I would like to share with you now some of the ways that the more significant points of this spirituality have had an impact in the area of education.
Actually, our Movement and the stages of its development can
be viewed as one continuous, extraordinary educational event. All the necessary factors are present, including a well-defined educational theory and method which underlie our efforts in this field.
But first let us ask ourselves: what is education?
Education can be defined as the itinerary which a subject (either an individual or a community) pursues with the help of one or more educators, moving toward a goal considered worthwhile both for the individual person and for humanity.
What then are the characteristic elements of our educational method which follow from the main points of the spirituality we live?
Let us consider the first point: the “revelation” – if I may use this term – of God as Love. We see that from the beginning of our Movement there has been only one educator, the Educator par excellence: God who is Love, God who is our Father. It was he who took the initiative in our regard, who, with the sense of purpose characteristic of a true educator, has accompanied us, renewed us and given us new life along an intensely rich itinerary of formation, both personal and communal.
He has enabled us and countless others to rediscover the true meaning of the divine Paternity: a discovery of enormous importance, considering the various attempts in Western culture to affirm – on theoretical and practical levels – that “God is dead.”
There has been an eclipse of God’s Fatherhood which has also contributed to an eclipse of the father figure, a loss of authority on the level of human and educational relationships.
This has led to a moral relativism and an absence of rules in the life of the individual, as well as in interpersonal and social relationships. This often leads to grave consequences such as violence and the like; almost proving Dostoyevsky right when he affirmed that “killing God is the most horrific form of suicide”… and “If God does not exist, then everything is permitted.”
We have had the grace to come to know God. God is Love, and certainly not a distant judge, not a jealous enemy who uses his power to destroy us, or who doesn’t care about us. On the contrary, he is an educator who acknowledges each person’s unique and distinctive identity. He values every person. He loves us, and this is why he is also demanding. As an authentic educator he educates to, and demands responsibility and commitment. God is Love. For this reason he freed us from the greatest slavery of all, and re-opened the doors of his Home to us.
And we know the price his Son paid for our ransom. No educator has ever considered human beings as highly as God, who died for them. God who is Love has raised each and every human person to the highest possible dignity: the dignity of being his child and heir. Each and every person!
The realization that we are all children of the same Father was the inspiration underlying the key idea of Comenius, that great forerunner of modern educational theory: we must “teach everything to everyone.”
Another pillar of our spirituality is the Word of God.
Comenius says “Teach everything to everyone.” But in order to do this, one must use – as he himself said – the educational norm: do things step by step. Thinking about it now, it seems that the Father suggested this method to us focolarini from the very first days of the Movement. He prompted us to live his word by choosing one sentence from the Gospel each month to put into practice in our daily lives. But this immediately gave us “everything,” because Jesus is wholly present in each word of the Gospel (and when we live his word, he lives in us). At the same time, we were like children being nourished by his word, and as it became increasingly a part of us, we grew into adults in faith and in this new life.
Through this very simple educational technique which combines teaching step by step and imparting knowledge fully, the light of this Ideal of life has spread and continues to spread far beyond the Movement. It is a powerful, ongoing spiritual and educational experience.
The word of God is unique because it is the word of Life, a word that becomes experience, in a world that is frequently characterized, even in education, by an abundance of empty words.
We have experienced that the educational power of this Word offers an alternative to this, because the Word of God is always alive and new. As it shaped our lives, it gradually gave us a personal inner unity, which is the enormous task proper to education. And this inner unity helped us overcome the sense of fragmentation people often experience in relation to themselves, to others, to society, and to God.
At the same time, it highlighted the originality of each individual, drawing out his or her unique characteristics.
It is because of this existential unity between Word and Life, between saying and doing, that so many people have found our experience credible and convincing. This experience causes profound interior changes in people, thereby setting in motion a true educational process.