"And I beheld, and heard the voice of one eagle flying through the midst of heaven,
saying with a loud voice: Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth....
[Apocalypse (Revelation) 8:13]

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


by Rev. Johann Evangelist Zollner, 1883

"Himself believed, and his whole house."--John, 4: 53.

At the end of the Gospel we read that not only the ruler, but also his whole house, believed in Jesus. "Himself believed, and his whole house." From this we perceive how much depends on example, especially on the example of superiors. If the ruler had not believed in Christ, those of his house, without doubt, would not have believed in him; in spite of the miracle which he wrought on the sick son, they would have considered him merely as an extraordinary good and kind man, perhaps as a prophet. 


But since the ruler believed in him, all his subjects, his wife, children, and domestics believed in him. I can recommend to you, Christian parents, no better means for the proper training of your children, than your own good example. If you always give your children a good example, they will cheerfully follow your admonitions, and you will not find it necessary, or at least only very seldom, will it be necessary to treat them with severity; for good example is the best teacher of good morals. But it is equally certain that the bad example of parents renders a good education almost impossible, because children pay little attention to the admonitions when good example is wanting, and they are not improved even by punishment. I shall, therefore, show you today what influence the good example of parents exercises upon children, and explain to you the two following truths:

I. The good example of parents makes the children good,
II. The bad example of parents makes the children bad.

Part I.

The good example of parents exercises the most beneficent influence upon the children, and forms the basis of a good education, whether we consider it in itself, or in connection with the other means necessary for a good education.

1. In itself:

(a) The nature of children convinces us of this. It is well known that the imitative instinct is nowhere stronger than in children; they do not act independently, but do only what they see others doing. As they have an unbounded confidence in their parents, they consider that everything they do is right and good, and they will do the same thing in imitation of them. Now, if they perceive that their parents pray very devoutly, diligently visit the church, and in their daily conduct manifest a Christian feeling and the fear of God, it will make a salutary impression upon them, the good takes root in their hearts early and strikes deeply, so that it becomes to them almost a second nature. Arriving at mature age, when hard and dangerous trials are to be endured, they are already so confirmed in virtue, that sin cannot prevail against them. And even if they should occasionally succumb to temptation, they will soon rise from their fall; their wounded conscience will give them no rest, but will urge and impel them to reconcile themselves with God as soon as possible by true repentance.

The prophet Ezechiel speaks of a wagon drawn by four living beings; as these beings moved along, the wheels of the wagon turned round and followed. By this wagon we can understand a family; the beings that draw the wagon are the parents; but the wheels are the children. Now, just as the wheels turned round and went in the same direction as the beings that drew the wagon, so children act according to the example of their parents, and are their true followers in the path of virtue or vice. Hence St. Chrysostom says: "The works of the parents are books from which the children learn. The tongue, the lips of the parents, are as so many books, from which children derive instruction."

(b) History. Whence comes it that the descendants of Seth lived piously and religiously for centuries, whereas all other men fell away from God and yielded themselves to vices? It came from this, that Seth, their progenitor, served God zealously all the days of his life. Why did young Tobias lead so blameless and holy a life in the midst of a godless, vicious city? Because he was so fortunate as to have a father who not only instructed him in every virtue, but also shone before him with the most beautiful example. How did it come that Timothy lived so piously that St. Paul gives him the testimony, that he had found a disciple who was entirely of his own disposition, and interested himself in the welfare of the faithful as zealously as himself? The Apostle traces the source of this praiseworthy conduct of Timothy, to his mother and grandmother, saying: "Calling to mind the faith which is in thee unfeigned, which also dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and in thy mother Eunice." II. Tim. i: 5. There lived at Caesarea, in Cappadocia, a pious couple, Basil and Emily. They had ten children, one of whom died shortly after birth. The parents, together with their old grandmother, St. Marina, lived very piously, and were patterns in all Christian virtues; therefore they also had the happiness to see all their children grow up in innocence and serve God with unalterable fidelity. The eldest child, named Marina, after her grandmother, died as a nun, in the odor of sanctity; and three sons became bishops, viz., Basil, bishop of Caesarea; Gregory, bishop of Nyssa; and Peter, bishop of Sebaste. All three are doctors of the Church, and posterity venerates them as saints. History does not mention the other children, but there is no doubt that they lived a pious life and died a good death.

(c) Experience. What parents have, as a rule, good children? To whom belong those girls and boys who are distinguished above their equals for modesty, obedience, fervor in prayer, and the fear of God? Whose are those young men and young maidens of whom no one says anything disparaging, and who by their reserve and modesty are patterns to the whole congregation? Certainly they are the children of those parents to whom every one gives testimony that they are good Christians, and conscientiously fulfil the duties of religion and of their station of life. Since those children see and hear nothing at home but what is good, they become good and entitle their parents to the hope that they will always remain so, and become happy in time and eternity.

2. In connection with the other means necessary for a good education. Such means are, (a) Lessons and instructions. How effectual must they be when they come from parents who themselves are a living picture of piety! If they, for instance, say: "Children, pray diligently, go to church, go frequently to confession and Communion, avoid all bad company, and have God everywhere before your eyes:"--if they then do all they tell their children to do, will not these give a willing ear to their admonitions and conscientiously follow them? O the lessons and admonitions of parents sink deeply into the hearts of the children and resemble a gentle rain, which moistens the soil, and gives the fruits a luxuriant growth.

