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Thursday, 16 July 2015

Framing Prayer 26-Last Jesuit Post--Education (And the Benedictines Sneak In)

In all the great orders, a relationship between learning and prayer grew out of the awareness that to know God is to love Him.

In fact, the old catechism recommends knowing God, which can come through both acquired study and infused knowledge. Those saints who are granted infused knowledge, like Blessed Margaret of Castello, or St. Joseph Cupertino, remain rare stars in the firmament of heaven.

Most of us must set time aside to read, reflect and pray, one of my favorite sayings here in 2013 or so.

For the Jesuits, prayer and knowledge of God create the duty to raise the level of man's capacity to learn through teaching. Those older men who were fortunate enough to have real Jesuit education either in high school or college learned more than just the basics. They learned the Jesuit disciplines of life-long study and even writing.

Even at the very beginnings of the order, St. Ignatius, who himself became an older student, encouraged his priests to become thinkers and doers. All the earliest leaders in the Jesuit order went to the great universities of the time, learning the liberal arts, the Trivium and Quadrivium, plus, plus, plus.

Before he died, St. Ignatius founded no less than thirty-five colleges, and by the twentieth century, there existed eight-hundred Jesuit colleges across the Earth-sadly, many falling into Modernist heresies. but not all.

Why? Why prayer and study?

One word--formation.

The forming of the mind, heart, imagination, memory, understanding and will involved, from the start, a focus on God and His plan for humans. Formation begins early and the famous Jesuit phrase,
“Give me the child until he is seven and I’ll give you the man" written by Baltasar Gracián (Gratian), a Jesuit who died in 1658.

For my faithful, older readers, recall the posts on the Ratio Studiorum, the Jesuit method of education. I taught this method to teachers, and also gave talks on this in the early 2000s to home schoolers. I studied this form in great detail before I home schooled. I recommend this form for all homeschoolers, unless they have already adopted, for example, the Benedictine or Salesian ways. See my series on these methodologies on this blog.

If one wants to read the entire text of 1599, find it here.

So, formation of the entire person includes study and prayer. Prayer should never be seen in isolation, but in the context of the whole person. Studying, especially the liberal arts, as "liberal" in this phrase means "free", as in a man free to think and free to act, and not a slave, allows for growth of knowledge and discernment.

Those Catholics who do not keep up with their learning through-out their entire life have missed God's call to become holy in the mind, memory, understanding and will, all informed by good knowledge.

One clear reason why we have moral chaos is the lack of the rational training of logic in the schools.

In addition, natural law philosophy is in the heart, but teaching it revives the fervor to follow God's law written on the hearts of all peoples.

The mind informs prayer and prayer informs the mind. Look at these selections from the Ratio.

23. The Jesuits have always given prominence to disputations, debates, discussion and, in secondary schools, to a variety of class and interclass contests. In the Constitutions, Part IV, ch. 6, n. 11, Ignatius states the purpose 5f these instruments: “that the intellectual powers may be more fully exercised.” In n. 12 of the same chapter he emphasized that there should be fixed times to discuss and debate the subject matter of the humanities. This exercise of intellectual powers is the motive underlying the several rules in the 1599 Ratio concerning disputations, contests and debates; for instance, Rule 12 of the Common Rules of Professors of the Higher Faculties and Rule 34 of the Common Rules for the Teachers of the Lower Classes. Besides, in the initial edition of the Ratio (1586) a lengthy chapter was devoted to disputations in theology, philosophy, the humanities, and even grammatical studies. To quote from the statement on philosophy and theology: One masters philosophy and theology, “not so much by listening to lectures as by engaging in disputation; for disputation provides a real test of how much a student understands of what he wrote in his notebook and how much profit he gained from private reflection. What seemed crystal clear in the seclusion of one’s room will often be found worthless in the give and take of disputation. Yet, when one is hard pressed by an opponent, he is forced to call upon all the strength and vigor of his mental powers. As a consequence, he will think of arguments in rebuttal that would never have come to mind in the quiet and ease of his study.” Pachtler, op. cit., II,


26. See also Rule 30 of the Rules of the Provincial. This regulation is probably the earliest public recognition in educational history that special preparation is necessary for effective teaching. The preliminary Ratio of 1586 made the point that if prospective teachers have not learned the techniques of good teaching beforehand, they will be forced to learn them afterwards at the expense of their students and of their own reputation. Besides, teachers often take it amiss if they are corrected after they have adopted a fixed method of teaching and may thus persist in their mistaken ways. Pachtler, op. cit., II, p. 154. But the origin of this regulation goes back to the founder of the Jesuits, Ignatius of Loyola. When the Roman College (now the Gregorian University) was opened in 1551, Ignatius decided that it should become the center for training future Jesuit teachers for the schools which were being established in many European countries. So he brought to the Roman College the more promising among the young Jesuit students. Eleven came from Messina, others from Spain, Portugal, Louvain, Germany, and Italy. At the same time he staffed the college with the most gifted professors of the Order. The purpose he had in mind was to form the younger students in sound pedagogical principles by observing the teaching methods of their professors and by having the methods explained to them. Thus what they had learned at the Roman College would through them become operative in other Jesuit schools. Ignatius’ letter on his project for the Roman College is in Monumenta Ignatiana, Ser. I, IV, pp. 684-690. 27. 

