- To educate is to intervene in someone’s life.
- To educate is to shape people in what is most basically human.
- We are agents in our education, not objects of education.
Both of us are educated. This was a conscious decision. That is, we each questioned why life is the way it is and took overwhelming effort to seek out people who have drawn out of us what it means to simply and most basically be a human being. We continue to do so. Both of us deeply appreciate the people who have spent their lives intervening in our lives in life-giving ways.
This word, education comes from the combining of two other words, e-duco, or to bring things together again. It implies that there is something already present in the person that needs to be teased out. Genuine education encourages people to interpret their lives, to relate to one another, and to engage in the world in ways that faithfully reflect that which is most ultimately important in and essential to life.
All true education is deeply humanizing. The teachers who have been most influential in our lives have taught us what it means to be humane with ourselves and others and the world around us. All real educators hope that what they teach will make a qualitative difference in the lives of the people who they teach. Learning to become human is not about information, it is about formation.
Agents Of Learning
In a real learning event knowledge is exercised by the learner in a way that accords them power over what and how they learn. There is art in enabling the shared lives of fellow-citizens. The means of access to knowledge, how it does this, and the influence of this knowledge all demand of education a powerful personal prerogative in this process.
All of this when combined calls Christians to learn to authentically live out this relationship with the living God in a communal way of life patterned on the life of Christ, whose historical commitments were profoundly social.
What does it mean when we say that we as Catholic Workers love others? It means that we work to become ever more conscious of the uniqueness of our own agency in the world as we attempt to bring into effect God’s own love and justice and peace and freedom and wholeness and fullness of life that God desires for all people.
To carry out the Works of Mercy is more than a perfunctory exercise. The end products of doing this are certainly personally rewarding. But the preparation and act of doing so is truly educational, at least for us they are. They call us to human agencies, each of which are strongly and distinctly personal for each of us. They enact what it means to be human, both in the giving and the receiving. Eating is truth. Drinking is truth. Clothing is truth. Many in the world today promote the denial of a thing called universal truth. For these it is apparent that they have never gone hungry or naked or without shelter or without love. It is a privilege for us to offer these things to others – any others – as educators, that is, as people who are trying to draw out a similar response in those who partner with us and who receive this love. We unashamedly do so. Without the care that others first gave us (i.e. compassion), we would not be alive today. And we promote this ancient reality because it is nothing other than God’s first-love for us that our own love for others is founded upon.
Attempts to build justice on any foundation other than that of true education – religious or not – is fraudulent, and abusive.