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12. Traces of josephan pedagogy

The text tries to make spirituality interact with the choices in education, choices both of content and method. The testimony of life remains fundamental, being aware that the more the educator (religious and lay person) lives the Murialdine spirituality the more s/he embodies it as an educator. So on the side of spirituality we find giving testimony: of God-Love, Jesus Christ with the little ones, St. Joseph, humility, charity. On the pedagogical side we find: the family spirit, attention to the whole person, choice of personalization, involvement in education. In this sense, spirituality is understood as that which animates and forms pedagogy; pedagogy as incarnation of a spirituality. At the core there is the task of witnessing to God-Love, and so transforming educational service into a prime way for such testimony aimed primarily at the little ones and the poor.

Fr. Angelo Catapano


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12. Traces of josephan pedagogy

(P. Angelo Catapano)


The typical model of action of St Leonard Murialdo, the spiritual and apostolic charism transmitted by the Founder, the pastoral-educational tradition of the congregation, the projects and practices of the individuals and the institutions, form the legacy of inspiration from which to identify the traces of a “Josephan pedagogy .”
The change of cultures, of times and places, the demands of ecclesial communities in the local area, today’s urgencies, represent a challenge for the advancement, the competence and the effectiveness of what is being passed down to what we now call “The Family of Murialdo” in the complexity of its both religious and lay components .
In making this summary, it was considered appropriate to report only those most distinctive and wide-ranging elements, which , as general principles, maintain a certain validity beyond the limits of time and space. There are two different aspects. The first covers more properly the foundations of the spirituality in education, while the second focuses on the guidelines of the method, rooted on four main lines that run through the pedagogical action.

Spiritual foundations

The attitudes identifying the Josephan pedagogy and qualifying its methodology stem from this spirituality that is at the basis of this unique vocation, from that charism which is the soul of his mission in the Church and in the world.
His essential style is the testimony of life, in the belief that all educational activity is necessarily based on a human mediation and the pastoral goals are better reached for who the person is than for what he does. It is a method that is presently current and effective, if it is true that we learn more from facts than from words, whenever we recognize the educational function of the models and we are aware that nowadays transparency and credibility are crucial.

Witnessing to God-Love
To love, taking as a model God-Love, is a precise testamentary handing over of Murialdo, it is the Josephite way of being “in the image and likeness” of the Father, the central interpretative key of his educational activity.
This method leads to express the same traits of the love of God in relationship with young people, especially those who may approach the Heavenly Father’s goodness only through the figure of an educator and his witness of a caring fatherhood, of total dedication, tangible adaptation and patient sweetness.
The result is a unique framework:
God – Love Educational method
and provident father – family
Free and infinite – globalism
current and personal – personalization
tender and merciful – sharing

Witnessing Christ with the little ones
With their pastoral action, the Josephites “continue to make present in the church the mystery of Christ who loves the poor and blesses the children.”
The educational methodology of Murialdo’s Family does not want to be anything other than an actual expression of some values presented by Christ, so as to offer in the context of the new evangelization a special witness to the lived Gospel.
It is the commitment to repeat in time and space, with specific procedures in the sign of acceptance of minors, the Word of Jesus, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me” (Mk 9:37).

Witnessing St. Joseph as educator
The Josephite is such not only by name but in fact by reproducing in his way of being and doing the method of St. Joseph, who raised Jesus as a boy and a teenager, contributing to its growth “in wisdom, age and grace before God and man “(Lk 2:52).
The original intuition is already present in Murialdo’s declaration: “in the eyes of God I hold the office of St. Joseph in relationship to boys, who are all little Jesus like .. “you did this to me”.
This method leads to a double identification to find in the boy the presence of Jesus (cf. Mt 25:40), in the educator the presence of Joseph with his style of authentic fatherhood.

Witnessing humility
It is the characteristic style of those who put themselves at the service with ease and gracefulness, recognizing as fundamental, beyond the personal skills and adequate intervention, the educational action of God
This implies the acceptance of limits and errors in the knowledge that the ideal pursued is never fully achieved.
It is the choice of a silent laboriousness and a total donation, with the “do and be silent” typical of the Josephan tradition, in a spirit of generosity and self-sacrifice that leads to give their own lives for others.

Witnessing charity
The witnessing of charity is typical and indispensable in the Josephan pedagogy, the option in favor of the little ones to whom the Kingdom of God belongs, the generous service for those most in need, even with the disposition of “losing ” one self ( one’s projects, the institutional role) in order to fully welcome the needs of the other.
It is the “secret” proposed by Murialdo for doing good, with a “sweetness” built on purpose and renewed every day by love, always new and creative, to make difficult situations less painful and remedy the ills.
It is the methodological choice that translates the new commandment (John 13:34) in a whole range of attitudes that underpin the “pedagogy of love” (according to the invitation of John Paul II to the Josephites) and the same essential experience of the life of faith.

Methodological Guidelines

The Josephan pedagogy, which is already characterized by the identity and style of the operators according to the spiritual charism, is expressed in practice through four basic methodological guidelines.
The educational activity can be grouped around the following nuclei, which are like the guiding forces and principles of a constant tradition in its methods: family spirit, attention to global issues, the choice of personalization, involvement in sharing.