(b) Punishments. These too will be effectual, if they are supported by a good example. The children will institute a comparison between themselves and their parents; a glance at the virtues of their parents will bring visibly before their eyes the greatness of their trespass and its culpability; they will therefore willingly submit to parental correction and resolve thoroughly to amend their lives. The parents will, therefore, hardly ever be under the necessity of repeating the punishment on account of a fault, the first punishment generally effecting a permanent amendment. O that you, Christian parents, since so much depends on a good example, would shine before your children in all virtues, and be an example to them in word, in charity, in faith, and in chastity!--I. Tim. 4: 12.

Part II.:

The bad example of parents makes children bad. This is evident

1. From reason. (a) Bad example attracts far more than good example. The reason is because all men are more inclined to evil than to good. The best Christian, if he has the examples of vicious men always before him, will gradually lose his good principles and enter upon the way of sin. This evidently is still more true of children, who have as yet but little understanding; and who imitate all that they see and hear, without comprehending the consequences of sin. In their innocence and simplicity they think that everything done by their parents is good and lawful. How pernicious, then, must be the bad examples of parents under such circumstances. Their children tread without fear in their footsteps and commit the same sins that they see their fathers and mothers commit. Nor is this the worst. It often happens that, during their whole life, they will never turn from the evil to which they have been accustomed from their youth. As the youth, so the man. The result is that such children live and die in sin and perish eternally. What a fearful responsibility rests upon those parents who by their bad example and scandals are the cause of the damnation of their children!

(b) The bad example of parents frequently renders their advice, instructions, corrections and punishments useless and fruitless. "Nothing is more frigid," says St. Chrysostom, "than a teacher who is wise only in words; for this is not the province of a teacher, but of an actor." Parents may give their children the best lessons, and inculcate upon them as much as they please the obligation of avoiding cursing and swearing, gambling and drunkenness, bad company and unseasonable hours; they may even advise them to pray diligently, frequently go to confession and Communion; but all these lessons and admonitions will make no impression upon them when they know and see that the parents' conduct gives the lie to their words. All punishments will be without advantage. As the parents themselves are guilty of the very faults they punish in their children, the children will retaliate and say, "If what we have done is culpable, why do you do it?" When more advanced in years, they will no longer allow themselves to be punished, but will rebel against their father and mother when they attempt to chastise them for their bad conduct. Thus by the bad example of parents every means for a good education of children is in many respects, if not entirely, ineffectual and fruitless.

2. History.

We read that the descendants of Cain early turned their backs upon God and led a very vicious life. Why? Because of the iniquity of their progenitor. This wicked man, who had killed his brother Abel, lived and died impenitently; his children and descendants followed his example, and became as wicked as he; for as the tree, so is the fruit. As long as David himself was pious and religious, his children were also good. But as soon as the father sinned grievously, the children, too, departed from the right way, and committed heinous crimes. Amnon ravished his own sister Thamar, for which crime his brother Absalom had him slain; Absalom in turn rebelled against his father, and was slain in his treason by the hand of Joab. Adonis, another son of David, also conspired against his father and intended to deprive him of the government, when he was captured as a rebel and put to death. Thus the sin of David, although he shortly after it was converted and did penance the rest of his life, caused a great deal of mischief among his children, and was the cause of this appalling catalogue of sin and crime. We burn with indignation when we read in the Gospel that a silly young girl, the daughter of Herodias, was so lost to every womanly instinct as to demand of Herod to give her the head of St. John the Baptist in a salver; and that when her sinful request was complied with, she handed to her mother the bleeding head of the greatest man born of woman. But how could it be otherwise than that every human feeling and every germ of virtue should be driven out of the heart of the daughter whose mother publicly lived in adultery, and upon every occasion manifested her hatred against St. John? What else are the bad examples and scandals of the parents than daggers wherewith they murder the innocence of their children, than ropes wherewith they deliver their children bound to the devil?

3. Experience.

Where there are bad parents we also find, as a rule, bad children. Let us go into a house where the father has no religion and fear of God, swears and blasphemes, drinks and gambles, lives in strife and enmity. How are his children? Do they serve God? Do they keep his commandments? Ah, no; they are miniature counterparts of their father, and are almost as wicked as he. Let us then visit a house in which a mother neglects prayer, going to church, confession and Communion, dresses vainly, speaks obscene words, and shows no modesty. How are her children? Are they well-behaved, retired, modest and chaste? Do they pray diligently, go frequently to confession and Communion? Do they live as Christians? Anything but that; like little monkeys they mimic the old ape, and faithfully follow her in all wickedness. Impious parents have impious children: the apple never falls far from the tree; there are exceptions, " but they are few and far between."


Take to heart, Christian parents, the words of the divine Saviour: "He that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he was drowned in the depth of the sea"(Matt. 18: 6); and guard carefully against giving bad example to your children. Have God always before your eyes and never do what might be a stumbling-block to your children. On the contrary, let your light so shine before them, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, who is in heaven. If you carefully avoid everything sinful, and lead a truly pious and religious life, the difficult business of education will be very much alleviated for you; your children will follow your example and serve God all the days of their lives. Amen.