Education for Evangelization

Fr. John C. Yake, I. V. Dei
March 10, 2021

Abstract: The author opens with a concept of contemporary education that is radically different from its historical roots. He then cites some principal elements responsible for the new reality, most notably, globalization. By returning to a basic psychology of education (Carl Rogers) as being focused upon values the author utilizes the thought of Bernard Lonergan to offer insight into the activity of Christian evangelization that can serve as an instrument of humanization to confront the negative aspects of globalized liberal secularization.

Rev. Dr. John C. Yake, I. V. Dei is a career teacher of thirty-three years (five years at elementary school and twenty-eight years at the secondary level while being engaged in pastoral ministry with youth as campus minister). He has taught pastoral theology since 1995: At the University of St. Michael’s College (1995-2000) and at the Institute of Theology/St. Augustine’s Seminary (2001 to the present). He joined the Formation Faculty and was the Director of the Spiritual (Propaedeutic) Year of priestly formation at St. Augustine’s Seminary (2010-2017). He is the author of Star Wars and the Message of Jesus: An Interpretive Commentary on the Star Wars Trilogy (Image Publishing, 1985), The Theory of Religious Ministry to Youth: Faith Development and the “Christ in Others” Retreat (The Edwin Mellen Press, 2005), Talking to Teens About the Mass: A User’s Guide (Legas Publishing, 2012) and Teens Making Decisions: Engaging the Thought of Bernard Lonergan (Legas Publishing, 2015).

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”  Hebrews. 13:8

“A long time ago… in a galaxy far, far away…”[1] society’s raison d’etre, its efforts and aims, were customarily organized for progress via the development and improvement of persons’ lives, their education. This unspoken ethos has moved markedly from a stance of selfless altruism, towards what Bill Moyers in a televised documentary in the mid-eighties entitled, Drugs in America, called “an ethos of self-advancement;” a militant individualism founded upon a culture of relativism of values that is unaccepting of a teacher-supported tradition to one that frees persons to choose their own directions. In such a milieu education as the transmission of truth has entered into a crisis.

Education in the Third Millennium thus admits of major differences from former times. One can go so far as to call our futuristic present a significant paradigm shift in the history of education as it and other civilization-producing traditions, such as the religious, have been or are in the process of being jettisoned from contemporary public policy.[2] In addition, where the teaching-learning process was accepted for its role in developing ‘skills, knowledge, and attitudes’[3] in students contemporary schools must impart literacy and numeracy skills in the shadow of the relatively new cultural icon of computer literacy. Where information and attitudes formerly came from books and teachers, technology-driven sources of knowing and valuing are taking persons into a world yet to come. Although education, from ex ducere (Latin) to lead out, ideally does not, “Plant seeds in you but makes your seeds grow,”[4] or as poet W. B. Yeats pointed out, echoing Paulo Freire’s view that education has become “banking,”[5] “Education is not filling a pail but lighting a fire,”[6] education has been deemed an indispensable activity for the formation of persons and thereby the transformation of cultures.

In fairly recent history education focused largely on theories of teacher training, preparation, instructional methods, and philosophic (pedagogical) approaches that might best achieve its stated ends; i. e. the function of the institution of the school. The modern emphasis has decidedly but perhaps unwittingly moved schools away from learning that was designed to have persons participate in society and how to ameliorate it, by conspiring in the self-survival need to keep up with non-stop and maybe anonymously written communiqués generated via techno-gadgets, and in the process, relinquishing its leadership role in order to conform uncritically to ever-shifting ideas and values.

In his book, Present Shock, for example, Douglas Rushkoff claimed that we have moved from being future-oriented to being present-oriented and this represents a major cultural shift. Being driven by having to respond to the demands of now, the “constant, perpetual, chronic, emergency interruption”[7] demanded by technology, originally welcomed to lessen life’s burdens, has disoriented and exhausted its users. Being ever connected to the present in a digital age has collapsed narrative wherein the past and traditional are no longer respected as sources for truth.

We are only beginning to understand how communications technology is transforming attitudes, how persons perceive their lives, and redesigning what it means to be in relationship. Preliminary research, however, is shedding light on how student achievement is being influenced. A CBC News report (2013) indicated that students in Dalhousie University’s engineering program blamed Facebook for their poor performance. The 10-15% of first-year engineering students who recently failed classes cited their estimated twenty-four hours per week on Facebook and cell phones, addicting distractions, as the cause. A special summer program there, called “Refining Your Skills,” taught these students skills such as time management while reminding them of the reasons they wanted to attend school in the first place.

Being “merely technically proficient,” Gerard Walmsley warns,[8] has deprived students of the flexibility they need as they search out a career as, “our age of hyperactivity”[9] has conformed students to a mindset that has them perceive their lives in terms of consumerism and its ever-changing fashions, and it has convinced them that prized human freedom is derived from owning and using the latest technology. An education that formerly served to cultivate civilization via the humanities and liberal arts has been replaced by what Walmsley called, “the cult of information” that by the uncritical and unsupervised nature of the tech-medium, I would suggest, is perhaps more accurately the cult of misinformation.

Schools as we know them today were formed between 1820-1920.  Little happened between 1920 and 1950 and so our model of education is from another century. After 1950 there has been a lot of change as the twentieth century shifted from the rural to the urban setting. Schools, now blending the blue and the white collar workers’ children, took an increased role in terms of values education as the home did less of the formative role and society and Government saw the school as a tool for its largely unarticulated enculturation needs. In a fairly brief time the powerbase had shifted from the agricultural, land-based culture to an industrial, capital powerbase. But in 1978, before society could comfortably adjust to two huge alterations in our worldview came, according to Alvin Toffler, the introduction of the information or knowledge-powerbase that was introduced by the computer that is universally utilized. More new information has been produced since 1960 than in the previous five thousand years and everyone has access to this information overload.


The twenty-first century classroom of 1820 has now to cope with students who are on-line 24/7. Easily fitting into a pencil case, students hold the www in their hands. To the demise of any privacy and a threat to needed contemplative space the miniature computer is at once a phone, a camera, a mechanism for non-stop communication, text-messaging friends, whose every thought and movement is ever-present and public, and a direct connection to the world of information to out-source assignments. Simply having and using technology has become life’s dominant icon and activity. The question about whether or not computers, that have long since ceased to be simply a tool for learning, can fit comfortably into the educative enterprise is in the process of being answered.[10]

Being connected to the Internet contributes significantly to student access to information and the computer age in which modern learning takes place diminishes the need for language skills. Still being debated are the ways in which attitudes are being transformed in a world dominated by technology-driven information.