One weeps from the fall from grace at so many so-called Jesuit colleges and universities which have strayed from the Faith and from prayer.

We should daily pray for a renewal of the Jesuit vision of education which prepares saints to work in the world and bring the Gospel to every nation.

Learning and prayer....the two components of an adult faith life, Rather than re-write some ideas on the Ratio, here are some older posts.

Next, the Benedictines, who invented the education system of Europe....

to be continued...but a little preview from previous posts.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Repost on Catholic Education

Friday, 18 January 2013

More on the formation of the child and education

The end of the Society is not only to care for the salvation and perfection of their own souls with divine grace, but with the same [divine grace] seriously to devote themselves to the salvation and perfection of their neighbors. For it was especially instituted for the defense and propagation of the Faith, and the progress of souls in Christian life and doctrine. St. Ignatius

Tomorrow, I shall post the Salesian Preventive System and then look at my favourite, the Benedictine system. St. John Bosco's ideals were written in his The Preventive System in the Education of the Young.

There is no right or wrong or even a hierarchy of preferences for these methods. Only, parents involved in home education, or merely looking for good schools, should be aware of these different methods of formation.

Very important for parents would be the discovery of the movements of their own souls towards learning and formation. Too many lay people merely jump from one saint's ideas to the next instead of focussing on a way to approach God, prayer, time, scheduling, the formation of their own souls and those of their children. Talents and temperaments decide on choices.

These methodologies prove to be very different and serve different needs in the families, as well as talents and temperaments.

How interesting it is to meet men who are older than myself, who were raised in a Jesuit or Salesian or Benedictine schools and had real formation.

It shows.

This type of formation has all but disappeared. Home schooling parents benefit from using what has already been developed by these inspired men.

John Bosco
and others

If I have time, I shall write about the Ursulines and Dominicans. But, sadly, few of those schools exist which still follow the original methodologies. Again, to preserve these aspects of our Catholic identity, it may be up to home schooling parents to carry on the various visions.

Repost Jesuit Education Two

Friday, 18 January 2013

Continuing with the Ignatian Methodology in Education

The development of the student’s intellectual capacity is the school’s most characteristic part. However, this development will be defective and even dangerous unless it is strengthened and completed by the training of the will and the formation of the character. Ratio Studiorum
If you are just shooting for intellectual knowledge and you are not strengthening the will and forming the character at the same time, not only is education defective, but it is 
capable of being "even dangerous," and possibly 
extremely so! Education prepares nature to receive 
and cooperate with Our Lord’s grace. We are instructing the intellect, training the will, and forming the character —in 
other words, the whole man —based upon serious 
principles. Father Michael McMahon

Memory and  the analytical go together.

Following the use and strengthening of the Memory is Understanding. Now, understanding anything depends on 
three things. The first is the introduction of the material and how it is introduced. The second is repetition and examination, and the third is appropriation.

Those who teach anything, including sport, can see this simple plan. The child begins kicking a soccer ball without much understanding of the techniques or even the rules of the game.

Thanks to wiki for the Jesuit Astronomers
Then, skills are learned by practice and imitation. Finally, the appropriation of the skill becomes second nature and the epiphany moment of one's ability connected to the training and discipline create an understanding and creativity regarding the game and the skills.

Understanding must be guided by the teacher, even in Socratic Method, until it is appropriated.

The student who is baptized and learning the life of the virtues finally has the advantage of the graces of Confirmation, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit to help him.
(By the way, most Jesuit schools no longer teach the Ratio Studiorum) The Spiritual Exercises came out of St. Ignatius being taught by Christ in much the same way as the development of the Ratio.

Marvellous that some parents have picked this up in home schooling.

The Will is then strengthen through practice and perseverance. The will of each one of us is a precious gift and cannot be taken for granted.

There is an old saying that the parent must break the will of the child, but not the spirit. Much like training a horse on a lunge line, the parent has to balance discipline and freedom or creativity.

The books used for all of this are the Classics, of course. You may like to know that when St. Ignatius died, there were 35 colleges in Europe and within 200 years, 800 schools, colleges, and universities. That is not the case today. The peak of Ignatian education is over, and some of the schools are steeped in Liberation Theology.

Here is an interesting list of goals for Jesuits educational institutions, which help show the connection between formation and education. Here is a snippet from a small booklet on some aspects, not all, of Jesuit education.

When Jesuits began their schools, two models were available. One was the medieval university, where students prepared for professions such as law, the clergy, and teaching by studying the sciences, mathematics, logic, philosophy, and theology. The other model was the Renaissance humanistic academy, which had a curriculum 
based on Greek and Latin poetry, drama, oratory, and history. The goal of the university was the training of the 
mind through the pursuit of speculative truth; the goal of the humanists was character formation, making students better human beings and civic leaders. Jesuit schools were unique in combining these two educational ideals.
Perhaps the most important reason for the success of the early Jesuit schools was a set of qualities that Jesuits aspired to themselves and which they consciously set out to develop in their students:
  • Self-knowledge and discipline,
  • Attentiveness to their own experience and to others',
  • Trust in God's direction of their lives,
  • Respect for intellect and reason as tools for discovering truth,
  • Skill in discerning the right course of action,
  • A conviction that talents and knowledge were gifts to be used to help others,
  • Flexibility and pragmatism in problem solving,
  • Large-hearted ambition, and
  • A desire to find God working in all things.

