Raising Godly Children (Bishop Thomas)
These notes are from a presentation by His Grace Bishop THOMAS at Orthodox Institute 2009, Antiochian Village Heritage and Learning Center, Bolivar, Pa., November 5-8, 2009. Download a printer-friendly version.
Parents, take the initiative to find out what your children are learning in Church School. Build upon the weekly lessons at home with supplemental teaching.
Also, build upon the Scripture readings, hymns, and commemorations of Saints and feasts that the children encounter in the Divine Services of the Church. Explain to your children what the readings and hymns mean and tell them the stories of the Saints and feasts commemorated.
Educating your children means that you must be educated in the Faith yourself. This is the parents’ responsibility. Immerse yourself in the life of the Church. Worship and pray in as many of the Divine Services as possible, attend adult education classes, read the Holy Scripture, and consult the commentaries and sermons on the Scripture by the Holy Fathers.
In the home, set up a family altar or icon corner. Read the Scripture readings and lives of the Saints daily. Pray together as a family every day, at least in the morning and/or evening.
Make a big deal of feast days. Take the kids to the Divine Liturgy and enjoy a special meal to celebrate the day.
Celebrate the Name Day of the children with a celebration. Tell the story of the patron Saint’s life and explain how to emulate his or her life as an Orthodox Christian. At the family icon corner/altar make sure to have an icon of the child’s patron Saint alongside the icons of the parents’ patron Saints.
Ask the clergy to visit your home, to bless it, and to explain to the family the significance of this event.
Encourage the clergy to develop an outreach program involving visitations to homes in order to teach families how to practically live the Faith in the home as a “domestic church.”
Strive to be a holy example within the home, as well as in public, for your children to follow.
QUOTES TO CONSIDER
St. John Chrysostom’s instructions to fathers on telling stories from Holy Scripture:
“Tell him this story one evening at supper. Let his mother repeat the same tale; then, when he has heard it often, ask him too, saying: ‘Tell me the story,’ so that he may be eager to imitate you. And when he has memorized it thou wilt also tell him how it profits him. The soul indeed, as it receives the story within itself before thou has elaborated it, is aware that it will benefit.” (Laistner 104)
“Go leading him by the hand in church and pay heed particularly when this tale is read aloud. Thou wilt see him rejoice and leap with pleasure because he knows what the other children do not know, as he anticipates the story, recognizes it, and derives great gain from it. And hereafter the episode is fixed in his memory.” (Laistner 105)
St. John Chrysostom on naming children after the Saints:
“So let the names of the saints enter our homes through the naming of children, to train not only the child but the father, when he reflects that he is the father of John or Elijah or James; for, if the name be given with forethought to pay honor to those that have departed, and we grasp at our kinship with the righteous rather than with our forebears, this too will greatly help us and our children.” (Laistner 108-109)
The above text has been taken from Dana Symeon Kees, “The Scriptural Narrative in Orthodox Education,” Master’s Thesis, St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, 2009, pp. 138, 139-140, quoting St. John Chrysostom, “An Address on Vainglory and the Right Way for Parents to Bring Up Their Children,” printed in the appendix of M. L. W. Laistner, Christianity and Pagan Culture in the Later Roman Empire (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1951), 104-105,108-109.
Elder Porphyrios on Nurturing Children:
“What saves and makes for good children is the life of the parents in the home. The parents need to devote themselves to the love of God. They need to become saints in their relations to their children through their mildness, patience, and love. They need to make a new start every day, with a fresh outlook, renewed enthusiasm and love for their children. And the joy that will come to them, the holiness that will visit them, will shower grace on their children. Generally the parents are to blame for the bad behavior of the children. And their behaviour is not improved by reprimands, disciplining, or strictness. If the parents do not pursue a life of holiness and if they don’t engage in spiritual struggle, they make great mistakes and transmit the faults they have within them. If the parents do not live a holy life and do not display love towards each other, the devil torments the parents with the reactions of the children. Love, harmony and understanding between parents are what are required for the children. This provides a great sense of security and certainty.”
The above selection is from Wounded by Love: The Life and Wisdom of Elder Porphyrios, trans. by John Raffan (Limni, Evia, GRE: Denise Harvey, Publisher, 2005), 196.
Resources for Parents
Online Chapel (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese)
Daily commemorations (Saints and Feasts) with explanations, Epistle & Gospel readings, Church calendar. A Daily Readings Facebook Application is available on the site as well.
The Prologue from Ohrid by St. Nicholai of Ohrid and Ziča (Serbian Orthodox Western America Diocese)
Daily readings of the lives of the Saints
“What Your Child Should Know” (Greek Orthodox Archdiocese)
A frequent question that the Department receives from teachers and parents is “What should children know about their faith by the time they are ‘X’ years old?”
