The task of the Catholic school is to teach its students to behold reality, to make sense of what they encounter around and within them. Beyond simply presenting the breadth and depth of human knowledge to its students, it must preach the Gospel, integrating that human knowledge into an authentically Christian worldview and forming its students to be disciples of Jesus. The result ought to be “a synthesis of culture and faith, and a synthesis of faith and life” (The Catholic School, §37).
“When is our class going to sign the Book of the Remembrance?” asked my first period of sixth-grade students. It was now several days after All Souls Day, and they were concerned I had forgotten our plan to pray for loved ones who had passed away. “Friday,” I answered, “so that we are not interrupting morning Mass at the cathedral and will have more of an opportunity to pray.” Their nods of approval showed they both understood the delay and would not be forgetting the new plan.
Teaching middle school religion in Tennessee at the local K–8 Catholic school, my classroom consists of students who are majority Christian, most of whom are Catholic, with a number of students who are Methodist, Baptist, and Episcopalian. Students with different religious backgrounds, even just within the Christian traditions, increase the ability and need for fruitful ecumenical dialogue and living within our classroom.
In the last contribution to this series, I addressed the need for a liturgical interruption relative to Catholic school curricula. These curricula often presume that human beings are made for work and thus contribution to industry. This assumption is at the heart of STEM curricula. A ST(R)E(A)M curriculum simply adds religion and arts to the mix, without awareness that this addition might upset the whole basis of the curriculum to begin with.
Thus far, this series has focused on the educational qualities possessed by liturgical prayer celebrated in the school, the parish, and the family. Liturgy is educational insofar as it forms us to see human life as ordered toward the adoration of God. If we are attentive to liturgy’s pedagogy, then we may learn what it means to be fully human.