Read the entire text here.
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.
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.