The modern concept of education has moved society from the slower-paced print medium of the seventeenth century that engaged student critical thinking to today’s over-stimulating image medium that has decreased students’ attention spans and called into question what constitutes education and certainly the function of the school. Through the thought of Paulo Freire we may understand the tyranny of conformity that has ensued, how being exposed to non-stop advertising desensitizes the brain, and how persons have lost freedom of speech because their intelligence is rarely invited to be critical of received messages. St. Pope John Paul II has offered insight into the modern transmission of ideas when he declared that we are “drowning in a sea of conformity.” It has been suggested that under the spectre of biased media messages being uncritically consumed the West is fast becoming the East: Fascist in its loyalty to political correctness, denying of any absolute values, and atheistic as it distances itself from inherited values in a globalized consciousness where, “The medium is the message.”[11] It will be a worldwide frightful dictatorship as predicted by Aldous Huxley in Brave New World (1932), where the loss of freedom, largely due to the brainwashing effects of technology, will enable a global totalitarian state.

Rushkoff maintained that we are in the midst of a dramatic social and cultural transition comparable to the transition from medieval times to the renaissance. It is a crisis in which schools will be challenged to play a significant role as a stabilizer and rudder to support and guide our global village because regardless of the rapid changes that are the hallmark of our time we may never abandon our human nature if we are to live happily.

In a fast-paced video entitled, “Did you know?” presented by Sony at its Executive Conference in 2010 researchers Karl Fisch, Scott McLeod, and Jeff Brennan proffered insight into the future that technology will open and their data dramatically called into question the customary role of the school and therefore the look of education in the future that is now upon us.

They boldly asserted, “We are living in exponential times.” For example, there were 31 billion searches on Google per month in 2009 whereas in 2006 there were 2.7 billion. Evidence is mounting that the global future that technology will create will present an unprecedented world where even recent past experience will not be able to contribute to solutions to current problems (and most problems that will soon concern us are not yet known because the jobs that will create them have not been invented, nor have students been prepared for these jobs because technology, still in its infancy, has not yet introduced them to our ever-changing world). For example, more new information is discovered in a year than in the previous 5,000 years and it’s doubling every two years. Information learned by university students will be outdated two years before they finish their third year. Some other statistics to ponder: To reach a market audience of 50 million it took radio 38 years, television 13 years, Internet 4 years, I-pod 3 years, and Facebook 2 years. In 1984 there were 1,000 Internet devices, in 1992, 1,000,000, but in 2008 there were 1,000,000,000. In 2009 1 in 8 married couples met online. There are 540,000 English words, 5 times that of Shakespeare’s time. The number of text messages sent out on a Blackberry each day is greater than the total population of the world. A week’s worth of information published by the New York Times was likely a lifetime of information known to persons living in the eighteenth century. By 2013 a super-computer will be built to exceed the capacity of the human brain and by 2049 a $1,000.00 computer will have greater capacity than the entire human species.

If the discussion thus far accurately hints at the direction of modern education is there a cause for concern or does it simply offer a record of progress owed to the uncontested boon of technology? Can the history and psychology of education on the cultural and personal levels, respectively, contribute insight into this issue? That which must first be defined is the vague term, progress. In his book, Heretics, (1905) G. K. Chesterton called progress a modern heresy because it doesn’t mean anything. That which is first needed is to establish its goal; progress is not an ideal but a comparative term that awaits a superlative, a definite direction, so that it can be conceptualized.

For some time discussions on the history of education have so focused upon technique, measurement, and quantification that these perspectives, “have sacrificed the humanistic moorings of their discipline….”[12] Admittedly, educational institutions are agencies by which society establishes and transmits values as well as skills and knowledge. But undeniably, “School systems became national systems and expressed national sentiments and loyalties[13] and so education’s political dimension needs to be considered insofar as it has exerted its influence on cultural values. Education thinker, Ivan Illich, for example, confidently characterized the school as “the reproductive organ of a consumer society…”[14] (emphasis mine)

The connection between politics and education raises the issue of ethics and education. Some examples: Greek education generously utilized Homer’s Illiad and Odyssey (850 BC), the first important historical works in Greek culture, as the centrepiece of education to embody the wisdom, traditions, beliefs, and values that constituted the Greek lifestyle. 

Homer’s poems were instruments of enculturation which introduced the young Greek to the ethos, manners, aspirations of his cultural group…. the young…became familiar with those heroic exemplars, or cultural models, after which he could pattern his own values…. By imitating heroic models, he was introduced into a life of courtesy, correct etiquette, and proper behavior.”[15]

By contrast, Spartan education deliberately rejected humanistic education in favour of exclusively practical and military training.

Resting on a racist, authoritarianism, and totalitarian rationale, Spartan society and education were, in many ways, prophetic of the modern twentieth-century Fascist and Nazi dictatorships which sought to integrate the energies of their citizenry into a corporate military life for the advancement of state interests.[16]

Under the influence of Christianity medieval education, arguably the thousand years between the fall of Rome in the fifth century to the discovery of America in the fifteenth century, taught stability by way of a strict acceptance of a religious perspective resulting in certitude of transcendent and eternal truth and the existence of permanent values within an unchanging society. In the post-Enlightenment twentieth century, “… John Dewey’s pragmatic experimentalism which emphasizes a changing universe and society, the relationship of values, and the use of the scientific method to establish tentative ‘truths’ has influenced the modern educator’s propensity to change, innovation, and process.”[17] This sample from the broad sweep in the history of education images clearly the power of education to transform a worldview. Education is fundamentally a political and ethical enterprise aimed at the transformation of cultural values. But what of individuals accepted to be free from determining forces?

Influential American psychologist, Carl R. Rogers (1902-1987), whose humanistic approach in psychology found applications in education emphasized that the work of the teacher and educator was inextricably involved in the problem of values and the school as one of the means by which the culture transmits its values from one generation to the next.

