Pope to Children: Most important things to learn

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Amazingly simple and profound words from Pope Benedict XVI speaking to some children about learning, friends and Jesus. I love it.

And while it’s a wonderful message for children, it needs to be heard and reflected upon even more so by all of us adults:

“Dear children, you go to school and you learn naturally, and I am recalling that seventy-seven years have now passed since I began school. I lived in a small village of three hundred inhabitants, … yet we learned the essential things. Most importantly, we learned to read and write. I think it is a great thing to be able to read and write, because in this way we can know other people’s ideas, read newspapers and books. We can also know what was written two thousand or more years ago; we can know the spiritual continents of the world and communicate with one another. Above all there is one extraordinary thing: God wrote a book, He spoke to us human beings, finding people to write the book containing the Word of God. Reading that book, we can read what God says to us”.

The Holy Father went on: “At school you learn everything you need for life. You also learn to know God, to know Jesus and thus you learn how to live well. At school you make a lot of friends and this is a beautiful thing because in this way you form one big family, but among our best friends, the first we meet and know should be Jesus Who is a friend to everyone and truly shows us the path of life.” [h/t Thomas Peters]

One thing that hit me while reading this is how foreign this perspective is in our public education system.

What’s the most important reason you learn at all? What is your guide for living well and why?

[photo credit]

12 comments Add comment

Jared September 27, 2010 at 11:15 am

My son (7 years old) just asked be why he has to go to school. My reply, “To learn.” “Why learn?” he asks. I said “So that you can be a good person.” I believe it was St. Anselm that said, “It is better to know, that not to know.”

Sad to say, ask high school kids “What is the purpose of education?” And they will respond like a trained baboon, “To get a good job” as the highest priority.

Margo September 27, 2010 at 11:19 am

I love this and I agree with what you said about the Pope’s message being “reflected upon even more so” by adults. In this fast-paced and conflicted society, it’s refreshing to hear simple, quiet words of wisdom from our wonderful leader. This is an excellent article and I’m sharing it with my family..

Michael Fleet September 27, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Thank you for posting this Matthew! I’ve been pondering the question recently: “Are we giving our daughter a ‘good’ education? That is, are we giving her the tools she needs to develop a deep, close friendship with God.” I really needed to read the Pope’s words on the topic, and when I did, I was reminded why I love being Catholic! Such great common-sense wisdom!: Learn to read and write so you may read the Word of God, make friends to form one big family, and make Jesus first among your best friends.

And yes, I need to make the last one my rule as well: keep Jesus first among my best friends. :)

Marc Cardaronella September 27, 2010 at 1:04 pm

I used to think the same way. Education was for getting a job. I was conditioned in that “get ahead” mentality from the very beginning. Then later in life, when I went back to study philosophy and theology, I realized education really should be for something different. It should be to teach you to think critically and explore who you are in the world and as a human person. From my own experience on both sides of the fence, I think Anselm is right. I think every student, even in the most technical fields, should take some philosophy and liberal arts classes to broaden their perspective to the larger world of thought that is available to them.

Jared September 27, 2010 at 2:21 pm


I see you were at FUS at the same time I was there as an undergraduate. Small world.

Marc Cardaronella September 27, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Yeah, it sure is! Catch you around the blogosphere Jared!

soopermexican December 10, 2011 at 3:35 am

yes let’s completely whitewash over the fact that the church outlawed the common person reading the bible for many many years. And, many Catholics blame the opportunity of people being able to read the Bible themselves for the Reformation. This intellectual dishonesty is exactly why people dismiss the Catholic church.

Matthew Warner December 12, 2011 at 5:23 pm

sooper – actually, it’s your kind of misunderstanding of the facts and the spreading of exactly that kind of misinformation that so many other people end up believing such absurdities. Can you provide one once of proof that the Catholic Church “outlawed the common person reading the bible”? Doubt it. Because it’s not true. And the people that credit the reformation for people “being able to read the bible” have a very skewed view of history as well. Peace.

