The Monastic Institute of the Faculty of Theology of the Pontifical Athenaeum Sant’Anselmo in Rome organizes an International Symposium every four years, dedicated to different themes related to monasticism. After discussing the themes of culture and of economy, this time we propose focusing on education and formation which are the themes partially connected to the previous ones. However, above all, the problems of education are currently very relevant, for various reasons, both in the modern world and in the Church, which dedicated the last Synod of Bishops to youth, and was crowned with the post-synodal exhortation Christus vivit.
The theme we propose includes four integrated and interwoven dimensions of monastic activity:
- education as teaching both of knowledge and competences and as forming attitudes (Erziehung);
- formation as an explicit activity focused on spiritual growth, both as religious education and as educating a sense of the religious dimension of experience;
- external activities of monasteries, developed in different schools run by Benedictine monks and sisters as well as in other social contexts;
- internal activities directed to the members of monastic communities as well as to oblates and guests visiting monasteries and their Guest Houses.
There are two factors which authorize and legitimize the monastic contribution to modern education: the long and rich history of monastic education and the presence of about 200 schools, colleges and universities around the world run by Benedictines. The Symposium would like to record, appreciate, analyze and develop this reality. So, the historical themes can range from the pedagogical and formative experiences of the Desert Fathers (especially present in the teachings of Evagrius and in the writings of Cassian) and other monastic authors, such as Basil the Great, Augustine and Gregory the Great; they can include proposals contained in various Rules and monastic traditions, both Oriental and Occidental, the social impact of monastic life, particularly visible in the work of Cassiodorus or Alcuin, in the tradition of lectio divina and hesychasm (Mount Athos but also, later, the monastery of Optina in Russia); they can cover the whole tradition of monastic sapiential methodology, combining studies and meditation as practised by Anselm of Canterbury and Bernard of Clairvaux and rediscovered by Jean Leclercq, particularly in his famous book L’amour des lettres et le désir de Dieu. One should not forget that among alumni of monastic schools there were Friedrich Nietzsche, Friedrich Hölderlin and Herman Hesse.
The look at the monastic impact on modern education can be directed by five values resulting from the Gospel interpreted by the Rule of Benedict and considered as essential by the Benedictine Colleges and Universities:
- the primacy of God and the things of God;
- reverent listening to the varied ways in which God is revealed;
- the formation of community built on respect for individual persons who are each regarded as Christ himself
- the development of a profound awareness of the meaning of one’s existence
- the exercise of good stewardship.
Through these emphases Benedictine Colleges and Universities strive to promote the common good of Church and society and assist individuals to lead lives of balance, generosity and integrity. The most recent vision of the role of the Benedictine tradition in education today was outlined by Abbot Elias Lorenzo, the president of the International Commission on Benedictine Education (ICBE), at their conference in August 2019 : You may read the pdf of his address here.
Finally, all these values can be found in, and inspire, various modern methods and approaches to education, pedagogy or formation. Interactions, affinities but also contrasts of these values and other Benedictine characteristics of education or formation with new ways and methods of education (Montessori, Waldorf, education through art, writing, computers) would be another interesting group of themes for the Symposium.
As in previous cases, the inter- and hyper-disciplinary exchange will be achieved by the active and open participation of specialists in history, theology, sociology, archeology, pedagogics, education, coming from different continents, languages, cultures and also various academic traditions. That is always a distinctive feature of our projects. We would like to animate it by two panel discussions and one workshop, coming from different educational contexts. The details are available on the website at this link: http://bit.ly/MonasticEd2020.
Greg Peters (Biola University, USA), Thomas Quartier OSB (Radboud University Nijmegen, KU Leuven), Paolo Trianni (Pontificio Ateneo Sant’Ansemo, Roma, Pontificia Università Urbaniana, Roma), Isabelle Jonveaux (University of Graz), Marcin Jewdokimow (University of Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, Warsaw), Bernard Sawicki OSB (Pontificio Ateneo Sant’Anselmo, Roma)
Michel Van Parys OSB (Abbey of Chevetogne), Fernando Rivas OSB (Pontificio Ateneo Sant’Anselmo), Mario Comoglio (Università Pontificia Salesiana), Ioannis Panagiotopoulos (University of Athens), Barbara Spalova (University of Prague), Mark Barrett OSB (Worth Abbey), James Clerc (University of Exeter)
De Kovel; the Benedictine Centre at Radboud University Nijmegen and the Chair of Monastic Studies at KU Leuven; Nashotah House Theological Seminary in Wisconsin, USA; Department of XXth and XXIst century Culture, Faculty of Humanities, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw; Religious Life Research Group (at Institute for Catholic Church Statistics – Poland); Titus Brandsma Institute (Bonn); Lehrstuhl für Religionspädagogik Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (München)