This Sacred Earth: Scientific and Religious Perspectives on Nature and Humanitys Place Within It

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Many young people find themselves in a condition of radical instability. On the one hand they live in a onedimensional universe in which the only criterion is practical utility and the only value is economic and technological progress. On the other hand, these same young people seem to be progressing to a stage beyond this narrow universe; nearly everywhere, evidence can be found of a desire to be released from it.

Others live in an environment devoid of truly human relationships; as a result, they suffer from loneliness and a lack of affection. This is a widespread phenomenon that seems to be independent of life-style: it is found in oppressive regimes, among the homeless, and in the cold and impersonal dwellings of the rich. Young people today are notably more depressed than in the past; this is surely a sign of the poverty of human relationships in families and in society today.

They have been influenced by a world in which human values are in chaos because these values are no longer rooted in God; the result is that these young people are very much afraid when they think about the appalling problems in the world: the threat of nuclear annihilation, vast unemployment, the high number of marriages that end in separation or divorce, widespread poverty, etc.

Their worry and insecurity become an almost irresistible urge to focus in on themselves, and this can lead to violence when young people are together - a violence that is not always limited to words. Christian education is faced with the huge challenge of helping these young people discover something of value in their lives. Their decisions are not solidly based: today's "yes" easily becomes tomorrow's "no". Finally, a vague sort of generosity is characteristic of many young people. Filled with enthusiasm, they are eager to join in popular causes.

Too often, however, these movements are without any specific orientation or inner coherence. It is important to channel this potential for good and, when possible, give it the orientation that comes from the light of faith. Often enough, this begins by giving up religious practices. As time goes on, it can develop into a hostility toward Church structures and a crisis of conscience regarding the truths of faith and their accompanying moral values.

This can be especially true in those countries where education in general is secular or even imbued with atheism. The crisis seems to occur more frequently in places where there is high economic development and rapid social and cultural change. Sometimes the phenomenon is not recent; it is something that the parents went through, and they are now passing their own attitudes along to the new generation.

When this is the case, it is no longer a personal crisis, but one that has become religious and social. It has been called a "split between the Gospel and culture". Experts suggest that certain patterns of behaviour found among young people are actually attempts to fill the religious void with some sort of a substitute: the pagan cult of the body, drug escape, or even those massive "youth events" which sometimes deteriorate into fanaticism and total alienation from reality. It may be some lack at the start, some problem in the family background.

Or it may be that parish and Church organizations are deficient. Christian formation given in childhood and early adolescence is not always proof against the influence of the environment. Perhaps there are cases in which the fault lies with the Catholic school itself. In a Catholic school, as in any school, one can find young people who are outstanding in every way - in religious attitude, moral behaviour, and academic achievement. When we look for the cause, we often discover an excellent family background reinforced by both Church and school.

There is always a combination of factors, open to the interior workings of grace. Some young people are searching for a deeper understanding of their religion; as they reflect on the real meaning of life they begin to find answers to their questions in the Gospel. Others have already passed through the crisis of indifference and doubt, and are now ready to commit themselves - or recommit themselves - to a Christian way of life.

These positive signs give us reason to hope that a sense of religion can develop in more of today's young people, and that it can be more deeply rooted in them. They seem to have a negative attitude toward all the various ways in which a Christian life is expressed - prayer, participation in the Mass, or frequenting of the Sacraments. Some even reject these expressions outright, especially those associated with an institutional Church.

If a school is excellent as an academic institution, but does not witness to authentic values, then both good pedagogy and a concern for pastoral care make it obvious that renewal is called for - not only in the content and methodology of religious instruction, but in the overall school planning which governs the whole process of formation of the students.

The religious questioning of young people today needs to be better understood. Many of them are asking about the value of science and technology when everything could end in a nuclear holocaust; they look at how modern civilization floods the world with material goods, beautiful and useful as these may be, and they wonder whether the purpose of life is really to possess many "things" or whether there may not be something far more valuable; they are deeply disturbed by the injustice which divides the free and the rich from the poor and the oppressed.

They ask whether religion can provide any answers to the pressing problems afflicting humanity. Large numbers of them sincerely want to know how to deepen their faith and live a meaningful life. Then there is the further practical question of how to translate responsible commitment into effective action. Future historians will have to evaluate the "youth group" phenomenon, along with the movements founded for spiritual growth, apostolic work, or service of others.

But these are signs that words are not enough for the young people of today. They want to be active - to do something worthwhile for themselves and for others. They are also the children of our age. Each student has a distinct origin and is a unique individual. A Catholic school is not simply a place where lessons are taught; it is a centre that has an operative educational philosophy, attentive to the needs of today's youth and illumined by the Gospel message. A thorough and exact knowledge of the real situation will suggest the best educational methods.

We need to integrate what has already been learned, and respond to the questions which come from the restless and critical minds of the young. We need to break through the wall of indifference, and at the same time be ready to help those who are doing well to discover a "better way", offering them a knowledge that also embraces Christian wisdom.

In pedagogical circles, today as in the past, great stress is put on the climate of a school: the sum total of the different components at work in the school which interact with one another in such a way as to create favourable conditions for a formation process. Education always takes place within certain specific conditions of space and time, through the activities of a group of individuals who are active and also interactive among themselves.

They follow a programme of studies which is logically ordered and freely accepted. Therefore, the elements to be considered in developing an organic vision of a school climate are: persons, space, time, relationships, teaching, study, and various other activities. From the first moment that a student sets foot in a Catholic school, he or she ought to have the impression of entering a new environment, one illumined by the light of faith, and having its own unique characteristics.