Rogers explained education in terms of values by borrowing from the work of Charles W. Morris.[18] Rogers adopted some of Morris’ scheme of values in order to demonstrate the relevance and function of education. He began with the distinction between operative and conceived values. Operative values are those instinctive or preferential modes of behaviour that Rogers illustrated by focusing upon an infant’s valuing: “Hunger is negatively valued,” for example, whereas, “Food is positively valued. But when he is satisfied, food is negatively valued.”[19] The hedonistic principle, seek pleasure and avoid pain, is at work with operative values.

Conceived values are different, for they imply a certain amount of conceptualization or symbolization and therefore demand a deliberate choice of action, as for example the Golden Rule that has counterparts in the world’s major religions, “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you…” (Mt. 7: 12) Here there is no built-in pre-conceptual valuing process, totally uninfluenced by either social pressures or others’ values. Rogers inquired about how one has moved from operative to conceived values. In the answer to this question we begin to surface the central role of education where values are concerned.

Moving beyond the self-centredness of infancy means entering society and experiencing pressures from the values of others. The entirely self-motivating valuing process comes to an end with what Rogers called the introjection of considerations of worth: voices of approval or disapproval resound on all sides. Being conditioned by others responses are now based on pleasing them. The one formerly dominated by operative values must surrender to external discipline by internalizing foreign values. Behaviour originates now from conceived values as operative values can no longer be trusted and must be abandoned. The norm for behaviour is now the conceived values of others, of the culture, and it is within this framework that the school once drew its esteemed role: to pass on the accepted conceived values, the geistige Welt;[20] the cumulative accomplishments of humanity, to conserve the customary, to conform its students to the traditional so that they could enter and participate comfortably in the world as constructive and contributing members.[21]

Could it be that this native clash of values sources is the genesis of a perpetual moral struggle? Rogers astutely pointed out that the adopted values from one’s culture are often a source of conflict because they are often inflexible and contrary to persons’ experience. Gaudium et Spes, a document of the Second Vatican Council (1965), has also noted the struggle between the truth of who persons are that is unsupported by the culture in which they are immersed when it described the contemporary situation in terms of finding authentically constructive values that can result in happiness. We read,

At all times the Church carries the responsibility of reading the signs of the time and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel, if it is to carry out its task…. Ours is a new age of history with critical and swift upheavals spreading gradually to all corners of the earth….  We are entitled then to speak of a real social and cultural transformation whose repercussions are felt too on the religious level. (n. 4)


The dichotomy affecting the modern world is, in fact, a symptom of the deeper dichotomy that is in man himself. He is the meeting point of many conflicting forces. (n. 10)[22]

The Rogerian resolution of this inexorable conflict is to return to the flexibility of existential experience first found in operative values.[23] However, this re-establishment and liberation from others’ value judgments, while maintaining respect for others esteemed for their uniqueness, comes supported and is transformed by the complexity of the wisdom garnered from living one’s life informed by many sources of inspiration, and trusting in one’s own intuitions. Similarly, it is the conviction of Christian faith that the Gospel and the experience of the tradition of the Church contribute the necessary sagacity to enable adult maturity to free persons from infantile hedonism that formerly characterized operative values notwithstanding the influence of Original Sin.

In this context the import of the process of evangelization, the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins by a God of love and mercy, may be appreciated as a supreme benefit to assist in moving persons who may already be in conflict between both their instinctive operative values and modern society’s, perceived to be erroneous or unreliable, conceived values, through a process of education and formation in Gospel values, to enable an intelligent acceptance of Christ as their self-chosen and matured operative values.

Rogers’ psychotherapeutic perspective offers insight into what is happening to persons faced with the Church’s evangelizing activity when he emphasized that as persons are engaged in the transition from societally conceived to adult operative values, a healing process, they also assume preferred value directions. These values, he found, were not that of the therapist or of the culture of the client but rather they were critically chosen to be in the direction of personal growth and moral maturity. Specifically, the newly accepted morality was not derived from external forces that might be a pretentious façade motivated by needing others’ approval, but self-directed to discover and identify one’s true self in integrity.[24] Laying claim to one’s personal freedom in humility and honesty, central virtues of the Christian gospel, nominated by theologian Bernard Lonergan as authenticity, is tantamount to the optimum result or consequence of evangelization whose ongoing conversion the Church refers to as the achievement of holiness. Experiencing life in Christ[25] would be persons’ normative response to the kerygma if not encumbered by sin.

So we find congruence between personal, psychological maturity and the goal of education as elucidated succinctly by Rogers in his book, On Becoming a Person, where he cites existential philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, “to be that self which one truly is.”[26] Such is also the goal of the spiritual processes resulting from evangelization as succinctly voiced often by my novice master, Robert Holko, at the conclusion of his homilies, “Choose Christ. Choose Life. Choose your true self,” a sentiment imaged from a different vantage point by St. John Vianney, the Cure of Ars, “We are each of us like a small mirror in which God searches for his reflection.”[27] For Carl Rogers and for the Church the fully functioning person is viewed most positively: Mature persons are sensitive to others, trustworthy and responsible, courageous and good, creative and positive, living life to the full, where any dark or violent tendencies are signs of a deformation of true human nature. But when given opportunities for growth and maturity negative shadows are left behind.

Rogers’ insight that the healing process draws persons away from any external, conceived values, to their authentic self is overpowering and foundational to a correct understanding of the process of evangelization. Evangelization does not try to transplant a personality in one but rather it seeks to surface one’s true self, the self- created free and loveable by God. Evangelization is not about a theory but it seeks to engage persons in the richly vital and unstoppable energy of the Holy Spirit, the love that passes between the Father and the Son. The Old Testament tradition saw its goal as having persons know God in a relationship of trust, for example, the psalms (Ps. 105), the call of Abraham (Genesis 13: 2, 5-18), the call of Moses (Exodus 3: 3-12) and the New Testament expressed that tradition, “This is eternal life: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17: 3) The aim of evangelization is to intensify this intimacy by establishing the reign or kingdom of God in fulfillment of Jesus’ mission, “I must proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God…for I was sent for this purpose.” (Lk. 4: 43)

What is the relationship between the creature and the Creator that is the realization of the Kingdom? St. Paul defined it, “For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but justice and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit:” (Rom. 14:17) Jesus’ disciples demonstrate justice by obeying the commandments, adjusting their operative values to be in accord with those conceived from the gospel, as a result the obedient enjoy an inner peace which is expressed to others as joy, and this liberating process St. Paul attributed to the influence of Holy Spirit.

