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Should Academics be a ‘Daily Grind’?

Should Academics be a ‘Daily Grind’?


Academics and spiritual formation go together. Seton shares some of Pope St. John Paul’s inspirational thoughts on homeschooling and the love of truth. 

There is a necessary link between spiritual and academic formation.

Academic instruction cannot be properly accomplished without spiritual formation.

Spiritual formation is essential for excellent academic instruction.

True academic instruction is dependent upon spiritual formation. For academic instruction to be successful, it must be done in the context of prayer, sacraments, sacramentals, religious art and music, Scripture, stories of the saints, inculcation of virtue, devotions, and so on.

Academic instruction is necessarily distorted if it is not immersed in and essentially dependent upon spiritual formation.

Connected to What Is Important

St. John teaches us that Jesus is the Light of men and the True Light which enlightens everyone (John 1:3, 9). Jesus said “I am the Light of the world” (John 9:5), “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” (John 14:6), and “I am the Bread of Life” (John 6:35).

If Jesus is the Light, the Life, the Way, the Bread of Life, He simply cannot be ignored in such an important undertaking as academic instruction.

Academic instruction must be seen by young people to have a connection to what is important in life. It must be seen as having a “values” or moral dimension. Otherwise, academic instruction becomes merely a means to a utilitarian end, such as a job or a college. It becomes merely a “grind.”

Worse, we can see from the government schools, that academic instruction without God becomes a laboratory of false ideologies and immoral living.

If academics are seen as a window onto God’s world, as the discovery of truth, if academics are linked to eternal salvation, then students and teachers alike will approach academics, to teach and to learn academics, with a certain reverence, realizing they require seriousness and self-discipline, love and sacrifice.

The false thinking which has led the government educational institutions to reject God has resulted in poor academic education.

We cannot allow this false thinking to establish itself in the homeschooling movement as well.

It is a concern that many Catholic parents who are just beginning homeschooling for academic reasons are turning to secular programs. Some are turning to government-funded public school programs, which, of course, do not include religion.

These students are being listed in the local county school district census for the purpose of obtaining local, state, and federal funding.

Unfathomable Sources of Grace

We Catholic homeschooling families need to stay the course, to be faithful to Catholic homeschooling.

We need to understand the urgent moral and spiritual needs of our children, to continue to persevere, to be strong and faithful in the difficult battle to save the souls of our children, and not to support a system which is undermining Christian values.

We need to have our children hear the words of Pope John Paul II when he addresses the young people. When he spoke to the young people of Cuba in 1998, he said,

“I have been impressed by the fidelity which many of you have shown to the faith handed down from your forbears, a faith often learned on the knee of your mothers and grandmothers during the last few decades when the Church’s voice seemed silenced.”

“The growing crisis of values being felt throughout the world is casting its shadow over the young people of this bright land. A dangerous crisis of identity is spreading, causing young people to live in meaninglessness, without direction, without plans for the future, suffocated by immediate concerns. There is a growing relativism, together with religious indifference and the lack of a clear moral sense. At the same time, people are tempted to worship the idols of the consumer society…

“Do not succumb to the lack of vision which leads to destroying one’s personality through alcoholism, drugs, sexual irresponsibility, the constant pursuit of new experiences…

“Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous. Let all that you do be done in love (Cor 16:13-14). But what does it mean to be courageous? It means to overcome evil in all its forms. The worst evil is sin, which causes all sorts of suffering and can even lurk within us, negatively affecting our behavior. And so, while it is right to be committed to the struggle against evil in its public and social manifestations, the first duty of believers is to fight against sin, the root of all forms of evil, which can take root in the human heart, and to resist its enticements with God’s help….

“The Church’s traditions, the sacramental life, and a constant recourse to prayer are not just duties or rites to be performed. Rather they are unfathomable sources of grace which can enliven your youth and help it grow in virtue, apostolic zeal, and true hope.

“Virtue is that inner strength which leads to self-sacrifice for love of what is good, and which enables people not only to do good deeds but also to give the very best of themselves. Virtuous young people are what makes a country great….

“I also wish to speak to you about commitment. Commitment is the courageous response of people who do not want to let life pass them by but rather seek to shape their own personal history and the history of the society around them. I encourage you to make a concrete commitment, however humble and simple, but one which, if carried out with perseverance, will be the best proof of your love and the best path to personal holiness. Make a responsible commitment to your families, to the life of your communities, to civil society, and when the time comes, to the future direction of your nation.”

Pope John Paul II also spoke to the young people of the United States when he visited in St. Louis in January, 1999. He began his speech by reminding them of the words of Jesus Christ: You are the light of the world…Your light must shine before all men (Mt 5:14, 16).

“Dear Young People, Ask yourselves: Do I believe these words of Jesus in the Gospel? Jesus is calling you the light of the world. He is asking you to let your light shine before others. I know that in your hearts you want to say ‘Here I am, Lord.’ But only if you are one with Jesus can you share His light and be a light to the world.”

“Are you ready for this?” After a wild yelling of YES from the young people of St. Louis, the Pope asked again: “Are you ready for this?”  The young people stood again, yelling “yes” and clapping enthusiastically. A third time the Pope asked, “Are you ready for this?” The young people yelled louder than ever, “Yes.” They clapped and stamped their feet and waved their arms and yelled louder and louder, “Yes,” for more than five minutes.

Then the pope continued. “If you look to Jesus, if you live the Truth that is Jesus, you will have in you the light that reveals the truths and values on which to build your own happiness, while building a world of justice, peace, and solidarity. Remember what Jesus said: “I am the Light of the world; those who follow Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (Jn 8:12).

“Because Jesus is the Light, we too become light when we proclaim Him. This is the heart of the Christian mission to which each of you has been called through Baptism and Confirmation. You are called to make the light of Christ shine brightly in the world…

“You are teenagers and young adults. But already you realize that there is a kind of darkness in the world: the darkness of doubt and uncertainty. You may feel the darkness of loneliness and isolation. Your anxieties may come from questions about your future, or regrets about past choices. Sometimes the world seems filled with darkness, the darkness of the world.

“Young friends, in the days and weeks and years ahead, for as long as you remember this evening, remember that the Pope came to the United States, to the city of St. Louis, to call the young people of America to Christ, to invite you to follow Him. He came to challenge you to be the light of the world!  ‘The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it’ (Jn 1:5). Jesus, Who has conquered sin and death, reminds you: ‘I am with you always’ (Mt 28:20). He says, ‘Courage! It is I; have no fear’ (Mk 6:50).

“On the horizon of this city stands the Gateway Arch, which often catches the sunlight in its different colors and hues. In a similar way, in a thousand different ways, you must reflect the light of Christ through your lives of prayer and joyful service to others. With the help of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the young people of America can do this magnificently.

“Remember: Christ is calling you! The Church needs you! The Pope believes in you and he expects great things of you! Praised be Jesus Christ.”

Catholic homeschooling is about raising a generation faithful to the teachings of Christ.  If a student graduates from a Catholic homeschool with all earthly knowledge, and yet does not answer the call of Christ, how can we consider the homeschooling a success?

Released for the first time online, this article originally appeared in the August 2003 Edition of the Seton Newsletter, Volume XX, 8

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