"Intellectual distinction is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for election to a Rhodes Scholarship. Selection committees are charged to seek excellence in qualities of mind and in qualities of person which, in combination, offer the promise of effective service to the world in the decades ahead. The Rhodes Scholarships, in short, are investments in individuals rather than in project proposals..."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

My Little Monastery

I was asked to read an address from the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI from September 12, 2008 given to the College of Bernard in Paris France.  One of the loveliest young women I know asked me to read it as she will be using it for a essay writing contest that could reduce her college tuition significantly if she wins.  The topic of her essay must use this address to answer this question:

How does a renewed “culture of the word” offer hope to the world today?

While I gave her some of my thoughts, this article spoke more to me about how I see an education in Western Civilization, Latin and the Catholic Religion to be the right education for my children.  All along, I have felt like homeschooling my children was like having my own little monastery.  Some friends might jokingly agree because I don't do play dates much (wink!)  However, isn't it what all homeschooling parents are trying to accomplish?  A little monastery of their own?

"Benedict calls the monastery a dominici servitii schola.  The monastery serves eruditio, the formation and education of man – a formation whose ultimate aim is that man should learn how to serve God.  But it also includes the formation of reason – education – through which man learns to perceive, in the midst of words, the Word itself."
One recent development for us in the inclusion of Latin into our curriculum.  After reading Climbing Parnassus: A New Apologia for Greek and Latin along with Andrew Campbells's Latin Centered Curriculum, I was a convert.  We had to learn Latin.

What I have been enjoying most is Gregorian Chant.  I just purchased Lingua Angelica from Memoria Press on the used book market.  Can I just say it relaxes me ALMOST as much as a massage?  So, I understand it when the Holy Father talks about chant and it's importance in the monastery, both in terms of their creation of the melodies and how singing them lifted one to a level above any prayer.  Singing these would place one on the plane of the angelic.  More importantly, pride was never a part of its creation.  It was about men finding music worthy of God and his word, for men.  It was the beginning of music in the Western tradition.

"Two chants from the Christian liturgy come from biblical texts in which they are placed on the lips of angels:  the Gloria, which is sung by the angels at the birth of Jesus, and the Sanctus, which according to Isaiah 6 is the cry of the seraphim who stand directly before God.  Christian worship is therefore an invitation to sing with the angels, and thus to lead the word to its highest destination.  Once again, Jean Leclercq says on this subject:  “The monks had to find melodies which translate into music the acceptance by redeemed man of the mysteries that he celebrates.  The few surviving capitula from Cluny thus show the Christological symbols of the individual modes” (cf. ibid. p. 229)...
For Benedict, the words of the Psalm: coram angelis psallam Tibi, Domine – in the presence of the angels, I will sing your praise (cf. 138:1) – are the decisive rule governing the prayer and chant of the monks.  What this expresses is the awareness that in communal prayer one is singing in the presence of the entire heavenly court, and is thereby measured according to the very highest standards:  that one is praying and singing in such a way as to harmonize with the music of the noble spirits who were considered the originators of the harmony of the cosmos, the music of the spheres... This intrinsic requirement of speaking with God and singing of him with words he himself has given, is what gave rise to the great tradition of Western music.  It was not a form of private “creativity”, in which the individual leaves a memorial to himself and makes self-representation his essential criterion.  Rather it is about vigilantly recognizing with the “ears of the heart” the inner laws of the music of creation, the archetypes of music that the Creator built into his world and into men, and thus discovering music that is worthy of God, and at the same time truly worthy of man, music whose worthiness resounds in purity."
Those familiar with the principles of A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver DeMille, might remember he talked about Central Classics, those books which are family's source of truth.  Ours are the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  I also have always felt bible study was as important as the Catechism. I grew up in an age where I learned neither.  It wasn't until I started homeschooling that I realized how little I knew and started a quest to better understand the Word of God.  I had always looked at the Bible as bunch of little stories that not only illuminated the Word of God, but a significant part of our understanding of Western Civilization.  I learned more about Western Civilization from attending Jeff Cavins' Great Adventure Bible Timeline study than I did in all my history classes combined.  Here the Holy Father reinforces what I feel, but says even more.  God is revealed in the world through history and history is revealed through the word of God in the Bible.  I think the Holy Father takes it even a step further.  This means that, unlike Fundamentalists, we see God in more than just the Bible.

