"What the purpose and aim of all religious instruction must be follows clearly from the nature of Religion itself, which in its full sense is not merely the knowledge of God and His holy will, but also a divine worship and a conduct of life in accordance with that knowledge."
The foregoing is the first sentence in Spirago's Method of Christian Doctorine. It is the introduction to a striking and effective presentation of the scope of religious education. It emphasises aspects of the teaching of religion that are often neglected in current practice. Knowledge of God is essential. It is essential too that this knowledge be accurate and precise and that the definitions used be precise. For "it would be a mistake to attach the main importance to an exact knowledge and rehearsing of the words of the catechism," according to our author, and he re-enforces this point with the words of Christ to the woman of Samaria; "God is a spirit and they that adore Him must adore Him in spirit and in truth." And he concludes this point with a vigorous sentence: "It would be degrading rational beings were nothing further required of them than is required of parrots, which can learn to repeat certain words without knowing the meaning of what they say."
THE CENTRAL PROBLEM
Now a central problem—if indeed it is not the central problem—in Catholic ^education is the position of religion in the curriculum and its influence on character. It is not education and religion that we want but religion in education. We do not want religion to be merely an adjunct to the educational scheme. We want it to be an integral point of education. We want a genuine unity of the educational plan with religion at the centre.
THE PRESENT DEMAND
Dr. Rudolph Bandas, in his Catechetical Methods has put into words the present demand and present need as follows:— "Catholic education, then, is one in which religion energizes and vitalizes the whole field of instruction, in which "all branches of science expand in the closest alliance with religion," and all types of study are enlightened by the bright rays of Catholic truth." Catholic education does not confine itself to written revelations, but embraces and includes every manifestation of God, whether in nature, in history, or ii: life. Under the teacher's prudent guidance, the children should learn to reflect upon God's place in their lives and in the universe, and so detect the relation of all their human knowledge to God and to religion. This correlation of secular branches with religion must not be forced and exaggerated. It is not necessary that the teacher moralize on every rule of grammar »nd on every problem of mathematics. It should rather be implict. The child's power of reflection should be so developed that he will be able to learn gradually to apply the principles of religion to his intellectual, industrial, civic, and professional life, as well as to all the vicissitudes of human existence."
But the way this principle often has to be applied is quite unfortunate. Occasionally the most preposterous proposals are made for teaching religion through this or that other subject. Father Bandas is conscious of this difficulty in his caution that the relation should often be implicit.
The sudden transformation of general texts into "Catholic" textbooks by the addition of a few changes not fundamental at all, is another way this principle is violated.
Catholics are entitled to the secular knowledge within their capacity and at their level of training that will help them achieve the educational purpose. What will be taught will be determined by social need and psychologic adaptability in relation to the educational purpose. Without strain or without, "dragging it in," religion will naturally grow out of the context. This "natural setting" will give it greater effect and influence.
THE NOBILITY OF TEACHING.
In a recent issue of The Catholic Daily Tribune, Rev. J. M. Lelen quoted the following words of the immortal Daniel Webster:
"If we work upon marble it will perish. If we work upon brass time will efface it. If we rear temples they will crumble to dust. But if we work upon men's immortal minds, if we imbue them with high principles, with the just fear of God and love of their fellow men, we engrave on those tablets something which no time can efface, and which will brighten to all eternities."
And here is the same thought expressed in verse:
Some carve in the white gleaming marble
The things that in fancy they see;
Some fix them with canvas and color,
And bring them to you and to me.
Some guide with "thou shalt" and "thou shalt not,"
Some seek to inspire with a song;
You build with a subtler material—
The traits that shall make the race strong.
When the statues have weathered and fallen,
When the paint on the canvas is dead,
When the precepts of priests are forgotten,
And the songs and their singer are molded
And lead with the courage of ten. You shall live in the lives you have sped,
The Great Master Workman be with you!
I hail you, ye makers of men!
—JAMES C. HARWOOD.
- Malaya Catholic Leader, Saturday, January 19th, 1935 (1935.pdf pp23)