I am so glad to have read The Fathers of the Church by Mike Aquilina. In the book, he gives a brief overview of the many early Church fathers, along with samples of their writing. It’s a buffet.
One father in particular – St. John Chrysostom – writes beautifully. I have seen his name at various times in years past, and I remember always being put off by it. I didn’t want to read about him because of his last name. How pitiful I am for that.
Turns out, Chrysostom means ‘golden-tongued’ in Latin. He was given that name because of his beautiful homilies, where he speaks of the pressing needs in the lives of the laity – loving your wife, developing children into followers of Christ, and how to think of the wealthy.
“For him, the power in Scripture was a power to transform the minute particulars of everyday work, family, and society… St John’s homilies hit home. They spoke of the marketplace, the marriage bed, the sports arena, of cooking, investments, and cosmetics. And they were practical. He not only described what he saw, he also prescribed a moral and ascetical course of action.”From The Fathers of the Church, by Mike Aquilina
In this passage he talks about how to raise Christian children, a subject dear to any Christian parent today. The same issues regarding raising children in 400AD are the very same issues of today: obedience to parents, the abundance of bad examples in the secular world, discipline, character, and good deeds.
Do you wish your son to be obedient? From the first, “but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). Never deem it unnecessary that he should listen diligently to the divine Scriptures. For there the first thing he hears will be this: “Honor your father and your mother (Ex 20:12), so you will win your reward.
Never say that the reading of Scripture is the business of monks. Am I making a monk of him? No. There is no need for him to become a monk. Why be so afraid of a thing so replete with so much advantage? Make him a Christian. For it is altogether necessary for laymen to be acquainted with the lessons derived from this source – but especially for children. For theirs is an age full of folly; and to this folly are added the bad examples derived from pagan myths, where they are made acquainted with heroes so admired, who are slaves of their passions, and cowards with regard to death – as, for example, Achilles, when he relents, when he dies for his concubine, when another gets drunk, and many other things of the sort.
He requires therefore the remedies against these things. Is it not absurd to send children out to jobs, and to school, and to do all you can for these objects, and yet, not to “bring them up in the chastening and admonition of the Lord”?
“Bring them up in the chastening and admonition of the Lord”; do not conspire to make him a politician, but train him instead to be a philosopher. In the lack of the one there will be no harm whatever; in the absence of the other, all the rhetoric in the world will be of no advantage. Discipline is needed, not talking; character, not cleverness; deeds, not words. These gain a man the kingdom. These confer what are benefits indeed. Whet not his tongue, but cleanse his soul. I do not say this to prevent your teaching him these things, but to prevent your attending to them exclusively. Do not imagine that the monk alone stands in need of these lessons from Scripture. Of all others, the children just about to enter into the world specially need them.