The Council summed this up by speaking of an environment permeated with the Gospel spirit of love and freedom. The inspiration of Jesus must be translated from the ideal into the real. The Gospel spirit should be evident in a Christian way of thought and life which permeates all facets of the educational climate. Having crucifixes in the school will remind everyone, teachers and students alike, of this familiar and moving presence of Jesus, the "Master" who gave his most complete and sublime teaching from the cross.

Prime responsibility for creating this unique Christian school climate rests with the teachers, as individuals and as a community. The religious dimension of the school climate is expressed through the celebration of Christian values in Word and Sacrament, in individual behaviour, in friendly and harmonious interpersonal relationships, and in a ready availability. Through this daily witness, the students will come to appreciate the uniqueness of the environment to which their youth has been entrusted. If it is not present, then there is little left which can make the school Catholic. It is only natural that they should come to think of the school as an extension of their own homes, and therefore a "school- home" ought to have some of the amenities which can create a pleasant and happy family atmosphere.

When this is missing from the home, the school can often do a great deal to make up for it. The possibilities for this vary from place to place; we have to be honest enough to admit that some school buildings are unsuitable and unpleasant. But students can be made to feel "at home" even when the surroundings are modest, if the climate is humanly and spiritually rich.

Because of rapid technological progress, a school today must have access to equipment that, at times, is complex and expensive. This is not a luxury; it is simply what a school needs to carry out its role as an educational institution. Catholic schools, therefore, have a right to expect the help from others that will make the purchase of modern educational materials possible. Concern for the environment is part of a formation in ecological awareness, the need for which is becoming increasingly apparent.

An awareness of Mary's presence can be a great help toward making the school into a "home". Mary, Mother and Teacher of the Church, accompanied her Son as he grew in wisdom and grace; from its earliest days, she has accompanied the Church in its mission of salvation. A church should not be seen as something extraneous, but as a familiar and intimate place where those young people who are believers can find the presence of the Lord: " Behold, I am with you all days" 17 Liturgy planning should be especially careful to bring the school community and the local Church together.

The ecclesial and educational climate of the school. This community dimension is, perhaps, one result of the new awareness of the Church's nature as developed by the Council.

The Revd Professor Nancey Murphy

In the Council texts, the community dimension is primarily a theological concept rather than a sociological category; this is the sense in which it is used in the second chapter of Lumen gentium , where the Church is described as the People of God. As it reflects on the mission entrusted to it by the Lord, the Church gradually develops its pastoral instruments so that they may become ever more effective in proclaiming the Gospel and promoting total human formation.

The Catholic school is one of these pastoral instruments; its specific pastoral service consists in mediating between faith and culture: being faithful to the newness of the Gospel while at the same time respecting the autonomy and the methods proper to human knowledge.

Parents are central figures, since they are the natural and irreplaceable agents in the education of their children. And the community also includes the students, since they must be active agents in their own education. The words of the present Holy Father make this abundantly clear: "the Catholic school is not a marginal or secondary element in the pastoral mission of the bishop. Its function is not merely to be an instrument with which to combat the education given in a State school" Through it, the local Church evangelizes, educates, and contributes to the formation of a healthy and morally sound life-style among its members.

The Holy Father affirms that "the need for the Catholic school becomes evidently clear when we consider what it contributes to the development of the mission of the People of God, to the dialogue between Church and the human community, to the safeguarding of freedom of conscience Above all, according to the Holy Father, the Catholic school helps in achieving a double objective: "of its natute it guides men and women to human and Christian perfection, and at the same time helps them to become mature in their faith.

For those who believe in Christ, these are two facets of a single reality" These men and women have dedicated themselves to the service of the students without thought of personal gain, because they are convinced that it is really the Lord whom they are serving. Through the prayer, work and love that make up their life in community, they express in a visible way the life of the Church. Each Congregation brings the richness of its own educational tradition to the school, found in its original charism; its members each bring the careful professional preparation that is required by the call to be an educator.

The strength and gentleness of their total dedication to God enlightens their work, and students gradually come to appreciate the value of this witness. They come to love these educators who seem to have the gift of eternal spiritual youth, and it is an affection which endures long after students leave the school. In fact, the Church hopes that many others will be called to this special vocation. When afflicted by doubts and uncertainty, when difficulties are multiplied, these Religious men and women should recall the nature of their consecration, which is a type of holocaust 24 - a holocaust which is offered "in the perfection of love, which is the scope of the consecrated life".

Ideally, this lay witness is a concrete example of the lay vocation that most of the students will be called to. The Congregation has devoted a specific document to lay teachers, 26 meant to remind lay people of their apostolic responsibility in the field of education and to summon them to participate in a common mission, whose point of convergence is found in the unity of the Church.

For all are active members of one Church and cooperate in its one mission, even though the fields of labour and the states of life are different because of the personal call each one receives from God. The recognition of the school as a Catholic school is, however, always reserved to the competent ecclesiastical authority 27 When lay people do establish schools, they should be especially concerned with the creation of a community climate permeated by the Gospel spirit of freedom and love, and they should witness to this in their own lives.

Achieving the educational aims of the school should be an equal priority for teachers, students and families alike, each one according to his or her own role, always in the Gospel spirit of freedom and love. Therefore channels of communication should be open among all those concerned with the school. Frequent meetings will help to make this possible, and a willingness to discuss common problems candidly will enrich this communication. The daily problems of school life are sometimes aggravated by misunderstandings and various tensions.

