Being effective communicators and carriers of Christ in a digital age
Address of Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli
National Catholic Education Conference
Inspiration and Identity: Catholic Education in Australian Society
Adelaide 22 September 2011
I am very pleased to be with you as you reflect on the contribution of Catholic Education to Australian society. I come before you as someone whose role it is to advocate for the importance of communication in the life of the human community and of the Church. In the particular context of this address, I wish to encourage Church institutions, such as schools and colleges, as well as individual Catholics, including teachers and educationalists, to reflect on how best to communicate effectively in our digital age and how to ensure that the full educational potential of the new information and communication technologies are realized for the benefit of the young.
Catholic schools: communicating and witnessing to Christ.
Communication is not just another activity of the Church but is at the very essence of its life. The communication of the Good News of God’s love for all people, as expressed in the mystery of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is what unifies and makes sense of all the other aspects of the life of the Church. This is particularly true of education: communication is not simply one dimension of education, without communication there can be no education. Catholic education is a lifelong process of human growth and development. It is not confined to the school. It begins with the family in the home, is enriched in the school and is further strengthened through involvement with the Christian community in the parish. These three dimensions of home, school and parish must work together if Catholic education is to truly attain its goal of forming mature human persons in the image and likeness of Christ.
The Catholic Church communicates in a variety of ways but Catholic schools have long been one of our most significant ways of expressing to the larger world who we are and what we believe. It is interesting that the document of the Congregation for Catholic Education, The Catholic School on the Threshold of the Third Millennium (1997), uses the language of communication to express the mission of the Catholic School: now, as in the past, the Catholic school must be able to speak for itself effectively and convincingly. It is not merely a question of adaptation, but of missionary thrust, the fundamental duty to evangelise, to go toward men and women wherever they are, so that they may receive the gift of salvation.
Catholic schools have long been admired because of the quality of the education that they have offered to young people, believers and unbelievers alike. Even in countries where Catholicism is very much a minority phenomenon, one will often find that Catholic schools are greatly valued and that admission is hugely sought after. The record of Catholic schools in seeking to provide education to the poorest and the most disadvantaged is something which is undoubtedly well known to you – in Australia, you need only look to the example of Mary MacKillop (Saint Mary of the Cross). One does not have to be a person of faith to appreciate the contribution of Catholic education and the excellence that has long been its hallmark. However, it is impossible to appreciate the deepest inspiration of Catholic education and the most radical root of its identity without seeing these schools as expressions of God’s love. In addressing Catholic teachers during his visit to the United Kingdom, Pope Benedict reminded them, that the task of a teacher is not simply to impart information or to provide training in skills intended to deliver some economic benefit to society; education is not and must never be considered as purely utilitarian. It is about forming the human person, equipping him or her to live life to the full – in short it is about imparting wisdom. And true wisdom is inseparable from knowledge of the Creator, for “both we and our words are in his hand, as are all understanding and skill in crafts” (Wis 7:16). The Holy Father returned to this theme during his recent visit Madrid for World Youth Day: in the course of his meeting with young university professors, he stated We know that when mere utility and pure pragmatism become the principal criteria, much is lost and the results can be tragic: from the abuses associated with a science which acknowledges no limits beyond itself, to the political totalitarianism which easily arises when one eliminates any higher reference than the mere calculus of power. The authentic idea of the University, on the other hand, is precisely what saves us from this reductionist and curtailed vision of humanity.
Catholic Schools are committed to maintaining a vision of education that aims to allow students to achieve their full human potential and to contribute meaningfully to the societies where they live and work. It is interesting to note that in his response in the House of Lord’s to the riots in London that Archbishop Rowan Williams sought to move attention onto the issue of education. Over the last two decades, many would agree that our educational philosophy at every level has been more and more dominated by an instrumentalist model; less and less concerned with a building of virtue, character and citizenship - 'civic excellence' as we might say. And a good educational system in a healthy society is one that builds character, that builds virtue … one of the most significant questions that we ought to be addressing in the wake of these deplorable events, is what kind of education we are interested in, for what kind of a society. Are we prepared to think not only about discipline in classrooms, but also about the content and ethos of our educational institutions – asking can we once again build a society which takes seriously the task of educating citizens, not consumers, not cogs in an economic system, but citizens.
