Here is the complete transcript of the meditations designed to be given en route to Chartres:
" Education, path to holiness "
Saturday 18th May 2013
THE PRINCIPLES OF EDUCATION
under the patronage de Saint Jean Bosco
Meditation 1 : Saint Jean Bosco
Meditation 2 : Man is in need of Education
"He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me." John 14.21
1. Man's destiny is to achieve blessedness (happiness with God). This destiny is not reached in one single moment, one single act (as is the case with angels), but through a multitude of acts. Man reaches his destiny through permanent progress. Man is a being in the process of becoming. Everything in Man is educated : body, heart, mind and soul.
2. The pursuit of our destiny is made through the exercise of free choices and acts, guided by virtue (the cardinal moral virtues : Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance). The first aim of Education is to help us discover our destiny (Joy with God) and acquire the virtues that will help us get there.
3. The theological virtues build upon this foundation, tying in man's intelligence and will to the supernatural; educating him by giving him a superior rule of judgement; no longer a simple human rule of judgement, but a divine rule. The Holy Spirit bestows his gifts on the Christian in a state of grace.
Meditation 3 : Education is teaching and rectifying.
" Flecte quod est rígidum, fove quod est frígidum, rege quod est dévium.”
“ Bend the stubborn heart and will, melt the frozen, warm the chill, guide the steps that go astray.”
(Sequence of Pentecost).
1. On the human level, education is an action of man to man. An error in the perception of what is man will impact on the perception of education.
- Error as to the nature of Man : “Angelisme” is the refusal to see the bodily nature of man, ignoring that man acquires his ideas by confrontation with lived experience. It holds that man is born with his ideas (Platonism, Cartesianism). Education merely helps the child remember what he already knows.
- Error as to the condition of Humanity : “Naturalism” ignores that all men since Adam (except Our Lady) are tainted by Original Sin. This darkens our intelligence, weakens our will and disorganises the control of our passions (concupiscence : irascibility : energy to overcome obstacles). Baptism washes us of the stain of Original Sin, but in each one of us there remains the embers of concupiscence. However, many modern day pedagogies are still inspired by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (“Man is naturally good, it is Society that corrupts him”, the myth of the “Noble Savage”.)
2. The educator must keep in mind :
a) The child does not yet know, but he can know; his intelligence is made for truth.
b) In each child there is a resistance to truth, to good. Education should rectify this.
" Bend the stubborn heart and will, melt the frozen, warm the chill, guide the steps that go astray "
(Sequence of Pentecost).
Meditation 4 : Authority and obedience.
" for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit speaking through you. » Matthew 10.34
Education is a relationship of person to person. The Educator has authority to educate, bring up, help grow (auctoritas from the Latin augere, to increase, make grow). For the person being educated, the essential qualities are first of all docility (disposition to receive education intelligently) and obedience (from obaudire : to listen to, to lend ones ear), who executes an order received from a legitimate superior in his sphere of jurisdiction. Give examples of healthy cases of authority and obedience.
Errors concerning authority, docility and obedience :
1. Individual level :
The educator: authoritarianism, capriciousness, or the other extreme, laxism, liberalism or abdication.
The educated: insubmission, lack of docility, or the contrary, blind obedience and servility.
Socialism, statism, interventionism : the State thinks that it alone and exclusively can look after education ("Public Education “). The State wants to control everything, no allowance made for the principle of subsidiarity and the natural freedom of persons, families and associations. The primary responsibility of the family aided, not thwarted by State aid and control.
THE FAMILY, FIRST FOR EDUCATION
under the patronage of Saint Jean-Baptiste de la Salle.
Meditation 5 : Saint Jean-Baptiste de la Salle
Meditation 6 : The Family and education.
" Peace on this house ! "
A. Right to education
Parents, after having co-operated with God’s plan through procreation, continue to co-operate in God’s work through the education of their children. Education is a fundamental natural right of parents. It is also one of their most serious duties.
Parents are the first and primary educators of their children. This right and duty to educate is essential, irreplaceable and inalienable. In certain extreme cases, where the physical and mental integrity of the children is in danger because of the indignity of the parents (alcoholism, violence…) the children may be removed from them and confided to state educational bodies.
Education is one of the highest works of charity of Christian parents. To complete its mission of education the family can be assisted by other educational groups such as school, associations etc.….
B. The aim of Education
Parents should give religious, moral, civic and physical education to their children and look after their material good. They work at the formation of the will, intelligence, conscience, heart and body of their children. They should baptise their children a few days after birth, and teach them catechetics once they are of age to understand.
Education isn't done by just word alone, but by example. In the life of the family the child is educated in social virtues and learns to give of himself.
A good education always keeps in view its objective : the acquisition of virtues and eternal salvation. All is organised to this end, the order of values is respected (priority to spiritual and moral life over scholarly achievement).
A good education integrates the formation of all aspects of the person : spiritual, intellectual, moral, corporal. It requires great prudence on the part of the parents, strength and determination, a capacity to listen and to exercise authority.
Reading : Jean-Paul II Familiaris consortio
Meditation 7 : Fundamentals of Education.
" He grew in age, wisdom and grace “
Parents are at the service of their children – and have authority over them – to enable them to become free and responsible adults. For this, the action of education of the parents will be exercised in three major areas.
A. Formation of personality
Parents should encourage the child's self-confidence. They should teach him to control his anxiety and be independent. The essential role of the father.
B. Social skills.
Parents should teach the child to accept rules, constraints and limits. They should teach him to acknowledge and respect others, and have them participate in the common good by involving them in family tasks and duties.
C. The meaning of life
Parents should teach the catechism as soon as children are able to understand and speak to them about the purpose of life, Heaven. They should be themselves examples of authentic (oblate) love and show what it is to give happily of oneself.
Reading : Yannik Bonnet : The nine fundamentals of Education (Presses de la Renaissance)
Meditation 8 : Civil Society and Education.
" You would have no power over Me if had not been given to you from above. “
1. Civil Society has material common good as its aim. This "consists in the peace and security that families and citizens enjoy in the exercise of their rights. At the same time allowing the greatest possible spiritual and material well being, thanks to the union and co-ordination of the efforts of all."(Pius XI, Divini illius magistri).
2. This material common good should obey the hierarchy of civilising values : wisdom, morality, necessity, respect for the individual and his personal destiny. It should never put obstacles in the way of the search for truth and the action of the Church. It should encourage the exercise of virtue as much as possible and for as many as possible, particularly by defending the duties and the rights of everyone.
3. The State has in consequence a certain mission to educate : "But education cannot belong to civil society in the same way as it belongs to the Church and the family. Civil society has a part to play in relation to its own requirements. "(Pius XI, loc. cit.).
- the formation of those involved in maintaining the good of the State (army, police, judiciary, diplomacy…); oversee public morality and civic education;
- encourage the educational activity (notably schools) of families and the Church; supplement whatever is lacking in the case of moral or economic incapacity;
- "The State must guarantee the right of children to adequate schooling and education, oversee the capacity and qualifications of teachers, oversee the health of the students. In a general manner develop the overall schooling system but without losing view of the principle of subsidiarity, never imposing a state schooling monopoly. "(Vatican II, Gravissimum educationis, 6).
Meditation 9 : Education, path to liberty.
"The truth will set you free !”
Education consists of helping the small child to grow and reach adulthood, helping him become a free man or woman, fully responsible and active in Society, a worker for the Common Good. Various stages have to be covered, each one is critical and often under attack.
1. From infant to the age of reason :
The child has to be taught to not to simply follow his instincts, his whims, but to act with reason, doing good and avoiding evil. Self control, responsibility and obedience.
2. From childhood to adolescence :
Learning to know oneself, in particular the education of purity, of what is human life, of the laws concerning its transmission and growth, common sense and the love of God.
3) To adulthood:
Education to life in Society, in professional work, in undertakings; discovery of ones personal path to holiness (marriage or religious vocation, the call of God to consecrated life ).
20th May :
GOD EDUCATES US THROUGH THE CHURCH
Under the patronage of Saint Anne and Saint Joachim
Meditation 10 : Saint Anne and Saint Joachim
Meditation 11 : God, our Father and Educator.
" This is My beloved Son… Listen to Him.”
God is our Father. He is the beginning of our life and our final end. He created us by love and wants to guide us towards happiness. For this He educates us (educare: bring up, nourish, instruct; from the same word as dux, ducis : he who guides, directs)
God created us with a nature, which has to be cultivated, developed, as one cultivates a garden, with due regard to the nature of things. This nature has physical and moral laws, which allow it to flourish.
Beyond this nature, while always abiding by it, God calls us to enter into supernatural life, a communion of knowledge and love with the Holy Trinity.
The Lord prepared a people to receive the Saviour, who brings to the world this supernatural life. " The Law was our custodian until Christ came "(Ga 3, 24).
Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life, the Master of Doctrine who teaches us the means to salvation. "This is my beloved Son… listen to Him."
The Holy Spirit, Master of the Interior Life, teaches us all things and educates us while guiding us towards holiness. "Veni Sancte Spiritus…"
Meditation 12 : The Church as Educator.
" He who listens to you, listens to me.”
1. The Church has a mission, and therefore the duty and the right, to teach all men, and Christ helps Her in this mission: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age."(Mt 28, 19-20).
2. This teaching concerns :
- Supernatural salvation and how to attain it; this is part of the Church’s mission (doctrine, evangelical morality, sacraments);
- Natural law, only the Church teaches in fullness and of the grace given to help to us.
3. This teaching is done:
- by mission, catechetics, instruction, various pedagogical methods put in practice in schools and catholic works (universities, schools, patronage, youth movements, charities and missionaries …);
- By the liturgy and influence on culture: the practice of the sciences, arts and literature and the disciplines (Ancient culture was saved by the Church, many of the founders of modern science were Christians …).
The necessity of docility to the Magesterium and government of the Church so as to let be educated by the Church, Mother and Teacher.
Meditation 13 : Education, hope and mission.
"Go, teach… “
1. Education nourishes hope. To educate is to help the person being educated to become himself : help to realise his potential, created in the image of God, everyone one has his own unique vocation. The action of the educator, the response of the educated, leading to a growth in virtues, every step taken gives hope for the next one.
2. Hope nourishes education. In this task the educator and the educated are not alone. There is the help and support of the educational community that is the family, the parish, the school, the City. The teaching experience of this Community and the Church, and above all the Great Educator, the Holy Spirit. He wishes the salvation and the perfection of everyone. He is the principal author of the growth of the educated: the educator and the educated can rely on Him. Speak of the theological virtue of Hope.
3. Many auxiliary undertakings are an immense help to Education. Scouting, patronage, apostolic works, our pilgrimage to Chartres, all have given much fruits and are tangible signs of "the credibility of Hope in Education" in 2013.
Meditation 1 - St John Bosco
The theme of this year's Pilgrimage is "Education: the Pathway to Sanctity". On this, the first day, we shall reflect on the principles on which we should rely when considering education. And we are going to do that in the company of St John Bosco, to whose patronage we have dedicated this day.
1 A life consecrated to God, to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and to poor children.
St John Bosco is rightly considered as the Apostle of the 19th Century for the children and adolescents of Italy.
Born in 1815, in a village in Peidmont, John Bosco was the third son in a poor peasant family. Having lost his father at the age of 2, he was brought up by his mother, a very holy woman.
Because of his cheerful character, John was very influential with the other children of his age, who he attracted by his pleasant disposition, and his art of mixing fun and prayer. These were the first signs of his apostolic vocation. In fact, John hoped to become a priest and was supported in his vocation by his mother and by an old and holy priest, even though his poverty, which obliged him to undertake manual labour, seemed likely to prevent him from studying and gaining access to the priesthood. By the grace of God, his courage and his quick intelligence would enable him to overcome all these obstacles.
In 1835, at the time of his entering the senior seminary, his mother said to him: 'John, remember that what dignifies a cleric is not his habit, but his virtue. When you were born, I consecrated you to the Madonna; when you started to study, I commended you to be her son. Now dedicate yourself to her more than ever, and make her loved by all around you.'
At senior seminary, just as in the village and at high school, John Bosco set his peers an example of work and virtue, in a joyful spirit.
Ordained a priest in 1841, at the age of 26, he was sent to Turin, where, a little after his arrival, he befriended a 16-year-old orphan, whom he converted, and who was to be the first of many. When he visited the town prisons, he realised what his true work was to be, and he established his first Sunday youth groups, which he called oratories, in the poor quarter of Vadocco.
But this Sunday work was not enough to sustain the Christian life, nor even the material life, of these poor children, and John Bosco, although he had no resources, undertook to open a refuge for the most needy.
"How," asked his mother, who had now become his helper, "when you haven't a penny to your name!"
"Look!" replied the son, "if you had any money, wouldn't you give it to me? Well, then, Mother, do you imagine that Divine Providence, who is infinitely rich, will be any less good than you?"
In 1854, Don Bosco made friends with the young Dominic Savio, who asked him to 'make me into a saint.' Dominic followed Don Bosco's direction to the letter, and died three years later - and was duly declared the patron saint of adolescents.
In 1859, along with the young men who had joined him in the early 1850s, Don Bosco founded the Society of St Francis de Sales - the Salesians. The aim of the Salesians is to 'unite members, ecclesiastics, clerics and lay, with the goal of perfecting themselves in the virtues of our divine Saviour, especially by the exercise of charity towards the young who are poor.'
A few years later, in 1872, Don Bosco founded an equivalent institute for women, the Daughters of Mary, Help of Christians, which he entrusted to Marie-Dominique Mazzarello.
From 1875, the Salesians spread abroad, initially setting up in France and South America, and eventually throughout the world. There are now more than 16,000 Salesians, and nearly 15,000 members of the Daughters of Mary.
Don Bosco died in Turin on the 31 January 1888. He was canonised on Easter Day in 1934, and in January 1988, Pope John Paul ll proclaimed him the Father and Teacher of Youth.
2 A Peerless Educator
During his lifetime, Don Bosco had a considerable reputation as an educator, and people came from far and wide to seek his advice. One day, someone, who was convinced he had some formula, asked him: 'But what is your system of education?'
'My system? I don't know myself. I forge ahead, according to the circumstances and the inspiration of Heaven!' answered Don Bosco.
His questionner was astonished at the saint's answer. Doubtless, he was expecting a precise response, an explicit programme which one need only follow in order to raise and nourish children in every situation. What a disconcerting reply! Only one system: not to have a system! Even in those days, the idea of a method was starting to take over people's minds to the extent that Don Bosco's approach seemed completely antiquated and out of date - and it would certainly seem even more so today. And yet, how well it worked! Let us look a little more closely at it.
i Respect the individuality of each child
We have to acknowledge how this saint touched the hearts of young people, how well he knew how to elevate the souls of so many children and adolescents, showing them the way to Heaven. So how did he do it?
Here is our saint's secret: you have to take each child, each soul, just as you find it. Above all, Saint John Bosco did not want to shut the children entrusted to him into little boxes, into categories. That is his first secret. He wanted to promote the spiritual, intellectual and human flourishing of each; he wanted to develop each one by taking him as he found him. Paul isn't identical to Peter, and he, in his turn, is quite different from John. Therefore, one should not expect the same thing from Paul and Peter. Peter may be smarter and more spontaneous than Paul, but Paul may be the better at his studies. All this Don Bosco grasped at once, and he set different goals for each of his young people, according to the gifts which the good Lord had given each.
Don't compare, and don't idealise
Alas, we must humbly realise that we are often far, very far, from such a wise approach. We find it too easy to compare our children, one against the other; our son or our daughter against their siblings or friends. Of course, our intention is very good: we simply want to help our child give of his best. But in reality, all too often, we are idealising our child, creating a completely theoretical idea of what we would like him to become, without considering what he really is.
Have a postive outlook
Don Bosco would not indulge that type of idealism. He suffered a great deal when parents, or teachers, complained of a child because he was too much like this, or not enough like that... But he would always encourage them to have a more postive outlook, to look at the gifts which the good Lord had bestowed on their child. His optimism, inherited from St Francis de Sales, whose sprituality he lived, was unequalled. He always saw what was best and most beautiful in the many children who were lucky enough to know and love him.
Have a shared framework, but apply rules on a case by case basis
Even when it came to the rules of life, our holy educator knew to apply them on a case by case basis.
* He had the same framework for everyone, a framework he considered essential for the education of children, because wthout structure, the child is lost.
* But although the framework was shared, (school, youth club...) Don Bosco was a master of the art of adjusting the rules according to each individual. He applied them with intelligence and gentleness, on a case by case basis, out of respect for each individual.
In this, he was faithfully following the example of that great teacher of souls, St Francis de Sales.
2 Trust young people, in order to gain their trust.
"When I was in the seminary," our saint tells us, "I swore that I would never be like those priests who paid no heed to the helpelssenss of the young. You have to win the trust of children; not be their superior, but their father."
Trust: that without doubt is the second secret of St John Bosco. How can you hope to be respected, how can you hope to be loved as the mother or father of a family, as a teacher, as a chief scout; how can you hope to bring up, to educate a child or an adolescent, if you place no trust in him?
Let me tell you this anecdote, taken from the saint's life, which highlights in itself one essential aspect of education. One day, our saint went to the borstal in Turin, and asked for permission to take all the children out for a walk one Sunday afternoon. The Director hesitated, but on Don Bosco's insistence, he agreed: 'On one condition: that you bring them all back!' Those around the Director sniggered: 'The place will be pretty empty tonight!' Don Bosco knew what he was doing. Before taking them for a great ramble, he talked to them about trust, and how it has to be reciprocated. For all those young people, this trip to the woods was a godsend: an opportunity to escape form the borstal. But Don Bosco had touched them, by placing his trust in them. That trust was indeed reciprocated, because not one failed to answer his name at that evening's roll-call.
What a lesson for us all; we who so often tend to mistrust and to be on our guard! Such mistrust is inevitably resented by a child, who suffers terribly as a result of it.
Pre-empt a fault rather than punish it
You will doubtless think that our good Saint, John Bosco, only saw the good side of things, but that, nonetheless, sometimes he had to know how to punish properly. Of course: inevitably! But look once again at the paternal delicacy of the saint of Turin. 'I try to pre-empt the fault. I don't say to a child: if you do that, you will be punished. Instead, I say: Careful! Here is a dangerous situation, be resolute, triumph over the obstacle, and if it is too difficult, join your weakness to my strength, for I will stay close to you!'
What a great lesson, once again; there the soul of the priest shows through, completely dedicated to the souls of the children, a true spiritual father!
3 Rely on God
But there is one more thing; one thing we have missed so far. Don Bosco may well have taken each child as he found him, and trusted each of them, and warned them of dangers rather than punished them, but he would not have been the great teacher which he was if he had not completely relied on God. That is the essential ingredient to become a good teacher, to become a holy teacher: to be a man of God.
If Don Bosco knew how to lead souls to the highest peaks, it is because, in everything he did, he allowed God to work through him. Remember what he said to that teacher who asked him the secret of his method: 'I forge ahead, according to the circumstances and the inspiration of Heaven!'
To be a man of God is not reserved to those who are consecrated in Holy Orders. All those of us who are responsbile for educating others, which is all of us... we cannot adequately educate the children entrusted to our care if we do not respect certain fundamental principles, and if we do not entrust them, daily and at every moment, to God and to His Providence. Because, finally, He is the supreme teacher, the educator of souls; He who has created us in order to teach us, in order to rause us up to Himself, to heaven.
May Saint John Bosco help and protect us in our beautiful role as teachers. And for that intention, let us say an Our Father and a Hail Mary.
Man is in need of education
'He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me.'
I. Man is created to be happy.
Man is created by God to be happy, and all his strength is directed towards that end.
1 In all that we do, we are seeking our own good. Sometimes, our objective is short term; "I am cold, so I will get up and close the window." Sometimes, it is more long term: "I am planning a great trip to Rome," for example. And finally, the goal encompasses our whole life; that's what we call joy: the fulfillment of all our hopes and all our desires.
Now a simple consideration of man will reveal that he is a social being, made to open himself to the other. And this contact, this communication with the other, will not find its fullness outside a true union. Thus our true joy will only be found in shared love, in communion with our beloved, because we are created by love and created to love.
2 But true love is forever. We have a longing for a love which will last for ever. How could we not desire endless joy? This joy exists: the supreme communion is the one which awaits us - communion with the Blessed Trinity: in an intense and eternal exchange at the very source of Love, with the Being who is himself Love, as St John tells us in his first Gospel. The most beautiful star in the heavens is merely the handiwork of God; but each one of us is his child. The three Divine Persons call to us, and want to draw us into that eternal ecstasy which exists between them.
II. Man is a being who is growing towards his destiny, and therefore learning.
But men, unlike the angels, cannot achieve this splendid goal by one single choice. The way is long. We move along it more or less quickly, by way of the small, and the great, actions of our life.
Man is a being who is growing towards his destiny. It is clear that he is not fully developed at once. (For example, in the physical order, he does not know how to walk straightaway, in the way a new-born calf can).
We can see that he is work in progress, and this work in progress requires an education.
We will not attain our true goal except by way of permanent progress, encompassing all the dimensions of ourselves:
* This is true of our body, which grows little by little, and passes through successive stages of apprenticeship;
* It is true also of our heart and our affections, which are educated by refining themselves, by opening themselves to the good of the other, and by progressively purifying themselves to find their true place;
* It is also true for our soul, which nourished, enlightened, and formed, little by little achieves its full maturity.
Thus our joy, which consists of the blossoming of all our capacities, is developed day by day. We are not born happy: we become happy.
1. Man progresses in his humanity by the practice of the moral virtues.
But how are our faculties to develop, in order finally to reach that fullness of happiness? By making free choices, and making virtue the guide for our actions.
That word virtue is often avoided these days. We fear to use it, as it can seem to mean austere and sad. However, who could have been more affable and happy than Saint Louis de Gonzague, as St John Bosco answered that objection? Who was more joyful and good humoured than St Philip Neri? These saints were joyful precisely because their lives were 'a continual exercise of all the virtues.'
Still, the happiness to which we are called is not gained straightaway: it grows by merit. It's like reaching the peak of a mountain. Before you even start, you have to be equipped and in training; then once you have started the climb, there are staging points to reach, and sometimes difficult terrain to overcome, before you reach your goal. And we are not equipped for the path which leads to happiness, nor do we naturally have the know-how and the strength of will to face all the difficulties.
It is education which helps us to discover our true goal and teaches us to acquire the moral virtues which are the necessary strength for the journey. It is the virtues which allow us to reach each staging point, and to make real that beautiful injunction of St Augustine: 'Become what you are.' Man is, in fact, a malleable being. The whole human project is to grow the best fruits from a nature and from powers that are initially untamed. By exercising the virtues, man becomes more truly what he is; he becomes fully man.
a) What is a moral virtue?