A determination to collaborate in achieving common educational goals can help to overcome these difficulties and reconcile different points of view. A willingness to collaborate helps to facilitate decisions that need to be made about the ways to achieve these goals and, while preserving proper respect for school authorities, even makes it possible to conduct a critical evaluation of the school - a process in which teachers, students and families can all take part because of their common concern to work for the good of all. Those responsible for these schools will, therefore, do everything they can to promote a common spirit of trust and spontaneity.

In addition, they will take great care to promote close and constant collaboration with the parents of these pupils. An integration of school and home is an essential condition for the birth and development of all of the potential which these children manifest in one or the other of these two situations - including their openness to religion with all that this implies.

It also wishes to thank the Religious Congregations helping to sustain these primary schools, often at great sacrifice. Moreover, the Congregation offers enthusiastic encouragement to those dioceses and Religious Congregations who wish to establish new schools. Such things as film clubs and sports groups are not enough; not even classes in catechism instruction are sufficient. What is needed is a school. This is a goal which, in some countries, was the starting point. There are countries in which the Church began with schools and only later was able to construct Churches and to establish a new Christian community Close cooperation with the family is especially important when treating sensitive issues such as religious, moral, or sexual education, orientation toward a profession, or a choice of one's vocation in life.

It is not a question of convenience, but a partnership based on faith. Catholic tradition teaches that God has bestowed on the family its own specific and unique educational mission. It often happens that a meeting called to talk about the children becomes an opportunity to raise the consciousness of the parents. In addition, the school should try to involve the family as much as possible in the educational aims of the school - both in helping to plan these goals and in helping to achieve them. Experience shows that parents who were once totally unaware of their role can be transformed into excellent partners.

Church schools first appeared centuries ago, growing up alongside monasteries, cathedrals and parish churches. The Church has always had a love for its schools, because this is where its children receive their formation. These schools have continued to flourish with the help of bishops, countless Religious Congregations, and laity; the Church has never ceased to support the schools in their difficulties and to defend them against governments seeking to close or confiscate them. Just as the Church is present in the school, so the school is present in the Church; this is a logical consequence of their reciprocal commitment.

The Church, through which the Redemption of Christ is revealed and made operative, is where the Catholic school receives its spirit. It recognizes the Holy Father as the centre and the measure of unity in the entire Christian community. Love for and fidelity to the Church is the organizing principle and the source of strength of a Catholic school. Teachers find the light and the courage for authentic Religious education in their unity among themselves and their generous and humble communion with the Holy Father.

Concretely, the educational goals of the school include a concern for the life and the problems of the Church, both local and universal. These goals are attentive to the Magisterium, and include cooperation with Church authorities. Catholic students are helped to become active members of the parish and diocesan communities. They have opportunities to join Church associations and Church youth groups, and they are taught to collaborate in local Church projects. Mutual esteem and reciprocal collaboration will be established between the Catholic school and the bishop and other Church authorities through direct contacts.

We are pleased to note that a concern for Catholic schools is becoming more of a priority of local Churches in many parts of the world. Therefore, traditional civic values such as freedom, justice, the nobility of work and the need to pursue social progress are all included among the school goals, and the life of the school gives witness to them.

The national anniversaries and other important civic events are commemorated and celebrated in appropriate ways in the schools of each country. The school life should also reflect an awareness of international society. Christian education sees all of humanity as one large family, divided perhaps by historical and political events, but always one in God who is Father of all. Therefore a Catholic school should be sensitive to and help to promulgate Church appeals for peace, justice, freedom, progress for all peoples and assistance for countries in need.

Both government policy and public opinion should, therefore, recognize the work these schools do as a real service to society. It is unjust to accept the service and ignore or fight against its source. Fortunately, a good number of countries seem to have a growing understanding of and sympathy for the Catholic school. Along with the lessons that a teacher gives, there is the active participat i on of the students individually or as a group: study, research, exercises, para-curricular activities, examinations, relationships with teachers and with one another, group activities, class meetings, school assemblies.

While the Catholic school is like any other school in this complex variety of events that make up the life of the school, there is one essential difference: it draws its inspiration and its strength from the Gospel in which it is rooted. The principle that no human act is morally indifferent to one's conscience or before God has clear applications to school life: examples of it are school work accepted as a duty and done with good will; courage and perseverance when difficulties come; respect for teachers; loyalty toward and love for fellow students; sincerity, tolerance, and goodness in all relationships.

Students who are sensitive to the religious dimension of life realize that the will of God is found in the work and the human relationships of each day. They learn to follow the example of the Master, who spent his youth working and who did good to all. Although Christian life consists in loving God and doing his will, intellectual work is intimately involved. The light of Christian faith stimulates a desire to know the universe as God's creation. It enkindles a love for the truth that will not be satisfied with superficiality in knowledge or judgment. It awakens a critical sense which examines statements rather than accepting them blindly.

It impels the mind to learn with careful order and precise methods, and to work with a sense of responsibility. It provides the strength needed to accept the sacrifices and the perseverance required by intellectual labour. When fatigued, the Christian student remembers the command of Genesis 34 and the invitation of the Lord. How sad it would be if the young people in Catholic schools were to have no knowledge of this reality in the midst of all the difficult and tiring work they have to do!

The religious dimension of the school culture. As students move up from one class into the next it becomes increasingly imperative that a Catholic school help them become aware that a relationship exists between faith and human culture. But the lessons of the teacher and the reception of those students who are believers will not divorce faith from this culture; 37 this would be a major spiritual loss.

