Education in the arts is important: listening to classical music, drawing, painting, and even sculpting, if children are accustomed to express themselves through oral, written, and creative media, they will more easily succeed in math and science which exact stringent analytical and precise thinking.
Schools and its classrooms should be cheerful and orderly places of learning. Copies of attractive classic painting and worthy statuary in offices and hallways are non-verbal ways of affirming the power of beauty to inspire.
One month before his tragic death, President John F. Kennedy offered the following remarks at Amherst College: “I look forward to an America which will reward achievement in the arts as we reward achievement in business and statecraft. I look forward to an America which will steadily raise the standards of artistic accomplishment and which will steadily enlarge cultural opportunities for all our citizens. And I look forward to an America which commands respect throughout the world not only for its strength but for its civilization as well.”
The Joy of Reading
Reading good and great literature is its own reward. We read for enjoyment. Such reading is a not utilitarian activity to be validated by measurable outcomes. Reading frees our minds and spirit to go beyond ourselves and travel to places different from our own. It expands our world and awaken us to other cultures. With good reading comes wisdom. Reading good literature improves our vocabulary as it does our writing.
The Joy of Memorizing Poetry
We memorize poetry for pleasure. Like mastering a Bach fugue, poetry imparts power like the power of owning real estate, writes Jim Bolt in “Got Poetry?” (NY Times, April 5, 2009). It makes one rich. First, comes struggling with the notes to get them under the fingers. Gradually, the fingers glide over the keys eager to bring out the beauty of Bach’s creative process. One owns the piece just mastered.
Children love to recite poetry aloud. Adults as well. President Kennedy and his brothers, Robert and Edward wove poetry into their speeches, including prosaic stump speeches. Recently, Maria Bartiromo, a prominent TV journalist, columnist, and a Wall Street whiz delivered a commencement address into which she incorporated Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If,” all four stanzas. She felt it was that important for the graduates to hear.
Educating the Emotions for Wonder and Contemplation
One of the most pressing needs in Catholic education is educating the affections. From infancy, children live in a state of wonder, their mouths almost always agape at external stimuli. Their senses are in play before other faculties. Their developing sense of wonder should prepare them for the contemplation of spiritual realities, most especially, for communion with God in prayer. If this aspect of children’s lives is neglected, why the surprise when they misuse or abuse their senses in destructive behavior? The senses are our friends and not our enemies.
Several years ago, I taught sixth-graders in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn where most families lived in squalid tenements. Every semester, I took the children on an outing to the country. I wanted them to experience the beauty of nature in verdant fields, trees, and flowers. Once there, child after child would exclaim, “Oh, Sister, this is so beautiful! Can’t we stay the whole day?” In the classroom setting, they responded similarly after they had learned to enjoy beautiful music, painting, or literature. They would pause in deep reflection, as if to linger in those experiences.
(Column continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Religious Formation: Apologetics of Personalism
The times call for a religious formation that also includes apologetics, the defense of the faith. St. John Paul II believed that “personalism is the best medicine for awakening the world from its metaphysical slumber” (Avery Dulles, Church and Society, 436). Personalism appeals to the universal aspirations of the human heart for communion with the divine. The best way to bring others to Jesus Christ is to live the good news with conviction.
The power of good example as a way to edify others and to defend the faith cannot be overstated. In fact, the beauty of a holy life is the surest and most persuasive occasion for influencing others. When the journalist Tim Russert died suddenly in 2008, his colleague Howard Fineman publicly stated that, if he were ever to convert to Catholicism, Tim Russert would be his role model. God’s love shines out from those who of themselves are unaware of God’s working in their daily lives. So it was with Tim Russert.
Giving good example doesn’t excuse ignorance of one’s faith. To be a Catholic in contemporary America is to be an informed and devout Catholic. Faith needs reason; reason needs faith. Blind faith and pure rationalism are to be rejected. Modern apologetics walks with the four “Cs” of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. These tenets should form an integral part of Catholic education, whether in formal religion class or in subliminal ways:
Creed. What we believe. The tenets of the faith are summarized in the Nicene Creed.
Cult. How we celebrate in liturgical worship what we believe.