By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
World Environment Day is celebrated annually on 5 June. To mark this year’s festivities, the Pontifical Scholas Occurentes Foundation is holding a global cyber meeting of young people, parents and teachers. As part of the meeting, Pope Francis sent a video message of support and encouragement.
“Today, after all these years in which we have explored the question that drives us, it is a great joy to be able to call you community: community of friends, community of brothers and sisters,” said the Pope.
Pope Francis recalled that Scholas began “as something unplanned”, with two teachers in the midst of a crisis. He added that even though the crisis left behind a land of violence, “education brought people together, engendering meaning and therefore, generating beauty.”
Crisis and beauty
Pope Francis said that Scholas’s journey of reflection and encounter brings three images to mind: “The Fool” from Fellini's La Strada; Caravaggio’s “Call of St. Matthew”; and Dostoevsky's “The Idiot”. These stories, according to the Pope, “are the story of a crisis”, since, in all three, “human responsibility is at stake.”
Pope Francis explained that a crisis “breaks us down to open us up.” That is why crises, without good accompaniment, are dangerous: because a person can become disoriented. He says people should “never go into a crisis alone”, even if they seem small or personal.
“In a crisis, fear invades us. We close ourselves off as individuals…we empty ourselves of meaning, hiding our call, losing sight of beauty.” However, said Pope Francis, quoting Dostoyevsky, “beauty will save the world.”
“Scholas was born out of crisis,” Pope Francis pointed out. But it “did not raise its fists to fight against a culture, nor did it lower its arms to resign itself.” Rather, it emerged “listening to the hearts of young people.”
“Education is not just about knowing things,” said the Pope. Rather, to educate is “to listen, to create culture and to celebrate.” He stressed that if education is unable to listen, create, and celebrate, “it cannot educate.”
Pope Francis went on to say education must harmonize “the language of thought with feelings and actions” and speak the language of the head, the heart and the hands.
International community of encounter
The Pope remarked that he saw students and teachers from different countries learning, playing and dancing together at Scholas, and referred to that experience as “an olive tree” creating “a culture of encounter between the East and the West.”
He said the exchange of the dreams of children and young people with the experience of adults is necessary and must take place. Otherwise, “there would be no roots, no history, no promise, no growth, and no prophecy.”
Pope Francis reminded Scholas students that the “same life gave birth to all of us” and it will always generate other worlds. Everyone is therefore a student of all realities, languages and beliefs, and what we learn is not an object, but rather Life.
Words of encouragement
The Pope urged everyone to strive ahead and not to forget these three words: gratitude, meaning and beauty.
He added that, like the founding teachers of Scholas, who did not hold on to what they had but rather gave it away freely, we should keep on sowing and reaping, walking together, and smiling, while taking risks to overcome any crisis.
Scholas Occurrentes is an international organization of pontifical right which aims to achieve the integration of students worldwide through technological, athletic and artistic initiatives that promote education and the culture of encounter.
It is present in 190 countries and encompasses approximately half a million schools and multiple educational networks.