When we teach our children at Prince of Peace Catholic School about the events of history, about the ideas that give rise to cultures, traditions, actions, and values of peoples, and about the places on our globe where these human choices and dramas are played out, we at the same time teach children the core convictions that vivify every Christian’s life as a member of a community or of a nation. For a Catholic Christian, some of those convictions include the following:
⇒We value the dignity of every human person created in God’s image.
⇒We each belong to a family – where husband and wife are part of a sacramental covenant of love – where faith, character, and principals of morality are cultivated. Healthy families are the heart of every thriving and prosperous society.
⇒We value our role as citizens who love our nation, our history’s stories of achievement and sacrifice, and our laws that protect our freedom. As members of a democratic republic, we are conscious of our obligations to participate in the law-making process through our elected representatives or by direct participation.
⇒We value work well done, and an economy that reflects our commitment to the common good: defense of human life, defense of the family, defense of the laborer, defense of the poor or weak, and a prosperity that lifts all according to our dignity as persons.
⇒We value God’s creation and our role as stewards of the earth which God has given us.
In the classroom, therefore, beginning in Kindergarten, here are a few topics we cover which help these core convictions flourish:
⇒Living in our family obedient to our parents and helpful at home (K – 3rd)
⇒Obeying the law and showing respect to those who (oftentimes risk their lives) to enforce and uphold the law (K-3rd).
⇒Learning about our role in a representative government where we elect leaders to local, state, and federal governments. (2nd-5th, 7th & 8th).
⇒Learning about our country’s traditions and its leaders to cultivate in our children an appropriate patriotic love for our home and the freedom we enjoy: beginning with the Pilgrims and moving through many years of history and struggles in world wars to the modern day. (K – 8th)
⇒Learning about the cultural contributions of our nation’s immigrants and indigenous peoples (our very ancestors!) who enrich our lives and help us better identify who we are as Americans. (K-8th)
Fundamentally, it is our Catholic faith which directs and inspires this universal academic vision. God Himself, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, entered into human history by becoming man in a small town in Israel two thousand years ago. As Catholics, therefore, we understand the study of history as the narrative of divine condescension, of God’s reaching out to man, creating and then redeeming him with a promise that his Second Coming will end the strife, this “vale of tears” that is the stuff of our human history apart from God.
In 4th grade and in middle school, we are aided in this academic mission by the Catholic Textbook Project. These history texts are written for Catholic schools with a Catholic mission in mind, and Prince of Peace Catholic School is one of the few in South Carolina to employ it in the classroom. It matters that St. Benedict founded monasteries that preserved the classical works of western civilization, that St. Jerome translated the Bible into Latin, that the Council of Nicaea clarified Church teaching on the divinity of Christ and produced the “Nicene Creed” that would unify Christendom until The Reformation.
It is not surprising that even the South Carolina Social Studies Curriculum for public middle schools says the following: “After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Catholic Church was the greatest force for stability in the Western World for a thousand years.”
So history can help us answer the question of how we should live (first as boys and girls, but later) as men and women of character and conviction. What role will my life play in response to grace? In order to better understand our place in God’s plan, we must understand first who we are, where we have come from, and who has come before us and shaped the world we have inherited.
The Catholic view of history is thus a humble, awe-filled, hopeful one, seeing God’s hand and man’s varied responses to His offers of grace laid out in a vast symphony of historical events, persons, and movements.
“A people that no longer remembers has lost its soul.” — Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn