Catholic identity must be present in every aspect of Catholic schools, but, moreso, the life of faith must be their “driving force,” Benedict XVI told U.K. religious teachers today. Religious are a “powerful reminder” of this in schools, he said, as they form individuals who can “live life to the full” and ensure a safe environment for children.
The Holy Father met with 300 teaching religious at St. Mary's University College after celebrating a private Mass in the Apostolic Nunciature first thing Friday morning. The event took place in the intimate, candlelit atmosphere of the university's chapel, where participants were treated to organ music and the university choir.
First expressing his “deep appreciation” for all men and women in education, the Pope reminded teachers that the knowledge and faith, but also the sense of maturity and responsibility of citizens, is in their hands.
He spoke of the “transcendental dimension of study and teaching,” that “education is not and must never be considered as purely utilitarian,” but is about “forming the human person, equipping him or her to live life to the full.”
In brief, he said, “it is about imparting wisdom," which, in its "true" form, "is inseparable from the Creator.”
Saying that he himself owes Venerable Mary Ward's “English Ladies” a debt of gratitude for having taught him in his youth, Pope Benedict gave thanks to God for the Church's many mission teachers who have historically laid educational foundations in distant places, often establishing programs before States.
He urged religious to never forget their “unique contribution to this apostolate, above all through lives consecrated to God and through faithful, loving witness to Christ, the Supreme Teacher.
“Indeed," he added, "the presence of religious in Catholic schools is a powerful reminder of the much-discussed Catholic ethos that needs to inform every aspect of school life. This extends far beyond the self-evident requirement that the content of the teaching should always be in conformity with Church doctrine.
"It means that the life of faith needs to be the driving force behind every activity in the school, so that the Church's mission may be served effectively and the young people may discover the joy of entering into Christ's 'being for others'.”
Concluding, he expressed his appreciation for all those who ensure that schools are a safe environment for young people. "Our resonsibility towards those entrusted to us for their Christian formation demands nothing less," he said