The world of human culture and the world of religion are not like two parallel lines that never meet; points of contact are established within the human person. For a believer is both human and a person of faith, the protagonist of culture and the subject of religion. Anyone who searches for the contact points will be able to find them. Everyone should work together, each one developing his or her own subject area with professional competence, but sensitive to those opportunities in which they can help students to see beyond the limited horizon of human reality.

In a Catholic school, and analogously in every school, God cannot be the Great Absent One or the unwelcome intruder. The Creator does not put obstacles in the path of someone trying to learn more about the universe he created, a universe which is given new significance when seen with the eyes of faith. Students will be helped to attain that synthesis of faith and culture which is necessary for faith to be mature. But a mature faith is also able to recognize and reject cultural counter-values which threaten human dignity and are therefore contrary to the Gospel. The declaration Gravissimum educationis , 40 echoing Gaudium et spes , 41 indicates that one of the characteristics of a Catholic school is that it interpret and give order to human culture in the light of faith.

On the other hand, it is necessary to point out that a proper autonomy of culture has to be distinguished from a vision of the human person or of the world as totally autonomous, implying that one can negate spiritual values or prescind from them. We must always remember that, while faith is not to be identified with any one culture and is independent of all cultures, it must inspire every culture: "Faith which does not become culture is faith which is not received fully, not assimilated entirely, not lived faithfully". Those teaching these subject areas must not ignore the religious dimension.

They should help their students to understand that positive science, and the technology allied to it, is a part of the universe created by God. Understanding this can help encourage an interest in research: the whole of creation, from the distant celestial bodies and the immeasurable cosmic forces down to the infinitesimal particles and waves of matter and energy, all bear the im print of the Creator's wisdom and power, The wonder that past ages felt when contemplating this universe, recorded by the Biblical authors, 43 is still valid for the students of today; the only difference is that we have a knowledge that is much more vast and profound.

There can be no conflict between faith and true scientific knowledge; both find their source in God. The student who is able to discover the harmony between faith and science will, in future professional life, be better able to put science and technology to the service of men and women, and to the service of God. It is a way of giving back to God what he has first given to us. Teachers dealing with areas such as anthropology, biology, psychology, sociology and philosophy all have the opportunity to present a complete picture of the human person, including the religious dimension.

Students should be helped to see the human person as a living creature having both a physical and a spiritual nature; each of us has an immortal soul, and we are in need of redemption. The older students can gradually come to a more mature understanding of all that is implied in the concept of "person": intelligence and will, freedom and feelings, the capacity to be an active and creative agent; a being endowed with both rights and duties, capable of interpersonal relationships, called to a specific mission in the world.

A human being has a dignity and a greatness exceeding that of all other crea tures: a work of God that has been elevated to the supernatural order as a child of God, and therefore having both a divine origin and an eternal destiny which transcend this physical universe. Many people find inspiration in these philosophical and religious concepts which have endured for millennia. The systematic genius of classical Greek and European thought has, over the centuries, generated countless different doctrinal systems, but it has also given us a set of truths which we can recognize as a part of our permanent philosophical heritage.

A Catholic school conforms to the generally accepted school programming of today, but implements these programmes within an overall religious perspective. This perspective includes criteria such as the following: Respect for those who seek the truth, who raise fundamental questions about human existence. God created us "in his own image and likeness" and will not deprive us of the truth necessary to orient our lives.

As a preliminary, they should be encouraged to develop a taste for historical truth, and therefore to realize the need to look critically at texts and curricula which, at times, are imposed by a government or distorted by the ideology of the author. The next step is to help students see history as something real: the drama of human grandeur and human misery. History is, then, a monumental struggle between these two fundamental realities, 53 and is subject to moral judgments.

But such judgments must always be made with understanding. Looking at the grand picture, they will see the development of civilizations, and learn about progress in such things as economic development, human freedom, and international cooperation. Realizing this can help to offset the disgust that comes from learning about the darker side of human history. But even this is not the whole story. When they are ready to appreciate it, students can be invited to reflect on the fact that this human struggle takes place within the divine history universal salvation, At this moment, the religious dimension of history begins to shine forth in all its luminous grandeur.

Since earliest times, each society has developed and handed on its artistic and literary heritage, and our human patrimony is nothing more than the sum total of this cultural wealth. Thus, while teachers are helping students to develop an aesthetic sense, they can bring them to a deeper awareness of all peoples as one great human family. The simplest way to uncover the religious dimension of the artistic and literary world is to start with its concrete expressions: in every human culture, art and literature have been closely linked to religious beliefs.

The artistic and literary patrimony of Christianity , is vast and gives visible testimony to a faith that has been handed down through centuries. They spring from the depths of the human heart, revealing its lights and its shadows, its hope and its despair. The Christian perspective goes beyond the merely human, and offers more penetrating criteria for understanding the human struggle and the mysteries of the human spirit.


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In the upper grades, a teacher can bring students to: an even more profound appreciation of artistic works: as a retlection of the divine beauty in tangible form. Both the Fathers of the Church and the masters of Christian philosophy teach this in their writings on aesthetics - St. Augustine invites us to go beyond the intention of the artists in order to find the eternal order of God in the work of art; St. Thomas sees the presence of the Divine Word in art. Government requirements for teacher preparation usually require historical and systematic courses in pedagogy, psychology and teaching methods.

In more recent times, educational science has been subdivided into a number of areas of specialization and has been subjected to a variety of different philosophies and political ideologies; those preparing to become teachers may feel that the whole field is confused and fragmented.

Teachers of pedagogical science can help these students in their bewilderment, and guide them in the formulation of a carefully thought out synthesis, whose elaboration begins with the premise that every pedagogical current of thought contains things which are true and useful. But then one must begin to reflect, judge, and choose. And this philosophy must be open to a religious dimension. Human beings are fundamentally free; they are not the property of the state or of any human organization.

The entire process of education, therefore, is a service to the individual students, helping each one to achieve the most complete formation possible. The Christian model, based on the person of Christ, is then linked to this human concept of the person - that is, the model begins with an educational framework based on the person as human, and then enriches it with supernatural gifts, virtues, and values - and a supernatural call.

It is indeed possible to speak about Christian education; the Conciliar declaration provides us with a clear synthesis of it. Religious themes should be included; they arise naturally when dealing with topics such as the human person, the family, society, or history.

Teachers should be adequately prepared to deal with such questions and be ready to give them the attention they deserve. While their primary mission must be the systematic presentation of religion, they can also be invited - within the limitations of what is concretely possible - to assist in clarifying religious questions that come up in other classes. Conversely, they may wish to invite one of their colleagues to attend a religion class, in order to have the help of an expert when dealing with some specific issue.

Whenever this happens, students will be favourably impressed by the cooperative spirit among the teachers: the one purpose all of them have in mind is to help these students grow in knowledge and in commitment. This refers especially to the Catholic school, of course: it would no longer deserve the title if, no matter how good its reputation for teaching in other areas there were just grounds for a reproach of negligence or deviation in religious education properly so-called.

It is not true that such education is always given implicitly or indirectly. The special character of the Catholic school and the underlying reason for its existence, the reason why Catholic parents should prefer it, is precisely the quality of the religious instruction integrated into the overall education of the students" On the one hand, a Catholic school is a "civic institution"; its aim, methods and characteristics are the same as those of every other school.

On the other hand, it is a "Christian community", whose educational goals are rooted in Christ and his Gospel. It is not always easy to bring these two aspects into harmony; the task requires constant attention, so that the tension between a serious effort to transmit culture and a forceful witness to the Gospel does not turn into a conflict harmful to both. The distinction comes from the fact that, unlike religious instruction, catechesis presupposes that the hearer is receiving the Christian message as a salvific reality.

Moreover, catechesis takes place within a community living out its faith at a level of space and time not available to a school: a whole lifetime. The aim of the school however, is knowledge. While it uses the same elements of the Gospel message, it tries to convey a sense of the nature of Christianity, and of how Christians are trying to live their lives.

It is evident, of course, that religious instruction cannot help but strengthen the faith of a believing student, just as catechesis cannot help but increase one's knowledge of the Christian message. The distinction between religious instruction and catechesis does not change the fact that a school can and must play its specific role in the work of catechesis.

Since its educational goals are rooted in Christian principles, the school as a whole is inserted into the evangelical function of the Church. It assists in and promotes faith education. A school has as its purpose the students' integral formation. Religious instruction, therefore, should be integrated into the objectives and criteria which characterize a modern school".

It should have a place in the weekly order alongside the other classes, for example; it should have its own syllabus, approved by those in authority; it should seek appropriate interdisciplinary links with other course material so that there is a coordination between human learning and religious awareness. Like other course work, it should promote culture, and it should make use of the best educational methods available to schools today.

In some countries, the results of examinations in religious knowledge are included within the overall measure of student progress. Finally, religious instruction in the school needs to be coordinated with the catechesis offered in parishes, in the family, and in youth associations.

Some basic presuppositions about religious instruction. Perhaps some have become indifferent or insensitive. The school curriculum as such does not take these attitudes into account, but teachers must be very aware of them. With kindness and understanding, they will accept the students as they are, helping them to see that doubt and indifference are common phenomena, and that the reasons for this are readily understandable. But they will invite students in a friendly manner to seek and discover together the message of the Gospel, the source of joy and peace.

The teachers' attitudes and behaviour should be those of one preparing the soil. Once a warm and trusting atmosphere has been established, various questions will come up naturally. These obviously depend on age and living situation, but many of the questions seem to be common among all of today's youth; and they tend to raise them at a younger age. Teachers should respond with patience and humility, and should avoid the type of peremptory statements that can be so easily contradicted:. Experts in history and science could be invited to class.

One's own experiences and study should be used to help the students. Inspiration can be found in the numerous and carefully worked out responses which Vatican II gives to these kinds of questions. In theory at least, this patient work of clarification should take place at the beginning of each year, since it is almost certain that new questions and new difficulties will have come up during the vacation period.

And experience suggests that every other opportune occasion should be taken advantage of. The Second Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in suggested that a new catechism be developed for the universal Church, and the Holy Father immediately created a commission to begin the preparatory work on this project.

When the catechism becomes available, adaptations will be necessary in order to develop course outlines that conform to the requirements of education authorities and respond to the concrete situations that depend on local circumstances of time and place. It is complete in content, faithful to the Gospel message, organic in form, and is developed according to a methodology based on the words and deeds of the Lord.

An outline for an organic presentation of the Christian event and the Christian message. Depending on the level of the class, this should be preceded by a presentation of some basic ideas about Sacred Scripture, especially those having to do with the Gospels, Divine Revelation, and the Tradition that is alive in the Church. His person, his message, his deeds, and the historical fact of his resurrection lead to the mystery of his divinity: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God". At his side is Mary his Mother, who cooperates in his mission.