SooperMexican December 12, 2011 at 6:14 pm

Matthew if you want to defend your faith, it’d be good to know something of its history before speaking foolishly: http://biblelight.net/banned.htm

Matthew Warner December 12, 2011 at 7:11 pm

Sooper – Wow, that website you link to is one of the most ignorant sites about the bible I’ve ever seen. But even still, this is just a perfect example of how partial truths gets twisted. The things quoted there from the council of Toulouse, etc. “prohibiting” the laity from “having” some bibles, etc. has to be viewed in proper context and within history. Otherwise you end up with false conclusions as you seem to have come to.

First, nowhere does that link you provided show that Church teaching disallowed laity from “reading” the bible. Most of the stuff quoted there is not even official church teaching. Not everything every bishop or leader in the Catholic Church has ever said is “church teaching.” Obviously you know that. And the Catholic Church readily admits that its leaders are not sinless or perfect. So if all you have to spread what I think you know deep down is a twisted lie, is random statements (who don’t even say what you claim they say anyway) from imperfect people throughout history, including some kings and other corrupt individuals, as your evidence that the Church ever “outlawed” the reading of the bible by the laity, then that’s pretty irresponsible.

Second, the statements you do read there from the council of Toulouse are in response to the Albigensian or Catharist heresy – where some folks had purposefully mis-translated the bible to support ideas like there being two Gods, that marriage is evil, that fornication is okay and that suicide is not wrong. And such bad translations were being spread around at that time. Quite ironically for you, it’s precisely because the Church loved and protected scripture so much that it was so strict with who could take copies and translate and spread them around. They took it very seriously. And back then, printed copies were very powerful and were inevitably copied and shared. So you can imagine the kind of damage that would/could be done to the integrity of scripture, not to mention the scandal caused to the faithful, if such corrupt copies were ever allowed to continue to multiply and be shared by people who didn’t know the difference. They didn’t have google back then or easy ways for the average person to authenticate something as important and complex as scripture. It was also particularly picky about translations, too, obviously, since it took the truths found in scripture so seriously.

Third, it didn’t “outlaw” “reading” scripture. From, at least the statements you are using to support your claim, they speak of not wanting people “having” the books of the old and new testament. First of all, that’s very different than not letting them read it. They were able to read it, which is why bibles were often left out in public outside the church for anyone to read. They were just more strict about people “having” them, especially scandalously translated copies, because then they are more easily translated and spread around endangering the souls of the faithful and the integrity of scripture. What’s even more absurd is that the website you link to obviously has no clue what a “breviary” is. A breviary is scripture and daily readings – basically. Which, in the same sentence where you are claiming shows that the Church doesn’t want people reading the bible, the Church is also saying that people are allowed to have breviaries for their own devotion. A breviary is a tool for people to read scripture not only every day, but at numerous times throughout the day. It’s a tool to help them LEARN scripture and for us all to pray it in communion with each other! So it’s laughable that anyone would use such a quote to make the case that the Catholic Church didn’t want the laity reading the bible. Like literally absurd in the truest meaning of the word.

So it’s unfair and quite obviously with an agenda that sites like the one you posted decided to take situations like that out of context and skew history. And to any objective eye, it’s complete and twisted nonsense. If it weren’t for the Catholic Church and how seriously she took protecting the integrity of scripture throughout history (albeit imperfectly at time), you wouldn’t have a bible today that’s as accurate as it is. And anyone who knows any credible elementary history of the Catholic Church knows that the idea that she has ever not wanted the laity to know and understand the bible is complete and utter nonsense spread around by people with more devotion to anti-catholicism than to the integrity of their beliefs.

All that said, you have still shown no evidence that the Catholic Church ever outlawed the reading of the bible. If you can’t back it up, I’d suggest you stop spreading such falsehoods around. One day you will be held accountable for it.

soopermexican December 12, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Your argument is basically, “you’re DUMM! the church had very good reasons to not let people read the bible!!! And you’re wrong, it never kept people from reading the bible!” You’re obviously a logician.

Matthew Warner December 12, 2011 at 11:23 pm

Not sure how you got that from what I said. But thanks for commenting. Take care.

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