Struggling to raise your child in the faith? Try this book

'A sturdy son of David': St Joseph, depicted by Georges de la Tour

Roy Peachey, whose earlier book on home-schooling I blogged about some time ago, has written another book fizzing with ideas, questions and thoughts on raising one’s children in the Faith. Titled Did Jesus go to School? And Other Questions about Parents, Children and Education (Redemptorist Publications), it is divided into three chapters: parents, children and education (though, as Peachey points out at the end, they are all closely intertwined.)

Disarmingly, the author tells us that he wrote the book because “I too am searching for answers. I want to understand my children better, I want to be a better parent, I want to make sense of education today.” As with his earlier book, Peachey resists our exam-orientated, constant targets and testing system of formal education. In a long opening section he meditates on the role of St Joseph as described in the Gospels, pointing out that he was a man of action and a man of silence – both virtues that he would have passed on to his divine foster-son. “Without inner silence, we are unable to give our children what they truly need, which is ourselves”, adding that as parents, we are our children’s first educators “but we don’t always need to teach with words.” Children absorb as much if not more from our example – which is where St Joseph’s role is significant.

In attempting to answer the title of his book, the author reminds readers that we have no historical evidence for Jesus’ schooling, though it is likely that he attended a “school” attached to a synagogue, along with other Jewish boys. Yet the emphasis must be on the years Our Lord spent learning from his parents in their home: the example of work, prayer, scripture reading, and mutual self-giving love. As Peachey emphasises, the goal of education, for us as well as for Jesus, is “the love of God”; we all know highly educated people who, as Peachey puts it, “lack wisdom”.

In his final section the author describes a forty-year-old Chilean apostolic endeavour that has spread to other countries, Manquehue Apostolic Movement, begun by a young student, Jose Manuel Eguiguren Guzman, who experienced a crisis in his life and came through it during a daily, three-year meditation on passages of Scripture, guided by a Benedictine monk.

“Day after day as he listened to Jose Manuel’s anguished questions, Fr Gabriel’s response was always the same: he suggested Bible passages they could read together and let the scriptures do their work.” This highly individual method of lectio divina changed the young man’s life – so much so that he was inspired to introduce it to other students who in turn helped him start the Movement.

Peachey’s book is full of Biblical passages, particularly those alluding to Jesus’ early life, such as his mysterious finding in the Temple, through which he invites us to practise out own form of lectio divina, allowing the inspired texts slowly to permeate us as they did for Jose Manuel. Barely 150 pages, it offers suggestions on how to live our parental roles better, rather than provide easy answers.