The Catechetical Review - Communicating Christ for a New Evangelization

Catholic Education—A Road Map: The Teaching Methods of Maria Montessori

Authored by Dr. Gerard O'Shea in Issue #4.3 of Catechetical Review

Maria Montessori - Devout Catholic Educator
The name Maria Montessori has been associated with a highly successful educational method for over a century. What is not well known about Montessori is that she was a sincere Catholic, who received enthusiastic endorsement from the highest authorities in the Church. As early as 1910, Pope Pius X was familiar with her work and commended it for its capacity to regenerate the child. His successor, Benedict XV had a two-hour private audience with Montessori regarding her methods, and then sent her a letter asking to set up an organization to promote her work more broadly. Further private audiences and encouragement followed from Pope Pius XII and John XXIII. Speaking in 1970, Pope Paul VI observed that "Maria Montessori's method of religious pedagogy is an extension of her secular pedagogy; it is naturally founded on the latter and forms its crown." Indeed, she believed that the principles expressed in the Sacred Liturgy of the Catholic Church exactly matched her discoveries in the broader field of education. Pope John Paul II reiterated Paul VI's observations and added that "the name of Montessori is clearly representative of all women who have made important contributions to cultural progress."

Montessori had not always been a devout Catholic. In her youth she had been a sceptic. Her son, Mario, wrote that his mother had undergone a dramatic conversion brought about by what she witnessed in the children she worked with. "She left her career, she left her brilliant position among socialists and feminists, she left the university, she left even the family and followed him [Christ]." While they applauded many of her ideas, it was the characteristically Catholic dimensions of Montessori's method which brought her into conflict with the American philosophers, John Dewey and his disciple, William Kilpatrick. The anti-Catholic nature of the American educational establishment in the early part of the twentieth century was sufficient to discredit Montessori's insights until the 1950s, when they were re-examined more dispassionately.

The rest of this online article is available for current subscribers.

Start your subscription today!


This article is from The Catechetical Review (Online Edition ISSN 2379-6324) and may be copied for catechetical purposes only. It may not be reprinted in another published work without the permission of The Catechetical Review by contacting [email protected]

Articles from the Most Recent Issue

From the Shepherds — A Broad View Makes for Fruitful Ministry
By Archbishop Charles Thompson
Free Given the vast richness of the Catholic Church, we run the proverbial risk of failing to see the forest for the trees. At any given moment, there are great things happening in a parish, diocese, province, region, or the Church universal. For instance, in addition to the Synod on Synodality taking place in the Church universal and the National... Read more
Catholic Schools — Building Support for Parents from Catholic Schools
By Clare Kilbane
Free Teachers, administrators, and others working in Catholic schools are devoted to their students. They want what is best for them. This is why they will want to increase the variety and level of support offered to parents. Doing so will not only help mothers and fathers fulfill their responsibilities to their children but also help the school... Read more
Scribes for the Kingdom: Leveraging Old Media into New
By Jason Gawaldo
“Then every scribe who has been instructed for the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old” (Mt 13:52). The scribes were the lay ecclesial ministers and catechists of their day. They safeguarded the Scriptures and written traditions of Israel so that they could be passed down and... Read more

Pages

Watch Tutorial Videos

We've put together several quick and easy tutorial videos to show you how to use this website.

Watch Now