Anthropology: Seeking Light and Beauty (Engaging Theology: Catholic Perspectives)

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The bishop must see to it that the education in his schools is based on the principles of Catholic doctrine. This vigilance includes even schools established or directed by members of religious institutes. The bishop's particular responsibilities include ensuring that teachers are sound in their doctrine and outstanding in their integrity of life. It is he who must judge whether the children in the Catholic schools in his diocese are receiving the fullness of the Church's faith in their catechetical and religious formation. It is important that the bishop be involved in Catholic schools not only by exercising veto power — whether over texts, curricula, or teachers — but also by taking an active role in fostering the specifically Catholic ethos of schools under his jurisdiction.

In an ad limina address to a group of American bishops in June , Pope John Paul II summed up this point: "The Church's presence in elementary and secondary education must. The Catholic philosophy of education has always paid special attention to the quality of interpersonal relations in the school community, especially those between teachers and students. This concern ensures that the student is seen as a person whose intellectual growth is harmonized with spiritual, religious, emotional, and social growth.

Because, as St. John Bosco said, "education is a thing of the heart," authentic formation of young people requires the personalized accompanying of a teacher. A learning atmosphere that encourages the befriending of students is far removed from the caricature of the remote disciplinarian cherished by the media. In measured terms, the Congregation's document Lay Catholics in Schools: Witnesses to Faith describes the student-teaching relationship:. A personal relationship is always a dialogue rather than a monologue, and the teacher must be convinced that the enrichment in the relationship is mutual.

But the mission must never be lost sight of: the educator can never forget that students need a companion and guide during their period of growth; they need help from others in order to overcome doubts and disorientation. Also, rapport with the students ought to be a prudent combination of familiarity and distance; and this must be adapted to the need of each individual student. Familiarity will make a personal relationship easier, but a certain distance is also needed. Catholic schools, then, safeguard the priority of the person, both student and teacher. They foster the proper friendship between them, since "an authentic formative process can only be initiated through a personal relationship.

A school's physical environment is also an integral element that embodies the genuine community values of the Catholic tradition. Since the school is rightly considered an extension of the home, it ought to have "some of the amenities which can create a pleasant and family atmosphere. From the first moment that a student sets foot in a Catholic school, he or she ought to have the impression of entering a new environment, one illumined by the light of faith, and having its own unique characteristics. The Incarnation, which emphasizes the bodily coming of God's Son into the world, leaves its seal on every aspect of Christian life.

The very fact of the Incarnation tells us that the created world is the means God chose to communicate his life to us. What is human and visible can bear the divine. If Catholic schools are to be true to their identity, they will suffuse their environment with a delight in the sacramental.

Therefore they should express physically and visibly the external signs of Catholic culture through images, symbols, icons, and other objects of traditional devotion. A chapel, classroom crucifixes and statues, liturgical celebrations, and other sacramental reminders of Catholic life, including good art that is not explicitly religious in its subject matter, should be evident. All these signs embody the community ethos of Catholicism. Prayer should be a normal part of the school day, so that students learn to pray in times of sorrow and joy, of disappointment and celebration, of difficulty and success.


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Such prayer teaches students that they belong to the communion of saints, a community that knows no bounds. The sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation in particular should mark the rhythm of a Catholic school's life. Mass should be celebrated regularly, with the students and teachers participating appropriately.

Traditional Catholic devotions should also have their place: praying the Rosary, decorating May altars, singing hymns, reading from the Bible, recounting the lives of the saints, and celebrating the Church's liturgical year. The sacramental vitality of the Catholic faith is expressed in these and similar acts of religion that belong to everyday ecclesial life and should be evident in every school.


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  8. A fourth distinctive characteristic of Catholic schools is that the "spirit of Catholicism" should permeate the entire curriculum. Catholic education is "intentionally directed to the growth of the whole person. Vatican documents speak of an education that responds to all the needs of the human person:. The integral formation of the human person, which is the purpose of education, includes the development of all the human faculties of the students, together with preparation for professional life, formation of ethical and social awareness, becoming aware of the transcendental, and religious education.

    Every school, and every educator in the school, ought to be striving "to form strong and responsible individuals, who are capable of making free and correct choices," thus preparing young people "to open themselves more and more to reality, and to form in themselves a clear idea of the meaning of life" [ The Catholic School , 31]. To be integral or complete, Catholic schooling must be constantly inspired and guided by the gospel. As we have seen, the Catholic school would betray its purpose if it failed to found itself on the person of Christ and his teaching: "It derives all the energy necessary for its educational work from him.

