Monday, April 16, 2012

Everything is Interesting

Easter Week is over, but the Easter Season continues until the feast of Pentecost at the end of May. School is starting up again, and for our Montessori kids, that is a happy event. Montessori children actually like going to school. I always find this remarkable and encouraging.

The John XXIII Montessori Childrens Center includes the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd as an essential component in the overall Montessori program. Children starting at age three learn to be attentive to the liturgical seasons, and the change from Lent to Easter will be marked by a special prayer "service" that the students prepare under the guidance of their teachers.

Meanwhile they proceed with their academic work. In a certain sense, they never stopped. One thing I have observed about my own kids is that Montessori has shaped them into "learners" all day, every day. They find everyday reality interesting, and are often engaged in some kind of constructive or exploratory "play." They are open to discovering the good in things, and the good that develops through their engagement with things.

Reality is good. Created things are good. The human person, made in the image and likeness of God, is good, even if he or she is burdened by limitations and requires guidance and discipline to remain focused on reality. This is a pedagogy that has a tremendous confidence in the capacity of being to reveal its truth, goodness, and beauty; to shape the minds and hearts of children who are placed in an environment that allows them to encounter the being of things.

Is this confidence well founded?

The world is full of violence, tragedy, and ambivalence. Does this pedagogy rest on some naive ideology that ignores evil, destruction, and suffering, or that somehow proposes to change the world by its own efforts?

In fact, a genuine Montessori pedagogy--faithful to the vision of the foundress--has nothing to do with ideology. Maria Montessori's program and all her efforts and insights were informed by her own profound Catholic faith, and her experience of the life of the Church. The Montessori environment, and the activity of the teacher, are designed with an awareness that children are marked by the effects of original sin.

But the confidence of this pedagogy is based on two factors. The first is that original sin has wounded but has not destroyed human nature and the human capacity for the good. The second, and truly the central factor, is that the world has been redeemed. The world has been redeemed.

I was listening to a talk given recently by Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete in which he reminded us of an essential aspect of the truth about Easter: Christ has already won the victory. History and reality belong to Him.

Certainly, life is a trial. But it is a trial that we conquer in Christ. The redemption is a reality that has meaning for every person. All of creation--all of the experience of truth and goodness--has been penetrated by the victory of Christ's redeeming love and the glory of His presence as Lord of the cosmos and of history.

Christ shapes the journey of every human person. Yes, even of the billions who do not know Him. He is present in the world as the One toward whom everything points.

He is the One who awakens our interest in reality, in truth. Msgr. Albacete said, "This is what Christ has come to do—to revive, to give life to our interest so that we can recognize His victory, and therefore our victory."

We are speaking, of course, within the context of a realism about the continuing human struggle with original sin, recognizing also that even this struggle has been redeemed by Christ.

The Montessori pedagogy is one that is infused with the realism of Christian hope, and the confidence that those who bear this hope can generate an environment where nature and grace can fascinate a child, and lead him or her forward in the personal search for the path to their Destiny.