The Holy Father gave an address to a convention of the Diocese of Rome. (Why is it not an archdiocese?) Seeing ZENIT‘s title for it (“There Is Talk of a Great ‘Educational Emergency’”) immediately drew me in.
This is an inevitable emergency: in a society, in a culture, which all too often make relativism its creed—relativism has become a sort of dogma–in such a society the light of truth is missing….
So how would it be possible to suggest to children and to pass on from generation to generation something sound and dependable, rules of life, an authentic meaning and convincing objectives for human existence both as an individual and as a community?
For this reason, education tends to be broadly reduced to the transmission of specific abilities or capacities for doing, while people endeavour to satisfy the desire for happiness of the new generations by showering them with consumer goods and transitory gratification. Thus, both parents and teachers are easily tempted to abdicate their educational duties and even no longer to understand what their role, or rather, the mission entrusted to them, is.
Yet, in this way we are not offering to young people, to the young generations, what it is our duty to pass on to them. Moreover, we owe them the true values which give life a foundation.
However, this situation obviously fails to satisfy; it cannot satisfy because it ignores the essential aim of education which is the formation of a person to enable him or her to live to the full and to make his or her own contribution to the common good.
As a teacher, a godmother, a Confirmation sponsor, and a Catholic, I find this fascinating. My classmates last semester who graduated in May had to interview for admission to the master’s degree program. Vanessa mentioned that, during the interview, she was asked what her (English) teaching philosophy is. (Mine is that all people love reading once they find the right book.) Thursday on Life on the Rock, a former Notre Dame football coach insisted that football prepared his players for life. After Remember the Titans, I can understand that. My task as a teacher isn’t just to get my students passing test scores, but to help them understand literature and language, why they matter, and their significance in their lives (and not get fired in the process). All the popular movies about great teachers (Stand and Deliver, Music of the Heart, and more recently, Freedom Writers) have little to do with test scores. Those teachers changed their students on a personal, relational, spiritual level. The Holy Father is talking about an educational philosophy.
An essential priority of our pastoral work [is] to bring close to Christ and to the Father the new generation that lives in a world largely distant from God.
In practice, this guidance must make tangible the fact that our faith is not something of the past, that it can be lived today and that in living it we really find our good. Thus, boys and girls and young people may be helped to free themselves from common prejudices and will realize that the Christian way of life is possible and reasonable, indeed, is by far the most reasonable.
I experience this every time I encounter Catholic youth. Our task as Christians is to “make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 28:19). The youth are part of those nations. I even experience it when I talk about faith with fallen-away or non-Catholics. I love Christ so much, with every part of my being, that I am bursting to share him with everyone I can find.
This is what makes me want to try teaching Catholic school. Is it possible to be too Catholic for public school?
Knowing that B16 and JPII were both teachers explains their grace at relating faith to education. It also gives me hope that my teacher’s mind will help me as I make up for a good decade of lost catechesis in my own life.