The discovery process is an important pedagogical method. The person of Jesus will come alive for the students. They will see again the example of his life, listen to his words, hear his invitation as addressed to them: "Come to me, all of you Through the Lord Jesus, therefore, we come to the mystery of God the Father, who created the universe and who sent his Son into the world so that all men and women might be saved.

It is this mystery that the Church venerates and proclaims whenever it recites the Creed, repeating the words of the first Christian communities. The process has great educational value. Its successful completion will help to strengthen the virtues of faith and of Christian religion, both of which have God as their object: Father, Son and Holy Spirit; known, loved and served in this life as we await an eternal life in union with them. Teachers should help students begin to discover the mystery within the human person, just as Paul tried to help the people of Athens discover the "Unknown God".

The text of John already cited 74 demonstrates that, in and through Christ, a close relationship has been established between God and each human being. The relationship has its beginning in the love of the Father; it is expressed in the love of Jesus, which led to the ultimate sacrifice of himself: "No one has greater love than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends". As the students see this, they will begin to ask themselves why Jesus loves everyone, why he offers an invitation to all, why he gives his life for us all. Saint Fillan is said to be the son of Saint Kentigerna and is often credited with bringing the two ethnic groups of the Picts and the Scots together through religious conversion.

Perthshire abounds with places associated with Fillan Taylor who is thought to have founded a monastery in Strathfillan close to Kirkton Farm near the falls of Glen Dochart. The site at Killin that is of particular focus in this research is the village of Killin. In Killin there is an ancient mill that houses the healing stones of Saint Fillan [see Fig. The mill is now the Breadalbane folklore centre, housing a display upstairs devoted to Saint Fillan and his life. The healing stones, located on the ground floor, are available for use upon request and comprise eight, river washed stones laid on a bed of river wrack and straw.

Traditionally the stones were selected by those seeking healing to match the particular part of the body that was ailing. Although use varies, staff at the centre have indicated that the stones are usually passed three times one way around the affected area and three times the other way. People continue to visit the centre to use the stones and come from abroad as well as from the village itself. One of the features of healing associated with Saint Fillan is the distinctiveness of its location.

The site of Killin is for bodily ailments, and the Holy Pool near Glen Dochart is associated with illnesses that are psychological in nature. Although both places form part of the cult of Saint Fillan in the area, their therapeutic value remains distinctive. Those who seek healing at either place need not necessarily profess Christian faith. The components of health performance are shaped here, as Foley has asserted in his work: by bodies, cultures, spaces and economics.

While the site is small and the folklore centre struggles to stay open each year, the economics of Killin are intertwined with the mill and the presence of the healing stones. Additionally, there is renewal enacted through repeated visits and a continuity of practice that is played out in the ritual use of the stones and in the particular rituals in place for caring for the stones. There is also the public element of healing as enacted in these spaces devoted to Saint Fillan for each location is open to the public.

The mill site is embedded in the everyday. Staff routinely use the stones, as do local residents. The geography of the area has played an important role in the continuity of the cult of Saint Fillan and the healing associated with his presence in the area. As Taylor points out, the medieval parish of Killin was on the main thoroughfare between the Western Highlands and the central belt. Travel through the area and endorsement from King Robert I ensured the continuation in seeking healing from the healing stones of Saint Fillan and the holy pool, as well as diffusing information about their presence in the area.

As a therapeutic landscape of spiritual significance, Killin demonstrates continuity of practice. The association with Saint Fillan and his ability as a healer as well as the cult of Saint Fillan in the wider area of Perthshire is embedded not only in the form of the healing stones and the cultural display at Breadalbane mill but also in the bodies of those who use the stones and those who visit the site.

The openness with which the healing stones are displayed and allowed for use by visitors and local inhabitants is important to the experiences of healing at the mill. As the tourist literature at the Mill suggests, people have been visiting the site for centuries in order to use the stones. Staff at the centre claim that they themselves use the stones regularly with frequent success, while they also recorded regular local visitors calling in to use the stones and reporting back a therapeutic outcome.

The Bield at Blackruthven is a much more modern site, having been open as a place of retreat and healing for little more than ten years. Although Christian in its ethos and practice, the Bield is open to all visitors. Bield is a Scots word meaning shelter, refuge or place of protection.

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It also values nurturing of both soul and body, encouraging learning and reflection. There is a range of options for guests who may visit for a day or for longer periods. There is no expectation that all visitors participate in Christian worship on the site, but it is open to all with two prayer services each morning and evening.

There are also courses that run on a regular basis on many aspects of spirituality, healing and personal development. There are resources such as prayer rooms and books are on offer at the site, as well as specific and individual spiritual direction. For healing there is art therapy organised by a qualified art therapist, prayer, counselling and psychotherapy of various types, gardening, massage and aromatherapy.

The community includes people with learning disabilities, mental health problems and social difficulties. The smallholding runs an organic box scheme to the local community. The Bield also has its own organic garden and sustainable energy supply. It endorses a simple, community approach to living together, similar to that practised by the Iona Community. Residents make and change their own beds and clean up after meals which are simple and nutritious in the Iona tradition.

This is not a luxury retreat, nor is it ascetic. The aim is to balance the needs of the individual with those of the community and its focus on spirituality and healing. The bedrooms for guests are simple as are the eating, recreational and spiritual areas. This place is neither remote nor in the heart of a village. Those coming to the Bield may seek stillness Conradson , retreat from daily existence, spiritual direction and enlightenment. This is a site of renewal, a place where people can come for restoration or repair through attendance at a course, through prayer, silent contemplation or by undertaking spiritual retreat exercises.