These qualities were the product of the distinctive spirituality that the early Jesuits had learned from Ignatius and that Ignatius had learned from his own experience. Jesuits hoped, in turn, to form their students in the same spiritual vision, so that their graduates would be prepared to live meaningful lives as leaders in government, the professions, and the Church.
Ironically, the institution which published the little booklet with the goals no longer believes in these.
Lofty ideals from memory, understanding and will and parents, 
You can do this.

The Jesuit philosophy of education is nothing more than the 
Catholic philosophy of education intimately and inextricably linking scholastic philosophy and the dogmatic 
teachings of the Church, that is, reason and religion, St. Thomas and the Magisterium. Paramount is the 
proper understanding of human nature as created by Almighty God and the ultimate destiny of man.
Man is not merely a citizen of this or that country; he is born to be a citizen of heaven. Therefore, in all truth, 
we can say that the purpose of education is a preparation for life, proximately this life, but ultimately everlasting 
life. That is why the Jesuits educate, why we educate. And we’re here to learn the principles necessary to fulfill 
that end. The glory of our role as priests and our specific vocation as educators is just that; we have the 
opportunity to form young souls. That is something that principals and teachers need to meditate on 
constantly; it should be their daily concern. We are intimately involved in the formation of citizens for heaven, 
souls made for the Beatific Vision. And that can never be over-emphasized.
Therefore, we are not talking about intellectualism. Education is not just intellectual formation nor instruction; it is the formation of the whole man. It is interesting to note that formal religion classes in most of the Jesuit schools 
never were never given more than two hours a week. Instead, the Jesuits strove to have religion permeate 
everything. They thought it somewhat odd or superficial to make religion a course all by itself, or to devote many, 
many hours to it sheerly because their teachers were religious. Unlike the Jesuits, we don’t have only 
priests or religious brothers teaching. We must make sure we staff our faculties with the right kind of teacher, 
not just someone who knows math or history, but a Catholic man in the state of grace and striving for sanctity so 
that religion permeates his class, whatever the subject. This is critical, because religion is not just a class at a 
certain time; religion is everything. Fr. Michael McMahon

Teacher and Teaching by Fr. Richard Tierney, S.J. 
True education is generally the work of skillful teachers. Since the former is a pearl without price [true education], the value of the latter can scarcely be overestimated. Teaching is the art of the interesting, the inspiring (p.27).

Before he can teach men, or mold teachers of men, or even conceive the first idea of legislating for the intellectual world, he must, himself, first learn. There are two fundamental lessons which he does learn, and they go to form 
him: one is that, among all the pursuits, the study of virtue is supreme. The other is that, supreme as virtue is, 
without secular learning, the highest virtue goes unarmed, and at best is profitable to oneself alone (p. 15). 
Fr. Thomas Hughes, Loyola and the Education of the Jesuits. 

McMahon. Hughes, and Tierney quotations, as well as the above from the Ratio in this post are at

To be continued.....

Repost on Jesuit Education

Friday, 18 January 2013

Education and Formation of the Child Part One

Many years ago, I studied, taught, did teacher training, and gave talks on Liberal Education, the Trivium and Quadrivium, as well as the Catholic methods or approaches of education. I shall share the latter with 
you on this blog per request of a reader.

When I did home schooling, and when I taught 
Socratic Method and the Classics, I used a paradigm based on Benedictine educational paradigms, which I shall save to last.

The primary reason for presenting these ideals is to 
show that a home schooling family needs to choose a way which suits them both practically and spiritually. A 
religious or philosophical approach to education must be present in order to unify coursework, the day, the entire formation of the child.

That is the main point. Education is NOT about stuffing information into a child in order for him to pass exams.

Education has several goals, and the normative child, to use a Montessori phrase, learns these goals. Let me share those first.

Maria Montessori developed, by watching and through inspiration, the list of character building goals for a parent 
raising a child and for a teacher. Now, the advantage of the baptized Catholic is that a parent can help form with life 
of the virtues with the grace given in baptism and the sacraments.  Incrementally, the child grows both spiritually 
and in maturity.

The virtues are connected to the levels of maturity and to character building.

For example, patience is learned through tasks and chores.

Obedience and humility are learned through submission to learning.

Fortitude, or perseverance, is learned by sticking to tasks and overcoming obstacles.

Knowledge is a combination of study and infused knowledge through the graces.

And so on...

Here are the list of pre-school goals in formation. The awareness in the child towards these goals starts around 
age three.

(1) a love of order; 

(2) a love of work; 
(3) love of silence and working alone; 
(4) mutual aid and cooperation; 
(5) profound spontaneous concentration; 
(6) obedience; 
(7) independence and initiative; 
(8) spontaneous self-discipline;
 (9) attachment to reality; 
(10) sublimation of the possessive instinct; and 
(11) joy

I have witnessed young children achieve these goals in a very short time with the help of parents.

I myself experienced these goals because of two excellent teachers in kindergarten and first grade, as well as an observant. 