As with any relationship politics and ethics are implied because being in relationship involves assuming the moral stance, the conceived values, of the other. Every relationship is necessarily an act of education as education theorist, Paulo Freire, taught, the political dimension of education is always for certain values and against others. Freire strongly advocated education that enabled a critical consciousness in students so they are not indoctrinated, robbed of their freedom and subjectivity and thus domesticated or objectified.

Part and parcel of the task of evangelization, because it seeks to make one’s seeds grow, is an education for freedom (Gal. 5:1) that imposes a cultural analysis upon ministers of the gospel and all those involved in Christian religious education in order to discover those influences that may jeopardize persons’ freedom; the freedom necessary to respond to God in love:

… since human beings are created in the image and likeness of God, the more fully human they become the more fully they resemble God. Therefore, as they grow in authentic humanness they are growing into deeper participation in the freedom of God…. Human freedom is the outcome of authentic human development, which is itself a quest that is only satisfied in God.[28]

But education that does not merely conform to a political agenda, becoming, “the reproductive organ” of a culture, must come to terms with the powerful and formative forces (Rogers) that impinge upon persons, for, “The fundamental issue of freedom … is nothing less, and nothing more than the tension between the inner thrust toward self-determination and the outer determining influences of the environment.”[29] For Freire true education in freedom needs to rest upon three foundational assumptions to guide its praxis: 1. Each human being is called to an authentic existence, a process he called, humanization. 2. People are called to be agents of history; deputized by the Creator to act justly in order to improve culture, and 3. education, as an act of knowing, is never neutral but is a political activity designed to deal critically with reality.[30]

The Catholic concept of education ideally operates to enhance freedom by the very nature of the evangelizing message that it proclaims.[31] A distinctive feature of the Catholic humanistic tradition is its respect for the freedom of the individual and this liberty extends to the academic enterprise because, as Rogers found, the healing process directs persons to discover and identify their true self.

The underlying reason for the Church’s respect for the power of the intellect is the Church’s firm belief that it is the truth that makes us free. Freedom from error, freedom from ignorance, freedom from doubt are both the motive and the fruit of the Church’s ancient and traditional commitment to the life of the intellect.[32]

And we cannot forget the central value that freedom is vis-à-vis our relationship with God. We read, “So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty.” (James 2:12)

This ideal of Catholic education theory is contested today perhaps because its mission has been compromised by the impact of the new global culture. Freire’s long and difficult experience as an educator[33] had him conclude that history moves into periods or epochs of change. Each epoch is characterized by themes of being and behaving, attitudes and aspirations of concerns and values that identify society by the way persons search for fulfillment and meaning. When epochs are altered contradictions emerge in these areas. New understandings, perceptions and values announce the future. (Recall Rushkoff!) Today’s historical epoch has been termed globalization and it now confronts the educational enterprise with new possibilities and challenges.

Gerard Walmsley has indicated that globalization [34] is a set of processes that make the world smaller and because all share this world together its values are inescapable, values generated and dominated by secularization whose hallmarks are technology and economics.

As far back as the 1950s the Blessed Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen prophesied that the Church would need to resist the pressures exerted upon the world of a growing practical atheism when he asked the defining question by which Christians could identify themselves, “Will we become secular?” Globalized secularization with its relativistic values is a major issue for education, particularly an education for evangelization, because by its technological universality its non-stop message is a powerful agent of freedom-robbing conformity, it is a dissenting voice and influence on the development of local cultures, and because, as we saw earlier, the political dimension of education means that it is not neutral about setting cultural directions.

In an address entitled, Catholic Higher Education and the Task of Humanizing Globalization (2004) Gerard Walmsley seriously questioned whether or not the Catholic university could humanize a world already steeped in ethical relativism and atheism when, now a secular institution, its educative mission has been compromised by the negative effects of globalized secular values. Associate professor of theology at Creighton University, R. R. Reno, concurs. In an article celebrating the twentieth anniversary of Allan Bloom’s bestseller, The Closing of the American Mind, (1987) Reno summarized Bloom’s thesis that was,

…a brief against the cultural revolution of the 1960s…. The supposed idealism of the 1960s was, in fact, a new barbarism. Whatever moral and spiritual seriousness the long tradition of American pragmatism has left intact in university life, the anti-culture of the left destroyed.[35]

Reno lamented the appearance of a new kind of school that emerged under the dominating influence of globalization, one that, confusedly, was offering, “an education free from culture,” because Catholic universities had lost their way either being confused about their mission within the Catholic intellectual tradition or out of being afraid to oppose the popular secular piety heralded by globalization, or both.

The negative values of globalization delineated by Walmsley were pointed: It produces a world-wide consumer society that relentlessly pursues wealth regardless of the casualties: the environment, the poor, social and cultural values that served to create communal bonds as it collapses all non-material values, for example, the personal, cultural, religious and spiritual. A corollary of consumerism is that relationships are about taking financial advantage of the other: “reducing society to business, citizens to consumers, culture to entertainment, knowledge to information, education to training.” (p. 3) Citing Thomas Langan, Walmsley concluded that global culture, “deforms the modern western culture from which it sprang and penetrates and destroys other cultures by breaking down their unity.”[36]

As he announced the “new evangelization” by “new evangelizers” in his Apostolic Exhortation, Pastores Dabo Vobis (“I will give you shepherds after my own heart,” Jeremiah 3: 15), St. Pope John Paul II brought together the Church’s mission, “a continuation in time of Christ’s own work,” (#2) and the obstacles presented by the receiving, now global culture, to oppose that work, a culture that he dubbed, “a culture of death.” The pope pointed out many factors passim to communicate the impact of the new global reality but here only to summarize some threads of his thought: “ideological prejudice and the violent rejection of the message of spiritual and religious values … a rising spread of forms of religiosity without God” (#6) that the pope saw as a positive opportunity for a renewed evangelization. To this general observation he further elucidated:

Our times admit of an accepted rationalism that tends to desensitize reason to divine revelation, what Gregory Baum called, technological reason[37] that biases religious perspectives that are not to be taken seriously; “You are opposed to abortion because you are a Catholic.” This tendency results in a radical individualism and relativism of values that makes persons suspicious of human relationships to herald loneliness that invites compensatory hedonism. Materialism, consumerism, and atheism, the break-up of the family and distorted sexuality that jeopardizes religious and priestly vocations (I would add the vocation to marriage too), the growing disparity between the rich (affluent) and the poor, confusion about Church teaching that encourages ideologies and superstition, the growth of multiculturalism[38] that results in moral relativism due to an exaggerated interpretation of tolerance of individuals’ or group’s moral choices. Building upon these forces creates a rejection of absolute values, the thematic assertion of modernity’s third wave, in favour of subjectivism that when accepted in the Church became the silliness dubbed cafeteria Catholicism by sociologist Reginald Bibby.

