CSW 2021: Authentic and Integral Human Development

Apart from me you can do nothing. - John 15:5

The second semester just concluded and I am sure the pace was even faster than I ever felt it before. Our junior high and high school students exerted some serious intellectual energy completing their midterms last week. Elementary students attend school each day focused, eager, full of energy and joy, and ready for recess. Report cards will be emailed to parents and students before the end of today. Academically, I have been wondering more frequently - given the reality of so many students learning away from each other and away from the classroom - what will become of this? 

Well, if I am to take my own medicine, I think I should land somewhere near this thought: we do not know what will be of tomorrow, we only have today and that is enough for now. 

A Catholic education leads children to heaven, but heaven is attained to the extent that life is lived one day, one moment, one person at a time. I believe this notion is what makes a Catholic education qualitatively different. Before we run, we have to walk; before we walk, we have to crawl. Human nature is wonderfully made, and the very sequencing of child development gives us this ordered sense of reality. There are just indisputable circumstances that lead a child into authentic and integral development. 

We were discussing this back in early January in our Politics course while reading Pope Benedict VIX’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate. What is authentic and integral human development? As Catholic schools around the nation look to the import of our mission in the upcoming week, I think the significance of a Catholic education can be found in these words below: 

Besides requiring freedom, integral human development as a vocation also demands respect for its truth. The vocation to progress drives us to “do more, know more and have more in order to be more”. But herein lies the problem: what does it mean “to be more”? Paul VI answers the question by indicating the essential quality of “authentic” development: it must be “integral, that is, it has to promote the good of every man and of the whole man”. Amid the various competing anthropological visions put forward in today's society, even more so than in Paul VI's time, the Christian vision has the particular characteristic of asserting and justifying the unconditional value of the human person and the meaning of his growth. The Christian vocation to development helps to promote the advancement of all men and of the whole man. As Paul VI wrote: “What we hold important is man, each man and each group of men, and we even include the whole of humanity”. In promoting development, the Christian faith does not rely on privilege or positions of power, nor even on the merits of Christians (even though these existed and continue to exist alongside their natural limitations), but only on Christ, to whom every authentic vocation to integral human development must be directed. The Gospel is fundamental for development, because in the Gospel, Christ, “in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals humanity to itself”. Taught by her Lord, the Church examines the signs of the times and interprets them, offering the world “what she possesses as her characteristic attribute: a global vision of man and of the human race”. Precisely because God gives a resounding “yes” to man, man cannot fail to open himself to the divine vocation to pursue his own development. The truth of development consists in its completeness: if it does not involve the whole man and every man, it is not true development.

Which is only to say this: man is made not just to be more but to be whole. Christ alone can make us whole, which is why our efforts only get us so far. There remains a need for sacramental experiences where the grace of God is infused into the intellect and the heart. 

Amidst all the pieces that may be missing, the experiences in our school community that we were so accustomed to, one experience that never left us is the sacraments. Fr. Michael still visits us twice a week; our children go willingly (in large numbers I might add) to the throne of mercy in the sacrament of reconciliation and then are nourished with the only food that matters, food for the soul from the Eucharist. 

And for any believer who embraces those sacraments, we can all attest that without them, we know how utterly incomplete we are inwardly and outwardly. 

Wholeness restored by Christ in the sacraments. That is what makes a Catholic education qualitatively different. 

- Derek Tremblay, Headmaster