Acquired by repetition, a moral virtue is a stable habit of doing good actions, easily, comfortably, and without error.
- Because it is a habit, it is something interior to ourselves. It is not added on, but an intimate part of our being. We have made ours, by a personal choice, that law which was imposed on us from outside when we were children. The tutor, necessary at first, to help the young plant to grow true, has become unnecessary.
-A virtue is stable and acquired by repetition, which takes time. Like a bird which builds its nest little by little, twig by twig, so a man's house can only be built brick by brick, stage by stage. You cannot become an athlete without training. This slow acquisition, by daily repetition, is the result of education; that is of a person, who sustains, orients, and encourages us.
- A virtue is a habit of doing good actions, which lead us to our true end. Because man's vocation is to happiness, virtue is also oriented to that end: one does not become virtuous for the pleasure of self-mastery, but in order to use one's gifts, to be able to give oneself, for that is true happiness.
- Finally, a virtue does these good actions easily, comfortably, and without error. The hours of practise undertaken by a dancer puts each of her limbs, every movement of her body, under her conscious control. In the same way, one recognises in someone truly virtuous, that ease, that suppleness, and that interior freedom. The virtuous act reveals the depth of experience which allows it to be born.
When all is said and done, a virtue is an addition to our being, which animates us from within. Virtue opens out and fulfills our character, turning it towards its goal: happiness.
b) There are many moral virtues
There are many moral virtues: gratitude, generosity of spirit, filial piety... It is customary to group them around four main moral virtues, which are called cardinal virtues as they are the most fundamental; all the others relate to these:
- prudence (self-govenment)
- justice (respect for the other)
- fortitude (the virtue which masters our passions)
- temperance (the virtue which masters our desires).
These cardinal virtues are the essential elements that allow us to express our whole being. They are the foundations, which support the whole harmonious edifice which each of us is called to make of his life. They are the basis of our character.
We can find immediate applications of this understanding in daily life: it is easier, for example, to slam a door than to close it gently, but it is more virtuous to close it gently. That requires the application of the four cardinal virtues: prudence, because you have to think before acting; justice, because you have to consider other people; fortitude, because you need the patience to close it gently; and temperance, because you have to moderate your mood and your action!
Our parents accompany us on this path to happiness, for awhile, by educating us. Then there comes the day when they can let go of our hand. We are capable of walking upright, because these learned moral virtues not only make us independent of others; they also make us masters of ourselves. Education has given us dominion over our passions, and has prepared us inwardly for the great challenges of life: getting engaged, founding a family, building civilisation...
2 But man can only attain his ultimate goal by the exercise of the theological virtues.
Are the moral virtues sufficient for our ultimate fulfilment? No. Other virtues are necessary, which we call the Theological virtues, as they have God for their end. They underpin, animate and characterise the moral life of the Christian. They inform and give life to all of the moral virtues.
- Faith (by which we believe in God and in all that he has revealed to us, and which our previous Holy Father, Benedict XVI, has called us to deepen this year)
- Hope (by which we desire, as our happpiness, the kingdom of Heaven and eternal life)
- Charity (by which we love God above all else, and our neighbour as ourself, for the love of God).
We receive these theological virtues on the day of our baptism. They tend to unite us directly to God, whereas the moral virtues merely keep us right on our earthly path. (But they are necessary to provide a minimum of human perfection, so that grace can accomplish its work). For God calls man to a happiness which surpasses the natural capacity of his heart and his soul: a supernatural happiness.
So, that happiness requires the theological virtues: man must first of all be supernaturalised by grace in proportion to the gifts which God has granted him. Thus we are made 'partakers of the Divine Nature' (2 Peter, 1, 3-4)
And this outpouring of divine life, of grace, is a root which is implanted in the depths of our soul, and from which three great stems grow, which are the theological virtues. They lead directly to the most profound mysteries of God himself. They also have Him as their end: their goal is to unite us to Him in His intimate life, as our supreme happiness: and that is sanctity.
This sanctity is far above a simple moral perfection, for it presupposes that we are lifted above our human nature and that we abandon ourselves entirely to the movement of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Thus, my dear pilgrims, if moral virtue is the true path of the humanisation of man, theological virtue (to quote a saying dear to the fathers of the Eastern Church) is the path to the divinisation of man.
Finally, the person who is fully educated, and who has brought to fruition all of his nature and the graces offered him, that person is a saint!
To be educated is both to learn and to grow true
Just imagine that this morning, on leaving Paris, the head of the pilgrimage had taken a slightly wrong turning. After 60 miles of walking we would end up at Évreux or Compiègne rather than at Chartres. A small error in your beginning can lead to major errors in your conclusion. It is just the same with education: a mistake at the start leads to a moral, spiritual and social catastrophe.
There are two common errors with regard to education:
1 Not realising that the child has a body - imagining that he is an angel
2 Not realising that the child is damaged by Original Sin - imagining that he is a saint.
1 Man is an incarnate spirit: he needs to learn
The mother who has to change her baby's nappy several times a day, and the father who gets up each night to give the 3 am bottle-feed, are not inclined to imagine that their little treasure is a pure spirit. On the contrary, they are keenly aware that their child has a body, which needs to be fed, clothed and cherished.
Although one rarely overestimates the physical capabilities of a child, it is very difficult to judge his intellectual or moral progress.
The mistake lies in believing that the child already knows everything, that it is enough to ask him, and he will discover truth by himself. Whilst the angels know reality thanks to the infused knowledge which God grants them, man can know nothing except by way of the senses.
- The external senses (touch, hearing, smell, taste and sight) are the antennae which allow man to contemplate the world, to receive all the messages which creation transmits;
- Then there are the internal senses (memory, imagination and common sense) by the means of which man draws on both ideas and sensations, and by means of them, comes to know reality.
- Finally, by language, man communicates with other men.
Thus, knowledge always comes into man from the outside world by way of his body. Without using the body, it is not possible for human beings to acquire knowledge.
What this means in practise, is that we should never imagine that a child knows anything without being taught: and that goes for intellectual knowledge and the acquisition of moral virtues and good habits.
For example, no parent would ever imagine that children will know their times tables, unless they have heard them repeated for hours on end. 2x1 is 2, 2x2 is four and so on. Every teacher will tell you that: to teach is to repeat - to educate demands patience.
In the same way, parents should never imagine that children will be able to educate themselves with regard to sex and relationships; unless the parents take responsibility for it, others will do so, and not for the well-being of the child! To educate properly, we must want the good of the child.
2 Man is damaged by Original Sin
The second error consists of forgetting about the impact of Original sin. Every person, since the fall of Adam, (with the exception of our Blessed Lady, conceived without sin), is born with Original sin. In Adam's descendants, it is not a personal sin, committed by the will, but a state of weakness, of sickness, which prevents man from reaching the good.
Original sin results in a disorder in man:
- His soul is no longer submissive to God, and his senses no longer submissive to his soul;
- Man lacks strength: he is inclined to idelness and sensuality;
- His intelligence is imparied: he struggles to know the truth, or to make a sustained effort to meditate on it, and contemplate it.
- His will is weakened: he struggles to do even the moral good that he can discern. As St Paul said: 'though the will to do good is in me, yet the performance is not; with the result that instead of doing the good things I want to do, I carry out the sinful things I do not want to do.'
Baptism, in which we are immersed in Christ's death and resurrection, re-establishes the image of God in us, and gives us grace. But, according to the teaching of the Council of Trent, even after Baptism, we retain the burden of concupisence, which is, for the Christian, an occasion of conflict and an opportunity of merit.
This reality of Original Sin, and of the other sins committed after Baptism, exists even in our little cherubs with their innocent gaze and angelic smile. Be careful not to mistake a child's naivety for innocence, or his candour for purity! He is still subject to an inclination to sin, which his education must address itself to correcting. To do this, man is not on his own; He needs divine gifts.
At this time, when we are celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and on the Church, we recognise man's weakness; "Without your grace, there is nothing in man, nothing that is innocent," and we ask the Father of the poor; "Bend that which is inflexible, fire that which is chilled, correct that which goes astray." (Pentecost Sequence)
If you treat a child as a pure spirit, you forget all that he needs to learn. If you treat a child as a saint, you forget that there remains within him a tendency to do bad. In order for educational work to have a sure foundation, the educator must always keep in mind:
- Man is a rational animal; he has a body;
every man is a descendant of Adam: he is damaged by Original Sin.
Education, therefore, will have these two objectives:
- to teach the child something: both knowledge and a way of living;
- to correct moral faults which will appear as the child grows up.
If all knowledge passes by way of the body, before being received by the soul, the educator must repeat these things, and demonstrate patience.
If the child has within himself an inclination to evil, the educator must be clear-sighted. He must reward the good and punish the bad, always ensuring that goodness prevails.
Meditation 4 - Authority and Obedience
It is not you who will speak, but the Holy Spirit.
Authority and obedience: there are two ideas that are, these days, very controversial. But nonetheless, they are essential as far as education is concerned, because education resupposes a relationship between one person and another.
The educator is someone with the authority to educate: that is to say, to raise, instruct, and form, morally. (The word authority, 'auctoritas' in Latin, comes from the Latin verb 'augere' which means to augment, to grow.)
From the person being educated, the essential qualities are, first of all, docility (that is, the disposition to receive education intelligently) and secondly, obedience (from 'obaudire, which means to listen, to turn the ear towards), which means doing what one is told by one's legitimate superior in his sphere of jurisdiction.
To illustrate these two definitions, I recommend that passage from the Gospel, the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple, which is also the Fifth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. There, Jesus gives us an astonishing example of obedience, which seems at the limit of disobedience, and also of authority, even though He was only 12 years old. And, of course, that too was in the midst of a pilgrimage!
l. Obedience to men is subordinate to obedience to God.
1 Let's consider St Luke's account, in Chapter 2, verses 41 to 51:
"Every year, his parents used to go up to Jerusalem at the paschal feast. And when he was twelve years old, after going up to Jerusalem, as the custom was at the time of the feast, and completing the days of its observance, they set about their return home. But the boy Jesus, unknown to his parents, continued his stay in Jerusalem.
And they, thinking that he was among their travelling companions, had gone a whole day’s journey before they made enquiry for him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances. When they could not find him, they made their way back to Jerusalem in search of him, and it was only after three days that they found him.
He was sitting in the temple, in the midst of those who taught there, listening to them and asking them questions; and all those who heard him were in amazement at his quick understanding and at the answers he gave.
Seeing him there, they were full of wonder, and his mother said to him, My Son, why hast thou treated us so? Think, what anguish of mind thy father and I have endured, searching for thee. But he asked them, "What reason had you to search for me? Could you not tell that I must needs be in the place which belongs to my Father?"
These words which he spoke to them were beyond their understanding; but he went down with them on their journey to Nazareth, and lived there in subjection to them."
Reading this suggests a few observations:
At the end of three days, they found him in the Temple: we think of the pascal lamb, immolated in the Temple, of Christ 'found again' by Mary Magdalen and the Apostles, and we discover that Jesus' obedience to his Father takes first place in his life, even before that owed to his parents.
From his coming into the world, and up until his death on the Cross, Jesus came not do do his own will, but the will of the one who sent him. His whole life is obedience, that is to say, clinging to God's will, in the face of all types of people, events and institutions he encountered. (Let us also notice, here, that following God's design, the authority of parents ('He lived in subjection to them') precedes that of any political authority.
