Education and Catechesis
Catholic education endeavours to shape the whole person, it does this by nurturing an ethos that fulfils our deepest aspirations about what it is to become fully human; it also encourages individuals to strive for their eternal destiny. Catholic education may be about equipping pupils to become good citizens, but it is not just for this world, it is also for the next. For this reason Catholic education has a depth and breadth that is unique, it is about formation in a faith and the handing on of a wisdom for life that imitates Christ through the scriptures and the teachings of the Church. Pope Benedict XVI follows the school of thought of Cardinal John Henry Newman in the desire for an intelligent and well-instructed laity. Religious education teachers and catechists in particular should be competent, so as to give an accurate defence of the creed they profess to the next generation in its entirety. Jesus taught his disciples and they heard and received his words. Similarly we do not invent the faith for ourselves; it is revealed and handed down to us. For this reason education in the faith requires belonging to a community, the Church the people of God, but ultimately to the communion of saints to which all Christians should aspire and for which Catholic education exists.
From His speeches
“As you know, the task of a teacher is not simply to impart information or to provide training in skills intended to deliver some economic benefit to society; education is not and must never be considered as purely utilitarian. It is about forming the human person, equipping him or her to live life to the full – in short it is about imparting wisdom. And true wisdom is inseparable from knowledge of the Creator, for ‘both we and our words are in his hands, as are all understanding and skill in crafts.’” (Wis 7:16). (Pope Benedict addresses Teachers and Religious Chapel of St Mary’s University College, Twickenham, Friday, 17 September 2010 11:30am)
“Indeed, the presence of religious in Catholic schools is a powerful reminder of the much-discussed Catholic ethos that needs to inform every aspect of school life. This extends far beyond the self-evident requirement that the content of the teaching should always be in conformity with Church doctrine. It means that the life of faith needs to be the driving force behind every activity in the school, so that the Church’s mission may be served effectively, and the young people may discover the joy of entering into Christ’s ‘being for others’ (Spe Salvi, 28).” (Pope Benedict addresses Teachers and Religious Chapel of St Mary’s University College, Twickenham, Friday, 17 September 2010 11:30am)
“The Idea of a University holds up an ideal from which all those engaged in academic formation can continue to learn. And indeed, what better goal could teachers of religion set themselves than Blessed John Henry’s famous appeal for an intelligent, well-instructed laity: ‘I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it’…On this day when the author of those words is raised to the altars, I pray that, through his intercession and example, all who are engaged in the task of teaching and catechesis will be inspired to greater effort by the vision he so clearly sets before us.”(Pope Benedict’s Beatification Homily Cofton Park, Sunday, 19 September 2010 11:15am)
“In your Catholic schools, there is always a bigger picture over and above the individual subjects you study, the different skills you learn. All the work you do is placed in the context of growing in friendship with God, and all that flows from that friendship. So you learn not just to be good students, but good citizens, good people.”…….“And a good Catholic school, over and above this, should help all its students to become saints.” (Pope Benedict’s address to pupils Sports Arena of St Mary’s University College, Twickenham, Friday, 17 September 2010 11:45 am)
And From His other Writings….
“Faith requires a continual process of education, otherwise the words of faith begin to lose their meaning. In the Gospel, immediately after the first occurrence of a confession of faith in Christ, we read ‘he began to teach them’ (Mk 8:29ff). In other words, there is no such thing as a self-explanatory short formula of faith. The Creed is part of an organic context which includes teaching, education and the life of a believing fellowship; both words and signs draw their life from this context.” (The Feast of Faith. Approaches to a Theology of Liturgy, P.90)
“In faith the word takes precedence over the thought, a precedence that differentiates it structurally from the architecture of philosophy. In philosophy the thought precedes the word; it is after all the product of the reflection that one then tries to put into words; the words always remain secondary to the thought and thus in the last resort can always be replaced by other words. Faith, on the other hand, comes to man from outside, and this very fact is fundamental to it. It is – let me repeat- not something thought up by myself; it is something said to me.” (Introduction to Christianity, P.91)
“In philosophy, what comes first is the private search for truth, which then, secondarily, seeks and finds a travelling companion. Faith, on the other hand, is first of all a call to community, to unity of mind through the unity of the word. Indeed, its significance is, a priori, an essential social one: it aims at establishing unity of mind through the unity of the word. Only secondarily will it then open the way for each individual’s private venture in search of truth”. (Introduction to Christianity, P.93)
Questions for reflection, discussion and further study:
- What is distinctive about Catholic Education?
- What was John Henry Newman’s famous appeal for the laity and why is this important in the sphere of Catholic Education today?
- Where does the Christian Faith come from and how should it be transmitted to the next generation?