Notice how these goals fit into the growth of the virtues. Notice also, how these fit into a Benedictine paradigm, 
as well as the Jesuit methodology.

To start with the Jesuit methodology, one can read the entire Ratio Studiorum texts online. but that is not 
necessary. I do recommend the link below for more information, however.

The pragmatic approach of the Jesuits is based on Memory, Understanding and Will.

First of all, Memory. The child is capable of tremendous memorizing and picks up knowledge quickly. One can see this even in the youngest Millennials, who know all the statistics of Barcelona Football, or the intricacies of games. Most parents and teachers underestimate the value of memorizing. The Jesuit method gives great emphasis on 
details, especially in literature and history, realizing that the training of the mind in such things as reading and grammar lead to greater skills.

I am going to highlight points here.. The Jesuits had this phrase: "Tantum scimus quantum memoria retinemus." This means that boyhood is the best time for memorizing. And, it is. The parts of the classics are copied out exactly, and one could use, for example, The Hobbit, and have a 9 or 10 year old copy out paragraphs exactly by hand in order to learn excellent English. Rhetoric, or the art of speaking, can also be learned in this way.

Memory is also important in the reading of Scripture, the Catechism, and
prayers. Memory follows the teacher's presentation, or praelectio. The
classics, especially age appropriate, but challenging, are explained and


Jesuit teaching is NOT Socratic Method, but much more directive.
Self-motivation takes over by the internal reward of learning, which does not take that long. An average child can learn poetry, grammar, syntax from one selection in a week, easily. Two characteristics of this type of learning is competition and modelling, or emulation. Positive feedback for work well-done is part of this method. Sadly, most Ignatian institutions no longer follow the strict regime of the Ratio Studiorum. I shall continue in the next post on the Understanding and the Will.

Reposts on Catholic Education; including Salesian and other methods

Friday, 30 August 2013

Spirituality, Methodology And Older Home Schooling Posts-One

09 Aug 2013
O Divine Child Jesus, only-begotten Son of the Father, You are the true light that enlightens everyone coming into this world. It is through You that I am, it is through You that all things have been made, and without You nothing ...
29 May 2013
St. Madeline Sophie Barat, whose feast it is today, had a great love of Classical Education, as I do. I suggest home schooling mums and dads pray to her for all their needs and the needs of their children. She loved the Sacred ...
27 Jan 2012
Did many notice Obama's stand against homeschooling in his address this week? When I home schooled, I belonged to the Home School Legal Defense Association for most of the 14 years or so I home schooled. Thankfully ...
23 Feb 2012
I've been homeschooling my daughter for 3 years now - and we love it. Arizona has some of the easiest homeschooling laws in the US. But, who knows how long it will last if Pres. Obama wins another term? Another mandate ...

14 Feb 2012
Homeschooling is illegal in Sweden, and if you are a Catholic, this could be a matter of religious freedom. For over a hundred years, Popes have declared the parents as the primary teachers of their children, with the necessity ...
17 Jun 2012
June 15, 2012, ( – A Swedish homseschooling couple may shortly be reunited with their son after a prolonged separation, after a Swedish court has judged that the couple did not act irresponsibly by ...

23 Aug 2013
Are you home schooling? Dedicated to St. Etheldreda: Abbess of Ely. Dedicated to St. Etheldreda: Abbess of Ely a blog since early 2007. Recent Tags. Our Lady of Carafa. Our Lady of Carafa Pray for us. Search This Blog.
21 Aug 2013
Labels: Catholic education, dominicans, nuns, vocations. No comments: Post a Comment · Newer Post Older Post Home. Subscribe to: Post Comments (Atom). Are you home schooling? Dedicated to St. Etheldreda: Abbess of ...
23 Aug 2013
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22 Aug 2013
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19 Jun 2012
If Catholics in the pew in any country of the West do not start working to save their own rights regarding religious freedom, they have only themselves to blame if they find themselves under totalitarian democracies. de ...

14 Aug 2013
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18 Jan 2013
Two characteristics of this type of learning is competition and modelling, or emulation. Positive feedback for work well-done is part of this method. Sadly, most Ignatian institutions no longer follow the strict regime of the Ratio ...
18 Jan 2013
St. Ignatius Tomorrow, I shall post the Salesian Preventive System and then look at my favourite, the Benedictine system. St. John Bosco's ideals were written in his The Preventive System in the Education of the Young.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

St. Anselm. Doctor of the Church

Anselm is one of my favorites. He got sick and tired of stupid priests, so made all the seminaries use the Trivium and Quadrivium for curricula.

He made sure the discipline in the seminaries including study and spiritual guidance. His changes created ripples of change in seminary life not only in Great Britain, but in continental Europe.

Read more about him under the Doctors of the Church series, or the tag St. Anselm or Benedictines.

More on this topic here.

No takers on the books for which I was begging...pray about it.

If our priests do not preach and teach, we must....

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

The Loss of The Normal

Montessori training changed my life in my early twenties. I had a strong Catholic upbringing and clarity regarding roles, virtues, responsibilities and talents.

I did not have a sense of what a normalized child was like by definition. I had these characteristics myself, but to see these being nurtured in an excellent environment helped me to understand what education was really all about.

