We are now in the midst of graduation season. Most colleges and universities have held graduation ceremonies recently; and the elementary and high schools will soon do so. In this context, it is helpful to reflect upon the idea of education, and how all of this life should be an education in the ways of the greater kingdom.
In its declaration on education entitled Gravissimum Educationis, the Vatican II Council praised modern advances in recognizing the universal right to an education and greater flexibility in teaching methods. But it also called for a renewal of the timeless wisdom that education is not only about acquiring information, but rather should be help people become wise, moral and charitable, able to take our rightful place in society and in the kingdom of God.
As the Council called for, let education “ develop harmoniously [each person’s] physical, moral and intellectual endowments so that they may gradually acquire a mature sense of responsibility in striving endlessly to form their own lives properly and in pursuing true freedom as they surmount the vicissitudes of life with courage and constancy.”
Thus, while tests and grades are needed to provide goals and track academic progress, and while education hopefully helps people in useful occupations, the focus should be on the whole person, on virtue and wisdom, on self-respect and an appreciation of others, with a desire to keep learning throughout life. Such deep goals are not so easily measured, but their effects are forever. In this context, we should see all of this life as an education in the ways of the greater kingdom.
During every day and every year, in all ages of life, we should be learning different aspects of our relationship with God, with the heavenly hosts, and with each other. Sometimes, especially when things are going well, the lessons are easier. Sometimes, there are greater struggles and the lessons are more difficult. In the former situations, we should thank God, and not coast, but strive ever further.
When the lessons are more challenging, we should remember that, in life as in formal education, if we persevere and cooperate, the greatest difficulties can be opportunities for the most profound growth and unity with others. And we should not focus only on the aspects that we are already best at, but rather take on the challenges that God gives, advancing to be a complete person. May all of this life be an education in faith, hope and charity. For, as Saint Paul says, all things of this earth pass away, but these three virtues bring joy forever. See 1 Cor. 13:8-13