To Everything There Is a Season: The Educational Moment

 

Each season of the year has its own distinct kind of beauty, compounding the splendor of creation with a cyclical palate of sensation. Truly the world around us is a source of wonder, and the unfolding drama of Spring evokes both delight and expectation. Just as autumn can make us nostalgic for moments of the past, the warming weather, greening trees, and lengthening days of Spring can propel us to yearn for moments yet to be realized. Fittingly, nature and the Church’s liturgical calendar align so that the coming of Spring reflects the great celebration of the new life that accompanies Easter and the Resurrection. But first, we must prepare ourselves through Lent and walk with our Lord to Calvary. In fact, without that time of preparation, our celebration would be less complete.

In a similar way, education done right involves an experience of beauty that wounds us, makes sore our hearts, and prompts us to walk softly, indeed humbly. Whether it comes through the splendor of creation, the artistry of the written word, the example of a saint, or the subtlety of a mathematical proof, that experience provokes in us an awareness of what we lack and presents us with something we long to have.

The temptation, however, can be to seek to find in the present something that belongs only to the future—to lose appreciation for the learning happening today in the anticipation of the wisdom gained tomorrow. In our zeal and enthusiasm, educators cannot help but be tempted to do the learning for the student, to go beyond setting the conditions for the encounter, and to dictate the outcome of the experience. Rather than trust that the experience will allow for the student to see for himself the beauty of what is being learned, we can attempt to give to the student our own experience. Of course, such an approach is not only self-defeating, it can undermine the very goals that we have set for ourselves as educators.

The challenge for the teacher, therefore, is to facilitate with integrity our students’ encounters with reality. At Our Lady of Mount Carmel, we are dedicated to impressing our students with the weight of the sublime, facilitating an encounter with beauty that at times unsettles, but also awakens and inspires. We accomplish this challenging task by providing an experience of the best that has been thought and written down in the history of our civilization, under the direction of teachers who love what they teach, and for whom that experience is itself continually new and renewing. We behold the beautiful for years upon years in succession, and our discovery of what is new for us is occasioned by what is permanent and enduring.

And so the changing seasons are for us a mercy, an instrument of grace that interrupts our complacency and reminds us that we are not now as we have been—and that in the future we will be different still. In her wisdom, the Church provides us with a liturgical calendar with which we rehearse and celebrate the life and mystery of Christ. The rhythms of feasting and fasting become the anchors on which fix our experiences and interpret our encounter with the world in anticipation of eternity. With this in mind, as we prepare our students to meet their academic demands, we likewise prepare them with a vision for the purpose of that education in their lives as they heed the call of God on their lives.