Gravissimum Educationis 3

Scriptorium3. The Authors of Education

Since parents have given children their life, they are bound by the most serious obligation to educate their offspring and therefore must be recognized as the primary and principal educators.(Cf. Pius XI’s encyclical letter Divini Illius Magistri, 1, p. 59 ff., encyclical letter Mit Brennender Sorge, March 14, 1937: A.A.S. 29; Pius XII’s allocution to the first national congress of the Italian Catholic Teachers’ Association, Sept. 8, 1946: Discourses and Radio Messages, vol. 8, p. 218.)

This obligation, all too often, has been passed to specialists with parents washing their hands of too much responsibility.

This role in education is so important that only with difficulty can it be supplied where it is lacking. Parents are the ones who must create a family atmosphere animated by love and respect for God and (the person), in which the well-rounded personal and social education of children is fostered. Hence the family is the first school of the social virtues that every society needs.

It’s not really hard; the family provides the “atmosphere,” the breath, if you will, as a mechanism for giving education a fertile place in which to root in the young. Things like reading to one’s children, showing respect and courtesy for other people, going to Sunday Mass and other liturgical celebrations, etc.. In other words, teaching by example.

It is particularly in the Christian family, enriched by the grace and office of the sacrament of matrimony, that children should be taught from their early years to have a knowledge of God according to the faith received in Baptism, to worship Him, and to love their neighbor. Here, too, they find their first experience of a wholesome human society and of the Church.

GE is right to acknowledge that the Christian family is rooted in the sacramental nature of our faith: marriage and baptism. The conduct of the parents as a sacramental union is of vital importance as an example for children.  

Finally, it is through the family that they are gradually led to a companionship with (other human beings) and with the people of God. Let parents, then, recognize the inestimable importance a truly Christian family has for the life and progress of God’s own people.(Cf. Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, nos. 11 and 35: A.A.S. 57 (1965) pp. 16, 40 ff.)

Blame it on Lumen Gentium: the family, in turn, has a social duty to contribute to the “life and progress” of the Church. 

The family which has the primary duty of imparting education needs help of the whole community. In addition, therefore, to the rights of parents and others to whom the parents entrust a share in the work of education, certain rights and duties belong indeed to civil society, whose role is to direct what is required for the common temporal good. Its function is to promote the education of youth in many ways, namely: to protect the duties and rights of parents and others who share in education and to give them aid; according to the principle of subsidiarity, when the endeavors of parents and other societies are lacking, to carry out the work of education in accordance with the wishes of the parents; and, moreover, as the common good demands, to build schools and institutions.(Cf. Pius XI’s encyclical letter Divini Illius Magistri, 1, p. 63 ff. Pius XII’s radio message of June 1, 1941: A.A.S. 33 (1941) p. 200; allocution to the first national congress of the Association of Italian Catholic Teachers, Sept 8, 1946: Discourses and Radio Messages, vol. 8, 1946: Discourses and Radio Messages, vol. 8 p. 218. Regarding the principle of subsidiarity, cf. John XXIII’s encyclical letter, Pacem in Terris, April 11, 1963: A.A.S. 55 (1963) p. 294.)

The council bishops clarify the role of society and secular institutions: that they exist for the betterment of the members of the community. We are reminded that the community properly steps in to give guidance to families, and to assist in the education of the young.

And we come to the role of the Church, not merely as “capable” of the task of education, but more importantly and especially to proclaim the Gospel:

Finally, in a special way, the duty of educating belongs to the Church, not merely because she must be recognized as a human society capable of educating, but especially because she has the responsibility of announcing the way of salvation to all (people), of communicating the life of Christ to those who believe, and, in her unfailing solicitude, of assisting (people) to be able to come to the fullness of this life.(Cf. Pius XI’s encyclical letter, Divini Illius Magistri, 1 pp. 53 ff. and 56 ff.; Encyclical letter, Non Abbiamo Bisogno June 29, 1931: A.A.S. 23 (1931) p. 311 ff. Pius XII’s letter from Secretariat of State to 28th Italian Social Week, Sept. 20, 1955; L’Osservatore Romano, Sept. 29, 1955.)

We come to how the bishops see the Church’s duty toward Christian children, as well as our duty to assist in the general education of others. Note the very positive expectation of success in achieving a more “perfect” world. I wonder how much of that optimism has been set aside since this document was formulated?

The Church is bound as a mother to give to these children of hers an education by which their whole life can be imbued with the spirit of Christ and at the same time do all she can to promote for all peoples the complete perfection of the human person, the good of earthly society and the building of a world that is more human.(The Church praises those local, national and international civic authorities who, conscious of the urgent necessity in these times, expend all their energy so that all peoples may benefit from more education and human culture. Cf. Paul VI’s allocution to the United Nations General Assembly, Oct. 4, 1965: L’Osservatore Romano, Oct. 6, 1965.)

Thoughts? Questions? Comments?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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