The identity of the Catholic school finds some fundamental factors in these three terms. Far from being considered a limit, they are instead solid guidelines that must always inspire all educational action, precisely in terms of that Christian vision of reality characterizing us.

The Italian word “insegnare” (to teach) derives from the Latin: insignare. This term is in turn composed of the prefix in combined with the Latin verb signare which means to imprint, to leave a mark on someone. The verb itself, in turn, has an etymology linked to the noun signum, meaning “sign, brand, seal” or even “flag, banner”. So, by extension, it may indicate a belonging.

With this starting point, it is clear that the teacher’s work cannot be limited to merely conveying some notions, imparting knowledge as an end in itself. Instead, it should be expressed in a much deeper way, which goes far beyond the study, and be configured as a real modus operandi capable of approaching reality, both external and internal, autonomously and objectively. This implies knowing the human nature we have received as a gift to be discovered, instead of something to be invented in an impromptu manner. In other words, it is a question of leaving that mark in the conscience, a mark that can awaken all the beauty, goodness, hope and truth contained in our hearts.

This allows us to consider teaching not only as an action aimed at filling a void but also as a real educational action. Education, therefore, or the will and ability to ex ducere, that is, to bring out those qualities and originality that identify every single person entrusted to us and that are already in each one of them, like a seed that just awaits the water to germinate. “Do not go outside yourself, but enter into yourself, for truth dwells in the interior self”: Saint Augustine reminds us this. If teaching is closely related to educating, that is, drawing out what someone has in his heart, then, thanks to Augustine too, we can deduce that education not only is closely related to evangelization but it constitutes an important foundation for it, although both remain perfectly distinct, each one in its own sphere.

To draw an analogy, we can rely on the image of a child who is born when the fetus in his mother’s womb is fully formed, thus he is ready to face the external environment he will have to live in. In the same way, man has to be sufficiently formed, or educated, in order to be able to receive in a productive way the evangelization that Christ Himself commanded us and which will allow him to fully live the divine life we have all been called to.

Consequently, the teacher’s work, often forgotten and poorly evaluated, turns out to be a responsibility of critical importance, all the more so in a school which defines itself as Catholic and has the proclamation of the Gospel as its goal, the educational requirement as a method, the educational institute as a specific vital environment and the pupils’ reality and context of life as key players.

This fundamental relationship between teaching, educating and evangelizing constitutes, in my humble opinion, a fundamental value for anyone who wants to roll up his sleeves in the Catholic school and does not want to forget the very nature of who we are and where we are headed.

In this regard, I would like to close this brief consideration by adding a few words spoken by the then Cardinal Ratzinger during a homily held in Krakow on September 13, 1980, on the occasion of the visit of a delegation from the German Bishops’ Conference to the Polish Episcopate. These words remind us of the importance of the Incarnation of Christ and can be an incentive for us as Catholic school teachers, so as not to forget human nature and its entailments in our profession: “Whoever errs about what mankind is, attacks God Himself. The profound respect for human dignity and the attention to the human rights of every single man are fruits of the faith in the Incarnation of God. For this reason, faith in Jesus Christ constitutes the foundation of every real progress. Whoever renounces his faith in Jesus Christ for the sake of an alleged greater progress, renounces the foundation of human dignity.”. (taken from Klerusblatt n. 60 – 1980, p. 250).

Alessandro Mellozzini

Dean of Istituto Santa Francesca Saverio Cabrini, Rome


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