A look back at last month's St. Patrick's Day:
On this day in 461 AD, tradition holds that Saint Patrick died, who we celebrate with beer and any old green thing. (Americans like traditions pregnant with substance.) Many of us also know that Saint Patrick was a British Christian missionary to Ireland. In his Confessions, he said this:
“I pray to God to give me perseverance and to deign that I be a faithful witness to Him to the end of my life for my God.”
Well said, good Saint Patrick. Persevere. Be faithful to the end. This truth could be applied to any number of lessons, hopefully without watering down the first original meaning, and so I'd like to make quick applications to just a couple things, first generally and then specifically.
In a general sense, we can apply this to education. Saint Patrick reminds us that whatever our calling is, we can't treat it like there's an Easy Button somewhere. In the case of education, we must not treat it like we're searching for a formula. A rigorous, liberal, gospel-centered education is not finding the right equation, solving for the right variable, and plugging in values. We do not insert the perfect teacher or perfect school and compute straight-A students. Instead, we are faithful every day in the little things. We know ahead of time that education is difficult by nature. Like Saint Patrick, we work hard, and we are diligent through all the expected gnarly parts.
Further, in a specific sense, I'd like to apply Saint Patrick to our Speech & Debate students yesterday. To prepare for the meet, ACA students had to work hard for an extended period of time. They had to be diligent and strong to press through the exquisite difficulty of memorization, and of the unnerving task of public competition. They could not wing it even if they wanted to. Additionally, they were persevering through one of life's most difficult studies: speaking in front of a large group of people. They had no guarantees of success or an award. But as difficult a task as it is, speaking is one of the most fundamental aspects of humanity. It is a metaphor for our personality and our virtue.
Look at it this way. Our students are speaking all the time. (We parents, too.) Speaking isn't just for speech meets. Our words and our actions say something 24-7. The way we make breakfast for our kids, say goodbye for the day to our families, the way we write emails, the way we prioritize time with family vs. friends, the music we listen to, the movies we watch -- all of these things speak. The speak loudly about ourselves, they speak loudly to our friends and acquaintances, and they speak loudly to our children. What we do, as well as what we say, speaks.
So the question is, what's our tone of voice like? How persuasive are we? Are we saying the right things?
This is why we train our students to speak well publicly, both because it is an exhibition of virtue, and because it is a metaphor for life. Christ was the Word made flesh, and in a sense, so are we. Christians are People of the Word, the People Who Speak. Saint Patrick and all wise men and women of history knew this, and they knew that any good thing takes faithfulness and long years of perseverance.
Fortunately, we have a good role model: Christ, who was faithful all the way to death, showed us how.