Sunday, 9 February 2014

Education and Evangelization

The call for a New Evangelization – the “urgent need to proclaim the Gospel afresh in a highly secularized environment” (Benedict XVI) – has huge implications for Catholics in education, both at home and at school. Both are places of evangelization. “The mission of the Church is to evangelize,” according to the Congregation for Catholic Education, “for the interior transformation and the renewal of humanity. For young people, the school is one of the ways for this evangelization to take place.” The home is the first and most important school we attend, and parents our primary educators, no matter where we go later.

The Catholic understanding of evangelization places a priority on personal conversion and “interior transformation” – in that sense it is radically distinct from proselytism, which aims at exterior measures and effects (bottoms on seats, faces in pews, money in the collection). This is something we need to get right, as Pope Francis keeps insisting. If we do, there is just a chance that fewer of our children will lapse as they grow older, and more will find themselves able to speak of their faith with confidence to the world around them.

Evangelization does not stop with religious instruction or liturgy but even affects what is taught and the way it is taught. The Incarnation is not some piece of historical information that, once communicated, can be forgotten while we turn our minds to geography or biology or mathematics. If true, faith changes everything, even the way we view the cosmos. Once that primary lesson is learned, there are no “boring” subjects any longer. Nothing can be ugly or pointless unless we make it so. (Chesterton once said, “Is ditchwater dull? Naturalists with microscopes have told me that it teems with quiet fun.”) Faith alters the way every subject is taught as well as the relationships between them. It connects them severally and together to our destiny, to the desire of our hearts for union with infinite truth (what used to be called the saving of our souls).

(This post is based on a longer article from Columbia magazine, now available.)


  1. Wow, this is fantastic food for thought. You say that faith informs the way subjects are taught and that reflects so much of what I've been contemplating lately: how do we approach home education in a way that upholds the dignity of our children as image bearers?

  2. Mr. Caldecott, I was so pleased to run into this article in my husband's Columbia magazine recently and was glad to be able to share it once I saw it was available online. I am currently in the middle of Beauty I'm the Word and have seen you reference many of these same ideas in that work. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and research about education as they have really inspired me in our home and home education as well as my own faith.

  3. thank you so much for such an informative blog

  4. I was very glad to see your article in Columbia. A few years ago, I started reading your book Beauty for Truth's Sake and was amazed how it synthesized so many good sources to show what needed to be done to renew math and science. I was so burned out after finishing a degree in engineering since the technological mindset didn't really seem to improve the culture. So I switched to theology/philosophy but struggled to bring it all together. After finishing school, I resumed engineering again to support my growing family. Now I read your books and share them with my wife. We incorporate your ideas and the sources you cite in our homeschooling curriculum. This is our gift to the New Evangelization. Thank you.