"Only within the dynamic unity of the whole are the many books one book.  The Word of God and his action in the world are revealed only in the word and history of human beings."
Here's one place I know I need work (so to speak) and that is on the topic of "work".  When I speak of "work" I mean the "work" needed to keep up a house.  Now, my house isn't a pig pen or anything.  It is, however, cluttered.  I also will do school work, school planning, school teaching, school reading...anything rather than house "work".  While my husband and I have agreed that in this vocation of my as home educator, our children's education comes before just about anything else.  So, he's not scandalized to coming home to toys on the floor.  But is my next task to work on the "school of God's service" with respect to keeping our house.  I am supposed to raise scholars, but I also need to raise people who can live with others and keep a home.  So, we'll be working on the labora, that second component of monasticism next.
" Thus far in our consideration of the “school of God’s service”, as Benedict describes monasticism, we have examined only its orientation towards the word – towards the “ora”.  Indeed, this is the starting point that sets the direction for the entire monastic life.  But our consideration would remain incomplete if we did not also at least briefly glance at the second component of monasticism, indicated by the “labora”.  In the Greek world, manual labor was considered something for slaves.  Only the wise man, the one who is truly free, devotes himself to the things of the spirit;  he views manual labor as somehow beneath him, and leaves it to people who are not suited to this higher existence in the world of the spirit.  The Jewish tradition was quite different: all the great rabbis practiced at the same time some form of handcraft.  Paul, who as a Rabbi and then as a preacher of the Gospel to the Gentile world was also a tent-maker and earned his living with the work of his own hands, is no exception here, but stands within the common tradition of the rabbinate.  Monasticism took up this tradition; manual work is a constitutive element of Christian monasticism.  In his Regula, Saint Benedict does not speak specifically about schools, although in practice, he presupposes teaching and learning, as we have seen.  However, in one chapter of his Rule, he does speak explicitly about work (cf. Chap. 48).  And so does Augustine, who dedicated a book of his own to monastic work.  Christians, who thus continued in the tradition previously established by Judaism, must have felt further vindicated by Jesus’s saying in Saint John’s Gospel, in defense of his activity on the Sabbath: “My Father is working still, and I am working” (5:17). "
Seriously, everyone at our house needs to work on that virtue.

I've always felt that apologetics are an important piece of our religious education.  Having a background in debate, and being surrounded by Evangelicals everywhere, my kids need to be able to stand firm in their faith and the truth of the Catholic church.  Peter Kreeft's books are my favorite for starting to study apologetics.  My kids have started their studies with the "Friendly Defender" cards.  We will move up to the Handbook of Catholic Apologetics in the ninth grade.  1 Peter 3:15 has always stood out as a call to study apologetics, so seeing the Holy Father point it out here made my heart sing!
"The classic formulation of the Christian faith’s intrinsic need to make itself communicable to others, is a phrase from the First Letter of Peter, which in medieval theology was regarded as the biblical basis for the work of theologians:  “Always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason (the logos) for the hope that you all have” (3:15).  (The Logos, the reason for hope must become apo-logĂ­a; it must become a response).  In fact, Christians of the nascent Church did not regard their missionary proclamation as propaganda, designed to enlarge their particular group, but as an inner necessity, consequent upon the nature of their faith:  the God in whom they believed was the God of all people, the one, true God, who had revealed himself in the history of Israel and ultimately in his Son, thereby supplying the answer which was of concern to everyone and for which all people, in their innermost hearts, are waiting.  The universality of God, and of reason open towards him, is what gave them the motivation—indeed, the obligation—to proclaim the message."
Lastly, our homeschool's mission is to seek God through prayer and work and to cultivate literate, confident, well-grounded scholars.
" Quaerere Deum – to seek God and to let oneself be found by him, that is today no less necessary than in former times.  A purely positivistic culture which tried to drive the question concerning God into the subjective realm, as being unscientific, would be the capitulation of reason, the renunciation of its highest possibilities, and hence a disaster for humanity, with very grave consequences.  "

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