An education for evangelization is most challenged by two contemporary movements within globalized secular culture that the pope observed: Firstly, “a refusal of anything that speaks of sacrifice and a rejection of any effort to look for and to practice spiritual and religious values.” (#8) These conceived values of Christian culture, being submerged under the waters of global secular values, disallow persons from arriving at their true self in integrity, as Rogers put it, simply because they are absent. Secondly, and a vital concern of education, is the growing, “distorted sense of freedom (that) lies at the root of these tendencies.” (#8) Since, as Barker noted, human freedom is the outcome of authentic human development that is only resolved in persons finding themselves in God, we may understand the severity of the crisis that threatens the success of evangelizing efforts.

The foregoing sketch of the factors that are fragmenting contemporary cultures and the crisis that must ensue for Catholic educational institutions that appear to conspire in the promotion of the dehumanizing values of globalization by eschewing questions of humanizing values, preferring not to challenge the popular values-free regime, are in dire need of evangelization, of hope, a rescue from despair and a sense of meaninglessness. Why evangelization? Because evangelization proclaims only good news:

Joy and hope are the gift, the spiritual nourishment that evangelizing gives to the soul. Giving and nurturing hope and joy are the first of all pastoral ministries…. Jesus and the apostles proclaimed the repentance of sins. Evangelizing always and only relates news that elicits joy and hope; the birth of a child, a marriage approved by heaven, finding lost children, recovery from illness.[39]

Education for the new evangelization will need to go deeper than the optimism of prosperity based on unbridled technology or the Enlightenment’s naive notion of material progress but rediscover its raison d’etre in order to overcome what theologian Bernard Lonergan, SJ, called decline and so progress in its mandate and mission of promoting humanizing values.

Evangelization necessarily invites persons to shed all former conceived values of global secularization and atheism, and being healed by honest and subjective knowing, to rediscover the sacred, the holy, to find their true self… Jesus Christ. Conceived values in our epoch of globalization currently inform normative human experience. Our time is adrift on a sea of change generated by technology and informed by secular values to herald a questionable future. Yet persons desire stability and permanence and a reliable compass to guide their living. Jesus Christ does not change, for he is the very Word of God (Jn. 5: 19-40, 10: 7-18, 12: 46-50, 14: 5-14) and the content of evangelization, joy and hope in our world.

That which is mandated for the unique epoch in which we are immersed is a dramatic shift of values; values that can redress the tragic direction that globalization’s negative effects have set for the world, “to give a soul to globalization.” (Walmsley) In short, the world cries out for healing in order that humanizing values might reassert themselves, and if Rogers was correct, a therapeutic education will restore persons happily to their preferred value directions, to personal growth and moral maturity, to freedom in the re-discovery of their true self in integrity. What will be a sign that healing has occurred?

In chapter 8 of Tom Morris’ book, Philosophy For Dummies (1999), he discussed theories of happiness. “Persons’ happiness is a consequence of excellence; a life that contributes to others. Thus a system of education must aim for excellence in order to satisfy happiness needs for both individuals and society.” Note that a life of service, of being for others, is at the heart of Christian altruism and as physician-theologian Albert Schweitzer advised, that to be a success one should make life one of service. Morris asks: What is goodness, happiness, ethics, morality, and excellence and how are they related? Morality is about enabling happiness, the values that, if honoured, cultivate a positive future. Morality offers a structure that facilitates human fulfillment and freedom.

Under the subtitle, Four Dimensions of Human Experience, Morris takes us back to the originator of philosophy: Aristotle taught that human beings seek happiness for themselves and others; their existence is teleological: the target is happiness. But what is happiness? For Aristotle happiness did not reside in pleasures or an interior state of peace (infantile operative values) but as participation in something that brings fulfillment. Happiness was thus viewed as a consequence of excellence; a life that contributes to others’ welfare. From this perspective it may be concluded that moral goodness is the quality of enhancing happiness.

There are four dimensions of experience that correspond to four targets, four foundations of excellence, to which one can be dedicated in order to promote happiness and the good life. They are: truth, beauty, goodness, and unity.

To be spiritual is to be connected; unity is the goal: inner unity, harmony between self, others, nature, and nature’s divine source. All human beings have profound needs that cry out for fulfillment in order that happiness may result. These needs are uniqueness: to feel and to know oneself as special and distinct, union: all need to belong to something greater than self, usefulness: all need to be creative contributors to society by their work, understanding: to know one’s place in the world; in the family, community, workplace, and on life’s journey. These four needs, all undermined by the values of globalization, combine as the essence of spirituality, the core of the spiritual dimension of transcending human beings.

