« НазадПродовжити »
grounded in their duties to God, to their neighbor, and to themselves, seeing so clearly that all this made for the strongest development of youthful character, and tended to the formation of better citizenship, even from the viewpoint of natural and civic morality! It has been uphill work; but success has crowned her efforts. This is an incontrovertable fact. Yet we are only at the beginning, and success in the future will depend in very large measure, as it has up to the present, upon the success attained in imparting religious instruction. Hence we are brought face to face with the supremely important question, What can be done to insure permanent success in the necessary teaching of the truths of our holy religion to the children? The question deserves careful consideration.
And here it will not be without profit to lay before the reader some of the salutary thoughts given us by our Holy Father Pius X. in his recent encyclical on “The Teaching of Christian Doctrine.” Coming from the head of the Church, and dealing principally with the most precious part of his Alock, the priceless souls of the little ones, the letter is of the utmost importance. In the opening of the encyclical we are reminded that ravening wolves have not spared the flock, that the enemy of God has succeeded, with his subtle cunning, in robbing Christ of souls purchased by his redemption. The Holy Father ascribes this evil “chiefly to ignorance of divine things”; to the undeniable fact that in our days there are so many people professing the name of " Christian" who are in the densest ignorance about what concerns their salvation.
This charge refers not so much to those who walk in the humble ways of life, and who by virtue of their condition are deprived of the opportunity to improve themselves, but is made chiefly in reference to those who have had the advantage of intellectual training, and, sadder yet, even against those who are foremost in the field of secular sciences. Surely we might expect good fruit from such trees, yet of them it is said that "in religious matters they pass their lives in thoughtlessness and unconcern”; heedless of the very darkness in which they live-"giving no thought to God or the teachings of Christianity." What wonder then that such men, after a lise of carelessness or of worldly vanity, come to the hour of death either little or entirely unprepared, thus putting a tax on the
patient charity of the priest or rejecting absolutely his spiritual -ministrations. “Fittingly has it been said by our predecessor, Benedict XIV.,” says the Holy Father, “We declare that the greater part of those who are damned have brought the calamity on themselves by ignorance of the mysteries of faith, : which they should have known and believed in order to be united with the elect.'”
The natural result of this is not only intense worldliness, but an increase “in the corruption of morals and depravity of life.” If we would be convinced of the truth of this we have only to turn to the daily papers and learn there of the cry that is going out over the whole land, raised up by ministers and jurists, and students of social and political economy, and by professors and presidents of colleges and universities, for the re-creation ofa the olden-time spirit of public honesty. There we may learn of the spirit of madness that has seized upon the hearts of so many who, forgetful of the natural law, forgetful that the prosperity of the nation is to be preferred to individual gain, have given way to the lust of greed to such an extent that they hesitate not to harass and even trample on their fellow-citizen in his effort for self-preservation and sap the strength of the nation. Why this state of affairs in a century so enlightened and so progressive? Because, as the Holy Father tells us, men know not Christian truth, which “shows us the nature of God and his infinite perfections, which bids us revere Almighty God by faith, by hope, and by charity, and thus subjects the whole man to his supreme Author and Ruler"; they know not Christian truth, which "unfolds for us the true nobility of human nature, and from this very dignity, and from the knowledge of it, Christ wishes us to learn that we should love one another and live as behooves the sons of light.” We have only to look about us and see that men are turned to "brutish beasts” because they know not God and know not themselves, and this for no other reason than that they have never had solid religious training; because the principles of religious truth were not given them, or were given inadequately, in the formative days of youth. A godless school has but one inevitable result-a godless way of living. On the other hand, continues Pius X., "it follows that not only does Christian teaching illumine the mind and enable it to retain the truth, but it inflames the will and enkindles that ardor which makes us aspire to God and unite ourselves with him by the exercise of every virtue." What is needed then is a remedy against this fatal “ignorance of things divine.” This remedy is none other than religious instruction. The duty of applying this remedy, as we learn from the encyclical, is incumbent, by virtue of their office, upon the bishops and priests of the Church. Here the Vicar of Christ sets before us the great value attached by God himself to this mission of imparting religious instruction. “Nothing is more pleasing to Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of immortal souls.” “No weightier duty appointed to priests.” The work of the catechist is vastly more important “than the work of the sacred orator"; more important even than " the work of those who laboriously write books in defence of the truths of religion.” What is needed then above all else is the sowing of the seed of religious instruction, the teaching of Christian doctrine.