    Because of the gospel's guiding role in a Catholic school, one might be tempted to think that the school's distinctiveness lies only in the quality of its religious instruction, catechesis, and pastoral activities. Nothing is further from the position of the Holy See. Rather, the Catholic school must embody its genuine catholicity even apart from such programs and projects. It is Catholic because it undertakes to educate the whole child, addressing the requirements of his or her natural and supernatural perfection. It is Catholic because it provides an education in the intellectual and moral virtues.

    It is Catholic because it prepares for a fully human life at the service of others and for the life of the world to come. All instruction, therefore, must be authentically Catholic in content and methodology across the entire program of studies. Catholicism is a "comprehensive way of life" that should animate every aspect of its activities and its curriculum. Although Vatican documents on education do not cover lesson planning, the order of teaching various subjects, or the relative merit of different pedagogical methods, the Holy See does provide guidelines meant to inspire the content of the curriculum.

    If a Catholic school is to deliver on its promise to provide students with an integral education, it must foster love for wisdom and truth, and must integrate faith, culture, and life. In an age of information overload, Catholic schools must be especially attentive in their instruction to strike the delicate balance between human experience and understanding.

    Catholic educators do not want their students to say, "We had the experience but missed the meaning. Knowledge and understanding are far more than the accumulation of information. Eliot puts it just right: "Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? They aspire to teach love for wisdom, habituating each student "to desire learning so much that he or she will delight in becoming a self-learner.

    Intrinsically related to the search for wisdom is another idea frequently repeated in Vatican teaching: the confidence that the human mind, however limited its powers, can come to a knowledge of truth. This conviction about the nature of truth is too important for Catholics to be confused about. Unlike skeptics and relativists, Catholic educators share a specific belief about truth: that, to a limited but real extent, it can be attained and communicated to others. Catholic schools take up the daunting task of freeing boys and girls from the insidious consequences of what Pope Benedict XVI has called the "dictatorship of relativism" — a dictatorship that cripples all genuine education.

    Catholic teachers are to cultivate in themselves and develop in others a passion for truth that defeats moral and cultural relativism. They are to educate "in the truth. In an ad limina address to a group of American bishops, Pope John Paul II pinpointed the importance of having a correct grasp of truth if the Catholic Church's educational efforts are to bear fruit:.

    The greatest challenge to Catholic education in the United States today, and the greatest contribution that authentically Catholic education can make to American culture, is to restore to that culture the conviction that human beings can grasp the truth of things, and, in grasping that truth, can know their duties to God, to themselves and their neighbors.

    The contemporary world urgently needs the service of educational institutions that uphold and teach that truth is "that fundamental value without which freedom, justice, and human dignity are extinguished" [ Veritatis Splendor , 4]. Closely following papal teaching, the Holy See's documents on schools insist that education is about truth — in both its natural and its supernatural dimensions:. The school considers human knowledge as a truth to be discovered.

    In the measure in which subjects are taught by someone who knowingly and without restraint seeks the truth, they are to that extent Christian. Discovery and awareness of truth leads man to the discovery of Truth itself. While Catholic schools conform to government-mandated curricula, they implement their programs with an overall religious orientation. Such a perspective includes criteria such as "confidence in our ability to attain truth, at least in a limited way — a confidence based not on feeling but on faith.

    Christian Spirituality and Social Transformation

    A second principle that derives from communicating a Catholic worldview to children is the notion that they should learn to transform culture in light of the gospel. Schools prepare students to relate the Catholic faith to their particular culture and to live that faith in practice. From the nature of the Catholic school also stems one of the most significant elements of its educational project: the synthesis between culture and faith.

    The endeavor to interweave reason and faith, which has become the heart of individual subjects, makes for unity, articulation, and coordination, bringing forth within what is learned in a school a Christian vision of the world, of life, of culture, and of history. Schools form students within their own culture, teaching them an appreciation of its positive elements and fostering a more profound integration of the gospel in their particular situation.

    Anthropology

    Faith and culture are intimately related, and students should be led, in ways suitable to the level of their intellectual development, to grasp the importance of this relationship. Furthermore, young Catholics, in a way appropriate to their age, must also learn to make judgments based on religious and moral truths.

