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Letter of Pope Benedict XVI

01/05/2010: General House

Some months ago “dragging-navigating” through the internet, I came upon a letter which Pope Benedict XVI sent to a Congress of Catholic Educators held in Rome. The date of the letter is May 29, 2009. In the said letter (see the text) Pope Benedict XVI confronted some basic themes facing schools and their future which are placing them in the reality of a cultural relativism which impedes the transmission of the “fundamental values of their existence” So this lead the Pope to speak about the real and even urgent “task of education”. Pope Benedict XVI thus formulated this question: “In the education as presented to the youth today and also transmitted from generation to generation as certain and valid, with rules of life, an authentic direction with convincing objectives for human existence, does this help them to become persons, and communities?” We are not giving a correct answer to that question, says the Pope, if education is reduced “to the transmittal of determined skills or abilities of doing, while searching to satisfy the desire for happiness in a new generations based on consumerism and ephemeral or immediate gratifications.”

If one catholic school abandons its fundamental principles because or “marketing of other types of pressure”…, it loses its identity: Faced with this danger, it may fail to keep in mind its educational purpose, “ …which is the formation of a the person with ability to live fully and to contribute to the good of the community.”

Before the “urgent task of education” is lost, underscores the Pope, we must help children, adolescents and youth “to encounter Christ and to establish with Him a lasting and deep relationship”. However, this is the exact challenge to the future of our faith, to our church and to Christianity, and therefore the highest priority of our pastoral and educational apostolate is: to bring the new generation, who live in a world alienated from God, closer to Christ and to the Father.

If we want to be loyal to our faith and to our mission as Christian educators, we must understand and affirm that the catholic school cannot renounce its essential principles so as to become more attractive or competitive; this forces us to be “lose our priorities and become almost exclusive”. We cannot forget that “we are to be the salt of the earth”. A catholic school that takes upon itself ideas and methods contrary to the basic principles of the faith would be a contradiction and a fraud to those families who desire a good Christian formation for their children, and to all the Church, that entrusts the catholic schools to be true promoters of a culture imbued with the Gospel.

En the Document “The Mission of Marist Education” (1998) our schools are defined as” “The Marist school is a place of learning, of life and of evangelization. As a school, it teaches the students “To learn, to know, to do, to live together and to mature as persons and believers”. As a catholic school it is a community where faith, hope and love are taught and lived; where faith, culture and life are brought together. As a catholic school in the Marist Tradition, it adopts the principle of Marcellin by educating the children and youth in the style of Mary (n. 126) That is to say, our Marist School is based on the realization of the value of each person and of his positive place in society; a teaching that offers the TRUTH and accompanies each person to find it.

The Marist education-evangelization plan is the “intersecting axis” of any internal rule, didactic programming, and insight. That is to say, it is a faith that lives and enlightens the culture. Will there not be lurking around other simple but valid solutions for restraining the “education emergency/crisis?

The task of the Church, in our cultural context, is enormous, and the catholic school as is called as is our Champagnat College of Bogota, to undertake the immense labor of fostering the education of our faith. Benedict XVI, in the letter previously cited, expressed it in these words: “The commitment of the Church to education in the faith, the following and witnessing of our Lord Jesus assumes, more than ever, the value of its contribution so that the society in which we live is able to escape the educational crisis which afflicts it, putting an end to the distrust and to the strange ‘hatred itself’ which seems to have become a characteristic of our civilization.”

This is a demanding and clear call that Christian education develop in an authentic context of love which is necessary to overcome the climate of isolation, competitiveness, opposition and loneliness so common today in our country. Faced with this climate, a personal and group accompaniment must come about. This is be shared at the orientation program of the College and found in its Educational Plan, and in educational activities and values; must be found first of all in the lives and presence of the Educators. Therefore, the manner in which Scholastic Religious Education with the various offerings, especially those pastoral in nature’ is offered to its students and families is very important.

Benedict XVI was even more specific when he stated: “this accompaniment must be so palpable that our faith is not just something of the past, but something we can live out ourselves today, because by living it we find our true selves. Thus, young men and women, our youth, are helped to free themselves of prejudices and become aware that living the Christian lifestyle is both possible and reasonable, even more, most reasonable by far.” (Letter of May 29, 2009)

That does not imply that we set aside the attention given to economic and professional issues; we do need good economic and administrative effort and steps in place. What can never be missing in a catholic school is an atmosphere of committed faith, a Marial attitude, hope and charity, and let us also add happiness; all of this is so much a part of our Marist charism and so much help to the students and their parents as they grow in their Christian life and in their social responsibilities. This is the task that true educators assume and live but they also hope for and need the support and commitment of the families.

Saint Marcellin Champagnat also experienced difficulies during the times of so many revolutions and disbelief … as was the situation in France in the first half of the nineteenth century, where he was faced with a society in which there as a real Educational Crisis. Marcellin’s response was: “Form good Christians and responsible citizens.”

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Bro. Ramon Benseny/Bogota, April 2010

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