Thursday, March 22, 2018

On Retreats, Reading, and Education

About a month ago I overheard Michael and Max talking on the phone. Max was busy and wondering if he should take some time off to make a retreat. Michael encouraged him to do so because the studies and work are always there. "Don't be like me and wait until you're 55," he said. I had to laugh--Max has been on a retreat nearly every year in high school and knows how beneficial they are.

Michael made his first ever retreat and returned home so very rejuvenated, he booked another one that he's been wanting to go for quite some time. He was busy mentoring the kids doing robotics and never wanted to miss one of Max's football or rugby games. So, with Max in college, he finally feels like he can take the time to retreat.

I really, really recommend retreating from the daily responsibilities and noise of the world at least once a year. I'm a homebody so it's easy for me to make a retreat at home, but still I have to work on maintaining the silence. But for a man who's been working all his life, I cannot even imagine how wonderful it must've been to lay down his burdens and be free to pray and contemplate deeply.

He was at the same Carmelite retreat center I'd been to two years ago. Fr. Juan Velez led all the prayers and meditations but there were also a couple of guest lectures. Michael said he loved the silence, but he also enjoyed the few conversations he had with the other men at the end of the retreat. He came home with the biography of Cardinal John Henry Newman, signed by Fr. Velez. We've been using the Newman guide to educate ourselves on Catholic schooling and have learned so much about the purpose of education. No, it's not about getting a degree. Or a job. It's so much more. It's fulfilling that deepest desire to know more, where you came from, where you're going, why you're even here! It's trying to appease that restless heart and the only way it will rest and be at peace is when it rests in the Lord. St. Augustine was right all along. I can't believe how late my own real education is beginning but every day there's joy and wonder at all the things I'm learning. I'll be at it till the day I die :)

I'm curious. What do you think is the purpose of education? Are you happy with what you received? Are you hungry for more? What are you doing about it?

We built a home library back in WA and building a smaller one here (you can't see it very well but the overall shape of the crates mirrors the shape of Max's room) and I'm delighted that there's space to add more books. And I'm very organized when it comes to books because books are my friends and I need to able to find particular ones quickly :) Also, all this pleases my inner librarian.

Max's room--adult nonfiction
Hallway--adult fiction/children's F and NF books/poetry
and we won't talk about my messy office :)
I picked up a couple more books and can highly recommend this slim gem of a book by Fr. James Schall: Liberal Learning. And I'm looking forward to digging into Fr. Velez's books.


Mirka Breen said...

Education, to my mind and experience, should orient people in history, (opinions and feelings without context are less valuable) and give some basic functional skills that are a must in modern society. That's the reading-writing-arithmetic thing.
Higher education should add deeper cultural literacy, which means art history and music and thinking skills. Some private school offer this from the get-go, even kindergarten.
Education, in general, should not be political, (as in orienting to a particular group of interests) although in the real world parents opt for like-minded teachers/schools for their kids.

Religious schools are another matter, IMO. Here the ancestral/parental tradition is taught. This does not belong in general public education, but should be supplemental and optional.

My opinion, by which I raised my own.

Vijaya said...

Mirka, thanks so much for your valuable thoughts. I've always supplemented the kids' public school education and I'm seeing more and more focus on worldliness to the point that transcendence is not even touched upon. Many kids will never get to listen to great poetry or music or see great art. Everything is utilitarian. I write for the educational market and it makes me sad to constantly have to be dumbing down stuff for kids (if I follow publisher specs).

I am torn about religion because isn't it part of our culture? We are a nation based on Judeo-Christian values so it seems that the general public will be drinking from that well.

And I agree completely about keeping education free from political ideologies. Alas, in today's schools it's no longer true. Pity the poor child.