“Yellow Pages” for Religious Education (2005)
Available here: http://www.phyllisonest.com/
Antiochian Archdiocese Dept. of Christian Education http://www.antiochian.org/christianeducation
Antiochian Archdiocese Youth Department
Discover Orthodox Christianity ( Antiochian Archdiocese website) /discover
The Orthodox Faith series by Fr. Thomas Hopko (OCA website)
These Truths We Hold (St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary website)
Lives of the Saints (Greek Orthodox – Australia)
Antiochian Gospel Program with Audio
Ancient Faith Radio
Orthodox Christian Network
Evlogia website (“Learning at Home”)
The Ante-Nicene Fathers/Nicene-Post Nicene Fathers series
(See especially the sermons of St. John Chrysostom on the Holy Gospels and Eusebius’ Church History)
The Holy Scripture
The Orthodox Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2008. Hard Cover.
Prayer Books / Liturgical Books
Service Book, Antiochian Archdiocese
Pocket Prayer Book, Antiochian Archdiocese
The Festal Menaion. Mother Mary and [Met.] Kallistos Ware, Trans. South Canaan, PA: St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press, 1998.
The Lenten Triodion. Mother Mary and [Met.] Kallistos Ware, Trans. St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press, 2001.
Picture Catechism for Children
Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos. A Visual Catechism of the Orthodox Church. Esther Williams, Trans. Yannis Yeremtzes, Illustrator. Levadia, GRE: Birth of the Theotokos Monastery, 2007.
Nurturing Children in the Orthodox Faith
Coniaris, Anthony M. Making God Real in the Orthodox Christian Home. Minneapolis, MN: Light and Life, 1977.
Elizabeth White. Walking in Wonder: Nurturing Orthodox Christian Values in Your Children. Ben Lomond, CA: Conciliar Press, 2004.
Elder Porpyrios. “On the Upbringing of Children.” Wounded by Love: The Life and the Wisdom of Elder Porphyrios. Limni, Evia, GRE: Denise Harvey, 2005.
Daily Readings and Biblical Commentary in One Volume
Manley, Johanna. The Bible and the Holy Fathers for Orthodox: Daily Scripture Readings and Commentary for Orthodox Christians. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1984.
Commentaries on the Holy Gospels – Four Volume Series
Blessed Theophylact. The Explanation by Blessed Theophylact of The Holy Gospel According to St. Matthew. Christopher Stade, Trans. Blessed Theophylact’s Explanation of the New Testament, Vol 1. House Springs, MO: Chrysostom Press, 1997. Third Printing 2004.
Blessed Theophylact. The Explanation by Blessed Theophylact of The Holy Gospel According to St. Mark. Christopher Stade, Trans. Blessed Theophylact’s Explanation of the New Testament, Vol 2. House Springs, MO: Chrysostom Press, 1997. Third Printing 2004.
Blessed Theophylact. The Explanation by Blessed Theophylact of The Holy Gospel According to St. Luke. Christopher Stade, Trans. Blessed Theophylact’s Explanation of the New Testament, Vol 3. House Springs, MO: Chrysostom Press, 1997. Third Printing 2004.
Blessed Theophylact. The Explanation of the Holy Gospel According to John. Christopher Stade, Trans. Blessed Theophylact’s Explanation of the New Testament, Vol. 4. House Springs, MO: Chrysotom Press, 2007.
Lives of the Saints and Feasts of the Church
Poulos, George. Orthodox Saints series. Vol. 1-4. Holy Cross Orthodox Press.
Mary the Mother of God: Sermons by St. Gregory Palamas. Christopher Veniamin, Ed. Waymart, PA: Mount Thabor Publishing, 2005.
On the Saints: Sermons by St. Gregory Palamas. Christopher Veniamin, Ed. Waymart, PA: Mount Thabor Publishing, 2008.
Hierotheos, Metropolitan of Nafpaktos. The Feasts of the Lord. An Introduction to the Twelve Feasts and Orthodox Christology. Ester Williams, Trans. Levadia, GRE: Birth of the Theotokos Monaster, 2000.
Tradigo, Alfredo. Icons and Saints of the Eastern Church. Stephen Sartarelli, Trans. Los Angeles, CA: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2004.
These notes are from a presentation by His Grace Bishop THOMAS at Orthodox Institute 2009, Antiochian Village Heritage and Learning Center, Bolivar, Pa., November 5-8, 2009. Resource list prepared by His Grace, The Right Reverend Bishop THOMAS, Diocese of Charleston, Oakland, and the Mid-Atlantic, Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, and Sdn. Symeon Dana Kees, Instructor/Catechist, St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church, Houston, Texas.