Theologian Bernard Lonergan has examined and analyzed the process whereby persons may achieve their spiritual self from the horizon of awareness of immediate experience to its goal, the horizon of decision-making. Lonergan can inform an education for evangelization at our moment in history because he has developed a method which facilitates “communication across horizons” and he has argued persuasively that,

… the power and implications of the scientific revolution must be faced, for it continues to impact on human living in new ways (cloning, the genome project, biological engineering; the internet). And when it is linked to big business and globalization the urgency of a comprehensive approach becomes clearer.[40]

On this point Jeremy Wilkins, the director of the Lonergan Research Institute formerly at Regis College in Toronto said that, “Lonergan’s project was to do for our day what Aquinas did for his (to show) how theology could be integrated with Aristotelian science, which in the 13th century was the best available.”[41] Lonergan’s contribution to needed healing is his conviction, with Kenneth Barker and John Waters, that humanity is oriented to God and will only be satisfied by finding oneself with God. G. K. Chesterton, nominated the Apostle of Common Sense, insightfully and humorously quipped that if we take away the supernatural what remains is the unnatural. Lonergan’s contribution is that he has articulated how persons achieve their spiritual selves by transcending from the natural to the supernatural; from the world of immediacy as revealed in history and experience to the world of meaning as revealed by their free acts of meaning; to the supreme possibility of life “the horizon of being in love.”[42]

Despite the negative consequences of the action of evil in history Lonergan shows that history: personal, civil, or cultural, offers hope because the good to which human willing aspires is always a project that is renewed and critiqued so as to be done better. Every epoch, globalization included, admits of both positive and negative energies but none dominate so as fatalistically to determine the outcome for free subjects. Lonergarian optimism taught that there are three forces ever at work in the ongoing construction of human community:[43] Firstly, as Rogers, an influence upon Lonergan’s thought, also demonstrated, values are constantly being formulated by the concrete choices that are made from situations of lived experience in order to find one’s best self. This vertical finality that is the optimum possibility of honest decision-making of critical realism, the horizons of knowing that Lonergan has identified as experiencing, understanding, judging, and deciding, (E, U, J, D) his General Empirical Method (G.E.M.), can sublate lower, lesser, evil directions in order to achieve the most generous response and by consequence to establish human dignity in freedom with divinity.

Secondly, the idealism of Lonergan’s cognitive theory (G.E.M.), due to the revelation proclaimed by evangelization, can apprehend self-appropriation within the Trinitarian union; grasping one’s self-transcendence by making good and selfless decisions, but which will always be challenged by sinful compromises, irrationality, or lesser values influenced by what St. Pope John Paul II has pointed out in Pastores Dabo Vobis, “a refusal of anything that speaks of sacrifice….” Popular literature concurs. For example, Superman (in the film, Man of Steel, 2013) indicates that the emblem that adorns his uniform means hope and he demonstrated that it happens via devoted and selfless service to the welfare of others, Lonergan’s moral conversion. Yoda, the Jedi Master of the Star Wars Saga, indicated that fear was the essence of the Dark Side that was ‘easier and quicker’ and it leads to what Lonergan called decline. Immature expressions of freedom under the influence of Original Sin may undermine interpersonal good, the good of order, and the good of value, and so threaten humanizing progress and add to the history of decline. This second factor, however, can be a dimension of the good, for it offers a positive opportunity to embrace the suffering of the cross in order to redeem a particular situation with self-sacrificing love because, “Temptation is the season of spiritual graces.”[44]

Thirdly, faith expresses confidence in the action of God’s grace that never abandons his creatures, for God the Father, the Lord of history, by the mystery of the Incarnation has sent his Son, Jesus Christ, the Word of God, fides ex auditu, to speak divine truth to guide the horizons of critical realism: experiencing, understanding, judging and deciding, and he has sent the Holy Spirit, fides ex infusione, so that through baptism the words of Jesus may be recognized as divine truth and so be connected with Trinitarian love to inform human deciding.

These three processes are cumulative and they act upon the soul mounting up to values, human and divine, as conversion: intellectual, moral, and religious, leading the honest knower to the supreme possibility and value of human existence, a being in love with God.[45] In this achievement of evangelization persons may assume their dignity in integrity (Rogers) as evidence of healing.

Lonergan’s contribution of methodological clarity via horizon analysis enables self-appropriation and promises to restore authenticity to any process that intends to educate. His insights into the dynamism of human interiority (E, U, J, D) validate the true dignity and value of the human being that celebrates above all the radical freedom to decide that lies at the centre of human rational self-consciousness where values are first apprehended by feelings.[46] The experience of globalization, under the radical honestly of the human heart emboldened by grace, may enable true objectivity to be achieved by unalloyed subjectivity and globalization itself may give way to the humanizing values that attend the educative work of evangelization.

In summary, the traditional work of education has been displaced as the school/university struggles to keep up with the information revolution brought on by communication technologies. However, the history of education and the psychology of learning support the fact that despite an immense evolution in education it remains the source of values formation and transformation for individuals and cultures. The fact that normative healing, inherent in the learning process as persons transition to adulthood, has as its goal finding one’s true self in integrity reveals the esteemed place for evangelization because the gospel has as its aim the truth of the human person as free and dignified through an intimate association with divinity.

The educative process will always be confronted with challenges. Today these are recognized in the dehumanizing values originating from globalization, a secular world suspicious of the spiritual and religious and dominated by atheism, consumerism, and relativism. We live in a world in need of a word of hope, an optimism contained in the message proclaimed by the gospel; evangelization to counter the pessimism that results from being caught in the dualism created by modernity; “…between the objectification of the world and the subjectification of value.”[47] We find it in the methodological clarity provided by Bernard Lonergan’s General Empirical Method that discloses how the Catholic intellectual tradition guided by honest human knowing and with the help of God’s grace can overcome the forces of globalization giving new, life-giving directions to education to re-instate humanizing values that inevitably result in happiness and the establishment of the Kingdom that Jesus proclaimed.


[1] From the film, Star Wars used here as an epigram in juxtaposition to the epigram to this text from Hebrews 13: 8 and also to suggest my opinion that the modern focus in education is decidedly the future. I expressed this view in my book, Star Wars and the Message of Jesus: An Interpretive Commentary on the Star Wars Trilogy. Hamilton, Ontario: Image Publishing, 1985 as follows, “It could be said that today’s westerns are portrayed by the technological images of science fiction, because now it is a future orientation that concerns us…. Today the horizons are global at a time when life is a frenzied adventure.” (p. 9)

[2] For example: The thesis of journalist John Waters’, Beyond Consolation: Or How We Became Too Clever for God…And Our Own Good (London, New York: Continuum, 2010) posits that contemporary culture denies three truths that are essential characteristics of human beings: Persons are created, dependent, and mortal. Writing of the tokenism afforded to religious perspectives today he stated, “The internal culture of media in relation to religion might, with the merest hint of parody, be depicted as follows: ‘Some of you seem still to believe all this hogwash about “God”, and, because you are our customers, we continue to accord these superstitions due prominence.” (p.68) Then he asserted, “I believe that everyone is ‘religious’, whether aware of it or not…because religion is no more and no less than the total relationship with reality. I contrast this with the ideological view of reality, by which I mean a partial understanding,…” (p. 199)

[3] R. S. Peters (ed.) The Concept of Education. New York: The Humanities Press. 1969. This volume addresses of the philosophy of education assuming these three goals for the academic enterprise.