At the time of his Passion, Jesus pushed obedience to its fulfilment, delivering himself, without resisting, to inhuman and unjust powers. 'Though he was Son, He learned, through suffering, to obey' thus making of His death 'the most precious sacrifice to God, that of obedience.'
In that way, Jesus shows us that obedience takes its meaning, its justification, but also its limits, from whatever is, finally, a response to God.
In the same way, because he is only obedient to serve God, a Christian may, if he must, defy an unjust order and 'obey God rather than man.'
On the other hand, whoever exercises authority must be reasonable: he must not be either arbitrary nor lax.
ll. All authority comes from God: in order to command, one must know how to obey.
Let us return to our example: What was Jesus doing in the Temple? He was listening, He was asking questions, and He was teaching, with a stupefying authority, which draws hearts towards the Good and the True, as St Luke makes clear: 'all those who heard Him were in amazement at His quick understanding and at the answers He gave.'
This authority was something Jesus would display throughout his public ministry, as St Luke shows us in chapter 4, verse 32: 'and they were amazed by His teaching, such was the authority with which He spoke.' That is the authority of love, which causes all those who submit to it to grow.
If Jesus had such authority, it is because He was obedient to the Father. If one takes up 'the arms of obedience', as St Benedict said, 'the heart expands, and one runs along the pathways of God's commandments with the ineffable sweetness of love.' In following Christ, we take the same path as Adam, but in the other direction. 'Just as in the disobedience of one man, the multitude were made into sin, so by the obedience of one man, the multitude will be made justified.'
On coming into the world, Jesus declared: 'Here I am, O God, to do Your Will.'
Now it is our turn. All our life, day by day, can be turned to victory by this same saying; in the morning, at the start of a new day, then on going to a meeting, or undertaking any new task or activity...'Here I am, O God, to do Your Will.'
We never know what this day, this meeting, or this task may have in store for us; all we know with certainty is one thing: that we wish to do the will of God. We do not know what the future holds for each one of us; but it is always good to make our way towards Him, with these words on our lips: 'Here I am, O God, to do Your Will.'
It is only a free man who knows how to obey. He accepts orders in the name of order, because all disorder is an injustice, all anarchy, an enslavement. He takes them into his thoughts, translates them into his actions, and takes the initiative. The order of one is only fulfilled in the order of all. And all, in the fulfillment of their obedience, will find their liberty enlarged. Obedience is the indispensable tool for the cooperation of all in pursuit of the common good. It is also a powerful way of educating in love and in fellowship.
But let us remember how extremely difficult we ourselves find it to obey the Will of God. We are impatient. So man must wait, must learn to ask, to hold out his hands like a child, without forgetting to say please and thank you. It is impossible for us to give ourselves the divine life: we can only receive it with a humble heart, for we are creatures.
In order to cure us of our proud impatience, God sent his Son to earth, to share in our condition. He abandoned himself into His hands. To be saved, we must make our own that 'yes' of Jesus to the will of the Father. As St Ambrose said, 'He received obedience in order to be able to transfer it to us.'
Also, as we repeat, on this road to Chartres 'Our Father who art in Heaven... Thy Will be done...' we are not just saying it in imitation of Jesus and according to His commandment, but also in joining ourselves to His filial Heart, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, with which He fills our rebellious hearts.
Mary always 'kept in her heart the memory of all this.' She listened to the Word of God, and kept it, and put it into practise. Mary is the first to have obeyed Christ, her Son. Why not march in her footsteps, from now on, on this journey?
Let us journey on with Mary, then, as we recite our Rosary with her.
Meditation 5: St John Baptist de la Salle
Patron and Protector of Educators (Pius Xll, 1950)
This Sunday, the second day of our pilgrimage, is placed under the patronage of St John Baptist de la Salle, whom Pius Xll declared to be the 'Patron and Protector of all educators of children and youth.' Let us go over the major stages of his life and work.
1 A Rich Family
John Baptist was born at Reims on April 30th, 1651, into a noble family; he was the eldest of ten children. From generation to generation, they nurtured and developed their patrimony, both material and spiritual. Louis de la Salle, his father, was a magistrate and secretary to the king. At home, their faith was solid, and their habits austere. This quasi-monastic family atmosphere perfectly suited the child who, in addition, often took himself away in private to pray. Though serious, he was not glum, but rather, happy!
At the age of nine, he had to leave home for school, following a decree from Henry IV for the reform of education, in which he had declared: 'Good education consists of three things: the worship of God, piety towards one's parents and country, and respect for the law, marked by obedience to the magistrates.'
2 An early Vocation
From the age of eleven, John Baptist wished to become a priest. That was a hard decision for his parents to accept, especially his father: John Baptist was his eldest, and it was expected that he would inherit and lead the family. But the great faith of their household made them accept this sacrifice.
John Baptist received the clerical tonsure, whilst remaining free to choose, at a later stage, either the priestly or the lay life.
Five years later, a relative of the La Salles, a canon at Reims, handed over his office to the young man. So at the age of 17, John Baptist was a prebendary canon. He asked for minor orders, and at the end of his studies, he successfully sat an exam covering all of philosophy and was made a Master of Arts. He was only eighteen. He then left for Paris to study theology, and entered St Sulpice Seminary. There, the director led the seminarians in a high level of self-denial.
3 A secure future
The death of his mother, and then of his father within a year, left him faced with a heavy responsibility: he was the head of the family. He had to leave St Sulpice and return to Reims. He looked after his family's goods well and oversaw the education of his brothers and sisters.
At the age of 21, John Baptist wanted to take the decisive step of ordination to the sub-diaconate, but not without some hesitation. He was concerned that taking Holy Orders might distract him from his duty of state as the head of the family. He consulted his Spiritual Director, who helped him to decide to go ahead. He also passed his exams to win his licence as a theologian.
On the 9th April 1678, a few days before his 27th birthday, John Baptist de la Salle was ordained priest by the Archbishop of Reims. So there he was: the son of a noble family, with a licence in theology, and already the canon of an illustrious chapter. It seemed as though nothing could disturb his settled life.
4 First school, first renunciations
But soon, in the town of Reims, a scheme was born to provide a boys' school, and the new priest was asked to help. Very quickly, due to others leaving the project, he had the entire responsibility for the establishment. He realised that he could not be both a good canon and a good head of a school. What should he do? He sought counsel, and, as always, gave himself without reserve to the Will of God.
He had to live with the school masters (who were a very frustrated set of young men) which cost him a lot.
At first, he concentrated his efforts on the religous formation of the masters who were destiend to teach the children; which is not avoiding the problem of pedagogy, but rather addressing it in depth. For a Christian education takes a whole person approach to the child, with his soul as the priority. The young priest cultivated a spirit of prayer and mortification in the teachers. He helped them to love poverty, giving away all his own immense wealth.
And so time passed at the school, a time of prayer, with the recreation periods spent considering the spiritual readings heard in the refectory. Alas! This monastic ascetisism weighed heavily on the young teachers; they got bored.... Many of them left. Monsieur de la Salle's heart was broken by their departure, but he did not alter his rule by so much as a comma, and waited.
5 The Birth of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools
Soon, numerous recruits turned up seeking to join this community with its austere reputation. Thus, his next task became the transformation of this half-secular, half-religious community into a proper religious Institute. From amongst his disciples he chose twelve, and then, after a long retreat, on the Feast of the Holy Trinity, 1686, the twelve disciples, along with Monsiuer de la Salle, took their vow of obedience. The Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools was born. By the end of the year, there were around sixty members.
The founder wrote the first rule of the institute; all the articles converged on this one goal: 'That the Brother Educator should come to understand, by means of detachment and love, that the children's world which he is overseeing, and in which he is inculcating the love of learning and of human dignity, is nothing other than the Father's wealth, entrusted into his hands.'
6 Primary Education
This man, who would be hailed as the 'prophet and father of popular education in France,' initially conceived the reform of primary education by two means:
• The first was the institution of the novitiate of the Brothers: a proper teacher training college, because he knew that 'children's attention is essentially contemplative, and will be more influenced by witnessing a good life than by a display of learning.'
• The second was making 'flow in the souls of the children, like a mother's milk, concrete knowledge.... which would be necessary for their life as a simple artisan or shop-keeper, as well as an informed conscience and faith in God.'
The moral formation of the children followed naturally. So the families of the town, delighted with such a transformation, entrusted more and more of their children to the Brothers.
The Brothers' schools, which were free, multiplied, despite jealousies, persecutions and defections...
Their fundamental principle of education rested on two points:
• To do their duty according to their state in life to perfection;
• Not to innovate without real need. However, their inovations would have real importance!
A key achievement, on which the schools' superiority and prestige were founded, was their catechetical instruction: popular teaching of doctrine, by means of the catechism, was, for Monsieur de la Salle, the foundation of a primary school, where one could see the novitiate of the Christian.
With regard to corporal punishment, in addition to the standards of the time, he imposed his personal stamp: such punishments should never be used unless every other approach had beeen tried and had failed, and never in a moment of anger.
Brothers and pupils were expected to show courtesy and good manners and to conform to the high conception which Christianity has of man. True courtesy surely springs from a mastery of self, gentleness, and even humility. He also insisted particularly on punctuality.
His whole Rule for the Brothers encouraged mastery of oneself which is so necessary for a Christian educator who should be a living example for the children.
7 Professional and Technical Education
The founder also opened, in the house of the Novitiate, a college for older students: a precursor of professional and technical education. He devised a rich curriculum of sciences which was a novelty at that time. He also included modern languages and music.
He himself also wrote a manual summarising all his methods of education and instruction in Christian schools.
8 Death and Being Raised to the Altars of the Church
The organisation and growth of the Institute went ahead, but not without challenges from both outside and within. Nonetheless, the founder persevered day after day with the humility and fortitude of a saint. After a terrible number of trials, calumnies, and illnesses, his last words were the same words he had used throughout his life, in times of sorrow and of joy: "I adore, in everything, the way God has behaved towards me!" This was on Good Friday, 7 April 1719, at Rouen, where he was also buried.
John Baptist de la Salle was canonised in 1900 by Leo XIII and proclaimed the 'Patron of teachers' by Pius XII, in 1950. His feast is celebrated on 15 May.
My dear pilgrims,
Let us remember what Saint John Baptist de la Salle said to the Brothers of the Christian Schools: 'Hold fast to whatever is of the Faith; flee novelty, follow the tradition of the Church, only accept what she accepets, condemn what she condemns, and approve what she approves, whether by Councils, or by the Sovereign Pontiff: obey her promptly in all things.'
In this year of Faith, could we have a better teacher?
The Family and Education
Yesterday, the first day of our pilgrimage, was placed under the patronage of St John Bosco, a remarkable educator, who was blessed to have as his educator an admirable mother.
Today, our meditations are placed under the protection of St John Baptist de la Salle, the patron and protector of all educators, whose vocation was probably born on that day when, at the age of 21, he was orphaned: not only did he lose both of his parents, but he was also confronted, as the eldest of a family of ten children, with the task of educating these children who had lost their mother and their father.
What would have become of the little John Bosco, who lost his father at the age of 2, if Mama Margaret had not treated him with such a combination of firmness and gentleness?
What would have become of the young and brilliant John Baptist de la Salle, if he had not experienced that familial drama which made him undertake, at such a young age, the role of educator vis-a-vis his brothers and sisters?
