Saint John Chrysostom compares the education of a child with the fashioning of a wonderful statue for God. According to this Doctor of the Church, the privileged mission confided to parents is to bring their child to the practice of virtue, teaching it to love the true God and ‘to mark all that it says and does with the sign of the cross.’
Omission in this field, without doubt one of the most important, produces the sad results that we experience in today’s society. And that is why the Popes have not hesitated to qualify such omission as dangerous, harmful, unjust and even as a serious fault.
Therefore, even if one hears that the most important thing is not letting children go hungry or giving them an education, is it true that we can be indifferent to the religious education of children? Is it enough to give them bodily nourishment to fulfill the mission that the Lord confided to parents? If they are educated in any religious belief, will they end up being good Christians?
These questions have already been answered by the divinely wise Magisterium of the Church; and even if certain statements to please people far and wide are pronounced, we do possess the necessary elements to make the right choice.
There is no doubt that the educative experience begins from the cradle, when the child first hears the loving words of its parents, which it will remember and transmit to successive generations as part of the family history. Just as the Old Testament attests: “Things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders which he has wrought.” (Ps 78:3-4) From the oldest times, religion has been related to education, and the Church does not absent itself from this mission, incentivizing men and women to dedicate themselves to the important vocation of founding teaching institutions that serve as a point of reference for the Catholic community. Vatican Council II affirms that “The influence of the Church in the field of education is shown in a special manner by the Catholic school.” (Vatican Council II. Declaration Gravissimum educationis, no. 8, October 28, 1965)
St. Thomas said that “the reception of knowledge or understanding, is by means of teaching and learning, and both are prescribed in the Law. For it is written (Dt 6:6): ‘These words which I command thee… shall be in thy heart’ This refers to learning, since it is the duty of a disciple to apply his mind to what is said, while the words that follow — ‘and thou shalt tell them to thy children’ — refer to teaching.’ (Summa Theologica II-II, q.16, a.2) Doctrine and discipline, these are the fundamental characteristics of Catholic education that seek to contribute with evangelization. John Paul II had already exhorted teachers committed within the Christian community toward ‘maintaining and strengthening the distinctive Catholic character of the Institution’ to which they belong, without losing their sights on quality, identity and mission. (Apostolic Constitution Ex corde Ecclesiae, no. 21, August 15, 1990).
This was the perspective that encouraged seven thousand participants of the World Congress of Catholic Education, that took place in November of 2015, and whose conclusive document declares: “There exists a close link between the identity and mission of teaching institutions (schools and Catholic universities). The Catholic educative mission is born, as in the past, of the very identity of the Church that is founded on the evangelizing mandate: ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.’ (Mk 16:15) (World Congress, Congregation for Catholic Education)
Nonetheless, these teachers heard the following counsel from Francis during the concluding audience granted at the closing of the event: ‘Never proselytize in schools!’… Is he by chance renouncing the mission to evangelize? What does the Church teach about the importance of Catholic education?
Enter the various parts of our study
I – The Study of Catholic Doctrine: A Duty and Right of All
III – The Importance of Catholic Education
II – Education is a Duty of the Catholic Church
IV – The Benefits of Catholic Education for Youth