As I have noted on this blog before, here is the list of what makes up a normalized child.

(1) Love of work
(2) Concentration
(3) Self-discipline
(4) Sociability. 

For a brief moment in history, the West had the chance to join education with religion in the nurturing of normal children.

Then, because of social and secular forces, the moment was lost.

It may never occur again.

Yes, individual parents will create normalized children, mostly through home schooling, if it is done correctly in discipline and with an appreciation of the intellectual capabilities of the child.

However, outside the ability of the few, the vast majority of youth are being trained to be sub-normal, abnormal.

Do youth learn to love to work? Do they have the natural concentration given by God, which before television and computers was determined at forty-five minutes for a three-year old on one subject? Are children trained to have self-discipline, which happens when external discipline becomes internalized? Are young people truly socialized, able to work with people of various ages and backgrounds?

The sad answer is a resounding "no". I have come to the unhappy conclusion that the vast majority of youth are abnormal and will become abnormal adults.

Those who have been baptized have not been trained to cooperate with grace. Virtue training is completely absent from most homes.

Work is not encouraged. I was trying to show a young lady with whom I was camping along with her family how to scale a fish and her father would not let me, saying it was inappropriate for a teen to learn such a thing. 

I was astounded by his attitude, which was based on a skewed idea of class structure and the fact that he did not want his children to learn how to do menial tasks.

All children need to learn to do menial work. Learning to do simple chores creates confidence and reveals talents.

To be snobbish is a real fault of parents, which means they are creating princes and princesses, peter pans and peter pams, instead of capable grown-ups.

The abnormal has become the rule.

What does this mean for society? 


With the loss of the sense of the normal comes a sense of the less than normal as being the rule. 

The abnormal in behavior, expectations, even play determines that a society is doomed to fail for the lack of responsible, caring adults.

A culture dominated by the abnormal, by the narcissists, those with borderline personality disorders or co-dependencies cannot last long. A culture wherein young people do not know how to be self-disciplined or control their desires and emotions is a dying culture.

This is what is happening in the West. We have committed psychological suicide as Westerners moving away from centuries of moral sensibilities,  and common sense, as well as true religion.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Transformation-The Acceptable Time

On this blog, I have focused on transformation; transforming one's self, one's family, one's method of schooling. I have written on transformation in one's method of praying, one's community, one's parish.

The need for transformation starts in the manner in which one thinks, reasons, reflects. It begins in the mind. One becomes convinced of the Truth of the Holy Catholic Church and converts.

People in ministries spend too much time addressing the heart. Only the Holy Spirit can change a heart. But, we can change minds, our own and others.

Christ addresses this, and so does St. Paul, and only those who are faithful members of the Catholic Church do what Paul states.

1 Corinthians 2:16Douay-Rheims 

16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that we may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
Those who do not believe in Christ, that He is God and that He is the Redeemer, do not have the mind of Christ.
Those who do not believe in the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, do not have the mind of Christ.
Those who do not follow the Ten Commandments or conform their minds and souls to the Beatitudes, do not have the mind of Christ.
Be transformed. Sometimes, the word used in this translation is "transformed", which means "reformed".
Romans 12:2  Douay-Rheims 

And be not conformed to this world; but be reformed in the newness of your mind, that you may prove what is the good, and the acceptable, and the perfect will of God.

Almost 800 posts on this blog deal with perfection. over 370 reveal the teachings of the Doctors of the Church on perfection. Almost 400 turn to the lives of the saints and martyrs. Over 200 point to the necessity of training the young in the virtues.

Over 150 are on persecution.

This is the time to become transformed. churches are closing and more will close. Priests will disappear in your areas leaving only a few to minister to thousands. Schools will close or conform to the mind of the State, not God's mind.

The time for transformation is now

2 Corinthians 6:2 Douay-Rheims

For he saith: In an accepted time have I heard thee; and in the day of salvation have I helped thee. Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

More from Fr. Chad Ripperger

One of the great blessings given to the world through the ages has been education. One thinks of the many Benedictine schools beginning in the so-called Dark Ages, the universities, the copying of classical texts, and so on.

One of the reasons why real Catholics have valued education has to do with the formation of the will. Without being over-simplistic, I want to parse out a few ideas from Fr. Ripperger's book from his long section on the will. One of the reasons in our day and age we see people floundering with either the idea of free will, or using the will is that they have not had formation in thinking, in the intellect, which informs the will.

Here is a snippet and then a comment:

The "possible intellect is the only immaterial knowing power in the soul, it is that which moves the will, i. e. the will is moved by the apprehension of reason or the possible intellect. Since the will is moved by the intellect, the good as grasped by the intellect, i.e. the understood good, moves the will. Since the will is moved by a universal power, i.e. the possible intellect grasps universals, the object it presents to the will is the end or good in general."

The greatest problem youth in our Western culture experiences is that of the lack of knowledge to use when making decisions. How many times have I heard parents say that, for example, they will let their children decide on what religion these children want when they are old enough to decide.

This approach and another approach, which is not to give any rational training to the intellect, allow the will to be weakened because the very power which could inform the will is missing.

