Rome (Italy). The Pope’s video for the month of January 2023, with the prayer intention the Holy Father entrusts to the Catholic Church through the Pope’s World Prayer Network, an initiative now in its eighth year, is “for educators”.
The video opens with the word “fraternity” written on the blackboard as a teaching subject and the unique proposal of Pope Francis, “I would like to propose to educators to add a new subject to teaching: fraternity.”
The narration continues with an everyday scene set in a school courtyard where a boy, marginalized by his classmates during a football match, remains alone in a corner until a teacher, realizing his discomfort, takes care of him by stopping day after day to teach him to play. One morning, he finds him playing with those same teammates who had marginalized him and, when he scores his first goal, the boy dedicates it to the teacher, to the credible witness who helped him.
“Education is an act of love that illuminates the path, so that we can recover the sense of fraternity, so as not to ignore the most vulnerable. Educators are witnesses who not only give their intellectual knowledge, but also their convictions, their lived commitment.
People who know how to handle three languages well: that of the head, that of the heart, and that of the hands, in harmony. And who know how to do it with the joy of communicating. They will be listened to much more carefully and they will be creators of community. Why? Because they are sowing this testimony”, continues the Pope in the video.
In his discourse to the delegation of the ‘Global Researchers Advancing Catholic Education Project’, on 20 April 2022, the Pontiff said, “We must break with that imaginary image of education, according to which educating is filling the head with ideas. (…) it is taking risks in the tension between the head, the heart, and the hands in harmony, to the point of thinking about what I feel and do; to hear what I think and do; to do what I feel and think. It is harmony”.
And, as Fr. Frédéric Fornos, Jesuit, International Director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network underlines, “Once again, faced with the challenges of the world, Pope Francis is again insisting on fraternity. It is the compass of his encyclical Fratelli Tutti. It is the only path for humanity, which is why education is essential”.
In the month of January, in which the Salesian Family celebrates Don Bosco, Holy Educator (January 31); Saint Francis de Sales, inspirer of the Charism (24); and various witnesses on their way to holiness: Blessed Titus Zeman (8), Luigi Variara (15), Laura Vicuña (22), Bronislao Markiewicz (30), it is significant that Pope Francis has chosen to open the year 2023 precisely with a message addressed to educators.
In various diocesan contexts, the Feast of St. John Bosco is a reason to dedicate space to insights and initiatives related to educational themes and for Salesian testimonies aimed at children and young people of the oratories and parishes in which Daughters of Mary Help of Christians and members of the Salesian Family are involved.
An example is the Milan Diocese, Italy, in which Education Week 2023, from 21 to 31 January, has as its theme the Oratory, a ‘mission’ without walls, and proposes “a thought on the oratory that focuses attention on the lives of boys and girls – everyone, no one excluded -; on how they live the faith and the experience of growing up, in the context in which they live, in relationship with their peers, in relationship with educational figures, parents, adults, the community; on how they live their commitments to studies and sports; on how they live their time, exercise their freedom, use social media, interpret their body and sexuality; live in situations of hardship, poverty or suffering”.
“Let us pray that educators may be credible witnesses, teaching fraternity instead of competition and helping the most vulnerable young people in particular” is the prayer intention for this month that the Holy Father entrusts to everyone, and especially to those connected to the education field and the whole Salesian world.