[4] Source unknown.

[5] An aspect of dehumanizing neglect of persons’ subjectivity has been addressed by Paulo Freire in chapter 2 of Pedagogy of the Oppressed (New York: Continuum Publishing, 1986) where he pointed out that servitude to objectively given facts and conceptualism has “domesticated” the subject because persons’ relationship to facts is merely to memorize or “bank” information without any reference to the subject’s critical responsibility to form history by making judgments and choices.

[6] Source unknown.

[7] Douglas Rushkoff  was quoted saying this in an interview with Steve Paikin on TVO’s The Agenda, June 10, 2013.

[8] From a speech delivered by Gerard Walmsley of St. Augustine College of South Africa, Johannesburg, entitled, Catholic Higher Education and the Task of Humanizing Globalization in July, 2004.

[9] Robert and Jon Solomon. Up the University: Recreating Higher Education in America. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company. 1993. p. 98, as cited by G. Walmsley.

[10] John C. Yake. Talking to Teens About the Mass: A User’s Guide. New York, Ottawa, Toronto: Legas Press. 2012. p. 245.

[11] That phrase of Marshall McLuhan first appeared in a book form as a chapter head in Understanding Media (1964), but years earlier he had used it as a slogan in his classes and publications at the University of Toronto. He employed it to indicate the effects of television or any other medium as an illustration of the fact that the language we use imposes a worldview on us. We are then able to think only those things we say. The origin of this thought was derived from linguist Edward Sapir (1884-1939) and Benjamin Lee Whorf (1897-1941). Sapir put the concept succinctly in his book, Language (1921): “Language and our thought-grooves are inextricably interrelated, are, in a sense, one and the same.”

[12] Gerald L. Gutek. A History of the Western Educational Experience. New York: Random House, 1972. p. 9.

[13] Gutek. p. 10

[14] Ivan Illich. Deschooling Society. New York: Harper & Row, 1972. p. 107.

[15] Gutek. p. 15-16.

[16] Gutek. p. 22.

[17] Gutek. p. 63.

[18] Charles W. Morris. Varieties of Human Value. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1956.

[19] Carl R. Rogers, Freedom to Learn: A View of What Education Might Become. Columbus, OH: Charles E. Merrill, 1969. p. 241-242.

[20] A term of Wilhelm Dilthey to denote the inheritance of human achievements that one may only embrace by a process of learning. Learning and Teaching by Michael Oakshott, in R.S. Peters (ed.) The Concept of Education. Routledge & Paul Kegan. London, New York: The Humanities Press. 1969. p. 158.

[21] Jean Vanier has also focused on this reality but he has pointed out its dangers saying that the origin of fear may be found in childhood. Citing Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, who maintained that the project of each individual is to develop his or her uniqueness, Vanier suggested that this agenda is undermined by parental expectations of obedience to their norms. Children’s attention turns from their self and they tend to feel that they have to please adults, be perfect, and prove their worth. Their uniqueness is thus devalued, it is no longer the quality central to their lives nor do they feel significant. Fearing failure, loss of acceptance and approval, and afraid to be different than parental norms, many children grow up unable to accept the uniqueness of others as well as their own. Some youths who have received love in imperfect ways form gangs to insulate themselves from their fears. Vanier contended that a shift in consciousness has to take place and this can be brought about when persons are unconditionally loved and respected. This moves them from the fear-ridden need to be approved to be able to be responsible and open to differences and to appreciate self as unique and good despite imperfection. Fear would then characterize them less and newfound tolerance of self and others make them open to the fact that everyone is unique. The growing appreciation of the commonness of all human beings immediately precedes the insight of human solidarity.

[22] Gaudium et Spes (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World). Austin Flannery (ed.) Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents. Northport, N.Y.: Costello Publishing Co., 1988. N. 4, p. 905, n. 10, p. 910.

[23] Anthony De Melo, SJ concurs on this point. In a recorded talk that I heard he discussed prayer in terms of the need to be real: Infants are born happy, he explained, as they have aliveness; that which they did not have before. Once they put a condition on their aliveness that they learn from their culture; “I’ll be happy when, I’ll be happy if…” they place themselves in a state of unhappiness and the more they pursue these conditions the unhappier they will become. The cure is to die to people and the pressures to conform to external or imposed values.

[24] Rogers’ conceived values remind of Jung’s collective thinking of generally held opinions and Freud’s superego, the judgment mechanism derived from authorities to produce guilt as instinctive natural cravings (operative values) collide with society’s moral judgments. The newly accepted morality, in the opinion of John A. Sanford, may be “due to a source of morality that originates neither from instinctual conscience nor from built-in morality of parents and society, but from God in the sense of our own higher self, and which requires from us a morality that consists of following our own inner truth.” John A. Sanford. Dreams: God’s Forgotten Language. New York, NY: HarperCollins. 1989. p. 36.

[25] A term employed by St. Paul 172 times in his letters when speaking of the personal appropriation of the work of Christ, one’s only hope for present fulfillment and only basis for justification, acceptance, and future glory. From Richard N. Longenecker. The Ministry and Message of Paul. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House: 1975. p. 98.

[26] Carl Rogers. On Becoming a Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy. London: Constable. 1961. p. 166. From Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Scientific Postscript. Princeton University Press: Princeton, NJ, 1941. p. 29.

[27] Thoughts of the Cure of Ars. Compiled and arranged by W.M.B. Springfield, Illinois: Burns & Oates, 1967, p. 50.

[28] Kenneth Barker. Religious Education, Catechesis and Freedom. Birmingham, Alabama: Religious  Education Press. 1981. p. 9-10.

[29] Barker. p. 94.

[30] These assumptions were extrapolated from Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, trans. by Mrya Bergman Ramos. New York: Continuum. 1986.