Many discussions I have had in the past with young people revolve around a denial of free will. The decadence of the education systems in the West, with the downgrading of true liberal education, which taught youth how to think, has led to the lack of discipline of the passions, which can no longer be ruled by the will, which is missing the intellectual necessaries to choose between good and evil.

"If it feels good, it is right", is, of course the relativist's claim.

I honestly believe that the only people who are training the will at this time in the West are parents who home school in the Catholic tradition, or those teachers who are teaching in classical education, schools such as NAPCIS schools.

The training of the intellect forms the soul, and creates sanity, that is, a mind which can apprehend reality, the reality of sin and virtue.

I have picked out this bit for today as so many people blame circumstances, environment, nurture and nature for weak wills, when the main cause is rather simple--the loss of liberal education, which teaches humans how to think.

One may also comment on the idea of  "universals", but that is another post.

to be continued...

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Spirituality behind Benedictine Education-Repost on Perfection

The great gift of St. Anselm to the Church is not only his philosophical writings, but his renewal of the seminaries in the Catholic Church. 

He introduced the Trivium and Quadrivium into the seminaries. I love St. Anselm.

Before I begin, I want to state that the Doctors of Church are a gift to the Church and to us individually.

The Glory of Benedict

We cannot afford to ignore these gifts to the Church.

For Anselm, (1033-1109) I am not going to get into the argument about God as "maximal perfection". although that might help some people follow his thinking about God. 

I have actually taught the Proslogion and Monologion in the past and do not want to deal with those texts on this blog.

What is important in his works are those sermons and devotions which will help us in our journey towards perfection.

This section uses much of the same language of John of the Cross and Bonaventure, regarding the Bridegroom, Who is Christ.

VI from The Devotions of St. Anselm

That we are one in Christ, and one Christ with Christ Himself.
CONSIDER also more yet more deeply in how close an union thou art joined with Him. Hear what the Lord Himself prayeth to the Father for them that are His: I will, saith He, that as Thou and I are one, so they also may be one in Us. I am (that is) Thy Son by nature; I pray that they may be Thy sons and My brethren by grace. How great a dignity is it for a Christian man, so to grow in Christ that he himself may be called in a sense Christ.

Anselm has an interesting take on this imagery, making Christ both the Bride and the Bridegroom, that is , that the Body of Christ, the Church is the Bride. This is a combination of other mystical and Biblical images

This also that faithful steward of God’s house hold the Church perceived when he said: All we that are Christians in Christ are one Christ. Nor should we wonder thereat, when we consider that He is the head and we His body; He the bridegroom and He also the bride; in Himself the bridegroom, but the bride in the holy souls whom He hath bound to Himself in the bonds of an everlasting love. As upon a bridegroom, saith He, hath He set a crown upon Me, and as a bride hath He adorned me with ornaments. 
Here, then, O my soul, here do thou consider His benefits towards thee, be thou inflamed with the love of Him, let the fire that is in thee break out into longing after the blessedness of beholding Him. 
And here, Anselm reflects the poetry of Bernard of Clairvaux.
Cry out boldly in the words of the faithful bride, Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth. Let all delight which is not in Him depart from my mind, let no pleasure, no consolation of this present life comfort me, while His blessed presence is denied to me. Let Him embrace me with the arms of His love, let Him kiss me with the heavenly sweetness of His mouth, let Him speak to me with that ineffable eloquence wherewith He revealeth His secrets to the Angels. 

May the Bridegroom and the Bride enjoy such mutual interchange of discourse, that I may open my whole heart to Him and He reveal to me the secrets of His sweetness. Thus, O my soul, refreshed by these and such like meditations and full of the passion of a holy longing, do thou strive to follow Thy Bridegroom and say unto Him, Draw me after Thee; we will run after the odour of Thine ointments.

The person must run after Christ is this pursuit of holiness.
Speak to Him and speak as a loyal spouse not with the sound of words that passeth away but with a longing of heart that fainteth not; so speak that thou mayest be heard, so desire to be drawn by Him that thou mayest follow. Say therefore to thy Redeemer and Saviour, Draw me after Thee. Let not the sweetness of this world but let thy sweetness of Thy most blessed love draw me.
I know this is hard for some people, but the pursuit of God is like a love relationship-one approaches the lover and he approaches the beloved in a back and forth giving and receiving until there is completion. This relationship becomes more and more intimate in the Unitive State.
Draw me, for Thou hast drawn me heretofore; hold me fast, for Thou hast laid hold upon me.Thou hast drawn me to Thee by redeeming me; draw me by saving me. Thou hast drawn me by pitying me; draw me by blessing me. Thou hast laid hold on me by appearing among men, made man for us; hold me fast as Thou sittest on Thy throne in heaven, exalted above the Angels.

How wonderful is it that it is the King of the Universe that is the Bridegroom.
God is also King as well as Love, in the language of the Song of Songs. Anselm is right in the mystical tradition of the great Bernard of Clairvaux. This overlapping of language is not merely a cultural style, but the reality of the heart's seeking after God.