The same sentiment is to found in the policy document, Australian Catholic Schools Why We Have Them? What They Aim To Achieve?, of your own National Catholic Education Commission. Catholic Schools contribute to the Church’s mission to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ; they offer the Catholic community and the people of Australia an educational foundation for life to the full, meaning the full development of the person - intellectually, spiritually, physically, morally and emotionally. They do achieve this by promoting a particular view of the person, the community, the nation and the world, centered on the person and teachings of Jesus Christ. Catholic schools are committed to offering to students not just instruction in the different subjects that constitute the curriculum but a vision of life and an understanding of human dignity and purpose. Again in his address to young professors in Madrid, Pope Benedict insists that young people need authentic teachers: persons open to the fullness of truth in the various branches of knowledge, persons who listen to and experience in their own hearts that interdisciplinary dialogue; persons who, above all, are convinced of our human capacity to advance along the path of truth … Youth is a privileged time for seeking and encountering truth. This lofty aspiration is the most precious gift which you can give to your students, personally and by example. … the path to the fullness of truth calls for complete commitment: it is a path of understanding and love, of reason and faith. We cannot come to know something unless we are moved by love; or, for that matter, love something which does not strike us as reasonable. “Understanding and love are not in separate compartments: love is rich in understanding and understanding is full of love” (Caritas in Veritate, 30). If truth and goodness go together, so too do knowledge and love. This unity leads to consistency in life and thought, that ability to inspire demanded of every good educator. … truth itself will always lie beyond our grasp … we cannot completely possess it; or put better, truth possesses us and inspires us.
Catholic schools could promote such a lofty vision of the human person coherently without seeking to share with their students the Good News of the Gospel. The proclamation of the person of Christ, and of his message of God’s love for all people, is an integral part of the formation and educational process – it is our belief that it is in the teaching and in the example of Jesus alone that true human fulfillment can be found. Catholic schools, at their best, communicate Christ not just through their formal teaching but by means of the atmosphere and environment they create. Again the words of Pope Benedict in London expressed this succinctly when he spoke of Catholic ethos: It means that the life of faith needs to be the driving force behind every activity in the school, so that the Church’s mission may be served effectively, and the young people may discover the joy of entering into Christ’s “being for others” (Spe Salvi, 28).
The digital age: a time of radical transformation.
In my intervention this morning, I want to reflect on how the Church can be an effective “communicator and carrier” of Christ in a digital age. The role of schools and teachers in teaching about, and witnessing to Christ, is one that has received much attention over recent decades but I want to focus on some of the particular challenges and opportunities that are emerging due to the radical transformations in the culture and dynamics of communication that are associated with our so-called digital age.
I am increasingly convinced that we must come to terms with the “newness” of the digital age. What we are living through is more than a moment of technological innovation but a time of change in the very pattern of communication. The new technologies are not only changing the way we communicate, but communication itself, so much so that it could be said that we are living through a period of vast cultural transformation. This means of spreading information and knowledge is giving birth to a new way of learning and thinking, with unprecedented opportunities for establishing relationships and building fellowship. (Benedict XVI, WCD Message 2011). We must, in this context, be willing to look again at our ways of evangelizing, teaching and proclaming – “new wine needs new skins”. The world of communications involves the entire cultural, social and spiritual universe of the human person. If the new languages have an impact on the way of thinking and living, this in some way also concerns the world of faith and the understanding and expression of it. (Benedict XVI, PCCS Plenary 2011). As educationalists, you have undoubtedly confronted many challenges in order to develop a style of teaching, a pedagogical method, that takes account of the different resources that the digital age has made available to your students and the new styles of learning with which they have grown up. As people of faith, the challenges are no less demanding if we are to communicate Christ to others and to carry his Gospel to the world.
What we are noticing are very dynamic patterns of change in the ways people are actually communicating. This is a fundamental challenge I think for all large organizations. It is not just a challenge for the Church. All organizations are trying to understand the new dynamics of communicating, trying to understand how to position themselves to take advantage of them so that they can be present in the new debates and discussion, emerging by virtue of employment of the new technologies. It is interesting that Blessed John Paul II had, in a sense, his finger on the pulse of these changes even before the internet emerged as an everyday reality. In 1990, in Redemptoris Missio, he wrote: It is also necessary to integrate that message into the "new culture" created by modern communications. This is a complex issue, since the "new culture" originates not just from whatever content is eventually expressed, but from the very fact that there exist new ways of communicating, with new languages, new techniques and a new psychology (37).