Reflecting on these two examples, let us understand, dear parents and future parents, and you, young adolescents, the importance of education in the family: an education that must be worthy of the name.
It is the essential foundation for a good start in life.
1 It is both the right and the duty of parents to provide for the education of their children.
All of you who already have children, and all of you who will have them eventually, hold fast to the fact that those to whom you have given life, or will give life in the future, are called to become members of the Body of Christ. This is a beautiful truth, for in this way you are participating in the creative work of God. And God, who is the Father, entrusts you with new ways of helping them to grow: to help them to grow 'in stature, wisdom and grace'; as was said of Our Lord Himself.
This is what education consists of: enabling children to become mature, responsible men and women, who live according to their true status as children of God.
Parents, that is your most fundamental right, as well as your primary and essential duty in the order of charity.
This right and this duty have their roots in your sacrament of marriage. Thanks to that sacrament, your educative mission is raised to the dignity and to the status of a vocation: an authentic ministry in the Church. This educative ministry of parents is so great and so beautiful that St Thomas Aquinas doesn't hesitate to compare it to the ministry of priests (Summa Contra Gentiles, iv, 58).
You are then, dear parents or future parents, the first and principal educators of your children. Do you honour that noble duty? Have you grasped what is at stake in this irreplaceable role of yours? This role is of such importance that, should you fail in it, your failure can only be rectified with the greatest of difficulty.
2 You need to educate the whole person, in all regards.
What, then, is the object of this fundamental education?
Its object is very broad. You have given, or you will give, birth to human beings, endowed with intelligence, free will and sensitivity: beings composed of a soul united to a body.
So it is the whole person you need to educate, in all regards. We are not angels, but incarnate beings, and we are damaged by Original Sin.
Therefore, before all else, the first important thing to accomplish, and at one and the same time the greatest gift you can give to your children, is to have them baptised very quickly, a few days after they are born.
Consider the example of that mother of six children who never attended the Baptism of any of them. Why was that? Because, with the agreement of her husband, she always had them Baptised within two days of their birth. What wonderful Christian realism. How great was her joy, to be able to embrace whilst still in her maternity bed, her Baptised child. And then from the age of two or three, she would teach the child sat on her knees to know Our Father in Heaven.
Remember, dear parents, that it is by example, far more than by words, that you will be educators. Your children will see everything, will hear everything. Make sure that your words and your deeds correspond. Your children will imitate both your behaviour and the way you talk. If there is a real correspondence between your words and your deeds, your children will respect and trust you; they will admire you and seek to emulate you. So watch over the quality of their education.
3 Education must be complete.
What is the goal of education? It is to enable us to attain our end: that is to say, eternal life. And how do we attain eternal life? By the acquisition and practice of the virtues, by the frequent reception of the sacraments, and by personal and family prayer.
On this earth, we are pilgrims, marching to the Promised Land, towards Heaven. 'I must get to Heaven!" said St Bernadette. Do we think of that frequently?
Your children must become good Christians: that is to say, people with their feet on the ground and their heads in heaven. To that end, you must develop all their human and spiritual capabilities: 'a healthy mind in a healthy body.'
• Their intelligence must quickly be awakened to the mysteries of the Faith. It must also acquire a good knowledge of culture more broadly: it is important to know our cultural history as well as our religious history.
• Their will must be formed to enable them to resist the many temptations they will face, particularly as adolescents. Invite them to give of themselves and to take risks. Their will must be able to choose the good and reject the bad. To that end, the body must be educated so that it is a servant and not a tyrant.
All that presupposes on your part, dear parents and future parents, great firmness combined with great gentleness. What do your children expect of you? Lots of love; but a love which also knows how to say no, as well as a love which knows how to listen in order to understand, to direct, and to counsel: 'an iron fist in a velvet glove.'
Let us turn to St John Bosco and St John Baptist de la Salle; may they inspire in us the art and skill of leading these young lives, which are entrusted to us, towards their creator, in a harmonious balance between the natural and the supernatural; may they help us to be a good example, so that we inspire respect and trust; may they help us to stay firm and gentle, realistic and benevolent. For there is no education without love.
The Fundamentals of Education
He grew in Stature, in wisdom and in grace
We are going to meditate on the fundamentals of education, based on the experience of the father of a large family, who is also a businessman and the director of a higher education college, and who, after being widowed, became a priest and consecrated a large part of his pastoral ministry to families and issues related to education.
For parents and Christian educators, the one true role model is God Himself. Holy Scripture shows how He educated the Jewish people for the whole length of their history.
This began after the escape from Egypt, when Moses received the tablets of the Law on Sinai. On several occasions, Moses addressed the Jewish people, telling them: 'You will keep the commandments of your God as I pass them on to you; if you keep them, if you put them into practise, they will give you a reputation for wisdom and for intelligence, wherever people hear about these laws'. When God became man, in the person of Christ, He proclaimed, in the Sermon on the Mount: 'Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets: I have come to fulfil the Law.'
1 Learning to live in Society
The divine example clearly demonstrates that the first act of education consists in teaching the child that he must obey his parents. Obedience is not the submission of a slave, but the choice of a free will, the goal of which is the good of he who obeys.
God has given the child this free will, so that he may respond freely to his love. To that end, he has also given him a flightdeck, equipped with intelligence, for discernment, and will, to choose one course and reject another. But the child must learn how to use this flightdeck, to direct his earthly life and reach eternal happiness. He therefore has an apprenticeship which starts the moment the child becomes a part of family life under the loving authority of his parents, his primary educators.
Well before he reaches the age of reason, the child is already a social being, both by nature and by necessity. For the first few years of a child's life, parents have no need to justify the rules which they impose, and still less to justify themselves exercising authority. But there comes a time, when the child reaches the age of reason, when it is good to explain the reasons for these rules, so that the child may progressively appropriate them to himself.
This socialisation of the child, built on his obedience to his parents, implies his unconditional respect for all of the people he will encounter in the early years of his life. He must also be taught to contribute to the common good by the practice of service in the heart of the family. Parents must diligently undertake this educational task before the child reaches the age of reason. Thereafter, it will be the subject of little reminders especially when the child reaches adolescence. But this task is made easier by the acquisition of good habits.
This socialisation is the role of the father. The mother is often a great inspiration with regard to family rules, but it is the father who is in charge of laying them down and ensuring that they are respected: every transgression of family rules implies a sanction. The mother must be careful not to undermine the father's necessary authority; though that does not mean that she can't plead extenuating circumstances, and even, if the child is penitent, ask the father for a remission of punishment.
The father and the mother must work together to educate the child in this way, to prepare him for life in society, and for that reason communication between the parents is of paramount importance.
2 Strengthening Character
In order to prepare to become an autonomous adult, the child needs to strengthen his character to be able to resist intimidation and manipulation. This phase of a child's education starts in earnest at the age of reason, so that the child has some solid grounding by the time he approaches adolescence. As St Paul says in his Epistle to the Romans: 'We have different strengths, based on the gifts we have received.' It is Christ himself who tells us that we must each develop our talents. Every child, therefore, not only has limitations, but talents to develop. It is important that the child is encouraged and stimulated, helped to discover his potential, so that he can, in developing his strong points, build more confidence in himself.
In today's world, being open to influence is very dangerous. Having a strong sense of self-confidence is indispensable if one is to lead one's life on the course one has chosen for it.
The second objective of this phase of education is to give the child the ability to confront the unknown without fear. As Christ said to his apostles: 'Take courage: for I have conquered the world!' It is important to teach the child not to live governed by emotions, to see the future as a source of opportunities as well as of risks, and to use reason to minimise the dangers and optimise the positive possibilities.
The third objective follows from these two: it is to help the child progress towards autonomy, making prudent decisions and practicing personal responsibility. Let us never forget that among the Jews, the age when one is tested for adult responsibility is deemed to be 12 years old, and Our Lord submitted himself to that.
It is important to remind the adolescent that autonomy is not a matter of doing whatever one wants, but of doing what one ought to do, as though one wanted to... with the exception of anything that remains forbidden by his parents.
In this second phase of education, which consists of strengthening the character, the father is the most important educator, because his affirmation is more powerful than the mother's, his encouragement and compliments carry more weight, and the autonomy he confers worries him less than it worries his wife!
3 Transmitting the meaning of life
There remains the third field of education which consists of the transmission of the meaning of life. Here we are not talking about a specific course of action. Rather it is a matter of giving the child an appetite, a taste, for what is good for the human person.
Here, both mother and father play an equally important role. Each will set a good example, and they will pray together to ask for grace for their offspring. It is the life of Christ which will give them the answers which their children will need. By working for 18 years with his hands, at Nazareth, Our Lord gave witness to the spiritual value of manual work. By His Passion and Cross, he affirmed the greatness of His love, going so far as to give His life for His human brothers, as well as showing his complete obedience to the Father.
Christ was subject to his parents, and He did the will of His Father; He confirmed that He had come to serve, not to be served, and He added: 'Whatever you do to the least of these little ones, you do to Me.'
Let us pray that our children place themselves in the school of this good Master, and commend to the Lord all parents of good will, who wish, with all their hearts, to arm their children for earthly life, with a view to eternal happiness.
Civil Society and Education
'You would have no power over me if it had not been given you from Above.'
Educating children, as we have seen, is first of all the responsibility of parents and we have already cited some fundamental principles, to which they must pay heed, if they are to have any chance of being successful in that mission.
But this educative project of parents is of course undertaken in a definite context, that of civil society, which will necessarily have an influence on the education that parents are able to give.
And that is what we are going to consider in this new meditation.
1 Civil Society is ordered to the temporal common good
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC §1880) gives us the following definintion of society: A society is a group of persons bound together organically by a principle of unity that goes beyond each one of them. As an assembly, that is at once visible and spiritual, a society endures through time: it gathers up the past and prepares for the future. By means of society, each man is established as an "heir" and receives certain "talents" that enrich his identity and whose fruits he must develop. He rightly owes loyalty to the communities of which he is part and respect to those in authority who have charge of the common good.
In this definition, each term is worthy of meditation. We will content ourselves with examining just two of them: Heir and Common Good.
Heir: I have been established as an heir, that is to say that I have received goods which have come from elsewhere. Some of these are material, such as my clothes, my bedroom, my telephone; others are immaterial such as my name, my education, my personal relationships, my skills and my memories.
Some of these belong to me alone, and I am the sole recipient of them; but others, many more, are shared with a number of other people. Examples of those include the language in which I express myself, and the culture of the country in which I live; traditions, whether familial, professional or regional, to which I refer; everything that comes of being a citizen, everything that constitutes my patrimony; and in particular those talents which I have received, and for which, one day, I will have to give an account, saying how I have used them in service of my neighbour. Therefore, I am greatly indebted to society.
Common Good: The CCC § 1906 - 1909) defines the common good as: the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily.
It continues: It consists of three essential elements:
• respect for the person as such;
• the social well-being and development of the group itself... to make accessible to each what is needed to lead a truly human life: food, clothing, health, work, education and culture;
• peace, that is, the stability and security of a just order.
This definition builds on Pope Pius XI's definition of the Common Good in Divini Illius Magistri:
it consists in that peace and security in which families and individual citizens have the free exercise of their rights, and at the same time enjoy the greatest spiritual and temporal prosperity possible in this life, by the mutual union and co-ordination of the work of all.
From this two-fold definition, one can conclude that life in society is an exchange of goods. For if I have received from society, as an heir, I am obliged in return to contribute to building up the Common Good.
