Challenge of Christian Education Is Holiness, Says John Paul II

Message to General Chapter of Piarists

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 10, 2003 (Zenit.org).- In a message addressed to the religious of the Order of the Pious Schools, John Paul II said that the great challenge of Christian education is holiness.



"Accompany your students with patience and wisdom; try to open their minds and hearts to truth and goodness, educating them in authentic justice and peace," the Pope said in his message to the 76 Piarists attending their order's general chapter. "Educate them to holiness."

To achieve this objective, the Holy Father refers in his message to the "Christological dimension" proper to the spirituality of St. Joseph Calasanz, founder of the order, "which should fill all your action in the Church and in the world."

"To put on Christ, Gospel of salvation for the men of all times, implies to place him at the center of personal and communal life, at the center of didactic activities and of every other form of the apostolate," the Pope said. "It implies, in particular, to become imitators of Christ in order to be consistent witnesses of him, able to convince adolescents and youths to follow him without hesitations."

John Paul II reminded the Piarists, also known as the Escolapios, about the apostolic dimension of their consecrated choice.

"As the Divine Master, consecrated by the Father, fully assumed his mission in favor of men and offered his life for them, so you, if you want to imitate him in giving yourselves to the brethren, must make your apostolic service flow from a love that does not look back," he said.

"The Pope is near to you because he knows that you dedicate yourselves to the education of young men, 'morning watchmen,' sowing seeds of hope for the future of humanity. Cultivate them with love! Each student is like a small plant which, if well looked after, will grow luxuriant," the Holy Father said.

For their part, the participants of the general chapter sent a telegram to John Paul II in which they thanked him for "the present orientations on the ministry of education, so important for the good of the Church and of society, in keeping with the line of the documents of Vatican Council II," and committed themselves to work with renewed ardor following in the footsteps of their founder.

Earlier, Piarist Father Jesús Lecea was elected as new superior general of the order. He succeeds Father Josep Maria Balcells, who has been superior general for 18 years. The general chapter runs until July 25.

The Order of Poor Clerks Regular of the Mother of God of the Pious Schools, as it is officially known, was founded in 1617 to offer Christian education to children and youth, particularly the poor. It now has 1,466 professed religious and novices, including 1,059.

More details are at www.scolopi.net.