Rule of Life
155. Context of the School
We work in schools of all types
and hold key positions
in the field of education as the need arises.
We attach great importance
to the formation
of new generations of teachers,
to the Christian animation of teaching teams,
and to the promotion of social respect
for the teaching profession.
Among the diverse calls which reach us,
we give preference to deprived children
and to less developed regions.
156. School Community
Christian education cannot easily be realized
without the witness of a school community
which is built on close relationships
among teachers, parents, students,
and the local people.
We wholeheartedly support the establishment
of programs for participation and animation
which give dynamism
to the school community,
especially through the search
for a common educational vision.
157. Christian Mission of the School
We share with the lay teachers
the responsibility for the religious
and moral formation of the students,
creating an atmosphere
of understanding and generosity
which awakens in young people
a sense of community
and a desire to serve others.
In this way, we are helping
to form a dedicated laity
and to develop religious,
priestly, and missionary vocations.
We are also supplementing
the formation given in the family
and carrying out
the educational mission of the Church.
158. Education in the Faith
Christian education is often associated
with schooling and cultural development.
It fills the school with the spirit of the Gospel.
We carry out our role as educators in the faith
especially through the teaching of religion,
which leads the young
to an enlightened and close union with Christ.
To accomplish this goal and to kindle
in our students a desire for the interior life,
it is essential
that we cultivate a dynamic relationship
both with them and with the Lord.
159. Apostolic and Moral Awareness
In an atmosphere of respect and trust,
we educate the young
to a sense of personal responsibility.
We also attempt to challenge them
to become involved in social ministry,
to promote justice and peace,
and to appreciate the value of sharing.
We support those students involved
in movements and extra-curricular groups
human and Christian formation,
as well as those who feel called
to a special vocation
within the Church or society.
The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School
RELIGIOUS INSTRUCTION IN THE CLASSROOM
AND THE RELIGIOUS DIMENSION OF FORMATION
1. The nature of religious instruction
The mission of the Church is to evangelize, for the interior transformation and the renewal of humanity.58 For young people, the school is one of the ways for this evangelization to take place.59 It may be profitable to recall what the Magisterium has said: “Together with and in collaboration with the family, schools provide possibilities for catechesis that must not be neglected.… This refers especially to the Catholic school, of course: it would no longer deserve the title if, no matter how good its reputation for teaching in other areas, there were just grounds for a reproach of negligence or deviation in religious education properly so-called. It is not true that such education is always given implicitly or indirectly. The special character of the Catholic school and the underlying reason for its existence, the reason why Catholic parents should prefer it, is precisely the quality of the religious instruction integrated into the overall education of the students.”60
Sometimes there is an uncertainty, a difference of opinion, or an uneasiness about the underlying principles governing religious formation in a Catholic school, and therefore about the concrete approach to be taken in religious instruction. On the one hand, a Catholic school is a “civic institution;” its aim, methods and characteristics are the same as those of every other school. On the other hand, it is a “Christian community,” whose educational goals are rooted in Christ and his Gospel. It is not always easy to bring these two aspects into harmony; the task requires constant attention, so that the tension between a serious effort to transmit culture and a forceful witness to the Gospel does not turn into a conflict harmful to both.
There is a close connection, and at the same time a clear distinction, between religious instruction and catechesis, or the handing on of the Gospel message.61 The close connection makes it possible for a school to remain a school and still integrate culture with the message of Christianity. The distinction comes from the fact that, unlike religious instruction, catechesis presupposes that the hearer is receiving the Christian message as a salvific reality. Moreover, catechesis takes place within a community living out its faith at a level of space and time not available to a school: a whole lifetime.
The aim of catechesis, or handing on the Gospel message, is maturity: spiritual, liturgical, sacramental and apostolic; this happens most especially in a local Church community. The aim of the school however, is knowledge. While it uses the same elements of the Gospel message, it tries to convey a sense of the nature of Christianity, and of how Christians are trying to live their lives. It is evident, of course, that religious instruction cannot help but strengthen the faith of a believing student, just as catechesis cannot help but increase one’s knowledge of the Christian message.