    They should learn to be critical and evaluative. It is the Catholic faith that provides young people with the essential principles for critique and evaluation. The educational philosophy that guides Catholic schools also seeks to ensure that they are places where "faith, culture, and life are brought into harmony. Mindful of redemption in Christ, the Catholic school aims to form in its pupils those particular virtues that will enable them to live a new life in Christ and help them to play their part in serving society and the Church.

    It strives to develop virtue "by the integration of culture with faith and of faith with living. A primary way of helping Catholic students become more committed to their faith is by providing solid religious instruction. To be sure, "education in the faith is a part of the finality of a Catholic school.

    Still, we must always take special care to avoid the error that a Catholic school's distinctiveness rests solely on the shoulders of its religious-education program. Such a position would foster the misunderstanding that faith and life can be divorced, that religion is a merely private affair without doctrinal content or moral obligations.

    Creatures of God: Theological Anthropology in the Context of Evolution

    A final indicator of a school's authentic catholicity is the vital witness of its teachers and administrators. With them lies the primary responsibility for creating a Christian school climate, as individuals and as a community. Indeed, "it depends chiefly on them whether the Catholic school achieves its purpose. Theirs is a supernatural calling and not simply the exercise of a profession. More than a master who teaches, a Catholic educator is a person who gives testimony by his or her life. Shortly after his election, Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the kind of witness required of all teachers of the faith, including those in Catholic schools:.

    The central figure in the work of educating. The witness never refers to himself but to something, or rather, to Someone greater than he, whom he has encountered and whose dependable goodness he has sampled. Thus, every educator and witness finds an unequaled model in Jesus Christ, the Father's great witness, who said nothing about himself but spoke as the Father had taught him [cf. John ]. To fulfill their responsibility of speaking about the Father, educators in Catholic schools, with very few exceptions, should be practicing Catholics who are committed to the Church and living her sacramental life.

    Despite the difficulties sometimes involved, those responsible for hiring teachers must see to it that these criteria are met.

    Thomas Aquinas (1224/6—1274)

    When addressing Catholic-school principals in the National Directory for Catechesis , the American bishops give unequivocal direction: "Recruit teachers who are practicing Catholics, who can understand and accept the teachings of the Catholic Church and the moral demands of the gospel, and who can contribute to the achievement of the school's Catholic identity and apostolic goals. When such a policy is ignored, it is inevitable that children will absorb, even if they are not explicitly taught, a soft indifferentism that will sustain neither their practice of the faith nor their ability to imbue society with Christian values.

    Principals, pastors, school-board members, parents, and bishops share in the serious duty of hiring teachers who meet the standards of doctrine and integrity of life essential to a flourishing Catholic school. The Holy See shares the solicitude of the American bishops about employing teachers with a clear understanding of and commitment to Catholic education. A primary way to foster a school's catholicity is by carefully hiring men and women who enthusiastically endorse its distinctive ethos, for Catholic education is strengthened by witnesses to the gospel.

    As well as fostering a Catholic worldview across the curriculum, even in so-called secular subjects, "if students in Catholic schools are to gain a genuine experience of the Church, the example of teachers and others responsible for their formation is crucial: the witness of adults in the school community is a vital part of the school's identity. Children will pick up far more by the example of their educators than by masterful pedagogical techniques, especially in the practice of Christian virtues.

    The central figure in the work of educating, and especially in education in the faith, which is the summit of the person's formation and is his or her most appropriate horizon, is specifically the form of witness. This witness becomes a proper reference point to the extent that the person can account for the hope that nourishes his life [cf. The prophetic words of Pope Paul VI ring as true today as they did more than thirty years ago: "Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.

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    This is how the Church evangelizes. Hypocrisy turns off today's students. While their demands are high, perhaps sometimes even unreasonably so, if teachers fail to model fidelity to the truth and virtuous behavior, then even the best of curricula cannot successfully embody a Catholic school's distinctive ethos. For example, if teachers and administrators demonstrate the individualistic and competitive ethic that now marks so much public education, they will fail to inspire students with the values of solidarity and community, even if they praise those values verbally.

