Philosophy of Education
A philosophy, a passion, a steadfast character….
Marie Eugenie, aflame with the mystery of Christ, had in mind, a society inspired by His Kingdom. She founded the Assumption to commit itself to the transformation of society. She wrote in these terms to Father Lacordaire:
Can you imagine the beauty of a truly Christian society? God, Lord of minds under the shadow of our faith, Lord of wills amid the anxieties of trials and tribulations, reigning everywhere, though invisible, adored even when He strikes. All the virtues which are God’s very life, preferred to those needs which make up the natural life of man…. I am both simple and daring to speak to you in this way, but I cannot refrain before this thought. This reign of Christ is perhaps more beautiful to me, more dear to my soul than the tents of Israel of which the prophets speak, more dear than the heavenly Jerusalem itself where one cannot belong to God without receiving His reward.”
This perception of the fulfillment of God’s plan and of the role each person should play in it gave Marie Eugenie the elements of what can be called a philosophy or a vision. This is explained through the biblical images of Kingdom and Church. This is her personal way of expressing that phrase from the Letter to the Ephesians, which later she would give to the Congregation as a motto: “To bring everything together under Christ, as Head.”
A GUIDING PHILOSOPHY
What makes “the beauty of a truly Christian society,” for Marie Eugenie, can be glimpsed through the signs of the Kingdom already at work. The Kingdom of justice, peace, and the universal reconciliation of men and women among themselves and with nature, prophesied by Isaiah, has become a reality in Jesus Christ. The Kingdom is already here: it can be seen where men and women form communities, showing by their choice of solidarity, respect, willingness to share, that they are united in moving towards a common destiny.
Yet the kingdom is still to come: Marie Eugenie calls us to pray and work that it may come indeed:
We should pray to God that His kingdom may come….There is…a social reign of Our Lord Jesus Christ that we can bring about and for which we should ask him. We engaged in various apostolic works. Is our main concern in our work with the pupils that they pass their examinations, that they know more history of geography? No, our first concern is that the reign of our Lord be formed in them, that His Kingdom should come in them and that through our education in which the Christian spirit reigns in such a way that from birth the children are filled with all that should make them true Christians. If through education we first form Christian girls and then Christian women and families, shall we not have contributed to the social reign of Jesus Christ?
The Church makes visible the saving presence of God, at work in the history of today. It provides the place and time for direct contact with God through Jesus Christ and his sacraments, a place for learning, Marie Eugenie loved the Church: her love was rooted in her faith, faith in what the Church really is, in its great theological realities. However, Marie Eugenie did not bypass intelligence in her love, for she recognized the Church’s human limitations.
The Church, the People of God, prolongs the Incarnation of Christ in human history. It is the instrument chosen to bring about the coming of the Kingdom. It is “for the world.” Christian communities are the sign that the world can be dwelt in, that it is possible for people to live together. These communities proclaim that the world has been saved and that each one must play the part and carry out the mission that has been assigned. Mistress of wisdom, the Church tells us of the divine vocation of humankind.
A passion which inspires…
“I must tell you that I was wholly convinced that one would never attain that intellectual superiority necessary for Catholics today, except by a superiority of character ingrained in both teachers and pupils, the passion that should inspire them and the philosophy that should guide them…
…What expands a character and intelligence when you study? What coordinates so powerfully all the things you learn, serves as goal and links them together? In one sense, it is a philosophy, but in another sense, a broader one, it is a passion. But what passion should be give? It is the passion of faith, of love and of the fulfillment of the law of Christ.”
The passion of faith, of love and of fulfillment of the law of Christ. For Marie Eugenie, passion is born of contemplation, it arises from prayer and implies a deep sharing in the Passover of Christ.
“This source seemed to me to be in contemplation and love of truth, in energy of soul, unity of spirit, in simplicity of heart and in the power and truth of feelings. That is why I have desired the spirit of the Gospel even in the appreciation of spiritual matters. Besides, that is our vocation and what always seems to me to distinguish us from others is the steady will to go forward, led by faith and the support of its certainty.”
Passion means the capacity to love, it is the unifying element of all our energies, focusing action and urging us to the commitment of our while person: it is synonymous with determination.
A steadfast character
It is this same passion that forms strong character and men and women aware of their own dignity, who are active partners in God’s plan and builders of civilization of love.
“It is better to posses a character, tempered by the notions of human and worldly honor, than one that is fragmented and not steadfast. Better, for the development of the intelligence, to have the false enthusiasm coming from natural passions and the torch of a bad philosophy than to have no movement in the soul and studies undertaken uniquely to learn facts, one after the other. But, how great would be the superiority of an education which took these three elements from the Source of all life instead of from the “broken cisterns” of which the prophet speaks. If characters were forged by the force of the Gospel, if souls were set on fire by the Truth of God and for His Kingdom; if the
Wisdom revealed by the Son of God Himself and the knowledge of the unity of all beings in Him, became the philosophy, the principle and goal of one’s educations.”
Marie Eugenie’s desire is for the intelligence to be trained in such a way that it will enliven and give direction to the will. It is thus that one acts according to reason and has reasons for acting:
“I do not give much value to all this teaching about pure knowledge. Rather, I esteem what elevates the understanding, what gives it a character of superiority in intellectual and Christian feelings.”
“To know a little more about one subject or another…this, I consider, is not what makes on mind superior to another; it is rather the turn of mind, its particular stamp or character given to the person…What is needful is that the children should have serious ideas and be purposely about them.”
Marked by her own education, Marie Eugenie considers “affectivity” as an energy that needs directing and which should be utilized. “When emotion awakens… it should not be suppressed but guided.”
In her plan for education, Marie Eugenie would insist on the formation of the will and of the character. “Other places of education are more concerned with the imagination and the emotional faculties; for us, what matters most is the development and enlightening of the understanding of faith and still more, the training of the will so that it may be capable of renunciation and sacrifice.”
Form steadfast characters, with particular attention to establishing straightforwardness, loyalty, openness, honor, generosity and devotedness…. For if these characteristics are weak it is because truths have been watered down. These are the great principles that forge great characters.”
We are called to participate actively, according to our particular vocation, to extend that Kingdom of God and thereby work at the transformation of society according to the Gospel.
The patient work of education is a difficult vocation. We have to “plough our furrow and feel the weight of the earth,” but those who have been chosen will experience the fullness of life.”
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