Back to School:
“Back to School!” That phrase used to fill me with dread when I was a child. And I have to say [as a parent] the thought of the children returning to the daily/weekly routine of school timetables and repetition is somewhat of a relief. After six weeks of disorder and random activity around the home. However, there is something I shall miss of the “school of the home” atmosphere we have all enjoyed as a family since mid-July.
Classroom and home have got to be synergized in Christian values and faith. It is imperative that family/school, parent/teacher partnership must bear the rich fruit it is called to bring forth in grace. For that, there really has to be fresh standards of mutual appreciation and support, but especially I feel, for the sacred space that is the Christian home.
What Should Home Look Like?
I was reflecting on this over the last few days as I was immersed in [of all things] the painting of our humble garden shed. A somewhat mundane task, but one which we all enjoyed contributing to as a family. You may ask, “What does this have to do with my point above?” Well, some years ago I gave an address at an international conference at the University of Torun, in Poland, on the dignity and purpose of the family. In my talk I reminded the audience of the unique phrase to Britain; “An Englishman’s home is his castle.”
It was established as common law by the lawyer and politician Sir Edward Coke (pronounced Cook), in The Institutes of the Laws of England, 1628: “For a man’s house is his castle, et domus sua cuique est tutissimum refugium [and each man’s home is his safest refuge].”
This common law was a popular belief at the time, thus was expressed in print by several authors in the late 16th century. It was even used as an argument to say that outlawed English Catholics still enjoyed the protection of this maxim, at least culturally if not always technically. The Stage of Popish Toyes: containing both tragicall and comicall partes, by Henri Estienne wrote in 1581 “The English papists owe it to the Queen that “your house is your Castle.”
The principle was also imported into the United States, where Henry W. Grady, the journalist and writer on the US Constitution acclaimed; “Exalt the citizen. As the State is the unit of government he is the unit of the State. Teach him that his home is his castle, and his sovereignty rests beneath his hat.”)
What Does This Mean in Today’s World Then?
The English have had a passion for the sovereignty of hearth and home for more than a millennium.
If the home is meant to be sacred, then the family who reside in that home ought to be fully respected and served by all sectors of society and ecclesiastical life. The former grows less and less, but the latter [especially the parish and school] must be something the Catholic family can depend upon. If not, then something is very drastically wrong. There is no need for me to enunciate the many and diverse risks are facing the family. The message of the 2008 World Day of Peace puts it succinctly;
“Consequently, whoever, even unknowingly, circumvents the institution of the family undermines peace in the entire community, national and international, since he weakens what is in effect the primary agency of peace.”