The site offers a continuity of Christian worship and prayer. It is a new site, developed to fulfil a spiritual purpose and the holistic aims of the community in providing healing experiences on many levels, an engagement with sustainable practice in conjunction with healing, and Christian worship. There is no border where healing is enacted outwith the spiritual ethos of the site, nor one where spirituality is seen as a separate entity. As a therapeutic landscape of spiritual significance, the Bield is a site where individuals and groups as well as the more permanently based community are invited to enact and embody spiritually significant therapeutic practice.

Various practices are enacted daily such as common worship, art therapy, counselling, private prayer and meditation, as well as voluntary work in the garden and grounds. Through work, worship and contemplation, visitors and staff perform acts of spirituality and healing through the course of each day. Having introduced the sites and identified key thematic perspectives within the literature review, I expand here on their significance both as locational and relational perspectives and develop an analytical framework with which critically to understand the two sites under scrutiny.


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  5. In essence, four broad themes emerge from the sites and these are listed in turn below. Individuals and groups experience connection with a place of healing or with others whose presence has similar meaning. The process of connection is complex, involving social, emotional and spiritual engagement with others. Culturally specific beliefs, personal, emotional needs and desires may foster connection that is place-based or expressed as a spatial, even recreational connection Williams Pilgrims may experience such connection from a joint motivation or experience of pilgrimage to a site of healing.

    Communal worship both on the journey and at the site, prayer, sharing of meals and other activity may engender a sense of shared, spiritual purpose. That shared purpose may be centred on the site itself due to the cult of the space or its dedication. In Scotland, the saints Brigid, Columba, Cuthbert, Ninian and Fillan have particular meaning, and certain sites associated with the life and work of the saints will have significance for those who find spiritual connection with them and with other visitors who share their beliefs or experiences.

    Shared experiences of illness may engender connection with others and with particular sites. That connection may come in the form of the particular healing associated with the site. Specific holy wells and pools have significance for certain disorders such as skin conditions or mental health problems where healing has been historically recorded and observed. Connection, in this view, is one of linking the strands of space, self and others in relation to place as a fundamental relational geography. Just as one would visit a medical facility in the expectation of healing, so people come to therapeutic landscapes for the same reason.

    The travellers and local inhabitants who visit Breadalbane Mill do so in the expectation of being healed or finding some alleviation of symptoms by the stones of Saint Fillan. This is stated in the tourist literature and by the staff at the Mill. The expectation that healing may be found at particular sites is tied to a desire for alleviation, meaning a temporary respite from a condition or a reduction in pain, not necessarily a permanent cure. A holy well known for its healing properties in the treatment of psoriasis, for example, may be visited for alleviation rather than a cure when the condition is chronic Gillies At the Bield, several options are available for alleviation from art therapy and Ignatian counselling to the laying on of hands.

    Motivations for visiting therapeutic landscapes such as shrines and places of retreat are multiple and diverse but the expectation that some benefit may be derived from the visit and from activity there is evident, as the work of Foley , , Williams and Gesler demonstrates. Some of the benefit may be from participating with others at the site or, in the case of pilgrimage, sharing the journey Williams ; Morinis Participation, whether it be in spiritual or physical attempts at healing is performative, an active involvement.

    It is not a passive surrender of the body to healers but a taking-part in the healing process. Again, active involvement may have benefits beyond the confines of seeking physical healing in certain contexts. Participation can, however, be emotionally and spiritually restrictive as well. Church-going and participation in the community may be performed because of expectation, even oppression or repression. Parr, Philo, and Burns suggest that the romantic and idealised version of the Scottish Highlands one that has led to an economically successful tourist trade is counter-constructed by a certain repression, particularly in relation to those with mental health problems.

    As with externally restrictive practice, individuals can also impose restrictions on themselves. The guests who opt to be on silence are still participating in the daily life of the community albeit at some distance from others. By using the facilities - prayer rooms, art room, walking paths, visiting the chapel, working in the garden or simply sitting in a bedroom, praying — guests on silence are still, in a monastic sense, part of the community.

    The monastic basis of organisation allows for silence, but the daily rhythm of life at the Bield also enables varying forms of participation. Volunteers who work in the gardens participate through their work, often in the monastic tradition of prayer and work, when they also participate in communal worship. The communal worship also invites participation through lectio divina : the monastic practice of contemplation and meditation on Christian scripture. This is practised at morning and evening worship at the Bield. Guests and members of the community are invited to reflect on the daily scripture readings either verbally or silently.

    Participation in the process of seeking alleviation or healing through the spiritual dimension may take many forms and can operate at many levels. People who visit places of healing or therapeutic landscapes often do so in the expectation of a renewal of the healing experience, refreshment from repeated activity such as prayer, bathing or staying for a number of days at a particular site. Renewal, in the Christian tradition, can often take the form of pilgrimage or retreat.

    Renewal of the spirit is also practised through stillness and through activities that allow time for contemplation and quiet, such as working alone in the gardens, using the art room or praying by oneself in the chapel. Their renewal, in the monastic sense, comes from participating in the daily rituals of prayer and work, as well as offering healing in various forms to guests. There are similarities with those who work in hospitals and hospices. For patients, these sites are extraordinary, out of the usual life and work patterns, but for staff and the work they do, while it may follow a routine, it is a form of renewal of the healing process.

