LONDON, SEPT. 17, 2010 (Zenit.org).- A teacher is more than someone who imparts knowledge or skills, Benedict XVI told a gathering of Catholic educators today. A teacher, he affirmed, is also one who equips a student with the wisdom necessary to live a full life.
The Pope met with some 300 religious who work in education in the chapel of St. Mary’s University College in Twickenham, which was founded in 1850 to educate the children of poorer Catholic families. It was initially run by the Brothers of Christian Schools but passed to the Vincentians in 1899.
The principle of the university, Dr. Arthur Naylor, by Michael Gove, U.K. minister for Education, and by Auxiliary Bishop George Stack of Westminster, were on hand to greet the Holy Father, who reflected on the “transcendent dimension of study and teaching” in a Catholic school.
“You form new generations not only in knowledge of the faith,” he told the educators, “but in every aspect of what it means to live as mature and responsible citizens in today’s world.”
“As you know,” the Pontiff continued, “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.”
“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,” he continued. “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.'”
Foundations of culture
Benedict XVI noted the contribution to education of the monastic communities whose vocation to “search for God […] requires active engagement with the means by which he makes himself known — his creation and his revealed word.”
“It was only natural that the monastery should have a library and a school,” he added. “It was the monks’ dedication to learning, as the path on which to encounter the Incarnate Word of God, that was to lay the foundations of our Western culture and civilization.”
The Pontiff thanked the religious congregations represented in the meeting “whose charism includes the education of the young,” as well as those whose mission has been to carry “the light of the Gospel to far-off lands as part of the Church’s great missionary work.”
“Often you laid the foundations of educational provision long before the state assumed a responsibility for this vital service to the individual and to society,” the Holy Father remarked. “As the relative roles of Church and state in the field of education continue to evolve, never forget that religious have a unique contribution to offer to this apostolate, above all through lives consecrated to God and through faithful, loving witness to Christ, the supreme Teacher.”
Benedict XVI acknowledged in a particular manner “the life and work of the Venerable Mary Ward, a native of this land whose pioneering vision of apostolic religious life for women has borne so much fruit.”
“I myself as a young boy was taught by the ‘English Ladies,’ and I owe them a deep debt of gratitude,” he added.
The Pontiff concluded with a word of thanks “for those whose task it is to ensure that our schools provide a safe environment for children and young people.”
“Our responsibility toward those entrusted to us for their Christian formation demands nothing less,” he said. “Indeed, the life of faith can only be effectively nurtured when the prevailing atmosphere is one of respectful and affectionate trust. I pray that this may continue to be a hallmark of the Catholic schools in this country.”
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