Roots and Wings: Educating the Next Generation

In a recent talk to Australian pilgrims, Pope Benedict XVI said that the task of parents educating children in the faith is to give them both roots and wings: I want to use this image of "roots and wings" to narrow and focus the discussion from my post below and ask, positively, how do "Commonweal Catholics" think we give roots and wings to the next generations.Some of our more traditional brothers and sisters try to do this, as far as I can see, by trying to recreate a homogenous Catholic environment: homeschooling, Catholic school, carefully controlled exposure to other viewpoints.But what about Catholics who think early exposure and going to school with people of different faiths is a good thing? What about Catholics who want to raise the next generation as Catholic while not fleeing a more pluralistic environment? What about Catholics who (gasp) actually think good public schools are a good option? I think that this is at least one strand of Commonweal Catholics. So what is the pedagogical strategy of Commonweal Catholics for handing on the faith with both roots and wings, even if those terms aren't defined in quite the same way that the Pope does?Please: no more griping about the church: let's think of positive strategies.Many generations of pilgrims have made their way to Rome from all over the Christian world, in order to venerate the tombs of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and thereby to deepen their communion in the one Church of Christ, founded on the Apostles. In so doing, they strengthen the roots of their faith; and roots, as we know, are the source of life-giving sustenance. In that sense, pilgrims to Rome should always feel at home here, and the Domus Australia will play an important part in creating a home for Australian pilgrims in the city of the Apostles. Yet roots are only a part of the story. According to a saying attributed to a great poet from my own country, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, there are two things that children should receive from their parents: roots and wings. From our holy Mother, the Church, we too receive both roots and wings: the faith of the Apostles, handed down from generation to generation, and the grace of the Holy Spirit, conveyed above all through the sacraments of the Church. Pilgrims to this city return to their homelands renewed and strengthened in their faith, and borne aloft by the Holy Spirit in the journey onward and upward to their heavenly home.My prayer today is that the pilgrims who pass through this house will indeed return to their homes with firmer faith, more joyful hope and more ardent love for the Lord, ready to commit themselves with fresh zeal to the task of bearing witness to Christ in the world in which they live and work. And I pray too that their visit to the See of Peter will deepen their love for the universal Church and unite them more closely with Peters Successor, charged with feeding and gathering into one the Lords flock from every corner of the world. Commending all of them, and all of you, to the intercession of Our Lady, Help of Christians and Saint Mary MacKillop, I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of the joys that await us in our eternal home.

Cathleen Kaveny is the Darald and Juliet Libby Professor in the Theology Department and Law School at Boston College.

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