Family spirit
Forming “one well-united family” is the “new system” proposed by Murialdo and is the first choice regarding the Josephan pedagogical method, the main condition for its effectiveness: it is a style that envelops the entire educational setting and creates a climate in which it is possible to experience community, to have meaningful – paternal – fraternal – friendly – relationships, growing up to the autonomy of maturity and taking one’s own place in the civil and ecclesiastical environment.
The result is an ideal community life based on “unity of thought, action and friendship” and “an integrated community” between lay people and religious, a style of simplicity and authenticity in relationships, a sense of natural belonging that unites everyone in various ways in the “Family of Murialdo” mirrored in the model of the Trinity and the Holy Family.
The religious, explicitly called to be “fathers and brothers,” have a duty of responsibility and coordination inherent to the fidelity and development of the charism, of giving daily witness to family life, spiritual animation and training of collaborators.
The collaborators, in varying degrees and in various forms, are an integral part of the Family of Murialdo; while sharing the charism, they are invited to form and operate on the lines of a specific spiritual/ educational journey, in harmony with the Church and the Josephan tradition; the participatory bodies are to be valued at local, provincial and national levels, beginning with the advisory board of the Institute.
The young people are encouraged to live progressively as protagonists in planning, implementing and monitoring the project that involves them in person, on the steps of Murialdo who gave them confidence and relied on their potential; we need to focus on the empowerment and act with them rather than for them.
The lay people conscious of their baptismal dignity and the common vocation to holiness, are invited to be in communion with the charism and partakers of the single mission entrusted to the community, in accordance with the professional skills, the diversity of circumstances and of their status of life, they may reach a shared responsibility also in leadership and management; it is not to be overlooked in this context the contribution of parents.

Attention to globalism
The second methodological principle is born under the sign of global attention towards the young man and his life in its various dimensions: bio-physical, intellectual-professional, socio-affective, moral and spiritual.
Murialdo openly welcomes youths ”in order to give them an education, not just an instruction “, offering together with faith, the bread, the trade, the education of the” heart “and those qualities useful for ” good Christians and honest citizens “; the Rule states that the Josephite, in the pastoral apostolate toward youths “will take care of their integral formation, helping them to achieve human maturity and above all to grow in faith.”
Such a guideline warns against making a pure transmission of culture, a simple sport activity or just catechesis, while a variety of proposals need to be offered, in which the youths can find the answer to their needs, and even more a global proposal within any initiative.
The global nature of the pastoral is summarized in the slogan of Murialdo” pray, learn, play, “which translates in practice into a triple expression; recreation / sports, cultural / communicative, religious and / associative.
It is a method that requires attention for the whole person, the complexity of situations, the environmental and social conditioning to a targeted projects, so as not to fall into isolated and instrumental activities, or undermined by the competition from other educational agencies.
The commitment for the earthly and eternal salvation of youth, the “Ne perdantur” of Josephan tradition, emphasizes the fusion of evangelization and human promotion in the sole global – mission – of educational action.

Choice of personalization

Individualization: while not neglecting the mass and the ability to get to many, it highlights the importance of a pastoral orientation centered on the individual, on the knowledge of, and unconditional respect for each individual, in order to take into account the degree of maturity of the individual, the problems related to age and the psychology of the individual possibilities and difficulties in the world of ideas and interests in the person you meet.
Gradualism: knowing that the evolutionary development proceeds by degrees, Josephan pedagogy aims to center the tasks on the actual ability, focusing on a path of personal progression, foreseeing different levels of suitable and effective proposals, providing opportunities leading more and more to properly experience the responsibility and autonomy.
Continuity: the pastoral task, which brings into play the people, requires long-term loyalty; ideally it is a commitment lasting forever, that overcomes the formal institutional relationship, the perseverance to follow through time the one with whom a journey has begun, it is not correct to just worry about one stage of life, then leaving everyone to their fate and forgetting the family spirit that was at the basis of the relationship.
Concreteness – pragmatism: by listening to the needs of persons it encourages to put in place a range of initiatives in which everyone can find himself and join according to his needs or expectations: the living space of reference, the home and the missed affection, the animation of leisure time, the sport and the socializing moments, the group, the catechesis and prayer … the Josephan pedagogy interacts in the various fields of action and welcomes with sympathy the plurality of models of association and of activities that express sharing with young people.

Involvement in sharing
This methodological orientation presupposes the conviction that it is not possible to
establish an educational relationship by keeping distances: the rigidity of roles and programs, as well as the weight of the institutions and structures, hinder that needed basis of sharing without which each construction becomes unstable.
The educator presents himself as a friend, with Murialdo as a model, for whom such a style was a program, pledging to stay among young people, with a joyful and vigilant presence characterized by a long-continued involvement, the communion of life, the daily contact, elbow to elbow.
It implies to share the same surroundings and difficulties, joys and sorrows, as among brothers and friends, between father and son, by providing time, skills, health and whatever else one is, as well as spaces and economic investment.
It is an involvement beginning from the analysis of the situation of those who allow themselves to be urged by the “signs of the times” and the needs of the present times, of those who plunge themselves into the reality of their environment and capture the challenges coming from the wings of discomfort , who take lessons from the poor, listen and understand the voices of their people, the weak, the oppressed ones: it is the choice of siding with the little ones, with those who, in the early stages of growth, are more at risk of losing their way and getting lost, exposed to deviance and dangers … it is the same logic of the incarnation that brought Christ to share his life with the poor of humanity.
With these guidelines and methodological foundations of spirituality, the Josephan pedagogy prepares the same family choice, the globalism, the personalization and sharing with among lay people and young people themselves, enabling them to live the dimension of the service in humility and charity, to know how to read the needs of brothers, to seize the negative dynamics that produce marginalization and injustice, to replace the culture of possessing with that of giving, to be present in the social and political fields, to develop a respect for life and protection of creation, to be open worldwide to the values of peace, tolerance and universal brotherhood.

P. Angelo Catapano

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