The distinction between religious instruction and catechesis does not change the fact that a school can and must play its specific role in the work of catechesis. Since its educational goals are rooted in Christian principles, the school as a whole is inserted into the evangelical function of the Church. It assists in and promotes faith education.
Recent Church teaching has added an essential note: “The basic principle which must guide us in our commitment to this sensitive area of pastoral activity is that religious instruction and catechesis are at the same time distinct and complementary. A school has as its purpose the students’ integral formation. Religious instruction, therefore, should be integrated into the objectives and criteria which characterize a modern school.”62 School directors should keep this directive of the Magisterium in mind, and they should respect the distinctive characteristics of religious instruction. It should have a place in the weekly order alongside the other classes, for example; it should have its own syllabus, approved by those in authority; it should seek appropriate interdisciplinary links with other course material so that there is a coordination between human learning and religious awareness. Like other course work, it should promote culture, and it should make use of the best educational methods available to schools today. In some countries, the results of examinations in religious knowledge are included within the overall measure of student progress.
Finally, religious instruction in the school needs to be coordinated with the catechesis offered in parishes, in the family, and in youth associations.
58 Evangelii nuntiandi, 18: “For the Church to evangelize is to bring the Good News to all aspects of humanity and, through its influence, to transform it from within, making humanity itself into something new.”
59 Ibid., 44: “The effort to evangelize will bring great profit, through catechetical instruction given at Church, in schools wherever this is possible, and always within the Christian family.”
60 Catechesi tradendae, 69.
61 cf The address of Paul VI at the Wednesday audience of May 31, 1967, Insegnamenti, V, 1967, p. 788.
62 Address of John Paul II to the priests of the diocese of Rome, March 5, 1981, Insegnamenti, IV/1, pp 629 ff.
A GENERAL SUMMARY:
THE RELIGIOUS DIMENSION OF THE FORMATION PROCESS AS A WHOLE
1. What is a Christian formation process?
The declaration of the Council insists on the dynamic nature of integral human formation,106 but it adds immediately that, from a Christian point of view, human development by itself is not sufficient. Education “does not merely strive to foster in the human person the maturity already described. Rather, its principal aims are these: that as the baptized person is gradually introduced into a knowledge of the mystery of salvation, he or she may daily grow more conscious of the gift of faith which has been received .…”107 What characterizes a Catholic school, therefore, is that it guide students in such a way “that the development of each one’s own personality will be matched by the growth of that new creation which he or she became by baptism.”108 We need to think of Christian education as a movement or a growth process, directed toward an ideal goal which goes beyond the limitations of anything human.109 At the same time the process must be harmonious, so that Christian formation takes place within and in the course of human formation. The two are not separate and parallel paths; they are complementary forms of education which become one in the goals of the teacher and the willing reception of the students. The Gospel notes this harmonious growth in the child Jesus.110
A Christian formation process might therefore be described as an organic set of elements with a single purpose: the gradual development of every capability of every student, enabling each one to attain an integral formation within a context that includes the Christian religious dimension and recognizes the help of grace. But what really matters is not the terminology but the reality, and this reality will be assured only if all the teachers unite their educational efforts in the pursuit of a common goal. Sporadic, partial, or uncoordinated efforts, or a situation in which there is a conflict of opinion among the teachers, will interfere with rather than assist in the students’ personal development.
106 Gravissimum educationis, 1: “Children and young people should be assisted in the harmonious development of their physical, moral and intellectual gifts... They should be helped to acquire gradually a more mature sense of responsibility.…”
107 Ibid., 2.
108 Ibid., 8.
109 cf Mt 5:48.
110 Lk 2:40: “The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.” Lk 2:52: “And Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and with men.”