tendencies encouraged and regulated from tender childhood, and above all the mind must be enlightened and the will strengthened by supernatural truth and by the means of grace, without which it is impossible to control evil impulses, impossible to attain to the full and complete perfection of education intended by the Church, which Christ has endowed so richly with divine doctrine and with the Sacraments, the efficacious means of grace.” (59)
“The first natural and necessary element in this environment, as regards education, is the family, and this precisely because so ordained by the Creator Himself. Accordingly that education, as a rule, will be more effective and lasting which is received in a well-ordered and well-disciplined Christian family; and more efficacious in proportion to the clear and constant good example set, first by the parents, and then by the other members of the household.” (71)
“We wish to call your attention in a special manner to the present-day lamentable decline in family education. The offices and professions of a transitory and earthly life, which are certainly of far less importance, are prepared for by long and careful study; whereas for the fundamental duty and obligation of educating their children, many parents have little or no preparation, immersed as they are in temporal cares. The declining influence of domestic environment is further weakened by another tendency, prevalent almost everywhere today, which, under one pretext or another, for economic reasons, or for reasons of industry, trade or politics, causes children to be more and more frequently sent away from home even in their tenderest years.” (73)
“From this it follows that the so-called ‘neutral’ or ‘lay’ school, from which religion is excluded, is contrary to the fundamental principles of education. Such a school moreover cannot exist in practice; it is bound to become irreligious. We renew and confirm [their] declarations, as well as the Sacred Canons in which the frequenting of non-Catholic schools, whether neutral or mixed, those namely which are open to Catholics and non-Catholics alike, is forbidden for Catholic children, and can be at most tolerated, on the approval of the Ordinary alone, under determined circumstances of place and time, and with special precautions. (79)
“For the mere fact that a school gives some religious instruction (often extremely stinted), does not bring it into accord with the rights of the Church and of the Christian family, or make it a fit place for Catholic students. To be this, it is necessary that all the teaching and the whole organization of the school, and its teachers, syllabus and text-books in every branch, be regulated by the Christian spirit, under the direction and maternal supervision of the Church; so that Religion may be in very truth the foundation and crown of the youth’s entire training; and this in every grade of school, not only the elementary, but the intermediate and the higher institutions of learning as well. To use the words of Leo XIII: ‘It is necessary not only that religious instruction be given to the young at certain fixed times, but also that every other subject taught, be permeated with Christian piety. If this is wanting, if this sacred atmosphere does not pervade and warm the hearts of masters and scholars alike, little good can be expected from any kind of learning, and considerable harm will often be the consequence.’” (80)
“The proper and immediate end of Christian education is to cooperate with divine grace in forming the true and perfect Christian, that is, to form Christ Himself in those regenerated by Baptism, according to the emphatic expression of the Apostle: ‘My little children, of whom I am in labor again, until Christ be formed in you.’ For the true Christian must live a supernatural life in Christ: ‘Christ who is your life,’ and display it in all his actions: ‘That the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our mortal flesh.’ (94)
“For precisely this reason, Christian education takes in the whole aggregate of human life, physical and spiritual, intellectual and moral, individual, domestic and social, not with a view of reducing it in any way, but in order to elevate, regulate and perfect it, in accordance with the example and teaching of Christ. (95)
“Hence the true Christian, product of Christian education, is the supernatural man who thinks, judges and acts constantly and consistently in accordance with right reason illumined by the supernatural light of the example and teaching of Christ; in other words, to use the current term, the true and finished man of character. For, it is not every kind of consistency and firmness of conduct based on subjective principles that makes true character, but only constancy in following the eternal principles of justice And on the other hand, there cannot be full justice except in giving to God what is due to God, as the true Christian does.” (96)