Intellectual parenting doesn’t end when our children ‘grow up’

Intellectual parenting doesn’t end when our children ‘grow up’
A Parent’s Perspective


I was at a very interesting talk recently in St Saviour’s Dominican Priory in Dublin. It was one of a series of lectures and was conducted by Fr Thomas Joseph White, OP, Director of the Thomistic Institute at the Angelicum in Rome.

In recent months a lot of my social life seems to revolve around attending different events organised by various Catholic groups, orders or organisations. Four of my six children are over 18 years old and I’ve come to the realisation that Christian parenting doesn’t come to a sudden halt once your children make the transition into adulthood.

My sister jokingly uses to term “legal fiction” to refer to the fact that one day a teenager is still viewed as a child needing all the support and care that goes with that title but, the day after their 18th birthday, they’re suddenly meant to be adults.


As young adults, who still have a lot of growing and developing to do, they’re going to need the guidance and wisdom of their parents more than ever. To be in a position to offer that wisdom and constructive support, parents need to be on top of their game. For Catholic parents, that involves continuing their own education in the faith and making the effort to support these various events. There’s also a great social aspect afterwards and lots of opportunities to chat and network over a cup of tea or coffee which is often equally as important.

The appealing title of Fr White’s talk was ‘The Need for Catholic Intellectuals Today” which he cleverly turned around and raised a laugh when he asked if you could truly be an intellectual and not be Catholic.

A lively presentation and discussion followed which focused on how relativism has taken hold and the challenges involved in making ethics interesting, the compatibility of science and religion and the need for Catholics to deepen their understanding and appreciation of their own faith.

Fr Thomas Joseph White’s book The Light of Christ: An Introduction to Catholicism is a very accessible exploration of Catholicism that is grounded in traditional theology and connects dogma and doctrine to Catholic social teaching, which is faith in action.

He always links back to the fact that the centre of Catholic social teaching is love in truth. During his talk, he emphasised the need for Catholics to truly know their faith so that they’re in a position to explain the reasonableness of what we believe in an increasingly secular world.

I was telling my 18-year-old daughter all about the talk afterwards and was wondering about her views on the need for more Catholic intellectuals.

It’s often hard to sum up the essence of any talk to a person who hasn’t attended themselves but I think my enthusiasm was infectious and we ended up having a pretty passionate discussion about the importance of young Catholics being able to have sufficient knowledge to engage in the task of evangelising.

I’m used to encountering and interacting with people who might have a certain level of animosity towards the Catholic Church. However, I’ve noted a new openness among those of my daughters’ generation. In what’s been described as a post-Christian era, we’re like missionaries in a new country.

The old presumption of knowledge is gone which leaves the way clear to start anew and to educate others on our vision of God and why religion still deserves to have a key position in the public square. I was quite amused recently when the same daughter was telling me about a conversation she had in her college. Her classmate was puzzled when she was talking about watching some old B-rate horror film as he said that he couldn’t imagine a Catholic being interested in that movie genre.


What Catholics might or might not do seems to have been a common topic among her school friends and a source of great curiosity and questioning. What surprises me is how quickly we’ve gone from being a country where almost everyone was Catholic and knew a lot about Faith and religion to a situation where being a practising Catholic is viewed as a bit of a novelty and a good conversation starter.

We have to be armed with the answers to pertinent questions that could spark a journey that may be the first step on the road to conversion.

I think the next time I’m going to a Catholic talk or conference I’ll drag my 18-year-old along too. We hear a lot about the role of women in the Church but sometimes our daughters, like our sons, need a bit of encouragement and confidence building to meet the challenge of delving deeper into the faith and fostering the courage and intellectual knowledge needed to engage in discussions on the deeper meaning of life and belief in God.


What could be more invigorating for the Church in Ireland than to cultivate an intellectualism of Faith, reason and love? If our search for truth is just about winning religious debates or flaunting our superior arguments and approaches we’ve lost the vision.

Fortunately, we have the guidance, knowledge and evangelical drive of priests like Fr Thomas Joseph White and orders like the Dominicans who are providing centres of learning that Catholics, young and old, are being attracted to proving that the thirst for knowledge and a more intellectual basis to belief has never been greater.