Saving our children and our Church: What homeschooling and traditionalism have in common
March 5, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Why would Catholic parents refuse to send their children to state-run schools – or even parochial schools? Why would some Catholic families avoid their local parish and go further afield, often long distances, to reach a church where the traditional Latin Mass is offered? The answers to these questions are quite similar, and mutually illuminating.
Parents who choose to homeschool are often pressured by well-meaning friends and relations to put their kids in public or Catholic schools, where (so it is said) they can be “a good influence” and be “part of the community.”
“Aren’t we all supposed to be leaven?” the better catechized might say, driving home the point. The decision to homeschool tends to be seen as weird, antisocial, and self-centered.
But then something happened. It seemed as if, rather suddenly, certifiable insanity took charge of the school systems. At some point, a lot of people saw that the schools were just eating their children alive. Their protective parenting instincts awakened; they broke away regardless of social stigma, convinced that they were not only saving their children but actually doing the best thing they could do for the country and for the Church in the long run.
In a parallel way, Rod Dreher’s “Benedict Option” has been pilloried as separationist, self-absorbed, and apolitical, as giving up the public square to the enemy. But Dreher is only one of many who have seen that this secular society, having eaten our lunch (as they say), is moving on to eat both us and our kids. He chronicles several communities who gathered their resolve and formed a faith-centered community, convinced that they were saving themselves and their children and planting seeds for the only possible future renewal of the public square.
Let us consider, by way of comparison, the plight of Catholics seeking to exercise their religion. Within the Church many concerned Catholics have been pressured to be invested in the local parish, to send their kids to the CCD classes or even the school, to attend the main parish Mass, and in general to be “part of the community.” Anything but being a full parishioner is attacked as a failure to be truly Catholic, as prideful, and as failing to seed the parish with good things.
But many have found themselves in situations where their faith and the faith of their children, far from from receiving sustenance, is being drained away by the dullness of beige Catholicism or the pseudo-relevance of pop worship, by superficial if not positively erroneous homilies, and by the continual bad example of Eucharistic irreverence. They have to get up the courage to join a community centered around reverent worship and orthodox belief. This is not a betrayal. It is not inherently prideful. It is an attempt to save their own souls, the souls of their children, and ultimately to plant seeds for a renewal of the Church.
This being said, it is not somehow disloyal to the traditionalist movement to suggest that we need, in fact, a wide variety of TLM communities to reflect the richness of that liturgy, akin to how we used to have parishes of Italians, Germans, Polish, and Irish – all of them TLM communities back in the day, but all of them remarkably distinct in flavor. The more we can have a variety of approaches within an overarching commitment to traditional worship and orthodox doctrine, the larger the number of clergy and people who will gravitate over time to the TLM. One of the chief roadblocks to the TLM is that people might think they have to take on a particular mode of life in order to be part of the community – a mode for which they think themselves unsuited, or even one whose representatives have offended them in some way.
Many who see that tradition should somehow or other be in the center are repulsed by bad experiences with “trads,” and end up outside the traditionalism they really want. Like homeschoolers, who have adapted and ramified in so many ways in order to preserve the most essential thing – remaining in charge of their children’s intellectual and moral formation – traditionalists must also learn to be creative and adaptable in order to win still more souls to the power of the teachings and worship they are blessed to enjoy. Good things are never just for ourselves; they are meant to be shared.