Sir,—On this St. John the Baptist Day as I read your letter page 1 found myself facing a bevy of converging thoughts, of the saint himself whose first sermon was "Do Penance," of Our Lord, whose first sermon, according to St. Matthew the Evangelist was again just that, "Do penance."
And alongside these there came the grieving words of an old missioner whose novice master had been one a Newman's disciples. The latter speaking nearly sixty years ago told of the changes he had seen in Catholic life, of the great increase in numbers but in the lowering of quality, of the less virile faith and he attributed it to one thing. the turning aside from Our Lord's fundamental teaching on self denial. To-day in our largely pagan atmosphere, further poisoned by Freudian influences, we have parents even decrying the teaching of Our Lord and His Church. The catechism answer pilloried by " Father " embodies that teaching. Our natural inclinations are inclined to evil and if not corrected by self denial will certainly carry us to hell. Even the age-old folk wisdom recognises that as it tells of people " who let themselves go."
But such correction does not imply physical punishment that should only be a last resource, and is rarely needed where parents and teachers arc whole hearted I y, through the self denial it entails, training the young in good ways. That training should begin in earliest infancy and good parents know that they can do nothing better for their children than to bring them up on such lines preparing the soil wherein later the Master's seed can fructify. Harold Nicholson's last hook "Good Behaviour " is solemnly dedicated to "Juliet aged one" and in his preface he bewails the "perfectly horrible" children to be met on all sides, in all classes to-day. poor children who without any correcting, checking or repressions are allowed to let themselves go". And we know where so many go, to the Juvenile Courts, yes even our Catholic children go there, to the approved schools. to the over flowing prisons. Surely there is one great truth facing us; we cannot be real Christians and swim with the tide, with the full running pagan tide. We must pull against it and those who are to grown up with faith weakened, wills vitiated, through self indulgence, will never be able to do that.
May I repeat this letter is not advocating the use of physical punishment for securing school discipline? On the contrary any such common or general use is a confession of complete failure. The correcting can be far better done, more real "correction", when the parents the teachers use the far harder method, because more costly to themselves. advocated by the Pope. It is labour for both parents and teachers but far and away more difficult for teachers who have to deal with not a family individual, or family few, but a class full of youngsters all quite ready "to let themselves go".
A mother sending her son back to school with a note apologising for his day's absence added, "What a nice peaceful day it must have been for you"— But he was only one—there are rarely nice peaceful days for teachers.