Pontifex's Educational Vision

Pontifex University strives to provide students with an authentically Catholic education, that is, the university seeks to be a point of contact between the student and the cultural inheritance of the revelation of Christ,  in order that students may not only achieve the highest formation of their natural faculties, but ultimately that they may cooperate with divine grace in forming the true and perfect Christian, that is, to form Christ Himselfas the full flowering of their Baptism[1]  and adheres to the wisdom and to the rich tradition of the Church.

An institute of learning is a privileged place in which, through a living encounter with a cultural inheritance, integral formation occurs.[2]   In other words a school or university is the locus of contact between the person and the wisdom, tradition, and values of his culture, through which contact the person is to be formed in every aspect of his life:

The integral formation of the human person, which is the purpose of education, includes the development of all the human faculties of the students, together with preparation for professional life, formation of ethical and social awareness, becoming aware of the transcendental, and religious education.[3]  This total formation of the person in his culture is for the sake of both his ultimate end and..the good of the societies of which, as man, he is a member, and in whose obligations… he will share.[4]

The Catholic Christian, while not being removed from his particular culture, has become by rebirth of water and the Holy Spirit a new creature.[5] He now participates by sanctifying grace and charity in the life of the most holy Trinity, in which the Father begets the Son and the Holy Spirit proceeds by way of their mutual love. This sharing in the divine life elevates the natural faculties of the soul so that they are capable of understanding and striving for God (faith and hope), of being moved by God (the gifts of the Holy Spirit), and of acting for the sake of ultimate union with God (the infused moral virtues). While remaining human, the baptized now has an elevated mode of being, which requires a properly Christian form of education.

 Since education is meant to form the whole person, Catholic education

..takes in the whole aggregate of human life, physical and spiritual, intellectual and moral, individual, domestic and social, not with a view of reducing it in any way, but in order to elevate, regulate and perfect it, in accordance with the example and teaching of Christ

In order that, by cooperating with grace, Christ Himself may be formed in the baptized.[6] In other words, the “cultural inheritance” which the student encounters is “the example and teaching of Christ”, and the ultimate end of the student is transformation in Christ: “First and foremost every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth.”[7]

This encounter with Christ and transformation in Christ does not entail a “reduction” of the student’s humanity nor of natural goods. On the contrary, the life of grace elevates all with which it comes in contact:

The true Christian does not renounce the activities of this life, he does not stunt his natural faculties; but he develops and perfects them, by coordinating them with the supernatural. He thus ennobles what is merely natural in life and secures for it new strength in the material and temporal order, no less than in the spiritual and eternal.[8] 

This ennobling extends to the culture and society of which the student is a part of the Catholic student rightly formed should contribute to the ordering of “the whole of human culture to the news of salvation.[9] 

Given that the person of Christ is at the center of Catholic education, it follows that the celebration of the Eucharist, the optimal encounter with Christ,[10]  should be at the heart of the student’s formation:

For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord’s supper.[11] 

Through the sacred liturgy, the divine life received in Baptism is strengthened and deepened as the person grows in union with Christ. The life of grace then imbues the whole life of the person for

There is nothing authentically human – our thoughts and affections, our words and deeds – that does not find in the sacrament of the Eucharist the form it needs to be lived to the full.[12] As: one’s life is being progressively transformed by the holy mysteries being celebrated”, it becomes evident that “the mysteries celebrated in the rite are linked to the missionary responsibility…of bearing witness in his surroundings to the Christian hope that inspires him.[13] 

Being united to Christ, the person is filled with Christ’s love for all men and shares in Christ’s mission to proclaim the gospel to all: “Worship itself, Eucharistic communion, includes the reality both of being loved and of loving others in turn. A Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented.”[14] Thus, the ends of Catholic education can be achieved only if the student is living the life of the Church, which has the Eucharist as its “source and summit.[15]

From the preceding discussion of the nature of Catholic education, a general overview of such an education may be understood as follows:

...That the baptized, while they are gradually introduced to knowledge of the mystery of salvation, become ever more aware of the gift of Faith they have received, and that they learn in addition how to worship God the Father in spirit and truth (cf. John 4:23) especially in liturgical action, and be conformed in their personal lives according to the new man created in justice and holiness of truth (Eph. 4:22-24); also that they develop into perfect manhood, to the mature measure of the fullness of Christ (cf. Eph. 4:13) and strive for the growth of the Mystical Body; moreover, that aware of their calling, they learn not only how to bear witness to the hope that is in them (cf. Peter 3:15) but also how to help in the Christian formation of the world that takes place when natural powers viewed in the full consideration of man redeemed by Christ contribute to the good of the whole society.[16] 

This general form of Catholic education will be realized differently in different institutions given the particular focus of each institution. Some institutions shape their program according to the tradition of a specific religious order, while others structure their program following a broader educational method that has a long standing Catholic tradition (e.g. the liberal arts). Pontifex University models its unique program on “The Way of Beauty” believing that:

In Jesus, we contemplate beauty and splendor at their source. This is no mere aestheticism, but the concrete way in which the truth of God's love in Christ encounters us, attracts us and delights us, enabling us to emerge from ourselves and drawing us towards our true vocation, which is love.[17] 

This contemplation of the beauty of Christ entails a particular kind of Christian witness:

Proclaiming Christ means showing that to believe in and to follow him is not only something right and true, but also something beautiful.[18] 

Hence, Pontifex University strives to form in students, both speculatively and practically, a sensitivity to beauty, an appreciation of beauty, and an aptitude for creating beauty of the particularly Catholic kind, whether in artistic pursuits or simply in a well-ordered life.

    

[1] Pope Pius XI, Divini Illius Magistri, Encyclical (Rome, 1929), §94, http://w2.vatican.va/content/pius-xi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xi_enc_31121929_divini-illius-magistri.html.

[2] The Catholic School (The Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, 1977), §26, http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccatheduc/documents/rc_con_ccatheduc_doc_19770319_catholic-school_en.html.

[3] Lay Catholics in Schools: Witnesses to Faith (The Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, 1982) §17, http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccatheduc/documents/rc_con_ccatheduc_doc_19821015_lay-catholics_en.html.  

[4]  Pope Paul VI, Gravissimum Educationis, Declaration on Christian Education (Rome, 1965), §1, http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decl_19651028_gravissimum-educationis_en.html.

[5] Pope Paul VI, Gravissimum Educationis, §2.

[6] Pope Paul XI, Divini Illius Magistri, §95, 94.

[7] Benedict XVI, “Meeting with Catholic Educators” (address given during the Apostolic Journey to the United States of America and Visit to the United Nations Organization Headquarters, Catholic University of America, Washington DC, April 17, 2008), http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/speeches/2008/april/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20080417_cath-univ-washington.html.  

[8] Pope Paul XI, Divini Illius Magistri, §98.

[9] cf. Pope Paul VI, Gravissimum Educationis, §8.

[10] Dom Alcuin Reid, Sacred Liturgy: The Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2014), 15.  

[11] Pope Paul VI, Sacrosanctum Concilium, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Rome, 1963), §10, http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19631204_sacrosanctum-concilium_en.html.

[12] Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation (Rome, 2007), §71, http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_ben-xvi_exh_20070222_sacramentum-caritatis.html.

[13] Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis, §64.

[14] Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, Encyclical (Rome, 2005), §14, http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20051225_deus-caritas-est.html.     

[15] Catechism of the Catholic Church, §1324, http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM.

[16] Pope Paul VI, Gravissimum Educationis, §2.

[17] Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis, §35.

[18] Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, Apostolic Exhortation (Rome, 2013), §167, http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html.