January 29 – THE GABRIELITE EDUCATOR IN THE 19th CENTURY
THE GABRIELITE EDUCATOR IN THE 19th CENTURY
Br. Hubert’s circular on education, dated 29 January 1892, opens with extensive quotations from Grandet and Cloriviere who, in their respective biographies of Montfort, refer to him as a catechist. Then the theme is developed under six headings: instruction, education, correction, supervision, good example, prayer. Br. Hubert was thus echoing the views of his predecessor Br. Eugene-Marie.
Br. Eugene-Marie had reflected at length on Gabrielite education and shared his reflections in the form of complete circulars, excerpts from circulars, and a great many articles (161) in his 1872 Rule. Whether he deals with education or the teacher’s qualities, he shows a great ability to synthesize. “Bringing up a child involves cultivating both his mind and talents, and, above all, training him to virtue, guiding and strengthening his will in the way of God’s commandments” (Rule No. 142). “Three things are required of a teacher in order to fulfil his role: 1. that he has mastered his subject; 2. that he knows the range of his pupils’ abilities; 3. that he practices the art of communicating what he is doing. Qualifications are not enough. Many other qualities are necessary: dignified behaviour, an affable character, a kind heart, impartiality, approachability, and respect for the least able; vigilance, firmness and energy in warding off danger, preventing evil, and disciplining those who are thoughtless or hard to control and keeping them in order (Circular of 1 January 1868).
Like his two predecessors he expects the Brothers to be close to their students in a great family spirit, without any improper familiarity. “Be simple and dignified”, he keeps saying. However, even more than they, he insists on competence in their job and constant updating. “A teacher who does not like studying, is not fit to instruct youth and will soon become unable to do so, for what is said of virtue goes for learning: whoever does not progress is moving backward” (Circular of 2 July 1864). More innovative still are his repeated ideas on the unity of being, the absence of dichotomy between the sacred and the secular, and preaching by example. “You cannot dissociate the religious from the teacher and the catechist (Circular of 1867). “So long as there is a Brother of St Gabriel in a classroom, there God will be. His modesty, his dignity, his kindness, his zeal, his name, his habit will speak of God to his students… If ever (…) we were deprived of our name and our habit, we would remember that it is the heart that makes the monk rather than the cowl” (Circular of 16 June 1882).