Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Letter to Families from Pope John Paul II

(Written in 1994 for the Year of the Family)

Selections on the topic of education:

What is involved in raising children? In answering this question two fundamental truths should be kept in mind: first, that man is called to live in truth and love; and second, that everyone finds fulfillment through the sincere gift of self. This is true both for the educator and for the one being educated. Education is thus a unique process for which the mutual communion of persons has immense importance. The educator is a person who "begets" in a spiritual sense. From this point of view, raising children can be considered a genuine apostolate. (pg. 54)

Education then is before all else a reciprocal "offering" on the part of both parents: together they communicate their own mature humanity to the newborn child, who gives them in turn the newness and freshness of the humanity which it has brought into the world. (pg. 55)

Every individual born and raised in a family constitutes a potential treasure which must be responsibly accepted, so that it will not be diminished or lost, but will rather come to an ever more mature humanity. This too is a process of exchange in which the parents-educators are in turn to a certain degree educated themselves. While they are teachers in humanity for their own children, they learn humanity from them. (pg. 55)

Through Christ all education, within the family and outside of it, becomes part of God's own saving pedagogy, which is addressed to individuals and families and culminates in the paschal mystery of the Lord's death and resurrection. The "heart" of our redemption is the starting point of every process of Christian education, which is likewise always an education to a full humanity.

Parents are the first and most important educators of their own children, and they also possess a fundamental competence in this area: they are educators because they are parents. They share their educational mission with other individuals or institutions, such as the Church and the state. But the mission of education must always be carried out in accordance with a proper application of the principle of subsidiarity. This implies the legitimacy and indeed the need of giving assistance to the parents, but finds its intrinsic and absolute limit in their prevailing right and their actual capabilities. The principle of subsidiarity is thus at the service of parental love, meeting the good of the family unit. For parents by themselves are not capable of satisfying every requirement of the whole process of raising children, especially in matters concerning their schooling and the entire gamut of socialization. Subsidiarity thus complements paternal and maternal love and confirms its fundamental nature, inasmuch as all other participants in the process of education are only able to carry out their responsibilities in the name of the parents, with their consent and, to a certain degree, with their authorization.

The process of education ultimately leads to the phrase of self-education, which occurs when the individual, after attaining an appropriate level of psycho-physical maturity, begins to "educate himself on his own." (pgs. 56-57)

The commandment of the Decalogue calls for a child to honor its father and mother. But, as we saw above, that same commandment enjoins upon parents a kind of corresponding or "symmetrical" duty. Parents are also called to "honor" their children whether they are young or old. This attitude is needed throughout the process of their education, including the time of their schooling. The "principle of giving honor," the recognition and respect due to man precisely because he is man, is the basic condition for every authentic education process.

In the sphere of education the Church has a specific role to play. In the light of tradition and the teaching of the Council, it can be said that it is not only a matter of entrusting the Church with the person's religious and moral education, but of promoting the entire process of the person's education "together with" the Church. The family is called to carry out its task of education in the Church, thus sharing in her life and mission. The Church wishes to carry out her educational mission above all through families who are made capable of undertaking this task by the sacrament of matrimony, through the "grace of state" which follows from it and the specific "charism" proper to the entire family community.(pg. 58)

There's more good stuff too, but I don't want to copy the whole thing here. This entire letter can be read online by clicking here.

John Paul II, We Love You!

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