2 The Common Good should correspond to the hierarchy of civilised values.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that the Common Good must corrrespond to the hierarchy of values:
• Society ought to promote the exercise of virtue, not obstruct it. It should be animated by a just hierarchy of values. (§1895)
• The common good is always oriented towards the progress of persons: "The order of things must be subordinate to the order of persons, and not the other way around." (Gaudium et Spes) This order is founded on truth, built up in justice, and animated by love. (§ 1912)
Communal living implies that you need 'rules for the game.' A class in school, a factory, or a whole country: all of these need rules; the classroom rules should enable teaching, the factory rules enable honest labour, and the rules of a country should guarantee the common good, promoting prosperity and social peace.
Rules which encourage or tempt people to cheat, or which undermine the common good, would be contrary to nature and should be corrected.
For example: in 1980, Lech Walesa, a worker in the Gdansk shipyards founded the trade union Solidarity, and explained its purpose to a journalist: 'Look where the policies of the last 35 years have led us (that is the socialist regime): it has produced crooks, tricksters and rogues. Look at this or that team leader: if he is honest, he lives poorly. That is the disorder we wish to eliminate."
In its simplicity, that observation summarised the doctrine of the Church. The inversion of means and ends, which results in giving the value of ultimate end to what is only a means for attaining it, or in viewing persons as mere means to that end, engenders unjust structures which "make Christian conduct in keeping with the commandments of the divine Law-giver difficult and almost impossible." (CCC §1887)
It is then the duty of honest men to intervene, as the Church teaches: The laity, uniting their effort, should bring suitable improvements to institutions and conditions of life in the world whenever these provoke sin... so that they favour the exercise of virtue, rather than being an obstacle to it.
Benedict XVI restated this vigorously on his visit to the Bundestag: a State which ignores the Natural Law is nothing more than a 'large band of brigands!'
On the contrary, society should respect a just hierarchy of values, which subordinates the physical and instinctive dimensions to interior and spiritual ones.
3 The State, which is responsible for the Common Good, thereby has a role to play with regard to education.
The state, which has a duty to defend and promote the common good of civil society, its citizens, and intermediate bodies (CCC §1910) has a role to play with regard to education.
• The state has a duty to train those personnel who are called to exercise duties that relate directly to the Sate's proper ends: the army, the police, magistrates, diplomats, taking care always to instil a sense of the public interest and of service.
• the state must protect the right of children to an adequate school education, check on the ability of teachers and the excellence of their training, look after the health of the pupils and, in general, promote the whole school project. But it must always keep in mind the principle of subsidiarity so that there is no kind of school monopoly (Vatican II Gravissimum educationis, 6)
• the State should favour the educational endeavours of parents, and of the Church, particularly by schools which may be freely chosen by parents (including with regards to finance), and in case of need, make up for any moral or financial incapacity of parents to exercise their responsibilities.
By the same token, the state should oversee the quality of the culture which is mediated by the media and which plays a considerable role in forming the minds of the population and especially children.
For it is by this culture that educational influence is exercised in civil society. It is through culture that man lives a truly human life. ... it is through culture that man, as a human being, becomes more human... . The Nation exists “by” culture and “for” culture, and it is accordingly the main educative influence ensuring that men can “be more” within the community. (John Paull II to UNESCO - 2 June 1980)
4 Culture is a domain in which Christians should participate
Given what has been said about the importance of culture with regards to education, should we ask ourselves how and to what extent we can and we should participate in the culture of our society, our country and any intermediary bodies to which we belong?
In his encyclical Caritas in Veritate, Benedict XVI has given us the answer: "there is a good that is linked to living in society: the common good. It is the good of “all of us”, made up of individuals, families and intermediate groups who together constitute society. It is a good that is sought, not for its own sake, but for the people who belong to the social community and who can only really and effectively pursue their good within it. To desire the common good and strive towards it is a requirement of justice and charity. To take a stand for the common good is on the one hand to be solicitous for, and on the other hand to avail oneself of, that complex of institutions that give structure to the life of society, juridically, civilly, politically and culturally, making it the pólis, or “city”. The more we strive to secure a common good corresponding to the real needs of our neighbours, the more effectively we love them. Every Christian is called to practise this charity, in a manner corresponding to his vocation and according to the degree of influence he wields, in the pólis. This is the institutional path — we might also call it the political path — of charity."
Let us spend a few minutes in silence, meditating on these last words of our Holy Father Emeritus, which invite us to engage resolutely with the 'city' - society; and then let us say a rosary for his intentions.
Meditation 9: Education, the path to freedom
The Truth will set you free.
In the very title of this meditation, Education the path to freedom, freedom is presented to us as a good to be acquired. And indeed, we firmly hope, at the end of this life, to gain the glorious freedom of children of God.
I. The freedom of a created being is to say yes to the plan of God, his creator.
But what does human freedom consist of? To be a created being means to have received, from God, the gift of existence. To be a creature, then, is to depend on God, more intimately than on oneself. The liberty of a creature, then, does not consist of freeing itself from God the Father, but rather, as Blessed John Paul II reminded us, of 'saying 'yes' to the plan that God has for our life.'
It is precisely the role of education to lead a child to the full accomplishment of God's will for him. Education therefore should enlighten and strengthen free will so that it can choose according to the truth and the good, and so that it can free itself from the formidable pressures to which a culture of materialism, and our own egotism, subject it. It is also the role of education to form the conscience and the character of children, by offering them the blessed discipline of Christian living, which will allow them to acquire both strength of will and virtue, and therefore save their freedom; for without strength of will and virtue, they will not be able to resist the suggestions of the world and their own inclination for novelty.
II. There are a number of stages to pass through, which may have their own moments of crisis
If we are wise, we will model our educational strategy on the teaching of Don Bosco, whose great example enlightened the first day of our pilgrimage. St John Bosco was a great educator. He wished to educate children in an atmosphere of confidence and joy, developing their intelligence by the light of faith and reason, and offering their virtue the support of religion.
1 From infancy to the age of reason.
The path of infancy should be one of faith and obedience. Children, and especially little ones, naturally have confidence in their parents. This tendency to faith is manifested in obedience. Education, therefore, will encourage the child to seek the good, and avoid the bad. It will open their hearts to an awareness of others and to the joy of giving. It will fight strongly all tendencies to selfishness. In that way, the child who, as a result of Original Sin, will naturally tend to selfishness, and self-indulgence, will learn to overcome such desires, resist such temptations, and practice self-sacrifice. For him, that will be the true path to freedom.
In this difficult apprenticeship, it is of the utmost importance that the parents never give in to the whims of their children, and that discipline must start from the cradle!
Let us look at an exmaple cited by Lisbeth Burger: A first son was born into the Hermann family, a family of pork butchers. ' From the very first, he was a tyrant in that house.' A friend advised the besotted parents: 'Educate the little tyke reasonably, because he has already got some difficult instincts. Get him used to obedience, to mastery of himself, to doing good... By giving in to all his whims, you are raising him for prison!' But there was nothing to be done: the parents laughed at the temper tantrums of their child, and thought the little chap had loads of character! Alas, as an adolescent, he turned out malicious, covetous and underhand; he helped himself from the shop's till, and later, treacherously hit his father with an axe.
Obedience, which detaches the heart from selfishness, and tramples desires and whims underfoot, is therefore, for the child, the way of light and freedom.
2 From childhood to adolescence
For the adolescent, according to a Carthusian monk, the path must be that of hope and purity. "The years of adolescence are marked by profound biological, intellectual and emotional changes... it is above all a time when one searches for one's own identity." A time of waiting, of preparation, of the formation of one's personality, whilst a powerful drive to live is also flourishing.
For Father Thomas-Philippe, in his work on adolescence, the temptation may be to pay heed only to that drive to live, and to assume 'a false independance: an independence based on violence and force.' The joy of life and of generosity are then turned away from their true ends, and lead to serious addictions.
It is hope which will give direction to this new energy, and will orient it to God and to one's neighbour, rather than purely and solely to oneself.
Moreover, at this time when the body is also changing, the path of light and freedom will be the path of chastity. Human sexuality is so noble and so fragile; but it is only a source of liberty and happiness if it submits generously to the Divine Law. In waiting for the time of responsible parenthood, the adolescent will guard his or her virginity. This may be a heroic struggle, but this trial is necesssary in order to confirm hope.
And, of course, in all temptations, the grace of God is never lacking. 'No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.' (1 Cor 10, 13)
Hope and chastity: such are the paths of freedom for the adolescent. The 'most beautiful honour one can give to youth is to tell it that it is dedicated to purity and to greatness.' (Father Thomas Philippe)
3 Towards adulthood
For the young adult, the path of freedom is that of commitment: to be with others, to be for others, to enter resolutely into the true meaning of the gift of oneself. This, then, should be a time of charity and fidelity. It is the time to engage with social life, to undertake a profession, and to commit to marriage or the consecrated life. The temptation then can either be self-reliance or a fear of engagement. Such a fear is a sign of immaturity: 'it is a false understanding of freedom that tries to avoid all commitment, or to take any decision.'
For John Paul II, such a fear of true commitment 'may, in general, be ascribed to this culture of urgency, which is characteristic of rich countries... the distancing of a religious understanding of existence.... removes from man... the pull of faith and hope which are alone able to offer the possiblity of, and the aspiration to, a definitive undertaking.' The modern world lacks a soul. It is up to youth to bring this impoverished world a soul to reanimate it. The way to do that is by definitive commitment, for that is the way in which man gives himself fully, and becomes completely free. We know well from experience how changeable and inconstant we are. By committing ourselves definitively, we are taking the most radical way to fix our will on the good. Nevertheless, this commitment will only be real if we renew it each day, in a fidelity that is always attentive to God's plan.
An education which leads a child to adulthood, by way of adolescence, is an education in true love. Dependant on age, love is revealed as light, as life or as fire. Dependant on age, true freedom is found in obedience, in chastity, and in faithful commitment, the foundation for a future revelation of one's vocation.
But it is always love which leads the human heart, the love of God, which throughout one's education, leads man into the fullness of freedom.
Blessed are those who welcome the demands of a holy discipline, as a means to attain the glorious freedom of children of God!
St Anne and St Joachim
Parents and educators of the Blessed Virgin Mary
This final day of the pilgrimage is placed under the patronage of St Anne and St Joachim, the parents and educators of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
If you look for them in the New Testament, you will search in vain. All we know of them comes from the apochryphal gospels, that is to say, those texts which the Church has not admitted to the canon of Holy Scripture, because she considers their origins to be uncertain, and that they are marred by their taste for the marvellous.
These apochryphal texts have inspired many witers, most notably the Dominican, Jacques of Voragine (1228 - 1298), who ended up as archbishop of Genoa. Amongst these, the Golden Legend, written in a simple and vivid style, was a mine of inspiration for preachers and many artists, and is also the source of the themes of many of the carvings on our great cathedrals.
The other, much more recent, source one could cite, is the revelations of Blessed Anne-Catherine Emmerich (1774 - 1824), a German nun who was a great mystic.
i An exemplary confidence in God, put to the test by not being able to have children, and then rewarded by the birth of Mary
These different sources tell the story of a shepherd from the tribe of Juda (and therefore a descendant of David) called Joachim, who had been married for twenty years to a woman from the same tribe, called Anne, whose sister Hismenie was the mother of Elisabeth, who was, in turn, the mother of John the Baptist. Joachim and Anne had no children.
