June 06, 2009

#60 No Conflict Between Religion and Science

God is the author of ALL truth. The same God who is the God of our Faith, the God of the Bible, is the creator of the universe and everything in it. Because of this, there can be no true conflict between faith and reason or between science and religion.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: "Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth... because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God." (#159)

Pope John Paul II had this to say about the relationship between science and religion:

"Science can purify religion from error and superstition; religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes."

#59 Dangerous vs. Offensive

Responding to our complex and often problematic culture can be a tough thing for parents! In judging movies, for example, we're often tempted to think that a "clean" movie - one that's free of sex, violence and bad language - is a good movie. Period.

The problem with this is that it's a superficial way of judging something's value. By all means, cleanness can be a good thing, but it's not everything, and we Christians are seriously interested in the "heart of the matter".

I find it helpful to distinguish between "dangerous" and "offensive".

Some things are dangerous AND offensive. These are easy and obvious for us to avoid.

Some things can be offensive, but not dangerous, and will require further discernment to determine whether they're worthwhile.

The most dangerous thing in the end, though, is the thing which is dangerous, but not offensive. It's the sort of thing that can sneak in because we don't even recognize our vulnerability. So don't forget to look below the surface.

#58 Become a Learner

One of the most valuable things you can do for your children's education is to become a learner yourself, even if it means spending a little less time directly educating your children. This will offer many benefits to you and your family:

Your children will learn from what you learn - even in the casual format of dinner table conversations about what you're learning.

You'll show them how much you value education and help them see that it's not just something for school age kids.

It will help you become more enthusiastic about learning in general and their learning in particular. Enthusiasm is contagious! And they will enjoy learning more if they do it with you.

It helps to build a learning environment. For example, if you're reading instead of watching the news or listening to the radio, your house will be quieter and more inviting for others to study in.

The Catechism says: "One is entitled to think that the future of humanity is in the hands of those who are capable of providing the generations to come with reasons for life and optimism." (1917)

#57 Be Not Afraid!

Confidence in the faith is a joyful and contagious thing. It helps us get through tough times in which we are overcome by fear of the world and its evils. We need to prepare our children to go out and reclaim our culture. But how can we do this in the face of the threats that face us and them?

Cardinal Ratzinger suggests that we need to cultivate the virtue of hope...

To have Christian hope means to know about evil and yet to go out to meet the future with confidence. The core of faith rests upon accepting being loved by God, and therefore to believe is to say Yes, not only to him, but to creation, to creatures, above all, to men, to try to see the image of God in each person and thereby to become a lover. That's not easy, but the basic Yes, the conviction that God has created men, that he stands behind them, that they aren't simply negative, gives love a reference point that enables it to ground hope on the basis of faith.
(Salt of the Earth)

December 18, 2008

#56 Unleashing the Christmas Spirit

Christmas is a perfect time to "unleash" the joy of Christianity and to share it with others who can't help but be affected by it. We can share this joy with our children and others even through the simplest traditions of Christmas.

Cardinal Ratzinger said:

Even a custom like Christmas baking ... has its roots in the Church's Advent liturgy, which makes its own the glorious words of the Old Testament... 'In that day, the mountains will drip with sweetness, and the rivers will flow with milk and honey.' People of old found in such words the embodiment of their hopes for a world redeemed....

Perhaps the right way to celebrate Advent is to let the signs of God's love that we receive in this period penetrate our soul, without resistance, without questions and quibbling. Warmed by these signs, we can then receive in full confidence the immeasurable kindess of this child.

(Quoted from The Blessing of Christmas by Cardinal Ratzinger, Ignatius Press)

#55 Curriculum Overload

One aspect of homeschooling that many seasoned mothers will caution you about is getting carried away in purchasing curriculum for your children. It's easy to overestimate the importance of the books themselves in your children's education and spend too much money and waste too much time and energy trying to find the perfect fit. The fact is that there won't be a perfect fit.

I thought this quote from Gretchen Rubin, writing in Real Simple magazine, made a useful distinction about how we choose things...

There are two types of decision makers. Satisficers... make a decision once their criteria are met. Maximizers want to make the best possible decision. Even if they see a bicycle of a backpack that meets their requirements, they can't make a decision until they've examined every option. Satisficers tend to be happier than maximizers. Maximizers expend more time and energy reaching decisions, and they're often anxious about their choices. Sometimes good enough is good enough.

