In his 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI prophesied four serious consequences if contraception became embraced by the culture and the family: infidelity/moral decadence, lost respect for and use of women by their husbands, government’s abuse of power, and man’s absolute dominion. Tragically, all four prophecies have come to fruition, wreaking havoc on the Church and our world, fifty-one years later.
Although not explicitly mentioned in Humanae Vitae, a fifth prophecy has unfolded before our eyes: women abdicating their roles as stay-at-home mothers, especially as it pertains to homeschooling. Repugnance toward homemaking and educating one’s children is a byproduct of contraception, one of her most pernicious fruits. The serpent who tempted Eve in the garden tempts every mother in a similar manner: “You should be like your husband. You don’t need to be tied down by your children.” C.S. Lewis begged to differ when he declared, “Homemaking is surely in reality the most important work in the world.” Yes, mothers have an extraordinary vocation in God’s eyes as co-creators of life and co-formators of supernatural life.
Contraception helped initiate the trend of more mothers entering the workforce, which in turn has played a major factor in the vocations decline. For instance, a 2017 study by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown found that one out of ten men in the seminary was homeschooled and that homeschooled men are four times more likely to join the seminary compared to those who study in Catholic institutions. Remove the mother from the home, and you remove vocations from the Church.
Despite the above study combined with the flourishing of traditional religious orders and seminaries, especially in dioceses with an orthodox bishop, many in the hierarchy continue to deny reality and truth by staunchly advocating for female priests and deacons. These same cardinals and bishops, who condone contraception, have failed to adequately address one of the most fundamental causes of the vocation’s crisis: contraception and its sinister effect to remove mothers from the home. Instead of being sidetracked by their own agendas, our religious leaders, especially priests, need to encourage and laud mothers for their noble and sacrificial decision to homeschool. Make no mistake: the more mothers reclaim the heart of their homes by educating their children rather than sending them to pagan schools, the more likely vocations will flower and new saints will arise.
Imagine if St. Joseph and Our Lady sent Jesus away to be taught by the Romans so they could devote all her energies to building a lucrative carpentry business. Perhaps they considered sending Jesus to the Temple permanently to be instructed by the greatest scholars of the law because they felt ill equipped for such a daunting task. Clearly, God the Father could have willed that His beloved Son be born into home of the world’s greatest intellectuals, but this was not the case. Instead, God wanted to be raised by the most virtuous parents in the history of the world. The home, the domestic church, is the greatest school of virtue. After all, which is more important: getting our children into Heaven or Harvard?
In his book Christus Vincut: Christ’s Triumph over the Darkness of the Age, Bishop Athanasius Schneider is asked specifically about the rise of homeschooling in United States along with its suppression in other countries like Germany. He declares,
This is a dictatorship. Under Communism in the Soviet Union, education in the family was also forbidden, as it was under the Nazi regime. The prohibition against homeschooling is a dictatorial law. We have a challenge and duty to restore civilization and the reign of Christ in our families, in our society.
Bishop Athanasius further comments, “So, it will always be a battle, a fight.” The battle for our children’s eternal salvation is real. Having attended Catholic schools my entire life and having been instructed by a beautiful teaching order of nuns, the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George, did not guarantee me a virtuous life. By God’s grace and due to my parents’ and these holy nuns’ witness, I was protected from the debauchery that infiltrated my Catholic high school. Many of my classmates who came from decent homes were not so fortunate. Their parents seemed distracted by their own careers or cared only about their sons’ and daughters’ intellectual prowess. Consequently, my classmates did whatever they wanted, so long as they maintained their GPA, made this varsity team, and got into that prestigious college. Sin was overlooked; secularism and egoism reigned. In effect, these parents entrusted their children to many faith-filled Catholic educators while sadly renouncing their fundamental right to educate their children, especially in the ways of morality.
Reflecting on my past, one of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t insist upon being homeschooled because I too fell for the culture’s lie that academic and athletic success is more important than loving God and living a moral life. Having heard about the devastating effects of two families who stopped homeschooling their children years ago, I felt compelled to write this article. At one point, both families lived a simple life, but the opportunity for a more comfortable lifestyle allured the mothers into the workforce. The husbands were on board. Having homeschooled their older children until they became adolescents, the two mothers decided they had had enough. Within a short time, years of solid religious formation vanished as their children were dragged into the culture of death by their godless public high school peers. Drinking, drugs, and sex replaced faith, hope, and love. Today, several of the children have the left the Faith and are living in serious sin. In conversations with their adult children who still practice the Faith, they point to their mothers’ absence from the home as the catalyst for the breakdown of their families. Even though both sets of parents attend Mass every Sunday, frequent confession, pray the rosary, and lead their families in prayer before meals, their decision to stop homeschooling was more costly than they realized.
At the same time, homeschooling cannot always keep our children on the narrow road due to their own free will. And for some parents, solid Catholic primary and secondary schools (which are rare but do exist) are the best fit based on circumstances or a child’s specific needs. Yet homeschooling provides countless opportunities for grace, such as daily Mass; siblings growing together in virtue; spending timeless moments with your children; and, above all, safeguarding our children’s purity and faith from numerous evil forces found in pagan public schools and nominal Catholic schools.
When a mother chooses her career over her children for any other reason than absolute necessity, she exposes her innocent children to a world of vice. A quick read of St. Teresa of Avila’s autobiography reveals how wicked relatives and friends were leading her to Hell had she not repented.
The Devil knows that we have only a short time to form our children — eighteen years is brief, likely not even one fourth of their lives. Therefore, he relentlessly tempts us to squander this precious window by spending more time on social media and watching television than being with our children, by allowing other adults and our children’s peers to have more influence on our children than we do, and by allowing our careers to take precedence over our children’s eternal salvation. On our deathbeds, will we regret that we didn’t spend enough time with our children and do enough to keep them from Satan’s grip? I pray not!
The time is now for mothers to be that heroic and unheralded heart of their homes. The time is now for fathers to support their wives, so their children receive the finest religious and intellectual formation, even if it means working two jobs. If we fathers want to know how to raise a saint, we must look no farther than St. Padre Pio’s father, Grazio, who traveled twice to the United States for work so that his son could become a priest. Despite the distance, Grazio closely monitored Pio’s education. In fact, Grazio once convinced his wife to have Pio transfer schools because the one was run by an ex-priest and lacked sound formation. The time is now for parents to raise great saints like Padre Pio.
Even though the fifth prophecy of Humanae Vitae has been fulfilled, maybe it’s not too late to reverse it since nothing is impossible for God. However, in order for us to “restore civilization and the reign of Christ in our families, in our society,” it must start with one family at a time — specifically, one mother at a time, who courageously says “yes” like the Blessed Mother to the glories and sufferings of home life.
T.A. Mylor is the pseudonym of a man who loves saints and sunsets.