Saturday, June 30, 2007

Pope Benedict XVI on Freedom and Faith

I found the following quote on The CIN Blog when we got back from our trip earlier this week and I've been pondering it ever since. It's from a talk given by Pope Benedict XVI to Rome's Diocesan Convention earlier this month (the entire thing is immensely worthy of reading by the way, and I may post on some other aspects of it later on)...

As I said at the Ecclesial Convention in Verona: "A true education must awaken the courage to make definitive decisions, which today are considered a mortifying bind to our freedom. In reality, they are indispensable for growth and in order to achieve something great in life, in particular, to cause love to mature in all its beauty: therefore, to give consistency and meaning to freedom itself" (Address, 19 October 2006; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 25 October 2006, p. 9).

When they feel that their freedom is respected and taken seriously, adolescents and young people, despite their changeability and frailty, are not in fact unwilling to let themselves be challenged by demanding proposals: indeed, they often feel attracted and fascinated by them.

They also wish to show their generosity in adhering to the great, perennial values that constitute life's foundations. The authentic educator likewise takes seriously the intellectual curiosity which already exists in children and, as the years pass, is more consciously cultivated. Constantly exposed to, and often confused by, the multiplicity of information, and by the contrasting ideas and interpretations presented to them, young people today nevertheless still have a great inner need for truth. They are consequently open to Jesus Christ who, as Tertullian reminds us, "called himself truth, not custom" ("De virginibus velandis," I, 1).

It is up to us to seek to respond to the question of truth, fearlessly juxtaposing the proposal of faith with the reason of our time. In this way we will help young people to broaden the horizons of their intelligence, to open themselves to the mystery of God, in whom is found life's meaning and direction, and to overcome the conditioning of a rationality which trusts only what can be the object of experiment and calculation. Thus, it is very important to develop what last year we called "the pastoral care of intelligence".The task of education passes through freedom but also requires authority. Therefore, especially when it is a matter of educating in faith, the figure of the witness and the role of witnessing is central. A witness of Christ does not merely transmit information but is personally involved with the truth Christ proposes and, through the coherency of his own life, becomes a dependable reference point.

Read the entire text here.

The part that particularly struck me was the part about young people feeling the freedom is respected and taken seriously. This isn't an aspect of Catholic education I've heard a lot about before. I won't try to cover this in any sort of complete way here, but I'd like to start collecting some various thoughts on it in order to better understand it. I think this concept is one that my parents (Happy Anniversary by the way!) had a great sense of - at least intuitively. Over time I've come to understand more fully what this means - particularly in the context of helping/preparing our children to choose the good for themselves (certainly one of the ultimate goals of Catholic education).

I suspect that this respect for freedom (Dr. Thursday might be able to help me out here) is related to the principle of subsidiarity. Within our own family this has come to mean things like:

-Fostering initiative is a priority - if the children are doing something very good on their own volition, I will seldom interrupt it, even for school work since that intiative itself is something that needs to be fostered and certainly can't be forced!

-We don't dictate every last detail of our children's lives, but instead allow them to make choices for themselves wherever possible/reasonable. Sometimes this involves "closing my eyes" to some very creative dressing on the part of my little ones! (I do have my limits, though, LOL!) This also tends to force me to pass along principles to them beginning at an early age which provides them with a certain degree of understanding of what really matters to me.

-We purposely set up some good things for which participation is optional, although we sometimes "sweeten" the deal. For example, during Lent we talk about the importance of sacrifice, but let the children choose whether or not they will make that sacrifice on Sundays as well as the other days. Given the gift of choosing such things for themselves, I am delighted at how often their answer is on the generous side. No, certainly not always! As far as "sweetening the deal" goes, I will sometimes set up a task or project and simply ask for volunteers. After the project they may be surprised with a reward (like a treat) and the older kids, at least, have a sense of that sort of thing already.

For these things to work, I think an atmosphere of appreciation and generosity is essential. Now we're talking about human beings here! It's not like we manage this at every moment of every day, but it's an awful lot about what your priorities are and what you're striving for.


Karen E. said...

Thanks so much for sharing this, Alicia! Wonderful!

Ana Braga-Henebry said...

In the homeschool, with teenagers: a fine balance needs to be achieved, through prayer and communication (so hard with boys sometimes), so that the coursework reflects their likes and interests at the same time it fits into the parents' academic expectations. I love this discussion.

Love2Learn Mom said...

Yes, it doesn't imply the dissolution of all limits - in fact quite the opposite - since we know that children and teens need truth. Balance is key.

In the end isn't it a lot about attitude? I think the "twaddle" thing which we discussed quite a bit at in our love2learn chats also VERY MUCH applies.

Ana Braga-Henebry said...

To tie it all in: the freedom we give the teens to choose their curriculum- how much? How little? I haven't had difficulties with it yet-- the key of course is love, communication, their best interest and a high-expectation attitude!

Love2Learn Mom said...

I definitely don't know the answer to all of those questions, though we've done some things with Ria that certainly involve these principles. For example, I didn't lock ourselves into a specific homeschool curriculum because I knew we should place some special emphasis on the good academic things she loves - like Chesterton and British Literature. We've also tried to keep a certain amount of openness to investigate things she (and her friends) have been passionate about - like the apologetics issues that came up in our teen discussions last year.

Anonymous said...

I seriously doubt that I can get anywhere in a comment box to deal with the matter you raise about Subsidiarity and freedom - not to say how that plays into the home-school thing in particular and education in general. A VERY interesting topic.

First, I would say that you have hit on an important idea here. Since S. is always realistic, recognizing our contingency which is to say our limits, S. is "about" freedom. (Limitation is one of the four "dimensions" of S. as you will learn in my book, if I ever get it done.)

Remember, in its simplest sense, S. is about being ready to help, and having an orderly way of requesting and supplying such aid.

In fact, as I think about it, busy on this Saturday afternoon with homework and other matters, I feel I shall have to add another appendix to the book.

For now, you might consider GKC on this:

"What exactly is liberty? First and foremost, surely, it is the power of a thing to be itself."
[GKC, "The Yellow Bird" in The Poet and the Lunatics]

The matter of education is indeed tied into S. because Cardinal Newman refers to something strikingly suggestive of S. with words prophetically similar to Leo XIII's and later Popes - but I cannot easily condense here.... sorry.

Actually two of you already said the whole summation: "the key is communication" and "balance is key" for balance means "order" which is THE "control knob" of S. - and communication is its "engine".

I'm very busy just now, but after I think some more about B16 and this, perhaps we can delve some more into it.

Thanks for a very inspiring challenge!

--Dr. Thursday

Ana Braga-Henebry said...

Using Kolbe for us as a spine has been exactly a way to not "lock ourselves" into a set curriculum, and yet still having someone else keep papers, records etc-- which I am definitely not good at! This year we will be doing a combination of high school/ local liberal arts college/tutoring center/ home for our sophomore—and using Kolbe I can have all of these end up in one neat transcript—hat I don’t have to write.
Dr. Thursday, I appreciate your comments!

sexy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.