My Philosophy of Catholic Education

I wrote this paper shortly before graduating with my undergraduate degree from the Franciscan University of Steubenville in 1993. I wrote this for my "Catholic Philosophy of Education" course, which cross-listed as either theology or education.
I found this on my old Mac, and it took some fancy work to bring it back to life in a Word document. For this blog, however, the footnotes did not follow very well, so I stuck them at the end of each page. I will add numbers so it is easier to figure out which footnote belongs to which quote, but the numbers will not be in superscript.
This is the first time that I have looked at this paper since 1993, fifteen years ago.

Also check out my thoughts on what Benedict XVI said about Catholic education when he visited the U.S. recently.

My Personal Philosophy of Catholic Education

We are in the midst of war, a spiritual war for souls.1 It is essential to educate and arm the members of Christ’s Church, especially our children. In today’s world the obstacles placed against forming strong characters in our children are particularly fierce, pervasive and ruthless; therefore, “the Church is prompted to mobilize her educational resources in the face of the materialism, pragmatism and technocracy of contemporary society.”2 We must do whatever it takes to fully present Christ and His Church to our children and our children to Christ and His Church.

The Essence of a Distinctly Catholic Education

“The proper and immediate end of Christian education is to co-operate with divine grace in forming the true and perfect Christian, that is, to form Christ Himself in those regenerated by baptism....”3 It is essential to keep before our eyes the end of education in a distinctly Catholic manner--forming Jesus Christ in our children. The end and corner stone of the Catholic school is Christ; it is built on Him and He is its completion, goal, and prize.
“In fact, since education consists essentially in preparing man for what he must be and for what he must do here below, in order to attain the sublime end for which he was created, it is clear that there can be no true education which is not wholly directed to man’s last end, and that...there can be no ideally perfect education which is not Christian education.”4 A distinctly Catholic education must have Christ as its corner stone and end. Losing sight of, ignoring, or being antagonistic toward Christ as the end and foundation of education is in no sense Catholic. I seek an ideally perfect (but not impossible) education which, by enabling students to live holy lives in the know-ledge and wisdom of God, will help them along the steep and narrow path of becoming sons in the Son, of becoming more fully “partakers of the divine nature,”5 of becoming mature “children of God,"6 of becoming other Christ's spreading His light and love.
The Catholic school is a family, a small body of the Body. As the Catholic Church’s life is centered on the Eucharist, so is this family. Out of the Eucharistic celebration flow the life of our community in unity, and, as such, serves not only as a superabundant source of grace, but also as the inspiration, encouragement and primary teacher of the life of Christ lived in His Body the Church. We need to comprehend and utilize the reality that “The liturgy is one of the most powerful educational instruments at the disposal of the Church.”7

1 See Ephesians 6:10-20.
2 The Catholic School, The Congregation of Catholic Education; Daughters of Saint Paul, Boston MA, 1977; p. 7.
3 Christian Education of Youth, Pope Pius XI; Daughters of Saint Paul, Boston MA, 1983; pgs. 50-51.
4 Ibid, p. 6.
5 2 Peter 2:4
6 1 John 3:1
7 To Teach as Jesus Did: A Pastoral Message on Catholic Education; National Conference of Catholic Bishops; November 1972; #45.