Part of the newness of the digital age is that there is a desire more for sharing than for instruction. People look for dialogue and explanation rather to be told what to do or what to believe. This will require a different style of teaching and communicating if the Church is to touch the lives of those who are spending more and more of their time on-line. In the digital world, transmitting information increasingly means making it known within a social network where knowledge is shared in the context of personal exchanges. The clear distinction between the producer and consumer of information is relativized and communication appears not only as an exchange of data, but also as a form of sharing. This dynamic has contributed to a new appreciation of communication itself, which is seen first of all as dialogue, exchange, solidarity and the creation of positive relations.(Benedict XVI , WCD Message, 2011) This means that the Church’s way of being present in the digital arena, where more and more of contemporary culture is being forged, will of necessity need to be more dialogical.
Dialogue and Culture.
A key concept that is evident, when the Pope talks about the new technologies, is their potential to facilitate dialogue between individuals and between peoples. The fact that we can find online information generated by different communities themselves, offering therefore the best possible statement of their own beliefs, perspectives and traditions, is itself an enormous richness. We can learn more about each other. We can grow in understanding by listening to each other. We can present the truth as we see it to each other. We can debate with each other in ways that may not be so easy if we have to come together – there can be tensions about coming together, problems about choosing the right ground or area. The internet creates a space where each of us, from the safety of his or her own context, can reach out to the other and can begin a dialogue where we seek mutual understanding. It is important in such dialogue that we respect each other’s differences. Respecting differences does not mean we will always agree with each other. We will often debate. We will argue and try and clarify our perspectives. We will try to nuance our perspectives so that we can grow in understanding. But the key note is that we do so as friends. As friends we are committed to trying to understand the other’s position. We debate not to score points against each other, but in order to grow in greater insight.
The Holy Father has long insisted on the importance that we have a culture, a public culture that is rooted in reason. He calls on believers, who are present where new cultures are being formed, to be present precisely as believers so that they can exercise a service of culture, what he calls a “diakonia of culture”. “The Church – wrote Pope Paul VI – must enter into dialogue with the world in which she lives. The Church becomes word, she becomes message, she becomes dialogue” (Ecclesiam Suam, 67). Dialogue, without ambiguity and marked by respect for those taking part, is a priority in today’s world, and the Church does not intend to withdraw from it … Given the reality of cultural diversity, people need not only to accept the existence of the culture of others, but also to aspire to be enriched by it and to offer to it whatever they possess that is good, true and beautiful. (Benedict XVI, Meeting with the world of culture, Lisbon). We can bring into emerging cultures and new cultures the rich human values that have been so fundamentally important in our Christian tradition. These values are often to be found in other religious traditions, they may be found at times in the traditions of secularists also; but these values are increasingly fragile in contemporary society. We need to recover this sense of showing that these values are rooted in human nature and are accessible to human reason. The Gospel message perceives a rationality inherent in creation and considers man as a creature participating in, and capable of attaining to, an understanding of this rationality (Benedict XVI, Meeting with young university professors, Madrid). The emphasis should be on values such as justice and respect for the dignity of the human person. We live in a world where the logic of the market tends to dominate; we live in a world where many are vulnerable because they are poor. Our tradition – and it is not exclusively our tradition – insists on the value and the dignity of every human person. We live in a society which needs to be reminded of the importance of truth. We live in a society where there is a need to show that people can live together; we need to create a public square that allows people to live acknowledging difference, even celebrating difference, and yet finding a shared belief in the goodness of each other that permits them to cohabit, to share public spaces, notwithstanding those differences.
An idea that is very clear in Caritas in Veritate is that the new technologies themselves will not automatically revolutionize and make everything better. Just because social communications increase the possibilities of interconnection and the dissemination of ideas, it does not follow that they promote freedom or internationalize development and democracy for all. To achieve goals of this kind, they need to focus on promoting the dignity of persons and peoples, they need to be clearly inspired by charity and placed at the service of truth, of the good, and of natural and supernatural fraternity (73). In that same encyclical the Pope insists on the importance of the religious voices being present; he does not say that religious voices should predominate or that they should have exclusive access to any area of public debate, but that they are an important element of that public debate. Denying the right to profess one’s religion in public and the right to bring the truths of faith to bear upon public life has negative consequences for true development. The exclusion of religion from the public square — and, at the other extreme, religious fundamentalism — hinders an encounter between persons and their collaboration for the progress of humanity. … Secularism and fundamentalism exclude the possibility of fruitful dialogue and effective cooperation between reason and religious faith. Reason always stands in need of being purified by faith: this also holds true for political reason, which must not consider itself omnipotent. For its part, religion always needs to be purified by reason in order to show its authentically human face. Any breach in this dialogue comes only at an enormous price to human development (56).