[31] “For the Church, evangelizing means bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new…. The purpose of evangelization is therefore precisely this interior change, and if it had to be expressed in one sentence the best way of stating it would be to say that the Church evangelizes when she seeks to convert, solely through the divine power of the message she proclaims, both the personal and collective consciences of people, the activities in which they engage, and the lives and concrete milieu which are theirs.” Evangelii Nuntiandi  by St. Pope Paul VI, n.18.

[32] Donald W. Wuerl. Academic Freedom and the University in the Newman Studies Journal, Vol. 1, #1, Spring 2004. p. 27.

[33] Between 1947-59 Freire was involved in traditional approaches to literacy. Illiterate persons were not allowed to vote in Brazil. In 1960 he became active in the Popular Culture Movement; a student-led program of discussion groups among the people. There Freire encountered the tragic depth of the “culture of silence” and he recognized the importance of encouraging people to speak their own word and name their own reality. He saw the traditional means of literacy education as politically domesticating; i. e. it promoted literacy skills but without causing people to think, to speak their own word, and was thus dehumanizing. Through this movement and labor union activities Freire became politicized.

Joao Goulart, became the president of Brazil in 1961 and, influenced by papal social encyclicals, he put Freire in charge of the new government program to eradicate illiteracy. Freire drew up an elaborate program of teacher training. In 1964, Goulart was overthrown in a military coup. Freire was arrested for “‘subversive activity” and after some time in jail he was expelled from the country.

In Chile Freire worked for the Government of Eduardo Frei for five years. Freire had a major impact on the national literacy program there. Frei too was overthrown and Freire was again expelled. He came to the U.S.: Harvard and Fordham, in 1969.

In 1970 Freire accepted an appointment as special consultant to the World Council of Churches in Geneva. He said, “The church is the most likely agency in the world to do the kind of education I dream of.”

In 1981 Freire was allowed to return to Brazil where he became a Professor at the University of Sao Paolo. His main works in English are the Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970), Education for Critical Consciousness (1973), and Pedagogy in Process (1978).

[34] “As recently as 1979, when Karl Rahner offered his now famous theological analysis of Vatican II as the emergence of the global Church, the term ‘globalization’ was hardly in use. It was not until the mid 1980s that it was recognized as a significant concept in academic circles.” T. Howland Sanks, SJ. Globalization and the Church’s Social Mission, Theological Studies (Washington, DC: Georgetown University) #60, Dec. 1999, p. 625.

In a conference held by the Priests of the Sacred Heart that I attended entitled, “Pursuing Social Justice in an Age of Globalization,” Robert Schreiter, defined globalization as, “the simultaneous expansion and compression of time and space.” It has the ability to make universal links while doing so instantly. The computer is a good example of globalization: The WWW expands across boundaries while the computer chip compresses information into a small space but processes it quickly.

Borrowing from David Held, Schreiter described the four major characteristics of globalization: extensity, intensity, velocity, and impact. Extension refers to the way that globalization stretches realities across borders; a decision made in New York may close an industry in Africa. Intensity is about universal connections where everything has consequences everywhere else; how the computers would deal with computing time at the critical Y2K juncture involved the whole planet. Velocity represents the speed in which information flows; this has increased the pace of persons’ lives. Because of the three traits listed above events have an impact beyond their location; a war across the globe is played out in living rooms via television.

Globalization has given modern times a whole new culture, politics, communication, economy, demographics, and physical environment. Relationships are changing and persons are generally “overstimulated, stressed, and perplexed.”

[35] R. R. Reno, “The Closing of the American Mind Revisited.” From February 27, 2007.

[36] Thomas Langan. Surviving the Age of Virtual Reality. Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press. 2000. p. 3.

[37] “Technological reason tends to persuade us that ethical reason is simply cultural prejudice that should be discarded.” From a lecture by Gregory Baum in Gregory Baum (ed.), The Ecumenist. Montreal: The Paulist Press, November-December, 1985. p. 9-13.

[38] In an article entitled, Is multiculturalism the new Marxism? Russell Shaw recognized the positive goals of Marxism whose original impetus was to serve as a means to create a classless society, and similarly in our day, multiculturalism as a means to foster tolerant acceptance of persons in the face of many differences: racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, etc. With the aid of historical hindsight, however, Shaw recognized the dark side of Marxism that resulted in the “gulags of Stalin and the purges of Mao.” Contemporary multiculturalism has assumed the Marxist ideology as Shaw sees its push for equality, a classless society, being expressed by “a violent repudiation of the cultural tradition of the West.” Under the positive sheep’s clothing of multiculturalism political correctness is executing a strategy of alienation of society from all that is Western and especially Christianity and its values in order to supplant it with secular humanism. (Columbia, March, 1992, p. 5)

[39] Francis Carpinelli. Newsletter of St. Augustine’s Seminary Extension Alumni and Friends. Bulletin #3, September 15, 2000. p. 2. 

[40] Walmsley. p. 7.

[41] Laura Ieraci, Lonergan offers ‘therapy for confused cultures,’ The Catholic Register, Dec. 15, 2013, p. 16.

[42] Ibid. p. 16

[43] In his book, The Mind’s Road to God, St. Bonaventura (1221-1274) listed the six stages of ascension into God, the six stages of the soul’s powers by which persons go from the depths to the heights of God: wit, sense, imagination, reason, intellect, and intelligence. He wrote, “These stages are implanted in us by nature, deformed by sin, reformed by grace, to be purged by justice, exercised by knowledge, perfected by wisdom.” St. Bonaventura, The Mind’s Road to God, Trans. by George Boas. Indianapolis, New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Co. Inc. Ch. 1, #6, p. 9.

[44] Thoughts of the Cure of Ars. Compiled and arranged by W.M.B. Springfield, Illinois: Burns & Oates, 1967, p. 49

[45] This summary of Lonergan’s thought on the Trinity’s participation in human salvation was assisted by A Third Collection: Papers by Bernard J. F. Lonergan, SJ. Frederick E. Crowe (ed.), New York/Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 1985. p. 31-33.

[46] Bernard J. F. Lonergan. Method in Theology. Minneapolis, MN: The Seabury Press, 1972. p. 37.

[47] Op. Cit. The Catholic Register, Dec. 15, 2013. p. 16.