So, I’m about to eat the elephant. One. bite. at. a. time.
What happened was, about 10 years ago a friend of mine gave me this book on parenting. It was written in 1687. You read it right. And, I fell in love with the author. He’s amazing. His name is Francois Fenelon. He was raised in unusual circumstances (I guess we all could say that one way or another about ourselves). His father had been married and had children from that marriage, but his wife died when the children were a bit older and he then took a younger wife. Francois was the child of this second marriage. He was raised with the benefit of the wisdom of an older father and the gracious and abundant love of his young mother. As Mark Hamby, who rewrote the book, The Education of A Child: The Wisdom of Fenelon, tells it, “As he grew to maturity, the clear sense of his father and the sweet tenderness of his mother reappeared in his mind, his conduct and his writings.”
After Francois Fenelon turned 12, he was sent to his uncle in Paris. In Paris (oh yes, I am already dreaming) he had the exposure to the great teachings of philosophy and theology in eminent schools. His uncle saw Francois getting chummy with the social crowd in his school and was concerned for his virtue. He withdrew him and sent him to seminary. Note to self: it is good to observe my child’s companions and the leanings of his heart and to adjust environments when there are potentially long-term harms on the horizon. During this time Francois’ uncle took his own almost-grown son into war with him and this son fell in the first assault. Fenelon’s uncle, having lost his own son, made an attachment to young Fenelon which was stronger than ever. Fenelon began to have a passion for missions, and longed to go to Canada to help win souls to God. This did not come to pass due to the influences of yet another uncle, and instead, Fenelon became a priest.
During the “reign of terror” of King Louis XIV against the protestants, Fenelon was nominated as Superior. People were being oppressed, separated from their children and compelled by force to recant their religion and adopt the religion of the State. As noted in The Education of A Child, King Louis thought he would “gain heaven by offering to the church this vast spoil of souls, crushed and terrified under his authority.” Clearly this is not really the best soul-winning recipe. I’m pretty sure you won’t run into many people who will tell you they came to know the love of God when someone crushed their soul into conversion.
|Picture of King Louis XIV (Wikipedia)|
On his first introduction to King Louis, Fenelon demanded one favor, which was to remove the coercive approach the king was taking towards religion, withdraw troops from the Protestant regions of France and to allow the people to breathe. He asked that the king, “let persuasion, charity and mercy alone operate upon the minds [you] desire.” Fenelon encouraged the king it would be better, “rather to enlighten than subdue.”
I give you this history here because this man, Francios Fenelon has become a teacher of mine. Through his writings he has educated and enlightened me by way of persuasion and not coersion as to a wonderful set of principles for parenting. And it is from him and this well-preserved wisdom which I will be gleaning as we go through the next few months on Parenting Wisdom Wednesdays here at Hearts Homeward. The truths he shared then are as applicable today as they were then. His wisdom is timeless. He outlines 24 Principles in his book and I intend to go through all of them, milking them for the marrow they offer. I believe we can apply these principles in our homes and be greatly blessed as we do.
First and foremost, let us consider our own children and how we might use the approach of Fenelon rather than that of Louis the XIV and win them with persuasion, charity and mercy rather than coersion and oppression. This point alone could be the meat of our coming week. I am tempted to write more, but I will stop here as I hope we all can simply let God use that idea to spur us into more love and grace towards our own this week.
I’m truly looking forward to writing more in coming weeks. Hope you join me. Next week I’ll be writing about what Francois Fenelon had to say about the important role of a mother.
God bless you as you raise the children He gave you as gifts and guests in your home.