Philosophy of Education: Essays and Commentaries

By Hobert W. Burns; Charles J. Brauner | Go to book overview

Christian Education of Youth

Pope Pius XI*


NATURE AND IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION

Indeed never has there been so much discussion about education as nowadays; never have exponents of new pedagogical theories been so numerous, or so many methods and means devised, proposed and debated, not merely to facilitate education, but to create a new system infallibly efficacious, and capable of preparing the present generation for that earthly happiness which they so ardently desire.

The reason is that men, created by God to His image and likeness and destined for Him who is infinite perfection, realize today more than ever, amid the most exuberant material progress, the insufficiency of earthly goods to produce true happiness either for the individual or for the nations. And hence they feel more keenly in themselves the impulse toward a perfection that is higher, which impulse is implanted in their rational nature by the Creator Himself. This perfection they seek to acquire by means of education. But many of them, with, it would seem, too great insistence on the etymological meaning of the word, pretend to draw education out of human nature itself and evolve it by its own unaided powers. Such easily fall into error, because, instead of fixing their gaze on God, first principle and last end of the whole universe, they fall back upon themselves, becoming attached exclusively to passing things of earth; and thus their restlessness will never cease till they direct their attention and their efforts to God, the goal of all perfection, according to the profound saying of St. Augustine: "Thou didst create us, O Lord, for Thyself, and our heart is restless till it rest in Thee."3

It is therefore as important to make no mistake in education as it is to make no mistake in the pursuit of our last end, with which the whole work of education is intimately and necessarily connected. In fact, since education consists essentially in preparing man for what he must be and for what he must do here below, in order to attain the sublime end for which he was created, it is clear that there can be no true education which is not wholly directed to man's last end, and that in the present order of providence, since God has revealed Himself to us in the person of His only-begotten Son, who alone is "the way, the truth and the life," there can be no ideally perfect education which is not Christian education.

From this we see the supreme importance of Christian education, not merely for each individual, but for families and for the whole of human society, whose perfection comes from the

____________________
*
Encyclical Letter Divini Illius Magistri of His Holiness Pope Pius XI ( New York: The America Press, 1936, pp. 2-36). Reprinted by permission.
3
Confess, I, 1.

-264-

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