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Congregation for the Clergy
General catechetical directory

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78 The first roots of religious and moral life appear at the very beginning of human life. In the families of believers the first months and years of life, which are of the greatest importance for a man’s balance in the years to come, can already provide the right conditions for developing a Christian personality. The baptism of infants takes on its full meaning when the Christian life of the parents, of the mother especially but not exclusively, makes it possible for the baptismal grace to produce its fruits. For the infant absorbs into himself, as though through an "osmosis" process, the manner of acting and the attitudes of the members of his family. And 50 it is that the immense number of his experiences will be, as it were, pressed together within him to form a foundation of that life of faith which will then gradually develop and manifest itself.


The right orientation of a trusting spirit depends at first on a good relationship between the infant and his mother, and then also on one between him and his father; it is nourished by sharing their joyfulness and by experiencing their loving authority. The theological virtues depend in part upon the growth of that healthy orientation for their own unimpeded development, and at the same time they tend to strengthen that orientation. At this time, too, there arises the affirmation of personality, or autonomy; this is needed for the acquisition of the moral virtues and for leading a life in community. It itself demands a balance between firmness and acceptance. Next, the capacity for spontaneous action can gradually develop; this will be most necessary for beginning social life as well as for promoting and strengthening the service of God and of the Church.


An education in prayer must accompany ail these acquisitions, so that the little child may learn to call upon the God who loves us and protects us, and upon Jesus, the Son of God and our brother, who Leads us to the Father, and upon the Holy Spirit, who dwells within our hearts; and SO that this child may also direct confident prayers to Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our mother.


If these foundations are lacking, catechesis must determine whether there are any insufficiencies as a result, what they may be, and how they may be compensated. Suitable assistance on the part of Christian parents must be supported by giving the parents an adequate formation. This formation must be given to them by competent educators, even though it is to be simple and adapted to the cultural level of the parents. This task of pastors is not supererogatory; for when parents are helped to perform their duties rightly, the Church is being built up. This also provides a splendid occasion for catechising adults.


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