Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A Template for A Liturgically-Oriented General Catholic Education for Children

Book review: Educating in Christ: A Practical Handbook for Developing the Catholic Faith from Childhood to Adolescence For Parents, Teachers, Catechists and School Administrators, by Gerard O’Shea

This wonderful book, available from Angelico press, describes the principles for teaching methods and curriculum design for young children up to adolescence.

The author is Professor of Religious Education at the University of Notre Dame, Sydney, Australia, and the recommendations of the back cover, which I reproduce below, include two from fellow Australians who will be known to NLM readers: Bishop Peter Elliot, and Tracey Rowland.

What delighted me particularly is that Prof. O’Shea is offering something that is deeper and more profound that the usual recommendation of a classical-curriculum, Great-Books or liberal-arts education. For all the nobility of what is taught and read, these can still represent what is essentially a secular education.

In this book, he describes the basis of a uniquely Catholic approach to education that seeks to take students beyond the simple absorption of the material taught in the classrom, and lead them to a supernatural transformation in Christ. As such, and unusually, it is true to what the Church is asking for from our educators. Take for example, St Pius X in Divini Illius Magistri, who tells us that the goal of a Catholic education is the formation of “the supernatural man who thinks, judges and acts constantly and consistently in accordance with right reason illumined by the supernatural light of the example and teaching of Christ.”

We are given precise details and concrete measures that are easily followed. Balancing the natural and the supernatural, the theoretical and the practical, and combining the best of traditional methods with modern educational theory and psychology (with great prudence), O’Shea describes how a mystagogical catechesis, rooted in the study of scripture and the actual worship of God, is at the heart of every Catholic education. Then he describes how teaching methods and curricula should reflect these principles for children of different ages.

Another reason for my particular interest in this book is that it provides a basis for the incorporation of the Way of Beauty into education at levels below tertiary education (which is the focus of my book The Way of Beauty). From time to time, parents do ask me about this; now I know where to send them. O’Shea’s focus is more on general education than mine, but he provides a broad educational framework that will nurture the pursuit of creative arts in the way I think ought to be done, because it is based upon the same philosophy of education.

Below you will find the summary of the book from the publisher, and recommendations from the back cover:

EDUCATING IN CHRIST covers the essential practical and theoretical elements of religious education and catechetics for parents, catechists, teachers, and Catholic school administrators. The first part of the book responds to contemporary calls from the Popes for a religious education based upon authentic Christian anthropology. It provides a comprehensive outline of religious developmental stages, indicating activities appropriate for each of these from age three years to adolescence. It also takes into account the call of recent Church documents to approach this task from a “mystagogical” angle, linking the sacraments with the scriptures. In the second part, the best of contemporary teaching practices are linked with sound Montessori principles and the Catholic understanding of a pedagogy of God. Busy Catholic school administrators will find the provided summary of Catholic teaching on education since Vatican II a very useful reference tool. Teachers and home-schooling parents will find the sections on classroom methods, and the curriculum outline based on the liturgical year, especially helpful.

“In anxious times, this practical book is good news for parents, teachers, and catechists who introduce Catholic faith and morals to children and young people. The author offers a way forward that is Trinitarian, Christ-centered, and yet fully attentive to the needs of the child.”
— MOST REV. PETER J. ELLIOTT, Auxiliary Bishop, Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne.

“If you regard the objective of religious education as the formation of a Catholic heart, memory, intellect, and imagination, then you will consider Educating in Christ an indispensable text. Drawing on ideas from Maria Montessori and Sofia Cavalletti, it explains how to hand on the faith at different stages of a child’s development. Every Catholic teacher should read and apply it.”
— TRACEY ROWLAND, University of Notre Dame, Australia

“Rooted in the Church’s sacramental traditions, informed by classical virtue theory, and drawing upon the best of modern developmental psychology, Gerard O’Shea’s work is a gem. I heartily recommend this practical, credible, orthodox, organized, and hopeful guide to educating our children in the faith.”
— RYAN N. S. TOPPING, Newman Theological College, Edmonton

“This masterful work is a much needed addition to the literature of Catholic religious education. It offers an integrated vision, bringing together anthropology, curriculum guidance, questions of school ethos and teacher formation, analyses of research findings in children’s learning—all grounded in a coherent and persuasive account of the aims and nature of Catholic education.”
— PETROC WILLEY, Franciscan University of Steubenville

“Educating in Christ has come out of the substantial educational and research experience of the author. It offers guidance to parents and teachers on all of the significant areas of religious education: Scripture, Sacraments, moral formation, doctrine, and prayer.”
— KEVIN WATSON, Acting Dean of Education, Sydney, University of Notre Dame, Australia

“Gerard O’Shea’s new book is an insightful and eminently useful guide for Catholic school teachers, catechists, and home-schooling parents. It provides not only insights into child development and its relationship to religious instruction, but offers practical, easy-to-follow lessons and applications for the teacher—a wonderful contribution to Catholic education.”
— MICHAEL MARTIN, author of The Incarnation of the Poetic Word

“Gerard O’Shea has written an extraordinary book that will serve catechists well in these challenging times. In language both insightful and accessible, Educating in Christ engages the question of how today’s religious education can lead people into communion with God. O’Shea answers by bringing the movement towards God in religious education into harmony with a reverence for the capacities and potentialities of those we teach.”
— JAMES PAULEY, Franciscan University of Steubenville

You can order the book here.

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