Gravissimum Educationis, the Declaration on Christian Education written in 1965, carries the highest teaching authority of any document published by our Church on Catholic education. One of 16 documents produced during the Second Vatican Council, Gravissimum Educationis offers many important messages about Catholic education. Perhaps the two most compelling are:
- Catholic education is an incredibly vital ministry within the mission Jesus Christ handed on to His Church, "To fulfill the mandate she has received from her divine founder of proclaiming the mystery of salvation to all (people) and of restoring all things in Christ, Holy Mother the Church must be concerned with the whole of (a human's) life, even the secular part of it insofar as it has a bearing on (his/her) heavenly calling. (4) Therefore she has a role in the progress and development of education" (Vatican Council II, 1965, Introduction).
- Catholic educators form an apostolate, "The work of these teachers, this sacred synod declares, is in the real sense of the word an apostolate most suited to and necessary for our times and at once a true service offered to society" (Vatican Council II, 1965, #8). In this way, the Church elevates the ministry of Catholic education to "(t)he work of an apostle, not only of the first followers of Christ but of all the faithful who carry on the original mission entrusted by the Savior to the twelve to 'make disciples of all nations' (Matthew 28:19)" (https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/dictionary/index.cfm?id=31898).
Since, therefore, the Catholic school can be such an aid to the fulfillment of the mission of the People of God and to the fostering of the dialogue between the Church and (humankind), to the benefit of both, it retains even in our present circumstances the utmost importance. (Vatican Council II, 1965, #8)
- "develop with special care the intellectual faculties (of students)"
- "form (in students) the ability to judge rightly"
- "hand on the cultural legacy of previous generations"
- "foster a sense of values"
- "prepare for professional life"
- "promote friendly relations and foster a spirit of mutual understanding"
- "establish...a center whose work and progress must be shared together by families, teachers, associations of various types that foster cultural, civic, and religious life, as well as by civil society and the entire human community."
- "create for the school community a special atmosphere animated by the Gospel spirit of freedom and charity"
- "help youth grow according to the new creatures they were made through baptism"
- "develop (students') own personalities"
- "order the whole of human culture to the news of salvation"
- ensure that "the knowledge students gradually acquire of the world, life and (humanity) is illumined by faith"
- "promote efficaciously the good of the earthly city"
- "prepare (students) for service in the spread of the Kingdom of God, so that by leading an exemplary apostolic life they become...a saving leaven in the human community."
(P)ersevere generously in the work (you) have undertaken and, imbuing (your) students with the spirit of Christ, to strive to excel in pedagogy and the pursuit of knowledge in such a way that (you) not merely advance the internal renewal of the Church but preserve and enhance its beneficent influence upon today's world, especially the intellectual world. (Conclusion)
Catholic school teachers, the whole well-being of Christianity and the entire world depends upon you.
Let there be nothing little about you.
You have the heart, and the apostolate, of an apostle.
O'Malley, J. (1993). The First Jesuits. Retrieved from https://academics.lmu.edu/media/lmuacademics/centerforteachingexcellence/documents/The%20Schools%20-%20Rhetorical%20Arts.pdf
Vatican Council II. (1965, October 28). Gravissimum Educationis. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decl_19651028_gravissimum-educationis_en.html