What is the ultimate end you must consider in your apostolate as teacher in a Catholic school?
Is it merely a question of arranging courses and giving grades, of making students recite well their lessons in grammar and arithmetic?
All this is commendable, but it is not the final purpose of your activity. If God placed you as a teacher in a Catholic school, it is, after all, to help souls to develop their spiritual life.
Even though the proximate end of education is the intellectual life, the ultimate end of education is to create conditions so that the supernatural life of our students will be able to blossom. We want our children to make progress in the love of God, we want them to become saints.
The life of grace (also called the interior life) is the great reality of which so many men and women do not think because no one has ever impressed them with its importance. The Gospel compares the gift of grace to a great treasure, a precious pearl; it is indeed a participation in the intimate life of God. Here is where your responsibility lies: to help your students to understand, despite the pagan atmosphere of the modern world, the “primacy of the spiritual.”
Remember this principle of psychology: Children attach the same importance to things as do the older people with whom they are associated or whom they love. Therefore the knowledge of religion and love that the children have for it will depend on you. It is not only the priest’s job!
God intends to use you as an instrument to draw souls to Him. The more united you will be with Him, the more fruitful your activity will be.
Your vocation as a teacher makes you like the salt of the earth and the light which illuminates the house. You should have a great desire to become saints. Your mission as a leader of souls is an invitation to aim high.
You owe it to God… to the Church…
You owe it to your students… to their parents…
The fruitfulness of your activity will be in proportion to your holiness. Teaching is indeed an apostolate. Listen to the words of Dom Chautard:
Is it not a fact that too often, because of a lack of interior life, we are unable to produce in souls anything more than a surface piety, without any powerful ideals or strong convictions? Those of us who are teachers: have we not, perhaps, been more ambitious for the distinction of degrees and for the reputation of our schools than to impart a solid religious instruction to souls? Have we not worn ourselves out on less important things than forming of wills, and imprinting on well-tried characters the stamp of Jesus Christ? And has not the most frequent cause of this mediocrity been the common banality of our interior life?
If the teacher is a saint (the saying goes), the students will be fervent; if the teacher is fervent, the students will be pious; if the teacher is pious, the students will at least be decent. But if the teacher is only decent, the students will be godless. The spiritual generation is always one degree less intense in its life that those who beget Christ.
The teacher who has not interior life imagines he has done all that is required of him if he keeps within the limits of the program of his examination. But if he is a man of prayer some word will now and again slip out, not only from his lips but from his heart: some sentiment or other will show itself in his expression, some significant gesture will escape him, yes, the mere way he makes the sign of the Cross, of says a prayer before or after class ―even a class in mathematics! ―may have a more profound influence on his students than a whole sermon.
Sanctity is difficult, but the important thing is to realize that God has truly called you to it and that in this call is implied the promise of the divine help. So pray for humility and confidence.
Holiness does not consist in doing extraordinary things, but in fulfilling the will of God with the greatest love possible. Sanctity is not a matter of “bent heads” and “devout demeanor.” It is loving God through our sufferings, serving Him faithfully amidst trials.
The smallest part of pure love is more precious in the eyes of God and more profitable to the Church in its apparent inactivity, than all the other works taken together. (St. John of the Cross)
This year, you will work with dedication, but God alone does solid, enduring good. Therefore if you wish sincerely that your work be supernatural, you must be united with Him.
How can one be Martha and Mary at the same time? Here is a little advice:
Outside the hours of activity properly so called, set aside some minutes of prayer.
Silence is necessary, even physically (relaxation). Even more so spiritually ― to find God. Remember the example of Our Lord (30 years of hidden life before his life of teaching) of Our Lady (only seven words in the Gospel).
Through mental prayer, the soul regains its poise, distinguishes the accessory from the essential, sees all things from God’s perspective.
Rely on the grace of God and not in your own efforts alone.
See your students as members of the mystical body. In each of them Our Lord is living. “As long as you did it for one of these, the least of my brethren, you did it for me.”
Take the means in order to develop your own interior life by means of the Mass, the Divine Office (Vespers, Compline), Rosary Confession, Spiritual Guidance, Retreats.
Pray for your students.
Listen to what a great teacher had to say about the spiritual life.
Even those of us in the active life are called to a tithe of the contemplative as well. The strictly cloistered monk and nun lead that life in the highest degree, but each of us in his station must pay his due. There are three degrees of prayer: The first, of the consecrated religious, is total. They pray always, according to the counsel of our Lord. Their whole life is the Divine Office, Mass, spiritual reading, mental prayer, devotions and the minimum work necessary to maintain physical health. They pray eight hours, sleep eight hours and divide the other eight between physical work and recreation. The second degree is the mixed life in the active orders and secular priesthood, which is still primarily devoted to prayer. These pray four hours, sleep eight, work eight ―preaching, teaching, caring for the sick and poor, and have four hours for recreation. The third degree is for those in the married state (or single life) who offer a tithe of their time for prayer ―about two and one-half hours per day ―with eight hours for work, eight for sleep and the remaining five and one-half for recreation with the family.
Prayer is the proximate end of every immediate work; it is the humble soil, the humus of our common humanity, irrigated by tears of contrition. Works without prayer are dead. Prayer and work are not the same thing ―you cannot use the one as a substitute for the other, in the heresy of good works on the one hand or the Quietism on the other. Work needs prayer as dry cracked leather needs oil, prayer fills the pores of work and makes it flexible, useful to God. (Dr. John Senior)
To finish, let us pray together to Our Lady with this beautiful prayer written by a teacher:
O Admirable Virgin, source of calm and serenity, we love thee for the immense light in thy downcast eyes; for the peaceful expression on thy tranquil face; and the supernatural beauty which flows from the wealth of thy interior fullness. Thou art the Virgin of the Eternal Unseen.
O Mother, detach us from all that is material and tangible so as to lead us back to that which is supernatural and which thine eyes behold: the Invisible and Eternal Presence, Life and Love.
During our distracted and busy days, keep our minds focused on the Sacred Heart of Thy Divine Son. In spite of the worldly distractions that often seduce us, Thou will inspire within us the thirst for God.
Thank you to Edocere website for sharing this conference given by Fr. Herve De La Tour in 1984.