    The same can be said about a failure to give clear witness to the Church's teaching on the sanctity of marriage and the inviolability of human life. Catholic educators are expected to be models for their students by bearing transparent witness to Christ and to the beauty of the gospel. If boys and girls are to experience the splendor of the Church, the Christian example of teachers and others responsible for their formation is indispensable, and no effort should be spared in guaranteeing the presence of such witness in every Catholic school. The Holy See, through papal interventions and the documents of the Congregation for Catholic Education, recognizes the priceless treasure of Catholic schools as an indispensable instrument of evangelization.

    Ensuring their genuinely Catholic identity is the Church's greatest educational challenge. Complementing the primary role of parents in educating their children, such schools, which should be accessible, affordable, and available to all, build up the community of believers, evangelize the culture, and serve the common good of society. I would like to conclude this essay with a suggestion that might help to strengthen the Catholic identity of America's elementary and secondary schools.

    In the United States, various accrediting agencies monitor the institutional effectiveness of schools' educational activities. They look at outcomes that can be measured, using a wide variety of means, and ask the schools to show that they use the results of their assessment to improve their mission effectiveness. Quite simply, accreditors ask: How do you know that you are achieving what you say you are? What steps are you taking to improve your effectiveness?

    Should not Catholic schools, precisely insofar as they claim to be specified by their catholicity, do something along the same lines? They too could engage in quality assurance — that is, assurance of their Catholic identity. More important, the series will create and sustain the passion of the next generation of theologians and church leaders. What does it mean to be human in the twenty-first century? Susan Ross explores this question through the lens of human desires: for God, freedom, knowledge, love, and pleasure, but also for power, consumer goods, self-gratification, and money.

    Beginning with biblical narratives of human desires, she goes on to consider how ancient, medieval, and modern thinkers have wrestled with the various ways that human beings have sought fulfillment in the world and in God. How have feminism and new thinking about sexuality changed the ways we think about ourselves? How do we maintain our humanity in the face of monstrous human evil?

    What do the findings of science say about our uniqueness as human beings? Anthropology: Seeking Light and Beauty offers a path through the many conflicting views of humanity, suggesting a fuller way of living as we try to follow the example of Jesus. Susan A. Ross is a professor and chair of the theology department at Loyola University Chicago. She is a vice-president and member of the Board of Editors of Concilium, the international theological journal. What stands out in this fantastic introductory volume to theological anthropology is the myriad of voices that Ross effectively encompasses in her narrative, including Anselm, Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, Lonergan, Rahner, Schillebeeckx, and David Tracy.

    It is well-written, concise, and adequately sourced. Robert P. Russo, Lourdes University Professor Ross deftly weaves wisdom from classical Christian sources together with insights from contemporary thinkers to form a tapestry that inspires us to think courageously about what it means to be a human being today. Her commitment to the values of truth and justice is evident throughout, and so are her wide-ranging knowledge, her profound Catholic faith, her esteem for science and the arts, and her engaging style of presentation.

    This is a splendid text, designed to appeal to a wide range of readers! Anne E. Patrick, William H. Laird Professor of Religion and the Liberal Arts, emerita, Carleton College Embracing challenges that emerge from modern and postmodern culture, gender studies, the natural and human sciences, studies of trauma and violence, and technology, Ross remains convinced that the Christian tradition has wisdom to offer to all those who continue to ponder the meaning of being human.

    With clarity and grace, she offers a splendid overview of theological anthropology and its contemporary challenges. Anthropology: Seeking Light and Beauty is an invitation to join in a lively conversation about the future of humankind in relation to God and to all of creation. Mary Catherine Hilkert, Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame Ross offers a succinct past-to-present account of theological responses to the question of what it means to be a human being and the implications of those responses for contemporary ethics.

    Although primarily theological, the biggest strength of this book is its historical breadth and its deft integration of multiple disciplinary interlocutors, including philosophy, psychoanalysis, social theory, and bioethics, among others. Jeanine Viau, Religious Studies Review. Convert currency. Add to Basket. Compare all 12 new copies. Condition: New. Language: English. Brand New Book.

    Christian Spirituality and Social Transformation - Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion

    Each of the six volumes--Scripture, Jesus, God, Discipleship, Anthropology, and Church--is concerned with retrieving, carefully evaluating, and constructively interpreting the Christian tradition. The twenty-first century brings new questions and continuing challenges: In a world of increasing complexity and fragmentation, can we still talk about the self? Seller Inventory AAC More information about this seller Contact this seller. Book Description Condition: New. Seller Inventory n.

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