Because the Catholic school “is a genuine community bent on imparting, over and above an academic education, all the help it can to its members to adopt a Christian way of life,”8 “The school must be a community whose values are communicated through the interpersonal and sincere relationships of its members and through both individual and corporate adherence to the outlook on life that permeates the school.”9 The common outlook on life is the life of Christ as set down by the teachings of the Catholic Church, His one and only Body. Catholicism is the very blood in the body of the Catholic school; it is the food we eat; it is the very air we breathe. The Catholic school, wholly given over to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, is, first and foremost, a community of believers living in Christ, living out Christ, living through Christ, and living for Christ.
The Catholic school is not a place for non or anti-religious “objective instruction.” Nor is religion simply an isolated class taken in isolated moments throughout the week. I firmly believe that, “It is necessary not only that religious instruction be given to the young at certain fixed times, but also that every other subject taught, be permeated with Christian piety. If this is wanting, if this sacred atmosphere does not pervade and warm the hearts of masters and scholars alike, little good can be expected from any kind of learning, and considerable harm will often be the consequence.”10 Knowledge tends to puff-up and pervert when it is not received in an atmosphere drenched in righteousness. The fire of Christian love is the focal-point and life of the entire school: students, teachers, religion, science, history, English, sports, plays, free time, lunch time--all are burning with this love. There are no exceptions.
This saturation of love and piety is needed and essential to the Catholic school. Within this distinct atmosphere, “Disorderly inclinations then must be corrected, good tendencies encouraged and regulated from tender childhood, and above all the mind must be enlightened and the will strengthened by supernatural truth and by means of grace, without which it is impossible to attain to the full and complete perfection of education intended by the Church, which Christ has endowed so richly with divine doctrine and with the Sacraments, the efficacious means of grace.”11 The Catholic school seeks the total perfection of education, the increase of the Christian spirit, in the fruitful bosom of Holy Mother Church.
I do not seek to develop minds filled only with facts, figures and dates. It is essential that students develop the ability to think for themselves; “For the sole true end of education is simple this: to teach men how to learn for themselves: and whatever instruction fails to do this is effort spent in vain.”12 In a Christian atmosphere students will learn how to think for themselves within the fullness of truth; they will have, “the search for truth, and the certainty of already knowing the fount of truth.”13 They will have boundaries and guidance14 within which they will have the freedom to develop and strengthen their mind, to increase self-control, and to be inflamed in love. Further, they will take the knowledge they have acquired and embrace it as their own, living it out, meditating on it day and night, developing it further, all of which sets them free to fully be the mature children God desires.

8 The Catholic School, p. 26.
9 Ibid, p. 15.
10 Christian Education of Youth, p. 44.
11 Ibid, p. 33.
12 Lost Tools of Learning, Dorothy L. Sayers; “Journal of Christian Reconstruction”; p. 16.
13 John Paul II, Discourse to the “Institute Catholique de Paris,” June 1, 1980: Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II, Vol. VII 1 (1980), p. 1581.
14 See Orthodoxy, especially chapter IX, “Authority and the Adventurer,” G.K. Chesterton.

The Proper Responsibility and Role of the Catholic Teacher

“Teachers must remember that it depends chiefly on them whether the Catholic school achieves its purpose.”15 For, “The extent to which the Christian message is transmitted through education depends to a very great extent on the teachers.”16 It is primarily the teachers themselves who influence and instruct their students in a school. They are the ones who help, “to form human persons.”17 Thus, “The teacher can form the mind and heart of his pupils and guide them to develop a total commitment to Christ, with their whole personality enriched by human culture.”18 It is the teachers who are in direct contact with the students, and thus, it is the teachers who are imparted with the joy and responsibility of teaching students the truth, and drawing them deeper into Christ and His Church. The teacher must lead and direct, not follow, his students, or he will deform them into “infantile followers of false leaders”19 unable to consider the truth or know the way of the Catholic life.
“The fundamental aim of teaching is...a personal integration of faith and life,”20 because one cannot impart to another what one does not already possess. Teachers who are not faith-filled should not be members of a Catholic school, at least, and primarily, in the formative pre-college years of education. These tender years cannot withstand well the admixture of significant and influential non-Catholic formation. A non-Catholic teacher tends to form non-Catholic students. Teachers impart what they are to their students. Teachers need “to be witnesses and educators of authentic Christian life, which evidences an attained integration between faith and life, and between professional competence and Christian wisdom.”21 Christian life lived in the community of the Catholic school imparts Christian life to its members, especially to its students.
What is needed for a perfect school? “Perfect schools are the result not so much of good methods as of good teachers, teachers who are thoroughly prepared and well-grounded in the matter they have to teach; who possess the intellectual and moral qualifications required by their important office; who cherish a pure and holy love for the youths confided to them, because they love Jesus Christ and His Church, of which these are the children of predilection; and who have therefore sincerely at heart the true good of family and country.”22

15 Gravissimum Educationis, Vatican II, article 8.
16 The Catholic School, p. 18.
17 Lay Catholics in Schools: Witnesses to Faith; The Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, Daughters of Saint Paul, Boston MA; p. 11.
18 The Catholic School, p. 19.
19 Christ and the Catechist, Michael Leary; San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1987; p. 65.
20 The Catholic School, p. 18.
21 Ex Corde Ecclesiae, John Paul II; Washington D.C., 1990; p. 19.
22 Christian Education of Youth, Pius XI; p. 48.

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Copyright 2007

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