Reading: From Christian Education by Bl. Basil Moreau
Zeal is the great desire to make God known, loved, and served, and thus to bring knowledge of salvation to others. Activity flows from this virtue. Teachers who possess it fulfill the duties of their profession with enthusiasm, love, courage, and perseverance. When they see young people who lack knowledge and Christian values, they experience what Saint Paul felt when he wrote to those he had evangelized: “My children for whom I labor again and again until Christ is within you.” That statement, in fact, is the goal of all Christian education. To reach it, teachers must neglect nothing.
Teachers who have this virtue will be happy only when their students progress in the knowledge of virtue. All day and each day they will work at this great and difficult task of Christian education. When they pray, when they study, when they receive the sacraments, it will be especially for “their young people.” This will be done without distinction or regard for any student as special, because such teachers know that all students are equally important to God and that their duty is to work with each with the same devotion, watchfulness, and perseverance.
If at times you show preference to any young person, it should be the poor, those who have no one else to show them preference, those who have the least knowledge, those who lack skills and talent, and those who are not Catholic or Christian. If you show them greater care and concern, it must be because their needs are greater and because it is only just to give more to those who have received less. You must be “all things to all people,” like Saint Paul-little with the little, great with the great, seeing in all only the image of God imprinted within them like a sacred seal that you must preserve at all cost.
Teachers animated by such a spirit do not simply follow what is generally accepted in the profession but have a thousand little ways to encourage progress in even the weakest and least-talented students and challenge all students to their highest performance.
Such teachers know how to maintain silence when required, to keep students at work when required, and to maintain proper order without using punishments-neither threats nor reprimands. Such teachers use any occasion to provide models for young people and to communicate about God, Jesus Christ, and the students’ souls. Since the zeal of these teachers is guided by love, they do everything with strength and with gentleness: with strength because they are courageous and unshakable in the midst of any difficulties they face; with gentleness because they are tender and compassionate like Jesus Christ, the model for all teachers, who loved to be bothered by young people.
Without this virtue of zeal among teachers in a school, everything changes. Everything falls apart. There is ignorance, disorder, bad conduct, and the true corruption of young people-these are what families experience through the faintheartedness and indifference of teachers without zeal. They are put in the midst of young people and cause the ruin of a great number of them. Thus, the virtue of zeal is necessary for a Christian teacher.
MEDITATION – SR. BENEDICTA MARIE, OCD
Being of Carmelite extraction this reading on zeal cannot but remind me of the ancient motto of the Carmelite order: “With Zeal have I been Zealous for the Lord, God of Hosts!” This motto is the echo of the Prophet Elijah in 1 Kings 19. Elijah, in despair is complaining to God and asking for death. His spectacular ‘lesson’ on top of Mt. Carmel has not brought about the conversion of Israel as he expected. His zeal has accomplished nothing aside from promoting him to the top of Jezebel’s ‘hit list’.
I am a relative newcomer to the world of the classical/liberal arts educational revival, but it seems to me that the teachers and parents building this revival have especially high hopes for our students, and strive to implant in young hearts a healthy and unapologetic idealism. Some of our fellow educators might view these lofty goals as naïve and even anachronistic – that is understandable – the world of education has been a discouraging place for several decades now, and cultural shifts take time. If our zeal for building deep and lofty virtue in our children were to suffer discouragement, I would expect it to come from another source: What am I to think when my zeal for the growth of my students does not show the results I expected?
Where do I place my faith, my ultimate hope for my students’ growth? Am I willing to be the Paul who planted – or the Apollos who watered – while another will see the growth? Do I allow myself to settle for teaching the easy and indisputable ‘facts’ while avoiding the struggle for the meaning of those facts?
Holy Spirit, Gentle Spirit of Wisdom, fill us with the zeal of Jesus who “loved to be bothered by young people”, grant us special graces of patience and devotion for those students who are most in need. Mary, Seat of Wisdom, obtain for us a zeal that is both steadfast and tender.
Please also offer one Mass and one Rosary some time this month for the intentions of the members of the Confraternity.