St. John Chrysostom whose feast we celebrate today was known for his great orations on profound theological matters, and was fearless in his speaking out against the offenses of the rich and the mighty, as well as the clergy whom he worked to reform and to call to an authentic life of holiness. But he also cared deeply for the formation of children and often reminded parents of the sacred duty entrusted to them by God in helping their children grow in holiness and faith, the most important lessons that they need to learn.
In this day when the secular world makes it so difficult for the formation of children in the ways of holiness, let’s reflect on several of St. J0hn Chrysostom’s instruction to parents, which written centuries ago seem quite contemporary:
“Let everything take second place to our care of our children, our bringing them up to the discipline and instruction of the Lord. If from the beginning we teach them to love true wisdom, they will have great wealth and glory than riches can provide. If a child learns a trade, or is highly educated for a lucrative profession, all this is nothing compared to the art of detachment from riches; if you want to make your child rich, teach him this. He is truly rich who does not desire great possessions, or surround himself with wealth, but who requires nothing…Don’t think that only monks need to learn the Bible; Children about to go our into the world stand in greater need of Scriptural knowledge.” — Homilies on Ephesians, Homily 21
“Youth is wild, and requires many governors, teachers, directors, attendants, and tutors; and after all these , it is a happiness if it be restrained. For as a horse not broken in, or a wild beast untamed, such is youth. But if from the beginning, from the earliest age, we fix it in good rules, much pains will not be required afterwards; for good habits formed will be to them as a law. Let us not suffer them to do anything which is agreeable, but injurious; nor let us indulge them, as forsooth but children. Especially let us train them in chastity, for there is the very bane of youth. For this many struggles, much attention will be necessary. Let us take wives for them early, so that their brides may receive their bodies pure and unpolluted, so their loves will be more ardent. He that is chaste before marriage, much more will be chaste after it; and he that practiced fornication before, will practice it after marriage. ‘All bread,’ it is said, ‘is sweet to the fornicator.’ Garland are wont to be worn on the heads of bridegrooms, as a symbol of victory, betokening that they approach the marriage bed unconquered by pleasure. But it captivated by pleasure he has given himself up to harlots, why does he wear the garland, since he has been subdued? — Homilies on 1 Timothy, Homily 9