One day, when Joachim had gone up to the temple in Jerusalem, to make his offering to the Lord, the priest turned him away, on the grounds that, since he had no heir, he was not blessed by God. Profoundly humiliated, Joachim didn't dare to go home, and went to live with his flocks, fasting and praying.
He was away for five months, and during that time, Anne, his wife, had no news of him and was greatly upset. One day, she was at prayer, reminding God of the promise which she had made at the time of her marriage, that she would consecrate her child to him, when the angel of the Lord appeared to her and promised 'a child which would be admired by all nations.'
Meanwhile, Joachim was also visited by an angel, who commanded him to return to Jerusalem, where he would find his wife, and also told him that his wife was to conceive a girl-child, who would live in the Temple.
Obeying these heavenly orders, Anne and Joachim met at the golden gate of Jerusalem, and some months later, Anne brought into the world a daughter, whom they named Mary.
II A very uncertain period and a disputed resting place
Many authors recounted the death of St Anne, such as John-Thomas de Saint-Cyrille who wrote: 'St Anne fell asleep peacefully, in the presence of Jesus and Mary, and it is impossible to imagine a sweeter death.' According to the visions of Marie d"Agreda, who died in 1665, Anne would have been one of those dead who, according to St Matthew the Evangelist, came back to life at the very moment of Christ's death.
St Joachim's tomb is on display, even today, to pilgrims to the Holy Land, in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre of Our Lady in the Josaphat valley. It is on the right hand side of the high altar, with those of his wife, St Anne, and of St Joseph, the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The body of St Joachim would have been previously taken to Jerusalem, and a part of his head would be preserved reverently at Cologne, in the Church of the Machabees.
According to another tradition, the body of St Anne was transported to France in the 1st Century, and was preserved in the crypt of the church in Apt, in Provence, where it was discovered in 792, in a miraculous fashion in the presence of King Charlemagne.
iii Mary's life bears witness to the quality of the education she received from her parents.
Anne and Joachim demonstrated the virtue of Hope in a troubled world. They hoped in a God who would care for his people. They had confidence in his promises. They did not know that Mary, their daughter, by prevenient grace, was saved from Original Sin.
Therefore, they oversaw the material conditions, the education of their daughter, which allowed the Virgin Mary to respond perfectly to her vocation: to find her joy in obedience to the demands of the Lord. And, while it is possible that they entrusted their daughter to the Temple, so that she could receive the best possible education there, it is quite certain that they did nothing to contradict such an education. They were responsible for the education of the mother of the Son of God.
Full of Grace
The Virgin Mary is full of grace. There is no shadow cast on her intellignece or will to prevent her from knowing, understanding and desiring the Good. But nonetheless, she did not have infused knowledge of the Good: she had to be taught. She placed no obstacles in the way of God's work in her, but she had a body which needed to be formed and educated. In the same way, her intelligence needed to be instructed and led to sanctity. By the study of Holy Scripture, she was led to trust, as a daughter of Israel, in the hope that God's promises would be fulfilled.
Full of Wisdom
Mary was a child who lived, who prayed, and who studied. She was a young girl full of wisdom. She loved Joseph, the man to whom she was promised; and she demonstrated her practical good sense when she asked the angel at the Annunciation: how would God make her the mother of the Messiah whilst respecting her virginity? Mary new what girls of her age and situation knew. At the Annunciation, she understood that she had been chosen by the Eternal Father; she did not submit, but cooperated freely, even though that was to be risky and unsettling, because this birth was going to appear to contravene the precepts of the law.
Humble and attentive
With Joseph reassured, and after the extraordinary events surrounding the birth of Jesus, she never sought any vain glory, nor any privilege for herself. Mary kept in her heart what she knew. She was a mother attentive to her new-born child and scrupulous in observing the requirements of the Mosaic Law for herself and her family; worried for her Son when He was missing in the Temple; concerned to educate him properly; and happy to accomplish that, because, as the Gospel makes clear: 'He was subject to them.'
Practical and watchful
Mary was not 'quietist'; - she did not neglect temporal affairs: she fulfilled her role as mother and wife, whatever the difficulties, such as the Flight to Egypt. Sensitive and attentive towards the newly-weds at Cana, she gave her advice discretely and carefully watched the signs that her Son gave.
She often rejoined Jesus during his preaching of the Gospel, and was always attentive to the voice of God. At Calvary, she is the Sorrowful Mother. In the Cenacle, she took her place among the eleven, like a mother; right up to the end of her life, doubtless at Ephesus, she was faithful to the Apostles, who would visit her frequently, like good sons.
The life of the Virgin Mary bears witness to the quality of education which she received from her parents.
IV The Glory of the Altars
If the life of St Anne and St Joachim is little or poorly known, by way of contrast, their cult - particularly that of St Anne, is very widespread.
St Joachim was taken as patron by the ancient Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception, doubtless because of the very way in which Our Lady received her life. One of these confraternities existed in Paris, in the parish of St Severin, in 1561.
The most ancient references to St Anne date from the 5th Century. A church built on the presumed site of the birth of the Virgin in Jerusalem was dedicated to her; and the emperor Justinian would have a basilica built in her honour around 550.
In the East, her feast is recorded as early as the 6th Century, celebrated on 25 July.
In the West, St Anne's feast was not established until the 8th century, and is celebrated on 26 July. In 1584, Pope Gregory XIII issued a bull re-establishing the feast of St Anne, and establishing it as a feast of the Universal Church.
During his pontificate, Paul VI decided to join the feasts of St Joachim and St Anne, which are now both celebrated on 26 July.
Devotion to St Anne did not spread to the West until the time of the Crusades when relics were brought back from Constantinople of the Holy Land, and distributed across many European towns: Mainze, Vienna, Ancona, Naples, Bologna..., and, in France: the Abbey of Ourscamps dans l’Aisne, Paris, Sainte-Anne d’Auray, Cluny, Rouen, Lyon, Angers and.... Chartres.
This was when the Cathedral at Chartres received the head of St Anne, as reported in the official records of Our Lady of Chartres, which noted that 'The head of the mother was received with great joy in the church of her daughter.'
When one contempates the cathedral, one notices that the statue in the central door of the North Transept, and the window dedicated to St Anne and the Virgin, both bear witness to this veneration of St Anne as the model of motherhood and the ideal for all mothers and grandmothers to aspire to copy.
There are very few churches where you will not find a chapel dedicated to St Anne, so great is the devotion to the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary. And we all know of the famous pilgrimage in honour of St Anne d'Auray, and the deep devotion of the Bretons to their patron.
May St Anne and St Joachim, who are so close to Jesus and Mary, help us, on this final day of our pilgrimage, to understand the magnitude of the educational challenge we face today, and to fulfill our responsibilities to those children we have, or will have, in our care.
And to thank them, let us join our hearts to this prayer, which St John Damascene addressed to them:
Oh thrice-blessed couple, St Joachim and St Anne! You have an unanswerable claim on our gratitude; for it is thanks to you that we have been able to offer to our God, the gift which most closely touches his heart: a virgin mother, the only Mother worthy of the Creator.
God, our Father and our Educator
This is my beloved Son... Listen to him'
If ever you find yourself saying the Our Father mechanically, listen to this testimony from a poor shepherdess from Savoie, when asked how she prayed: 'When I am in the montains, looking after my cows, I start to say 'Our Father'... but thinking that He who created the mountains is also my Father, I start to cry, and I can't get any further into the prayer.' And us! Do we really understand that God is our Father?
Our Father - and what a Father! because, as Tertullian said, 'nobody is more of a Father than He is.'
What a Father: the God who created us!
What a Father: the God who has made us his children by Baptism!
What a Father: the God who has made himself our educator, to teach us to walk on the path to heaven!
At the end of our life, may we too fall into his paternal and merciful arms, recognising, along with St Augustine: "You have made us for yourself, O God, and our heart is restless till it rests in you."
I God is our Father, first, because He created us
Be careful not to misunderstand that word 'create.' To create is to make out of nothing. When man makes something, he always makes it out of something which God has given him. God alone is able to make something from nothing, as God alone is all-powerful.
And there, each of us should come to a new realisation and say to himself: 'God made me out of love. He wanted me, he loved me. I am not here by mere chance, but because God chose to bring me into existence. For, even though my parents may have transmitted their life to me, they still did not create me: they only particpated in my creation, which was willed by God. God used them to give me this particular body. And He alone created my immortal soul, without any intermediary. He is the origin of my being. He alone!'
Our most essential relationship, therefore is this one: 'Me and my Creator,' as blessed Cardinal Newman said. But that is not all. Willed by God, I am not a mere thing. I am neither a stone nor a blade of grass nor a butterfly. I am a member of the human race. I am endowed with a human nature, which inevitably has a particular instruction manual. That instruction manual is called the natural law. It may be that I imagine that it would be easier and more enjoyable to ignore that instruction manual, and to live according to my whims and desires, as opposed to how I should live. That would be a great tragedy, both for those around me, and for me myself. Because if nature is abused, it will repay in kind, as the famous saying has it: 'God is always prepared to forgive us; people are sometimes; but nature, never.'
Yes, I must convince myself (and the experience of millions of people who have preceded me on this planet bears wtiness to the fact) that it is in cultivating the garden of my nature in the way in which God intends that I will find happiness. I will never be as sure of this as I should be: the true law of happiness is the Decalogue: the Ten Commandments. Written into my nature, the Decalogue was also revealed to Moses by God, so that I could know it with greater certainty. That is why I should learn it by heart, and frequently examine my conscience to see if I am putting it into practice: by going to frequent confession, for example.
II God is our Father, above all, because he has adopted us by Baptism.
He does not, in fact, call me to a purely human happiness, bounded by earthly horizons. He wants infinitely more for me. He wants me to share in His Divine Life: He wants me to become, in the truest sense, His child, in His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
God's life is given to me in Christ. Since my Baptism, a Life inhabits my life: the life of Christ, soul of my soul, life of my life. 'I am the true vine,' says Jesus, 'Make your home in me, as I make mine in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself, but must remain part of the vine, neither can you, unless you remain in me.' (John, 15: 4)
The whole Christian mystery is there: Jesus came, and was made man. Why? So that I can be made God, by becoming part of Him; so that his life could enter into my life. When a keen collector discovers a unique find, he sells everything to buy it. The unique find that Jesus invites us to acquire is the interior life, which St Paul is describing when he writes: 'The life you have is hidden in Christ with God.' (Col 3,3)
This hidden life will become manifest after our death. Then we will see God as He is, and we will be like him. We will participate in his own happiness, which far surpasses anything we can imagine: What the eye has not seen, nor the ear heard, which has never reached the heart of man, that is what God has prepared for those who love him.'
What a tragedy to think so rarely about such things, and to fail to prepare ourselves better!
At the end of a famous film about St Vincent de Paul, the saint is on the verge of death, and has a great sense of emptiness. He tells the queen: 'Madam, I have done nothing...' The queen is completely astonished: 'What must one do with one's life then?' and St Vincent answers: "More!... we are terribly negligent.'
III God is our Father, finally, because he is our educator and, as a good shepherd, guides us on the path to heaven.
The root meaning of Educator comes from the Latin word dux (one who directs); and Jesus is the Way. Educator comes more directly from the Latin word educare (to instruct or nourish); and Jesus is the Truth, who instructs us and the Life who nourishes and nurtures us. It is He who said it: 'I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.'
1 Jesus is, first of all, the Way
We were all like straying sheep. Jesus saved us from death by his death on the cross, and put us over his shoulders like lost sheep. He pulled us out of the thorns of sin, and returned us to the pasture. He is the Way: let us follow Him.
