After a tough night last night with my 8th graders, just 5 days before their Confirmation, I felt very much in need of some words of encouragement this morning. Thankfully, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI offered the following words a few days ago speaking to parents, teachers, priests, and catechists about the importance of education:
VATICAN CITY, FEB. 25, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Although it is difficult to educate the children and youth of today in goodness, it is not impossible, says Benedict XVI.
The Pope said this Saturday during a ceremony held in St. Peter’s Square to present families, teachers and young people with the letter he wrote Jan. 21 to the Diocese of Rome concerning the vital importance of education.
In his remarks the Holy Father recalled how “education has never been easy, and today it seems to be becoming more difficult than ever.”
This means, he continued, that a lot of parents and teachers “renounce their duty and do not even manage to understand the true nature of the mission entrusted to them. There are, in fact, too may uncertainties, too many doubts circulating in our society and in our culture, too many distorted images propagated by the social communications media.”
Nonetheless, the Pontiff said, “we feel supported by a great hope, a deep trust,” that even in modern times “it is possible to educate in goodness.”
Addressing parents, teachers, priests and catechists, Benedict XVI encouraged them “to joyfully shoulder the responsibility with which the Lord entrusts you, so that the great heritage of faith and culture — which is the most authentic treasure of this our beloved city — may not be lost in the passage from one generation to another, but rather be renewed and strengthened, and become a guide and a stimulus on our journey toward the future.”
The Pope called on parents to remain firm in their love for one another and to show “a coherent witness of life” in order to help new generations “clearly distinguish good from evil and, in their turn, to build solid rules for life that may support them through future trials. Thus you will make your children rich with that most precious and lasting inheritance which consists in the example of the daily practice of faith.”
“Your task,” the Holy Father told teachers, cannot “be limited to supplying notions and information while ignoring the great question of truth, especially of the truth that can be a guide in life.”
He added, “In close association with parents, you are entrusted with the noble art of forming the individual.”
The Pontiff then encouraged priests, religious and catechists of Roman parishes “to be trustworthy friends in whom [children and young people] can reach out and touch Jesus’ friendship with them. At the same time, be sincere and courageous witnesses of the truth that makes people free and that shows the new generations the way that leads to life.”
Pointing out how education is not just the responsibility of educators, Benedict XVI reminded children and young people that they too are called “to be participants in your own moral, cultural and spiritual development. It is up to you, then, freely to welcome in your hearts, minds and lives the heritage of truth, goodness and beauty that has accumulated over the centuries and that has its cornerstone in Jesus Christ.
“It is up to you to renew and develop this heritage, freeing it from the many lies and distortions that often make it unrecognizable and provoke diffidence and disillusionment in you.”
On this difficult journey, the Holy Father told young people, “you are never alone. Not only are your parents, teachers, priests and friends near you, but above all is that God who created us and who is the secret guest of our hearts.
“He enlightens from within our intelligence, he orients our freedom to the good, which we often feel to be fragile and inconstant. He is the true hope and the solid foundation of our lives. To him, most of all, can we entrust ourselves.”
The Holy Father was speaking about education in general, but certainly his words can be applied to religious education. Indeed, educating young people today “seems more difficult than ever.” I know last night seemed “more difficult than ever” and I left as many of us catechists do from time to time, wondering whether I have gotten through to them about the importance of faith in Jesus. On the “eve” of their Confirmation, I trust in the power of the Holy Spirit to ignite the flame of faith within them and to open their eyes to the presence of Jesus in their lives.