In a time of tight pocketbooks and increasing school choices, parents are interested in what makes a Catholic school unique. Why should they choose a Catholic school over other options available to them?
One response, especially for active Catholic families, is Catholic identity. We know that the central character – the heart -- of a Catholic school is different. But how can we ensure that this difference permeates everything that we do?
The answer to this question can be found in the pedagogy recommended by Church documents, such as the General Directory for Catechesis, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the U.S. Bishops’ pastoral message on Christian education. All of these documents state that our pedagogy should be based on the pdagogy of God. We are called to teach others in the way that God teaches us.
What exactly is divine pedagogy?
Divine pedagogy includes principles of selection of content and of methodology. It encompasses how we arrive at the “what” and the “how” in the educational process. In Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, we can clearly see five aspects of the divine pedagogy:
God’s pedagogy is invitational and person-centered. God invites us into relationship with him. We don’t “find God,” God finds us. He initiates the relationship. As God enters into dialogue with us, we are called to follow this example by providing catechesis that it “is rooted in inter-personal relations and makes its own the process of dialogue” (GDC, 143). God also meets us where we are and accommodates for our particular needs. Therefore, education based on the pedagogy of God is developmentally-appropriate and makes allowances for adapting to special needs.
God’s pedagogy is incarnational. Dei Verbum points our the “inner unity” of deeds and words in God’s plan of revelation: “the deeds wrought by God in the history of salvation manifest and confirm the teaching and realities signified by the words, while the words proclaim the deeds and clarify the mystery contained in them” (2). From speaking the universe into existence, to his promise to Noah and his covenants with Abraham and Moses, to the Word made flesh in Jesus Christ, it is evident that God’s word becomes action. Education built upon the principles of the divine pedagogy will make lessons come to life through hands-on activities and applications and multisensory teaching methodologies. It will give learners clear ways to go out and live the Gospel in their everyday lives.
The pedagogy of God is familial and communal. God reveals himself as a communion of persons – Father, son and Holy Spirit – and creates human beings to be in communion with one another. Catholic education modeled on the divine pedagogy will build community in the classroom, involves parents and families as primary catechists, and connects children to the larger parish community.
God’s pedagogy is structured and comprehensive. In salvation history,God reveals himself to humanity gradually as people are able to understand. And one revelation builds upon the next, until revelation reaches its fullness in the person of Jesus Christ. Catholic education modeled after the divine pedagogy also presents key truths gradually as the learner is able to receive them. These truths are centered around the person of Jesus.
The pedagogy of God is perpetual. Isaiah 55:11 states, “So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to me empty, but shall do what pleases me, achieving the end for which I sent it” (NABRE). God’s truths are handed on through the generations in the forms of Scripture and Sacred Tradition, which is the living memory of the Church. God’s covenants do not end, but come to greater fulfillment and realization. Catholic education based on the divine pedagogy prepares the learner to share the Gospel with others, in word and deed, so that God’s Word is handed on to others and to future generations.