It has long been recognized that the Catholic school has a privileged role in the engagement of faith with culture. Finally, the Church is absolutely convinced that the educational aims of the Catholic school in the world of today perform an essential and unique service for the Church herself. It is, in fact, through the school that she participates in the dialogue of culture with her own positive contribution to the cause of the total formation of man. The absence of the Catholic school would be a great loss) for civilization and for the natural and supernatural destiny of man (The Catholic School, 1965, 15.) I would invite all those involved in Catholic education to be attentive to foster in their students a commitment to searching for truth in dialogue with others and in bringing their own faith, culture and values to bear on their engagement with those they meet in social networks and other digital spaces of debate and discussion.
Truth and Judgment
As teachers, you have no doubt received much formation in the new styles of digital learning. I would like to invite you as individuals, and collectively as Catholic teachers, to reflect on the need to offer to young people criteria of judgment that will enable them to choose well in terms of the range of information, opinions and guidance that they find offered to them by digital media. They are often highly expert in the use of new media and they are at the cutting edge of new trends in social media but what they may need is guidance in judging the worth, authority and value of what they are being offered.
The single greatest challenge to dialogue is the, often unarticulated, relativism that is so prevalent in Western culture and the refutation of which has been a key element in the teaching of Pope Benedict. If there is no such thing as truth, as right or wrong answers, then dialogue becomes meaningless. It is a shared commitment to searching for truth, rooted in the conviction of the ultimate objectivity of truth, which gives human dialogue and debate their ultimate value - otherwise they become exercises in coercion and manipulation in which each seeks to assert his or her own view without any reference to the claims of truth.
In his address to members of the academic community in Prague in 2009, Pope Benedict XVI highlighted this question: The idea of an integrated education, based on the unity of knowledge grounded in truth, must be regained. … With the massive growth in information and technology there comes the temptation to detach reason from the pursuit of truth. Sundered from the fundamental human orientation towards truth, however, reason begins to lose direction: it withers, either under the guise of modesty, resting content with the merely partial or provisional, or under the guise of certainty, insisting on capitulation to the demands of those who indiscriminately give equal value to practically everything. The relativism that ensues provides a dense camouflage behind which new threats to the autonomy of academic institutions can lurk. While the period of interference from political totalitarianism has passed, is it not the case that frequently, across the globe, the exercise of reason and academic research are – subtly and not so subtly – constrained to bow to the pressures of ideological interest groups and the lure of short-term utilitarian or pragmatic goals? What will happen if our culture builds itself only on fashionable arguments, with little reference to a genuine historical intellectual tradition, or on the viewpoints that are most vociferously promoted and most heavily funded? What will happen if in its anxiety to preserve a radical secularism, it detaches itself from its life-giving roots? Our societies will not become more reasonable or tolerant or adaptable but rather more brittle and less inclusive, and they will increasingly struggle to recognize what is true, noble and good.
The generalized and uncritical social reception of the tenets of relativism finds particular expression in the digital world where the sheer volume of information and opinion, much of it contradictory, can lead to an almost resigned acceptance that it is meaningless to speak of truth and objectivity. In the face of so much assertion, argument and counter argument, it is difficult to decide where real authority and expertise resides. A common response to this phenomenon is that people turn only to sources of information and opinion that they judge to be trustworthy. This is a natural and understandable approach, but it is not without risk. Often the judgment as to what sources are trustworthy is rooted in the person’s pre-established world view and serves only to confirm people in their opinions rather than leading to a real search for truth and understanding. In the political arena, there is the risk that people will only engage with media that they know to support their particular views and they will not be exposed to alternative positions or to reasoned debate or discussion. This in turn will create increasingly polarized and confrontational forms of politics where there is little room for the voices of moderation or consensus. A similar phenomenon is emerging in the world of Catholic media, especially in the blogosphere, where often it seems not enough for protagonists to propose their own views and beliefs but where they tend also to attack the arguments, and even the person, of those who disagree with them. It is natural that debates about faith and morals should be full of conviction and passion but there is a growing risk that some forms of expression are damaging the unity of the Church and, moreover, are unlikely to draw the curious and the seekers to a desire to learn about the Church and its message.
