Earlier today — since Rome is seven hours ahead of our time zone — our Holy Father issued a statement concerning the fact that Saint Francis de Sales is the patron of journalists and publishers of good reading matter.
That reminds me of two books and a jigsaw puzzle from my past life. When I was about seven years old, my parents gave me for my birthday or Christmas a book called “Children of Foreign Lands.” It contained about 12 chapters with lots of pictures about a boy and a girl from places like Norway, Arabia, Japan, Spain, Holland, and China. It included much about life in those countries and the distinctive elements of their cultures. I was absolutely fascinated by that book, and I read it again and again until I almost had it memorized. It is that that began my interest in travel, which has been such a delightful part of my life.
Another book was given to me by an aunt and entitled “Our Presidents at a Glance.” By reading that many times, I learned much about every president from Washington to Franklin Roosevelt, who was in the White House at the time. And then the jigsaw puzzle: it was a map of our country, with each piece being the relative size and shape of the state which it represented. In no time at all, I had learned the 48 states which then composed our nation, their capitals, their location, size, and shape. A terrific teaching device!
I get the impression that not all families are as concerned about teaching their children as mine was. Some years ago, a poll was taken; people stood on busy corners of cities and asked the passersby if they could locate the United States on a world map shown to them. Many of them could not. When I was teaching high school, I once asked my students — a group of 18-year-old boys in 1965 — who lived first: Napoleon or Adolf Hitler. Quite a few of them didn’t know, even though that was only 20 years after Hitler’s suicide! And then, our religious educators regularly report that Catholic children come to first grade without being able to make the Sign of the Cross or recite the Our Father.
Something is wrong here. What kind of educational activity goes on in those families? Both in secular matters and in sacred ones, we owe our children more than that. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.