    Patients come and go, but staff continue to provide renewal in the form of care and the practice of medicine. The continuity of practice grows through the reproduction of experiences, which are then reproduced by others. At Breadalbane Mill, the use of the healing stones by many and repeatedly in the search for healing or alleviation is part of a thread of continued practice, manifest in the displays, brochures, radio programmes and in the cycle of witness via oral testimony including those who work at the Folklore Centre in the mill.

    Reproduction of the healing experience can come through ritual where many visitors opt to use the centuries old tradition of passing the healing stones of Saint Fillan three times one way and then in reverse three times. Continued use of the stones and continued evidence of use, via oral and written testimony, allows for the cycle of witness to continue. In the 21st century, reproduction occurs through use of the internet with weblogs, tourism websites and other, interactive sites.

    Virtual pilgrimages can be made also, allowing those with appropriate technology to reproduce an experience of pilgrimage albeit in a slightly different manner through using the internet. Therapeutic landscapes of spiritual significance allow for cultural and personal quests for alleviation, connection and renewal. Such sites invite embodied practice of spirituality through various forms of worship, cultural and material activity, many of which may operate in conjunction with, or outside, organised religion.

    The multiple, relational dimensions of these sites may encourage individual interpretation and quest while accommodating traditional religious practice. They also offer alternatives to those who, for various reasons, find these sites more inviting or approachable than traditional sites of worship such as churches and temples.

    The two sites profiled in this paper, one of long-standing tradition and one of more recent development, both Christian in origin and ethos, differ in their approach to visitors in the ways in which visitors engage with spiritual and healing practice at the sites. The Bield offers a more holistic experience to guests, whereas the healing stones at Killin are for a specific healing purpose tied to the cult of Saint Fillan.

    Nonetheless, both contain perspectives of renewal, participation, connection, alleviation, expectation and reproduction.

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    These are demonstrated by the cultural, material and spiritual interpretations of the sites and through the embodied practices of visitors. Further exploration of these sites and other similar sites in Scotland involves deeper probing of the expectations and experiences of visitors to such sites. Preliminary observations suggest that place-based forms of spiritual encounters with healing are complex and varied but that the features of these encounters are often experienced by many who travel to such sites. The engagement of mind, body and spirit at these sites is performative but evident in diverse ways, such as ritualised practice, worship including the culthood of saints , stillness and peace through activity such as gardening or art.

    Renewal may be sought individually or through group activity and may be recreational, as Williams points out as much as spiritual. That both sites are known beyond their faith-based ethos indicates that visitors who are not Christian are open to the therapeutic value of the sites in terms of healing. Spatiality underpins the emotional and spiritual aspects of the quest for healing. Understandings of space and the relationship between space, culture and belief are formative in the experience of seeking healing.

    Where people seek or experience healing relates to their expectations of particular spaces, their imaginings of how healing may occur there Storck, Csordas, and Strauss and the narratives of others, circulating and informing. For some, the simple act of rotating stones about the body may be enough, while for others, praying, participating in worship, silent reflection and the laying on of hands may be deemed more appropriate or more personally and spiritually satisfying. The spatiality of the perspectives of therapeutic sites of spiritual significance extends beyond sites such as those outlined here and is equally applicable to more traditional sites of healing such as hospitals, day surgeries and hospices.

    In a medical humanities context, the spatial and particularly geographical perspectives of the relationship between place, spirituality and healing have the potential to develop further understandings of how people experience and understand illness and well-being. My thanks are due to the anonymous reviewers of this paper for their comments and recommendations.

    Thanks are due, also, to the editors who provided invaluable support throughout. I am grateful, too, for the information provided by staff at Breadalbane Mill, Killin, Scotland. Gilbert Markus kindly provided further details in personal communications.

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    National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. The Journal of Medical Humanities. J Med Humanit. Published online Dec Geraldine Perriam. Author information Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Geraldine Perriam, Phone: , Email: ku. Corresponding author. Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author s and the source are credited.

    Abstract Understandings of the relationship between space, culture and belief are formative in the experience of seeking healing. Introduction In the medieval period, pilgrims travelled throughout Scotland to sacred sites such as holy wells, churches, shrines and other sites Hall Spirituality and healing places The spiritual dimension of therapeutic sites involves teasing out understandings of spirituality. Her conclusions are that spirituality: is a personal search for meaning and purpose in life, which may or may not be related to religion.

    Therapeutic landscapes of spiritual significance in Scotland The sites explored for this paper are both in Perthshire. Open in a separate window. Site 2: The Bield at Blackruthven The Bield at Blackruthven is a much more modern site, having been open as a place of retreat and healing for little more than ten years. Framing spirituality, healing and place Having introduced the sites and identified key thematic perspectives within the literature review, I expand here on their significance both as locational and relational perspectives and develop an analytical framework with which critically to understand the two sites under scrutiny.

    Connection Individuals and groups experience connection with a place of healing or with others whose presence has similar meaning. Participation Some of the benefit may be from participating with others at the site or, in the case of pilgrimage, sharing the journey Williams ; Morinis Renewal and reproduction People who visit places of healing or therapeutic landscapes often do so in the expectation of a renewal of the healing experience, refreshment from repeated activity such as prayer, bathing or staying for a number of days at a particular site.

    Conclusion Therapeutic landscapes of spiritual significance allow for cultural and personal quests for alleviation, connection and renewal. Acknowledgments My thanks are due to the anonymous reviewers of this paper for their comments and recommendations. References Aldridge D.



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