One aspect of classical education in a religious school that I like most is the emphasis that’s put on doing what we do in a better manner, on a higher level, or in a more integrated way, because we know Jesus: both the man of history and the God of faith.
The learning community—which includes more than students, but the pastor and parents and many others—is challenged by what is best and greatest in every academic and spiritual discipline so that we can exist in pursuits that improve ourselves. It’s what many in our contemporary society, and throughout history, call “being the best version of yourself.” In the Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and other dynastic empires, great things, great people, and great communities emerged. The ancient Olympic motto: “faster, higher, stronger” (citius, altius, fortius) remains as a modern challenge for athletes today. Similarly, the Jesuit motto, “Ad Majorem Dei Glorium,” (“All for the greater glory of God”) guides many Christians in the pursuit of holiness and happiness in modern times. Whether we engage in physical or spiritual exercises, we ought to want to go to a next level.
As students, and subsequently their parents, get exposed to the classics, they will reflect upon their own capacity in various areas. For example, the best in literature will inspire us to write in imitation of those who master writing, the great saints urge us to aspire to greater sanctity, the accomplished artists spur us to reflect upon or develop our interest in music or painting or woodcraft. But perhaps even more importantly than all that is how classical education challenges adults to pursue the higher, the greater, the better, in our relationships because of who we’d like our children to become.
The social lives of parents seem to be, more and more, based on the social lives of their offspring. Those lives revolve around sports programs, school groups, and extra-curricular interests. Our social interactions may evolve beyond our kids’ accomplishments but they often don’t go much further than The View, The Bachelor, Facebook, video games or Glory Days. The classical model challenges parents to also pursue what is greater, higher, and better in our social interactions. Though we’re only in our first year of the model at Borromeo Academy, I see groundwork being laid for book clubs, discussion groups, spiritual teams, etc. in which participants encourage one another to be stronger, holier, wiser, and more adept at best practices at being a better parent, spouse, Christian, etc. because of what is taking place in the classrooms.
The Jesuit expression of aspiration, Magis, is a good one to keep close to us. It is often translated as “the more” or “what is greater;” and it refers to being more or greater because Christ is in at the core of our lives. It doesn’t mean to do more things but to do the things we do with greater intensity, purpose, fervor, so that we will come closer to the person God created us to be. From a religious and classical mindset, that means to go deeper in daily prayer, broader in reading great literature, more integrated in challenging and uniting our body, mind, and soul. We have a continual reminder at Borromeo Academy that our greatest desire ought to connect with the purpose for which we have been created. Since the end goal is heaven we should be restlessly inclined to always want to improve. And we should do this because of the positive impact it can have on us, our family, and our community—but most especially because it honors God and strengthens every relationship that flows from that one.