2 If Jesus is the Way; He is also the Truth.
By Him, God has made known to us the truth which sets us free, teaching us all that we need to find happiness and salvation. Let us read our Catechism.
But Jesus did not only teach, he also conquered. He also shows us the truth by the example of His life: let us read the Gospel. Jesus did not simply teach; he also inspired millions of men and women. The lives of these imitators of God, that is, the saints, have great power to transform us. Let us read the lives of the saints. Let us also be good examples for each other. We learn good behaviour far more through our eyes than through our ears. Let us learn to admire our brothers in Faith and to learn from them.
3 If Jesus is the Way, if Jesus is the Truth, He is also the Life.
We need his grace. And He gives it to whoever asks for it. Let us learn, therefore, to knock without ceasing, at the door of his Heart, to obtain light and strength (and his forgiveness when we fall). Let us also learn to draw both fortitude and comfort from Holy Communion.
We would have loved Jesus, that great Teacher, to have stayed visibly with us. But let us have no regrets! If He left us, on Ascension day, He gave us his Spirit, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit who sanctifies: the living water that flows with eternal life. And that Living Water thirsts for us to thirst for it!
God created us for him, and we will never quench the infinite thirst in our soul except in him.
Let us therefore pray without ceasing: 'Come Holy Spirit, Come... Come of Father of the poor, Come and enlighten our hearts.' (Sequence from the Mass of Pentecost)
The Church as Educator
Whoever listens to you, listens to me
It is Christ who is the teacher par excellence.
But his mission on earth was not finished with his return to the Father: he wished it to continue, by way of a visible structure, the Church: 'the universal sacrament of Salvation.' (Lumen Gentium, 48)
The Risen Christ commissioned the Apostles to teach all peoples: 'Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you.' (Mt 28, 19 -20)
This mission, received from Christ, is now a duty for the Church: 'Alas for me, if I were not to evangelise!' cried St Paul (1 Cur, 9:16)
I The Church is a supernatural institution, with the vocation to give an integrated and personal education to all men.
The Church has received her mandate to educate as a supernatural institution, as opposed to the natural institutions of the family and civil society. She enjoys supremacy in her own field, because she has all the means necessary to accomplish her goal; that is the eternal salvation of all men, as Pius XI taught: 'The necessary consequence is the independence of the Church from all earthly powers, as much in the origins as in the exercise of her educational mission; and not only with regard to the proper object of that mission, but also in her choice of the necessary or appropriate means to fulfil it.' (Divini illius Magistri)
1 The salvation of souls
The first domain of the education undertaken by the Church is that which corresponds to its proper end: the salvation of souls. That is, the proclamation of the Faith, initiation into prayer, the sacramental life, and the teaching of morality in the light of the Gospel. Should we not hold fast to that?
2 The integrated development of the person
In truth, only the Church has a complete understanding of man and his destiny, which can only be understood in the light of Christ (ccc §1701). As a result, only the Church can give an integrated and personal education. So it is that Gustave Thibon has explained, with regard to certain modern social sciences, that: "the lock has been dismantled, but the key has been lost..." That is why it pertains to the Church to evaluate and judge all the other disciplines, even including sports: so that Pius XI could talk about the degeneration and decadence of true physical education in the pagan classical epoch.
3 Understanding and respect for the truths of the Natural Law
It is also in the name of Natural Law that the Church opposes doctrines which ridicule the very idea of Natural Law such as Gender Theory. Thus the Church is often in opposition to the modern State which illegitimately claims to be solely competent in the field of education, setting curricula and establishing a monopoly in the awarding of degrees. (cf Gravissimum educationis)
II The Church has all necessary means to fulfil her educational mission
1 The Liturgy and the Sacraments
The Church's greatest means of education is the Liturgy, as Dom Guéranger affirmed so strongly. In its official prayer, the Church, the institution of divine praise, prepares the souls of her children for the blessed life, which according to the Apocalypse, will be one great act of adoration. She never ceases to put before their eyes, throughout the liturgical year, the great mysteries of faith and the life of Christ; and moreover, to communicate the life of Christ by way of the Sacraments. Thus she accomplishes her mission of education. Further, the equality of the baptised at the foot of the altar has been a strong social link for a very long time.
2 The Missions and Educational Establishments
But the Church also has to reach out to all men, and to offer them the doctrine of salvation; which is why she has established the Missions, reaching out to ever more distant countries over the centuries. She opens her educational establishments and universities to everyone, and indeed founded the first of these in the West as well as many religious congregations dedicated to education and mission.
3 Lay Movements
But with the secularisation of states, we have also seen an increased involvement of the laity in aspects of the Church's work which were previously the preserve of clerics; and lay people also strive to impress their evangelical values in the different spheres in which they operate (business, lay organisations...)
4 The Witness of the Saints
Let us also add the preaching without words, which is the example given by fervent Christians, the saints above all, whose lives bear witness to the doctrine they profess; for our times prefer witnesses to teachers, or at least will not listen to teachers who are not also witnesses. How can one measure the impact of a voluntary martyr, such as St Maximilian Kolbe, for example?
III Christians must submit to the teaching of the Church
What then, is the correct attitude of the Christian with regard to the Magisterium of the Church?
- Where the magisterium teaches something as divinely revealed, the Christian owes a complete acceptance in faith: he will 'yield by faith the full submission of... intellect and will to God who reveals.' (CCC §154)
- Where the Church teaches without the intention of proclaiming by a definitive act ('other teachings'), the Christian will adhere with a religious submission of the will and of the intelligence.
- For everything else, the Christian will have a filial docility.
The Pope has described the two great challenges facing education today:
- Agnosticism, which springs up whenever human intelligence is reduced to a simple reasoning and calculating function, and which tends to smother the religious sense which is written in the very deepest part of our nature;
- The process of relativism and of uprooting, which ruptures the most sacred relationships and the most worthy sentiments in man; resulting in rendering people fragile and our reciprocal relationships precarious and unstable. For that reason we can understand the urgency of his appeal for proper education.
The Church is both the mother and the teacher of truth, 'Mater et Magistra', so we should stay faithful to her teaching. She wishes to make saints of us.
Let us conclude by underlining that sanctity is nothing more 'than a supernatural education well done' according to Madam Cécile Bruyère.
Education, Hope and Mission
“Thou hast made us for Thyself O Lord and our heart is restless until it rests in Thee” (Confessions of St.Augustine)
Here we are approaching the end of our pilgrimage during which we have prayed and meditated together on this beautiful theme “ Education, the path to Holiness”. This last meditation summarises, in a way, all that has been said during the last three days.
I. Education is not just training a child’s behaviour: it cultivates its intelligence to lead it to God.
Would you speak to a domestic pet in the same way as you would to a child? It is true that nowadays society is very into the protection of various animals, but just the same … there is a slight difference !
An animal, by dint of repetition, precise gestures and carrot and stick comes to understand what his master wants of him: the dog learns to sit up and beg, the horse to trot or gallop etc…Faced with an animal the master directs its natural instincts to this end to get what he wants. There is a certain dialogue between the two beings. The one, the animal, expresses itself in a manner characteristic of itself; the other, the man, interprets this language but must use repeated exercises to make it understand and obey. But the child? You will tell me that it is much the same in the first months of their lives: don’t you have to constantly repeat and repeat words when they are first learning language? Doesn’t one have to train them to teach them to control their tantrums so as not to let oneself be dominated by them?
Certainly, but here is the essential difference: your dog will only ever respond to you in its own language, you will never be able to teach it to reply to you in French. The little man, in so far as he masters the language, can communicate, question and start to understand. Little by little, this mysterious feature is developing which is intelligence: this opens like a chrysalis, hungry to receive more, to know more. But it is necessary to guide the little man and teach him the links which unite all this information and to show him where it is all leading. Besides, a child will first ask “What is it?” then immediately ask, “Why?”
To answer him, is to educate him; for him to develop so that he arrives at the certainty that he is a person created in the image of God which allows him to understand why he is a person. To this ‘why’ only the Church can give the complete answer. “ It is clear that there can be no true education which is not wholly directed to man’s last end’’ (Pope Pius X1. Encyclical. Christian Education.)
II To carry out their mission in education, parents face great difficulties but they can depend on assistance from several sources
Subconsciously at first, then more precisely, the child realises that he can know more and go further than the material realities that he is used to. Doesn’t he want to keep changing his toys? The great discovery for him is the love of his mother and father. One has to know before one can love. And in the same way that he knows he is loved by his parents and he loves them, he wants to discover The One who loved him first: to ever be loved by Him, to become truly a child of God.
Parents, this is your mission. To pass on this hope to the child that God has entrusted to you. A most noble mission unlike any other: the flesh of your flesh, the expression of your marriage becomes the one who will carry your hope; and when he leaves to succeed himself, thanks to your education, you can hold in your old hands the reward for the task: having educated your child to have grown in the true liberty of the children of God.
This won’t have been done without problems: you will have experienced many difficulties, overcome many worries, as the formation of a personality is somewhat delicate. These difficulties and anxieties are certainly harder today where everything is turned upside down. The totalitarianism of the State is not dead, but it is more subtle, more pernicious, but very real. The state is living this dream of casting parents aside in order to better destroy the building block of society: the family.
Education is a struggle, but of all the help on hand for you parents, the foremost is The Holy Spirit: Supernatural and Mysterious, He is always there. He adapts to each situation in all circumstances. Divine Love is infinite for each of us. Do you understand the importance of the sacrament of Confirmation? Do not delay it for your children: The Holy Spirit is all powerful in the formation of your children especially in the delicate stage of adolescence.
There are other institutions: the school develops intelligence and training for life in society provided that it is totally Catholic. But a child must not be a hostage. He cannot live and thrive in an atmosphere where his family is in conflict with the school. The church does not expect the school to teach woolly theories. It asks for help in the formation of each unique child.
Then there are youth movements to contribute in this task; among them, the Scout movement, which has acquired an unsurpassed reputation: training in community life, in a sense of responsibility, a forgetting of self, friendship building, all that we owe to the founder, Baden Powell, Catholicised by the great servants of God, Father Sevin, Canon Cornette and many others. The scout movement remains indispensable as their summer camps teach your children Truth and Charity.
III. By the education given in the heart of the family, Christians witness, in a mixed up world, the hope which gives them life
There remains a last point: the educative action cannot remain locked within the family. Not only does the family pass the faith on to children but it is also a living witness to the world.
We could be discouraged by the numerous obstacles thrown up at us by a society completely ignorant of natural law and in complete denial of the supernatural. It is, however, our role, as the teacher St. Paul says to his disciple Timothy, to ‘‘preach the word in season and out of season.’’ God wants to use us to accomplish his will.
The education given by Catholic parents is the springboard for the future. There is no doubt that the time will come when, in the face of all the damage, lost souls will turn towards those giving the example. For children, turning towards their parents, the question that comes to them is ‘from where comes this peace, this joy?’ During persecutions there were many torturers who converted. Faced by Catholic families, by their example, there will be many who come to their senses and rediscover the all powerful Grace of God.
Hope is not dead; in carrying out your most important mission of education you keep alight, in the face of a world in chaos, the little flame which only desires to burst into flame. Let us battle then without ceasing: Education is the unique meeting between the human and the Divine.
May the Holy Family bless us!
With grateful thanks to Andrew Plasom-Scott and Ann Parry for the translation from the French