“Three things are necessary for the salvation of man: to know what he ought to believe; to know what he ought to desire; and to know what he ought to do.” St. Thomas Aquinas
In St. Matthew 28: 19-20, Christ Our Lord instructed His disciples to “teach all nations …to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”
For nearly 2000 years the Church took this mission seriously, with stunning results. The Church Christ founded educated nobles in kingly courts and peasants in rickety shacks. Following Christ’s command, entire cultures were Christianized as the Church spread throughout the world.
The Church as educator promoted unity and stability among its members—rich or poor, intellectual or simple-minded—toward a common supernatural goal of union with God in heaven.
As recently as 1958, three weeks before his death, Pope Pius XII remarked:
The Christian school will justify its existence in so far as its teachers―clerics or laymen, religious or secular―succeed in forming staunch Christians." (Pius XII, Allocution to the International Office of Catholic Teaching, September 14, 1958.)
Only 20 years later, by the late 1970s, the Vatican’s attitude with respect to education was hardly distinguishable from that of the United Nations:
Christian education can sometimes run into the danger of a so-called proselytism, of imparting a one-sided outlook." (The Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, The Catholic School, March 19, 1977.)
How did we go, in just one generation, from Pope Pius XII’s beautiful restatement of the Church’s ancient understanding of the purpose of Catholic education—“forming staunch Christians”—to characterizing such formation as a “danger?”
The devastating effects of the Second Vatican Council have been especially cruel to children. Handing on the faith is no longer the priority in far too many Catholic schools. The results are all-too-familiar: children who are not taught the faith do not know how to practice it. Their formative years are instead guided by secular values. They enter adulthood corrupted by the spirit of the world, browbeaten and intimidated by the “tolerance” crowd, and unable to articulate reasoned objections to the aggressive post-Christian culture that conquers even good traditional Catholic families.
Vatican II stole not only your Catholic heritage, it stole many children from the loving arms of Holy Mother Church.
It is tempting for some who witness the sorry state of Catholic education to give in to a feeling of despair, even to give up. We should recall the blunt words of encouragement from Archbishop Lefebvre to those who doubted success: “You don’t have the right to fail!”
Steadily, surely, with complete confidence in God, our schools are succeeding. We are and will remain single-minded in our goal as educators to proselytize, as Archbishop Lefebvre put it, “from the bottom up …inculcating children with religion.”
For Catholic educators the essential concern is to show students God and teach them what God desires them to be, His sons and daughters. While popular culture preaches values like “tolerance,” “inclusion,” and “being nice,” we teach children the difference between virtue and vice, and how to reason and judge—in other words, how to think. We teach them the difference between judging souls and judging actions, facts, and circumstances, so they can make important decisions in their lives. We teach them that toleration of vice is not being nice. We hand down to them the treasures of more than 20 centuries of Christian culture and wisdom.
The curriculum is designed around the great truth of the Gospel. When brought to life by our teachers and taught with conviction, the studies take on a profound and personal meaning for the students. Their books are not lifeless volumes but so many mirrors in which they see reflected the beauty and love of their heavenly Father.
The schools of the Society of St. Pius X are unique in the world today because they take to heart and strive to fulfill this traditional ideal of Catholic education. Students at our schools have unparalleled access to the sacraments, the means of grace that our Lord has given us to lead us to our Father. Whether in the chapel, in the classroom, or on the athletic field, the priests and religious in our schools present students with a reflection of God's fatherhood. These men and women take an interest in the lives of students, showing them the reality of God's love for us. We encourage and support our lay teachers to develop their own spiritual lives, so that they too may become channels of grace for their students.
The essential revelation of the Gospel is that God is Father. The essential task of the Christian is to become a son of this Father, and to live in a manner worthy of the son of such a Father. Christian education has always been understood in these terms. Students are, by their education, brought to realize who God is and who they themselves are. Everything in our schools, from the teachers to the extracurricular activities, has this as its purpose. This is Catholic education. This is what our schools do.
The success of our schools comes with a price. Even though we keep our tuition as low as possible, the cost of a truly Catholic education is simply too high for some families. We cannot leave them in the clutches of the public school system, “poor little orphans” as Archbishop Lefebvre called children in the public schools of France.
That is why the U.S. District has established the Sarto Education Trust, in honor of our great patron, Giuseppe Sarto, Pope St. Pius X, a tireless educator who believed that the evils of the world are due to an ignorance of God. Young Giuseppe was himself the beneficiary of a scholarship to attend the seminary of Padua, as his family was too poor to afford the tuition.
The schools of the Society of St. Pius X are committed to providing a genuine Catholic education to our youth. They seek to fulfill the purpose of Christian education: to make the truth of Christianity known to all men and to instill moral discipline, in order that each student may be submitted to the reign of Jesus Christ in the spiritual, moral and intellectual spheres.
Our financial goal for phase one of the Sarto Education Trust is 2 million dollars. We are happy to report being one-quarter of the way toward our goal, thanks to a generous benefactor who recognizes the unique and vital role our schools play in restoring all things in Christ.
Once we meet our goal, the interest earned on the corpus of the trust will be used to provide need-based tuition assistance to families who yearn for a traditional Catholic education but cannot afford it, to upgrade science laboratories, and to offer professional development training for our dedicated clerical and lay staff.
Now more than ever, we need your support to deliver quality traditional Catholic education to form thousands of staunch Christians for tomorrow.
If you have never had the opportunity to give before, would you please consider a gift of $500?
With your generous support of the Sarto Education Trust, we can fill schools with students who will learn the truths of our faith and be prepared to live and work in a world hostile to the Word of God.
Wishing you a holy Advent and a very Merry Christmas, I give you my priestly blessing.
In the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
Fr. Jurgen Wegner
P.S. The recently-concluded Synod of Bishops on the family is yet another sign that a great battle continues to rage at the highest levels of the Church over fundamental dogmas. The stakes are higher than ever. We need educated Catholics to help fight this battle. Please be generous in your support of the Sarto Education Trust!
The future of seminaries, religious vocations, and Catholic homes lies with Catholic schools. Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre