The education of the young, particularly in matters of faith and morals, is not merely a career but rather a calling. St. John Baptist de la Salle, founder of the Christian Brothers, in his Meditations on Christian Education, declared that those who teach the young are “cooperators with Christ in the salvation of souls.” Theirs is a task that must not be taken lightly. It requires much zeal and vigilance, indeed being “ambassadors for Christ” and “guardian angels” for their students, for on the Judgment Day the Lord God will ask these educators to render an account of the souls entrusted to their care.
Pius XI, in his encyclical on Christian Education, declares: “Perfect schools are the result not so much of good methods as of good teachers, teachers who are thoroughly prepared and well-grounded in the matter they have to teach; who possess the intellectual and moral qualifications required by their important office; who cherish a pure and holy love for the youths confided to them, because they love Jesus Christ and his Church.”[i] All Catholic educators must be professional, competent, and set an example of prayer and virtuous living. They must seek to “practice what they preach” and thus give integrity to the Gospel message.
Yet while the aforementioned characteristics can and ought to be embodied by both religious and laity who teach in Catholic schools, there further exist traits that can only be personified in one or the other. Thus by virtue of their different vocations, laity and religious both bring something unique to the world at large and to the educational apostolate specifically.