Every morning parents send their students off to school with overloaded backpacks and their best advice: “Behave and pay attention to your teachers.”
Sending a child to school doesn’t free parents from their teaching obligation. The Second Vatican Council said, “Since parents have given children their life, they are bound by the most serious obligation to educate their offspring and therefore must be recognized as the primary and principal educators. This role in education is so important that only with difficulty can it be supplied where it is lacking. Parents are the ones who must create a family atmosphere animated by love and respect for God…” (Gravissimum Educationis 11).
In other words, parents must be acknowledged as the first and foremost educators of their children. Their role as educators is so decisive that scarcely anything can compensate for their failure in it.
There is no exception to this teaching. Parents must cultivate, nurture, evangelize and pass on the faith to their children. It doesn’t happen by itself. There are no shortcuts. It requires time, effort, commitment and love.
Because children are a gift from God, ultimately they belong to God. Jesus has generously put the Kingdom into parents’ hands. He doesn’t want to do all the work; he wants parents to help him. He puts the message and power of salvation into their hands and asks parents to teach it to their children in his name. No one has ever trusted parents with as much. No one else has ever thought so much of parents. Who would have guessed that God would be so generous with parents, to make them a steward of his children, to put his saving power into their care so they can hand it on to their children.
No other endeavor has, by its very nature, eternal consequences, so nothing else a parent can do matters as much as teaching the faith to their children.