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The Seven Pillars of Education according to J. M. Bergoglio

Issue 1810

20 September 2018

The challenge associated with education has always been close to the heart of the current pontiff. As he himself revealed in our 2016 interview, he was involved in youth pastoral ministry and education when he was a parish priest in San Miguel. On a daily basis he hosted the local children in the very large spaces of the attached college: “I used to say Mass for the children and on Saturdays I taught catechism.”[1] Among his activities he also organized shows and games, which he describes in detail in the interview. This is where his spontaneous ability to be with children originates.

While a Jesuit student in training, Bergoglio had a scholastic experience that left an indelible mark. His superiors sent him to teach literature at two Jesuit high schools. However, his role did not stop at lectures. On the contrary, he pushed his students toward creative composition – even involving the great Jorge Luis Borges in his activities – and also toward theater and music.[2]

This educational engagement was linked to artistic and creative experiences, and precisely through this did Bergoglio succeed in bringing out the most profound human and spiritual dimensions. To help understand this approach more concisely, here follows an unpublished example: José Hernán Cibils, who is today a musician in Germany, was a school student of the 28-year-old Bergoglio. He recalls a comment made to him by his teacher during his studies of the La hora undécima by the Argentine writer, María Esther de Miguel. The pupil believed that the concluding message of the work was that denial of the self and mortification lead to God. Bergoglio commented by praising his student’s work, but proposing a change in the formulation of the final message that seemed too negative. Bergoglio noted: “Dedication is the fruit of love,” not of mortification. In parenthesis, he concluded with a personal message to José: “It is clear that you are going through a period of negativity.” An exposure to the creative experience and its exercise generate a dynamic that involves the person psychologically and spiritually.[3]

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