Sapientiae Christianae: On Christians as Citizens

1878 --- Pope Leo XIII. Photograph made in 1878. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

An excerpt from the Papal Encyclical, Sapientiae Christianae, by His Holiness Pope Leo XIII, January 10, 1890.

This is a suitable moment for us to exhort especially heads of families to govern their households according to these precepts, and to be solicitous without failing for the right training of their children.

The family may be regarded as the cradle of civil society, and it is in great measure within the circle of family life that the destiny of the States is fostered.

Whence it is that they who would break away from Christian discipline are working to corrupt family life, and to destroy it utterly, root and branch.

From such an unholy purpose they allow not themselves to be turned aside by the reflection that it cannot, even in any degree, be carried out without inflicting cruel outrage on the parents.

These hold from nature their right of training the children to whom they have given birth, with the obligation super-added of shaping and directing the education of their little ones to the end for which God vouchsafed the privilege of transmitting the gift of life.




It is, then, incumbent on parents to strain every nerve to ward off such an outrage, and to strive manfully to have and to hold exclusive authority to direct the education of their offspring, as is fitting, in a Christian manner, and first and foremost to keep them away from schools where there is risk of their drinking in the poison of impiety.

Where the right education of youth is concerned, no amount of trouble or labor can be undertaken, how great soever, but that even greater still may not be called for.

In this regard, indeed, there are to be found in many countries Catholics worthy of general admiration, who incur considerable outlay and bestow much zeal in founding schools for the education of youth.

It is highly desirable that such noble example may be generously followed, where time and circumstances demand, yet all should be intimately persuaded that the minds of children are most influenced by the training they receive at home.

If in their early years they find within the walls of their homes the rule of an upright life and the discipline of Christian virtues, the future welfare of society will in great measure be guaranteed.

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