That is Thy word, that is Thy promise. Thou hast promised, saying: And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me. Draw therefore now in Thy mighty exaltation him whom Thou didst draw to Thee in Thy merciful humiliation. Thou hast gone up on high; let me believe it: Thou reignest over all things; let me acknowledge it. Do I not acknowledge that Thou reignest? Surely I acknowledge it, and give Thee thanks. But do Thou grant that I may acknowledge with the acknowledgement of a perfect love that which I acknowledge by a devout faith concerning Thee. Bind the desires of my heart to Thee with the indissoluble bonds of love, since the first-fruits of my spirit are already with Thee. Vouchsafe that we, whom Thy love in redeeming us did knit to Thee, may have fellowship with Thee in the unity of the same love. For Thou hast loved me, Thou didst give Thyself for me; may therefore my heart and mind be with Thee continually in heaven, and Thy protection with me continually on earth. 

Help him when he burneth with longing after Thy love, to whom Thou didst show love when he despised it. Give to him when he asketh to whom Thou givest Thyself when he knew Thee not. Receive him when he returneth to Thee, O Thou who didst call him back to Thee when he fled from Thee. I will love Thee that I may be loved of Thee; nay rather, because I am loved of Thee, I will love Thee more and more that I may be loved the more. May my thoughts be knit to Thee, may my heart be wholly made one with Thee, where our nature, which Thou hast in mercy taken upon Thyself, reigneth with Thee in bliss.  
Again, these passages reveal the loving, warm, and holy heart and mind of Anselm. I hope some of  you are surprised at the depth of this holy man's love for Christ.
Grant that I may cleave to Thee without parting, worship Thee without wearying, serve Thee without failing, faithfully seek Thee, happily find Thee, for ever possess Thee.
Addressing God in these words, O my soul, do thou kindle thyself, do thou burn, do thou break forth into flames, and strive to become wholly on fire with longing after Him.

To be continued..............

Repost of the Benedictine Tradition in Education

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Again, on the Liberal Arts and the Trivium and Quadrivium: Perfection and the Doctors of the Church-Isidore of Seville: Part 102

For many years of my life, I was involved in helping schools and one college set up Trivium and Quadrivium studies. I have taught the famous book on this subject, by Martianus Minneus Felix Capella, De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii sometimes called the  On the Seven Disciplines  or the seven liberal arts.

But, if I had to choose one book dealing with classical education to take to a desert island, it would be the Doctor of the Church St. Isidore of Seville's Etymologie. 

This work is a compilation of knowledge and definitions from the classical world, which is being lost to ennui and the lack of structure in our educational systems. For centuries, children and adolescents learned the liberal arts in order to learn how to think.

This ideal was destroyed on purpose in the 19th century by Bismarck and by Dewey, among others. 

If a Catholic has not had the benefit of a classical education, the culture of the West will die, as well as creating an impoverishment in the Church.

Tradition and Revelation formed part of this great Western tradition we called civilization. Thankfully, the Benedictine monks kept copying Isidore for the future students who would use him. Learning and the Love of God formed the basis of the Benedictine way.
Consanguinity Chart from a Medieval Etymologie

Those who cannot see the value cannot see how the discipline of the monasteries and seminaries in ancient times created men and women who not only could become holy, but think. The use of the intellect and the pursuit of holiness go together.

This entire way of life is disappearing so fast, I cannot imagine a stemming of the tide of anarchy, which is the result of a lack of thinking. Here is one small section of Isidore's work, which I shall highlight in the next few days in the perfection series.

The great problem of the 21st century is the emphais on emotion rather than thought and the notion that religion is not connected to thinking.

How wrong this is.... first take a look at this reminder of the liberal arts.

ii. The seven liberal disciplines (De septem liberalibus
disciplinis) 1. There are seven disciplines of the liberal
arts. The first is grammar, that is, skill in speaking. 
The second is rhetoric, which, on account of the brilliance
and fluency of its eloquence, is considered most necessary in public proceedings. 
The third is dialectic, otherwise known as logic, which separates the true from the
false by very subtle argumentation.
2. The fourth is arithmetic, which contains the principles and classifications
of numbers. The fifth is music, which consists of poems
and songs.3. The sixth is geometry, which encompasses
the measures and dimensions of the earth. The seventh
is astronomy, which covers the law of the stars.

For many of my readers, this list looks like a foreign curriculum. However, I have helped set up such in some schools in the States and in Canada, and my home school was based on this and the Montessori Method.

What does all this have to do with perfection?

God has given us brains to use to discover Who He Is.

Revelation and the study of Scripture is part of this journey to knowledge. But, there is more.

As Father, as Creator, as Son of God, the Incarnate One and as the Holy Spirit, God dwells in us through grace.

Our intellects are to be renewed in that grace. The Benedictines understood this by creating the oldest institution in Christian Europe, the classical educating school system.

This was created out of the ruins of Rome, and God Himself, becoming Incarnate at a particular time in history, shows us the way to be human and divine.

We cannot ignore the human in our search for perfection. The honing of the mind allows us to come to know God Himself.

One reason for the lack of holiness in the world is the destruction of thinking skills. People have fallen into New Age and Pentecostal religious experience because they have not learned that the mind is part of the way to God. We ignore learning at our own peril.

Isidore knew this. He is one of the most important Doctors of the Church for our time.