#54 Go Out and Teach All Nations

As Christians, we are called to do our (albeit generally small) part in going out to teach all nations and Catholic education is very much concerned with preparing children to go out and do just that!

Archbishop Chaput had this to say:

'Go, make disciples of all nations' was the last command Jesus gave to us before returning to His Father. It's a big one. How can simple people like us convert the world? That brings us back to Mary, and to the apostles at Pentecost. They changed the world by letting God change them and work through them. We don't need to be afraid. We need to be confident in the promise made by Christ Himself: 'I am with you always, to the close of the age.'

Don't be afraid of the world. The Holy Spirit is on your side. Charles Spurgeon once said, 'The way you defend the Bible is the same way you defend a lion. You just let it loose.'

Quoted from Living the Catholic Faith: Discovering the Basics by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver.

#53 Challenges of the Teacher

In education, the role of the teacher in guiding children and helping them draw out ideas and connect them with other ideas is generally more important than the materials used. A good teacher can help her students learn the truth even from a messy or problematic book. My mom once taught a CCD class in which she was "required" to teach with some problematic materials. Apparently it didn't phase her at all. She simply explained the materials in that book and followed it up with what the Church actually teaches.

Teaching is always going to require a certain amount of creativity and making distinctions on the fly. After all, even with the most ideal curricula, children will ask difficult and challenging questions. While this challenge may seem intimidating, humility and faithfulness will get you through. Work on learning how to learn and developing the Christian attitudes necessary for leading your children to the truth. With God's grace, these little things will go a long way.

August 11, 2008

Cultivation (#52)

There are certain aspects of education, like initiative, diligence, enthusiasm, humility, self-motivation and a love of learning, that need to be cultivated rather than taught. Keep in mind that cultivating often means simply preserving by not disrupting or losing patience with good things.

Here are some ways to be a good cultivator - to be used in the right season; and within reason, of course:

Foster initiative, even though it can be messy or disruptive.

Model good attitudes and virtues.

Allow small children to help you when they ask – even if they aren’t *very* helpful.

Provide children with opportunities for success - especially if they are struggling with something.

Beware of unreasonable expectations.

Avoid condescending materials and attitudes.

Remember that patience is a key virtue in this regard and, finally, don't forget to ask for God’s grace!

The Balance Between Formation and Information (#51)

Though a solid educational philosophy requires an appropriate balance between formation - or who we become through education - and information - or what we actually learn, it is sometimes tempting to abandon one for the sake of the other. This is a serious mistake! Cardinal Ratzinger explains how this error led to the collapse of religious education in recent years:

“What is our catechesis doing? What is our school system doing at a time when religious instruction is widespread? I think that it was an error not to pass on more content. Our religion instructors rightly repudiated the idea that religious instruction is only information, and they rightly said that it is something else, that it is more, that the point is to learn life itself, that more has to be conveyed. But that led to the attempt to make people like this style of life, while information and content were neglected.” (Cardinal Ratzinger, Salt of the Earth)

Docility (#50)

In his book Authenticity, Fr. Thomas Dubay explains the traditional intellectual virtue of docility: “We are to welcome instruction, yes. But this is not enough. We are to welcome correction as well, being told that we are wrong. This is living the virtue of docility.

As the word indicates, docility is the capacity to learn, a willingness to be taught. One is docile when he recognizes his own lack of information and expertise, on the one hand, and the superior knowledge and skills of his teacher, on the other. In this context a synonym more acceptable to modern ears is receptivity…

Like other moral virtues, docility lies in a mean between two extremes. One extreme is the more or less arrogant refusal to accept the thoughts of another. The other is an exaggerated credulity that has lost a sense of proper discrimination and healthy criticism.”

What Students Need (#49)

Fr. James Schall had the following to say about what qualities are necessary in a student in order to learn…

“...To be a student requires a certain modicum of humility.

Yet to be a student also requires a certain amount of faith in oneself, a certain self-insight that makes a person realize that he can learn something that seems unlearnable in the beginning. This trust in the teacher also implies that the student, if he has trouble understanding, makes this known to the teacher… A student does a teacher a favor by saying, "I do not understand this". But the student should first really try to understand before speaking. To quote Augustine again, students should ‘consider within themselves whether what has been explained has been said truly.’

The student ought to have the virtue of docility. He owes the teacher his capacity of being taught. We must allow ourselves to be taught. We can actually refuse this openness of our own free wills.” (Fr. James Schall, Another Sort of Learning)