We are sometimes asked why Seton’s materials are so saturated with Catholic content.
There are a myriad of reasons, but first and foremost, we fill our curriculum with Catholic content because we know that in God’s plan, the purpose of education is not simply to learn facts, but to prepare souls—curious combinations of intellect and will—for eternity. Education, from this perspective, is a hugely important, yet delicate, task.
Children take what is available in their environment and make it part of themselves. If children grow in the nurturing soil of Catholic Truth, then that Truth will become part of them. If they grow in the arid soil of the secular world, then that aridity will become part of them.
Pope Pius XI said, “It is necessary not only that religious instruction be given to the young at certain fixed times, but also that every other subject taught be permeated with Christian piety. If this is wanting, if this sacred atmosphere does not pervade and warm the hearts of masters and scholars alike, little good can be expected from any kind of learning, and considerable harm will often be the consequence.”
Seton Home Study School seeks always to create in its curriculum that “sacred atmosphere … permeated with Christian piety,” of which the Holy Father spoke.
Scripture itself provides the basis for what we do at Seton Home Study School. In the Old Testament, we find the Jewish practice of wearing phylacteries—small scrolls containing sections of the Law—bound to their heads and arms (near the mind and heart), as a symbol of their remembrance of God’s Word, their love for the things of God, and their submission to His Will (Ex. 13).
In Deuteronomy we read, “And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thy heart: And thou shalt tell them to thy children, and thou shalt meditate upon them sitting in thy house, and walking on thy journey, sleeping and rising. And thou shalt bind them as a sign on thy hand, and they shall be and shall move between thy eyes. And thou shalt write them in the entry, and on the doors of thy house” (Deut. 6:6-9).
Again, Proverbs tells us, “My son, forget not my law, and let thy heart keep my commandments. For they shall add to thee length of days, and years of life and peace. Let not mercy and truth leave thee, put them about thy neck, and write them in the tables of thy heart: And thou shalt find grace and good understanding before God and men” (Prov. 3:1-4).
Although in Matthew’s Gospel, Christ condemns the Pharisees for hypocritical wearing of phylacteries (Mt. 25), He never denies the principle upon which the practice was founded. It is good and desired by God that we should surround ourselves with the sacred, with the things of our Faith, with all that is true, holy, and lovely, as St. Paul put it to the Philippians (Phil. 4:8).
Our Catholic Heritage
And, as Catholics, why would we want anything else? There is a wealth of culture in our Catholic heritage. In a certain sense, all the saints, all the Catholic art and architecture and stories, all the achievements of Catholics in history and science are our birthright.
Together, they constitute a most remarkable gift to us from our Faith, that same Faith which inspired the creativity and genius of our predecessors.
We should rejoice in these things, and want to know as much as we can about them because they are part of us and part of what our Faith has given to the world, not to mention the foundation upon which we can build our own faith-filled offerings to the contemporary age.
When a person really believes in something, is inspired by something, or loves something, he wants to share it with everyone around him. Just think of the countless love songs that have been written down through the ages.
Half of the world’s classical music was inspired by love, and every other popular song on the radio is a love song. When you truly love, you can’t help but shout it from the rooftops.
In effect, that’s exactly what all the Catholic artists, architects, and musicians of the past were doing. The glorious cathedral of Notre Dame de Chartres in France is a shout of the faithful, proclaiming their love for God to the highest heavens.
The musical settings of prayers and Mass parts of the Renaissance composers are filled with the tenderest melodies and richest harmonies, once again expressing the glories of the Creator and the gifts He has given His people.
The saints in their virtues, the martyrs in their deaths, the theologians in their writings, all shout to the world of the truth and beauty of Catholicism because they overflowed with love for Christ and His Church.
In our own small way here at Seton, we wish to become part of that witness to the world. We love the Faith. We love the Church. We know God is good, and we know His gifts are beyond compare.
How could we do otherwise than share that magnificent truth everywhere possible?
Knowing and Loving the Truth
On the other hand, in this day and age, it is as much a responsibility as it is a joy to spread the Faith and share the sacred in all we do. While Seton’s textbooks and lesson plans proclaim the Good News, nearly every other influence in society today is sending out a message utterly and completely antithetical to the truths of the Faith.
There is little Catholicism to be found in popular culture. The stores, the streets, the theaters, television programs, newspapers, and magazines are all opposed to Catholicism, either directly or indirectly. It is our responsibility to combat this attack on truth.
If a student were to receive a purely intellectual instruction in the Faith, he or she would know the Truths that the Catholic Church teaches. But there is a vast gulf between knowing the Truth and loving the Truth, between knowing virtue and loving virtue.
That is why great literature and stories of saints are so important. We can tell our children to be honest, but that will not make them want to be honest. We can tell our children to love others, but that will not make them want to love others.
But if we tell them the story of a boy or girl who loved heroically, our children will want to be like that. Conversely, when they read stories about those who lack virtue, they will not want to be like them.
At Seton, we teach the doctrines of the Faith and the Ten Commandments. We tell stories of right and wrong and the triumph of good over evil. We put before our students the witness of men and women who knew what was right and had the courage to do it, who used God’s grace and the inspiration of faith to make a difference in their societies.
In short, we surround our students with Catholicism so that they will grow up to be well-formed, thoughtful, creative, proud, and confident Catholics who can make a difference in this world on their way to being with God in the next.
You might be interested to read: Seton Home School: Balanced and Truthful, or “Too” Catholic?