A particular challenge to the possibility of the new media serving as channels for dialogue and growth in understanding between peoples is that the extraordinary range of words and images generated by these media, the speed with which they are produced and the fact there is a constant stream of news and information means that there is very little room and time for a sustained and considered engagement and that there is real danger that our cultural discourse becomes superficial. The Archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles Chaput, has expressed this risk succinctly: Visual and electronic media, today’s dominant media, need a certain kind of content. They thrive on brevity, speed, change, urgency, variety and feelings. But thinking requires the opposite. Thinking takes time. It needs silence and the methodical skills of logic. The gradual loss of the boundary between the provision of information and entertainment witnesses, and further contributes, to a loss of a social appetite for serious engagement with important issues.
If one were to ask if there is a particular task for Catholic education today, I would suggest that it may be precisely that of developing a method that enables students to engage fruitfully with the range of information, knowledge and opinion that they have literally at their fingertips. We must teach them to exercise judgment in their choice of materials and in evaluation of its worth. I am reminded of the famous essay of Dorothy Sayers on the “The Lost Tools of Learning”. Already in 1947, she was lamenting the fact that education was too caught up with the mastery of subjects and insufficiently engaged with the art of learning - We have lost the tools of learning--the axe and the wedge, the hammer and the saw, the chisel and the plane-- that were so adaptable to all tasks. Instead of them, we have merely a set of complicated jigs, each of which will do but one task and no more, and in using which eye and hand receive no training, so that no man ever sees the work as a whole or "looks to the end of the work." In that essay, she highlighted the importance of Grammar, Dialectic and Rhetoric in the scholastic tradition as the tools that enabled students to engage meaningfully with more material subjects. At a time when students can “cut and paste” information in a mechanical manner, it is ever more urgent that we invite them to and equip them for more critical reflection.
As teachers, you have learned that the precise and accurate presentation of your subject materials is never sufficient to ensure good communication with your students. Teachers often say that they have learned the hard way, as they read often embarrassingly inaccurate exam papers, that they would have to attend more to their listeners and their perceptions if they were to take responsibility not just for the ‘transmission’ of their subject but for its ‘reception’. They learn to adjust their language so that their students would ‘hear’ what the teacher wanted them to learn. This is an important lesson for all of us who are interested in communication. Dealing with the media, and especially with new media, requires that we are much more attentive to the language we use and that we listen more carefully to our interlocutors.
The need to find a new “language” is not new for people of faith. Throughout its history, the Church has learned to proclaim the unchanging message of Christ in new idioms and in ways that respond to different cultural contexts. The Church has long been “multi-lingual”. The new language, in which it must be fluent in order to be present in the new forum of ideas and information, will stand beside the other languages of its tradition. Those who are concerned that the language of the digital culture or of the media is too banal or ephemeral to translate the profundity of the Christian message should remember that it is not a language that will substitute the precise language of dogma and theology or the rich language of homiletics or liturgy but rather will serve to establish an initial point of contact with those who are far from faith. Those who respond to this initial contact, to our ‘entry level language’, will be invited to more profound forms of engagement, where they will learn these other languages in their proper context.
In meeting this challenge the Church will look to the example of Christ, who spoke to his contemporaries with words, stories and parables but also through his deeds and actions. Moreover, the Church can turn to its rich heritage of art and music. Just as the stain glass images of the medieval cathedrals spoke to an illiterate audience, we must find forms of expression that are appropriate to a generation that has been described as “post-literate”. The digital culture presents new challenges to our ability to speak and listen to a symbolic language that talks about transcendence. In proclaiming the Kingdom Jesus himself knew how to use elements of the culture and environment of his time: the flock, tents, the banquet, seeds, and so forth. Today we are called to discover also in the digital culture symbols and metaphors which are meaningful to people and can be of help in talking about the Kingdom of God to contemporary man (Benedict, Plenary, 2011). Learning any new language involves an element of risk, embarrassing mistakes are often a feature of such learning, but the alternative is to risk talking exclusively to ourselves.
Human nature – opening to Christ and his message
I would like to conclude on a more positive note by underlining the fact that one of the great drivers of the growth of the new media has been their use by young people, in particular, as means of personal communication. The phenomenal expansion of social networking sites testifies to the desire of young people for connectedness, for friendship and for human relationships. This desire, notwithstanding the casual and superficial nature of much of the actual communication, is ultimately an expression of the truth of human nature; the desire for connectedness is innate in human beings. From the perspective of theology, it can be presented as a manifestation of our created nature; made in the image and likeness of God, a God whose essence is a relational love, human beings desire union with each other and are called at the heart of their being to be persons of love. In a digital context, the language of Pope Benedict during his visit to Australia for World Youth day in 2008 is particularly appropriate: Loving is what we are programmed to do, what we were designed for by our Creator. The truth of this insight into what it means to be human – that all people, irrespective of creed, race or culture, have a fundamental disposition to seek unity and understanding - gives us an ultimate ground to hope that Christ and his message can continue to touch human hearts even in the face of the challenges that we must acknowledge.
