If education is to be transformative, it must engage the mind, capture the imagination, and spark a desire for real engagement with the world. Julián Carrón writes, “Education is not explaining reality or forming some argument about it; it is helping another person . . . enter into reality” (“A Communication of Yourself,” in Disarming Beauty: Essays on Faith, Truth, and Freedom, 168). This kind of education is not a passive memorization of facts, but rather an “encounter.” Such encounters captivate the attention, propose “a hypothesis of meaning,” and inspire students to search for what is good, true, and beautiful.
Since beginning my work as a high school theology teacher, I have had the privilege and burden of seeking to discover Christ in the places I inhabit, and the eyes of those I teach. It did not take long for me to realize that this is easier said than done! Acknowledging my struggle to recognize God’s presence in my daily life, I decided to take up a spiritual practice to ground my day. I started praying the Liturgy of the Hours—specifically Morning and Night Prayer—and quickly found myself immersed in the Psalms.
When I first started brainstorming how to teach the topic of human dignity to my eleventh-grade Morality class, I was eager but intimidated. Covering the topic of abortion was a must, but when I sat down to think about how I could cover the topic in a nuanced and compassionate, yet firmly pro-life manner, I was stumped. Many questions flooded my mind: ‘How do I take a firmly pro-life stance, while also expressing compassion for women who have suffered abortions?’ ‘How do I present the pro-life standpoint in a way that is transformative but not preachy?’ ‘How do I help my students see that all people have a right to life, even when that life involves suffering?’
Editorial Note: Throughout September, we'll be featuring profiles of people who are or have been part of the Echo program in the McGrath Institute for Church Life. Echo provides students the opportunity to earn a Master's degree from Notre Dame while gaining real-world experience in parish ministry or teaching high school theology, all while receiving robust spiritual and human formation.