One exchange in the Q&A session at the end of Christopher West’s talk I found particularly noteworthy as it addressed a subject that my regular readers will recognize as near and dear to my heart: pedagogy.
Someone asked at what age should one begin to teach children about human sexuality and the theological truths of Theology of the Body.
West’s answer was startling and yet should not have been surprising as it was completely consistent with the Church’s teaching about parent’s roles in teaching about human sexuality. We start teaching from the moment of conception and that teaching is uninterrupted throughout the child’s life.
From the moment the child is conceived in an act of total self-donation, an act of love that is free, total, faithful and fruitful, an act that images the Divine generous and generating Love, the child knows in the depths of his being that he is loved.
West pulls examples of pedagogical techniques from his own family life (adding that it’s not perfect but he’s trying his best). He says that in their nightly prayers with their children they thank God for making daddy a man and making mommy a woman, for bringing them together and for making their union fruitful. They thank God for the fruits of that union, [insert children’s names] and ask God to help the children grow into strong men and women who will be able to likewise give themselves completely to a future spouse in love. They pray that if the children are called to marriage, their spouses may be holy and also able to give their bodies to each other in love and likewise be blessed with children.
West says that their house has images from the Sistine Chapel and icons of Our Lady of La Leche (Mary breastfeeding the Christ child) so that both sons and daughters may have good images of the body and of its proper use.
West also told a story about a time when his four year old son saw a magazine with revealing pictures in the grocery store and told his father that he thought they were not respectful of the woman.
This falls in line with my thoughts on pedagogy: children learn more from what you do, how you act, who you are, than from what you tell them. They learn to know and love Christ because you know him and love him and they see that in all of your actions. Or as Charlotte Mason says, education is the science of relationships.
In the fact that we pray, in how we pray, in what we pray for, we model for our children the way to have a relationship with God.
I also love the idea of using the pedagogy of art, a very ancient Catholic tradition. I have at last count almost a dozen image of Our Lady as well as many other works of religious art, including a couple of lovely postcards of Our Lady of La Leche, picked up in Europe, that I’ve framed and hung in our living room. Guess I’m on the right track there. Strangely, I don’t have an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Need to rectify that at some point. Though I doubt I’ll find one as lovely as Jen’s. I also aspire to more crucifixes. I have one lovely one from my dad and Dom had one or two small ones and I picked up a small copy of the San Damiano cross; but eventually I’d really like to have a nice crucifix in living room, bedrooms and office.
Ok. Tired. Must sleep. If more thoughts come to me, I’ll add them later.