We are called to bring the Good News to the ends of the earth, to ensure that the Good News of the Gospel reaches and touches the hearts of people in every part of our world. This message with which we have been entrusted – this Good News – is itself the message of Jesus Christ. He is the incarnate Word of God. He is the perfect communicator – his communication is not just the message he proclaimed in word and deed but his very gift of himself in love to all people. In becoming man, Jesus emptied himself so that he could share our condition and reveal the fullness of God’s love. Jesus did not merely preach God’s love but embodied it in his very being. When we seek to communicate the message of Jesus, we are proclaiming a person rather than a history of words and deeds; we are inviting people into relationship with a person and not simply to adhere to a teaching. Jesus, himself, made flesh the words of love, service, healing and forgiveness he so eloquently preached. His actions – his miracles, his treatment of people, his limitless giving of himself for others – speak even more eloquently.
Jesus – who was fully God and man – reveals the dignity of our destiny as human beings. In his ministry, he invited those he encountered to follow him and to find the point and purpose of life in the giving of themselves in the service of others. At the heart of his teaching, we find not just liberating and illuminating words and stories but a way of living which calls for a radical conversion of life, a metanoia, in those who would follow him but which leads ultimately to the fullness of life. Jesus is the Saviour – he alone can offer a way to escape from our history of sin and egoism. It is in losing our lives that we will gain life. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life!
Just as God has loved us, so we are invited to love, to love in the sense of putting others first. In doing so, we find the very secret of our own wellbeing and happiness. The Gospel tells us that those who pursue only their own interests, who think only of themselves, will live a form of life which will prove delusional, that will not bring them the happiness they seek; and that it will also bring about a situation of serious social disharmony. The person who loves first, who thinks of his or her neighbour, who reaches out and serves those who are less well off, those who are vulnerable, those who are weak, is a person who will find his or her own dignity and happiness in the service of that message. He or she is also a person who will bring Good News to society, someone who will help create a society that is more attentive and caring of the needs of others. So therefore our message is one for the world.
Jesus should serve as the model for all who seek to communicate his Gospel. We can learn much from his style of communicating, from his use of parables and stories, from his attentiveness to the different audiences with which he engaged, from his personal involvement with each individual he encounters; but in the final analysis these different elements point us to the essence of Jesus as one who gives his life, who pours himself out, for others
It follows that we must be attentive to what the Church is saying, and how it is saying it, not just through its formal communicative functions of preaching, teaching and evangelizing but also by its way of celebrating liturgy, by its witness of service and by the experience of communion and participation it offers to believers. The Church must seek to address rationally and coherently the minds and the intellects of those to whom it speaks but it must be attentive to engage equally their hearts, emotions and imagination. In proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Church is inviting people to a new way of living and to become part of a living community called together and nourished by Christ himself. To do this effectively, the Church must offer a vibrant and attractive witness to the fullness of life offered by Jesus.
I began by saying that Catholic schools are a particularly strong expression of the Church and by extension of the message of Christ. I would like to encourage you to renew your commitment and enthusiasm for making known the person and the teaching of Christ. As teachers, you are very much aware of the differences between young people today and those of former generation, but I invite you to see through the surface differences and to respond to their perennially need to be assured of their dignity as children of God and to realize their potential to be fully alive. Speaking directly to schoolchildren, and in their own language, Pope Benedict set out a wonderful vision for the vocation of Catholic education: When I invite you to become saints, I am asking you not to be content with second best. I am asking you not to pursue one limited goal and ignore all the others. Having money makes it possible to be generous and to do good in the world, but on its own, it is not enough to make us happy. Being highly skilled in some activity or profession is good, but it will not satisfy us unless we aim for something greater still. It might make us famous, but it will not make us happy. Happiness is something we all want, but one of the great tragedies in this world is that so many people never find it, because they look for it in the wrong places. The key to it is very simple – true happiness is to be found in God. We need to have the courage to place our deepest hopes in God alone, not in money, in a career, in worldly success, or in our relationships with others, but in God. Only he can satisfy the deepest needs of our hearts (Benedict XVI, Meeting with the world of Catholic Education, London, 2010).