Here is another section: Isidore wrote all the knowledge he could at the time of the failing of the Roman empire. We should be doing the same-passing down knowledge for the sake of the souls of our children, and grandchildren before it is too late. All this is found here. I shall highlight more sections later pertaining to the road to unity with God. Without Isidore, we would not have had the space race to the moon, or penicillin, or Shakespeare, or Tolkien.  Without Isidore, we would not have the later Doctors of the Church, such as St. Bernard of Clairvaux, whose superb sermons used so much on this blog, are based on Cicero and other classical orators.

Out of Isidore's massive twenty volume encyclopedia  the only thing missing is musical notation, which he felt could not be written down. The Benedictines took up that challenge nicely.

The first printed map EVER in Europe was that of Isidore of Seville's, printed in 1472.

Does this mean that a simple person cannot become holy? Of course not, but the duty of the vast majority of the laity is to find God through learning. This is part of the heritage of Catholicism. To be continued...

Diagram of the phases of the moon from an old copy of Isidore

i. The Old and New Testament (De Veteri et Novo Testamento) 1. The Old Testament is so called because it
ceased when the New came. The apostle Paul reminds
us of this, saying (II Corinthians5:17): “Old things have
passed away, and behold, new things have come about.”

2. One testament is called New (Novus) because it innovates (innovare). Indeed, the only ones who come to
know it are those who are renewed (renovatus) from the
old by grace and who belong now to the New Testament,
which is the kingdom of heaven.
3. The Hebrews take the Old Testament, with Ezra
as its redactor, as consisting of twenty-two books, corresponding to the number of letters in their alphabet. They
divide these books into three classes: Law, Prophets, and
Sacred Writings. 4. The first class, Law (Lex), is taken as
being five books: of these the first is Bresith,1
which is
Genesis; second Veelle Semoth, which is Exodus; third
Vaiicra, which is Leviticus; fourth Vaiedabber, which is
Numbers; fifth Elleaddebarim, which is Deuteronomy.
5. These are the five books of Moses, which the Hebrews
call Torah (Thora), and Latin speakers call the Law. That
which was given through Moses is properly called the
6. The second class is of Prophets (Propheta), in which
are contained eight books, of which the first is Josua
Benun, called Iesu Navein Latin (i.e. the book of Joshua
‘ben Nun,’ the son of Nun). The second is Sophtim,
which is Judges; third Samuel, which is First Kings;
fourth Malachim, which is Second Kings; fifth Isaiah;
sixth Jeremiah; seventh Ezekiel; eighth Thereazar, which
is called the Twelve Prophets, whose books are taken as
one because they have been joined together since they
are short.
7. The third class is of Sacred Writings (Hagiographa),
that is, of ‘those writing about holy things’ (sacra
scribens; ....

9. We also have a fourth class: those books of the Old
Testament that are not in the Hebrew canon. Of these the
first is the Book of Wisdom, the second Ecclesiasticus;
the third Tobit; the fourth Judith; the fifth and sixth,
the books of Maccabees. The Jews hold these separate
among the apocrypha (apocrypha), but the Church of
Christ honors and proclaims them among the divine

10. In the New Testament there are two classes: first
the Gospel (evangelicus) class, which contains Matthew,
Mark, Luke, and John, and second the Apostolic (apostolicus) class which contains Paul in fourteen epistles, Peter in two, John in three, James and Jude in single
epistles, the Acts of the Apostles and the Apocalypse
(i.e. Revelation) of John. 11. The entire content of both
Testaments is characterized in one of three ways, that
is, as narrative (historia), moral instruction (mores), or
allegorical meaning (allegoria). These three are further
divided in many ways: that is, what is done or said by
God, by angels, or by humans; what is proclaimed by the
prophets about Christ and his body [that is, the Church],
about the devil and his members, about the old and the
new people, about the present age and the future kingdom and judgment.

Repost on Benedictine Education

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Benedictine Education-desiring God through learning

St. Benedictine and the Benedictines created the education system of the West. We owe the revival of classical education to the Benedictines. They preserved the texts of the Greeks and Romans and used these to re-create the Trivium and the Quadrivium in the context of Catholicism.

The entire idea of work and prayer, labore et orare is also part of the day for education of the monks as well as their lay students.

The beauty of the Benedictine Rule, which covers the practice of the virtues, and the pursuit of perfection, under obedience and through humility, provides a great format for the home schooling.

A parent can divide up the day between work, manual labor and study, as well as prayer.

Children then learn necessary maintenance skills, as well as cooking, cleaning and so on as part of the spirituality of work and prayer and study.

A typical day can look like this:

Rise, dress, short morning prayer

Study of the home schooling curriculum based on the Trivium and Quadrivium, depending on age


Outside or inside work


Tea or snack break

Study, including Scripture study






Rarely does a homeschooler need to study all day and the Benedictine methodology fits into teaching the whole person, based on order and scheduling.

It works.

Art and Beauty are part of the Benedictine heritage. So that and music should always be part of the curriculum.

I highly suggest reading The Love of Learning and the Desire for God by Jean Leclercq, which I read years and years before I was married, but it prepared me for my Benedictine day of work, prayer, and study, and led me to use the Benedictine model for home schooling.
For more on the Salesians, Dominicans, and Ursulines, just follow the tags, especially Catholic Education.

Also check out the three or four posts on St. Peter Canisius, Doctor of the Church.