Here then are the views, as expressed in his latest Encyclical, of our Holy Father, a man of vast experience as priest, bishop, primate, Pope. What can be done to improve the system of religious training? In answering we must make a distinction between religious instruction given in parochial schools and that given to other children. As to the parochial school nothing need be said. The system of daily instruction given there meets the most stringent requirements. Would that the other lambs of the flock, those who for one reason or other do not avail themselves of the great privileges afforded them in the parochial schools, were the recipients of the same zealous attention. Their case calls for more serious thought and more energetic co-operation on the part of parent and priest. It will not do to say that they refuse to partake of the banquet prepared for them at so great cost, and therefore must take the consequences. No; the obligation is not lessened but increased by this factor, since their danger is greater.
Turning our attention, then, to the question of religious instruction to be given to Catholic children who attend nonsectarian schools, or who are so conditioned that they are compelled, at an early age, to abandon the schoolroom for the shop or the office, we are at once brought face to face with a most serious need, and that is the need of organization. We mean organization not so much of the part as of the whole. It is quite unnecessary for one to prove that organization brings into activity the best energies, in the best way and at the most opportune time, and is therefore the most efficient factor in the achievement of the highest and most lasting results. The testi. mony of the hour bears ample confirmation of all this. We may see, for example, the results that are obtained year after year in the field of politics by careful organization. Hence the months and months spent in attending to the minutest detail in the plan of organization before the opening of a political campaign. What lesson is drawn by our statesmen from the very disastrous and one sided war that has been the burden of men's thoughts for the past year ? Clearly this, that success. waits upon perfect organization. Whether one turn to the business world or to the social world, the same conviction is borne in upon the mind; viz., the royal road that leads to success is skilful organization.
So Christ in giving us his Church gave it in the form of an organized society. He chose the Twelve and bestowed upon them the commission to teach and to rule. Later he perfected his organization by constituting Peter the supreme head of his society. And what is it under God that has given her, and what is it that gives her to.day, her marvelous unity, solidity, and permanance, enabling her to withstand, as she has withstood, the tempests and the natural decay of time, and to do so successfully the great work she has done, if it is not the perfection of the Christ-given organization ? So, if we would seek for better results in our Sunday school work, we must not hesitate to profit by what we see around us, we would do well to adopt methods that have led to success in every field. What we need, then, is organization. To be plain, the Sunday-school work would be rendered more efficient if placed under the direction of one head or, if preferred, a board of directors, to whom would be given full power to organize, to grade, to plan, to execute, etc. Some might think this chimerical, but it is not. It is only applying to this branch of work what has al. ready been applied to the parochial school branch. Some years ago a board of school directors was constituted, and under them a superintendent of schools appointed, whose duty it is to visit every school and to examine into every detail of the work. The results have been most gratifying and the system has proved to be most acceptable. It is true that there are some difficul. ties to be met with in this field that are not met with else
where; but these difficulties are by no means insurmountable. To some minds the most serious problem to be grappled with is lack of attendance. Yet instances might be cited in which this problem was solved, and the means used in the solution were simple enough. They were, first a tonic dose of gentleness, then a whole-hearted endeavor to persuade the children that their presence would not only fulfil a duty, but yield them personal pleasure as well, and a rooting out of that impression lingering in so many youthful minds that, because they do not attend the parochial school, they are to be merely tolerated in the Sunday-school. Further efforts were made on the part of catechists to give in their instructions more than the dry bones of the articles of faith; and, as the Supreme Pontiff has urged in his encyclical, liberal use was made of the Sacred Scriptures, of ecclesiastical history, of the lives of the saints, stories, parables, etc., so that life and raiment were given to the truth explained, and the total result was-attractiveness.
The second point which suggests itself for the improvement of the Sunday-school enables us to follow more closely the wishes of the Holy Father as expressed in his encyclical on Christian doctrine, and refers to the catechist. Of course the priest is “par excellence" the catechist; yet in every large city the number of children to be catechised is so great that it is necessary to call in the aid of lay teachers. To this class of Church workers we cannot give too high praise. By their work they give lessons in zeal, patience, and self-sacrifice that are both edifying and fruitful. The work of teachir g catechism is not always attractive and is not likely to win popular praise. But generous souls like these look to God for. their reward, and the Vicar of Christ speaks to them in his recent letter in the following terins: “We deem it superfluous to dwell at greater length in praising such instruction, or showing its value in the eyes of God. No doubt the pity we manifest in relieving the wants of the poor is most acceptable to God; but who will question that the care and labor by which we procure not transient benefits for the body, but eternal for the soul by teaching and warning them, are far more acceptable. Nothing certainly can be more desirable, nothing more pleasing to Jesus Christ the Redeemer of immortal souls."
The Supreme Pontiff lays stress on the fact that “no