Catholic Classical Education at St. Augustine Academy

Catholic Culture

Article from Institute for Catholic Liberal Education

…Culture is inseparable from education, since education in the widest sense of the word is what the anthropologists term “enculturation,” i.e., the process by which culture is handed on by the society and acquired by the individual.  Christopher Dawson, Crisis of Western Education

Students celebrating Mass

Fr. Passos celebrating Mass with the students

Catholic education culminates in handing on the rich Catholic treasury of thought and beauty.  The development of the student’s powers of thought, expression, imagination and wonder prepares him to receive and appreciate his cultural birthright.

Over 2000 years, the Catholic Church has encountered a dizzying variety of religions, philosophies, political systems, fine art, architecture, literature.  According to the Incarnational principle, she has discerned the good from the evil in each case, absorbing and transforming what is worthy.  The Church has used these talents to develop the deposit of faith received from her Lord, Jesus Christ.

As Pope Benedict has indicated, Providence chose the Hellenistic civilization as the first  home for the coming of the Incarnate Word and the early growth of the Church.  Schools today are right to introduce their students to the best in non-Western cultures.  Yet, the central importance of Greco-Roman culture to Christianithy must not be lost.

In the light of our experience with cultural pluralism, it is often said nowadays that the synthesis with Hellenism achieved in the early Church was apreliminary inculturation which ought not to be binding on other cultures. The latter are said to have the right to return to the simple message of the New Testament prior to that inculturation, in order to inculturate it anew in their own particular milieux. This thesis is not only false; it is coarse and lacking in precision. The New Testament was written in Greek and bears the imprint of the Greek spirit, which had already come to maturity as the Old Testament developed.
(Benedict XVI, Lecture at the University of Regensburg, Sept. 2006.)

Catholic classical educational schools hand on to their students what they have received – the great stories of History and Literature, the beauty of the Fine Arts, the wisdom of Philosophy and Theology.


Why read Classical Literature

Mike Van Hecke -Headmaster and President of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education 

I recently read an article that exhibited, so well, the great and simple beauty of literature. In an age of ever-increasing standards and evaluative data equirements, it was a breath of fresh air.While it is still worthy to study literature’s style, elements, and structure in order to become a better practitioner of rhetoric, it is essential to keep that in check. It is very important to keep as part of the weekly (or daily) schedules a time for reading – just reading. While our children were growing up we ended up reading to them most nights for a little while. Some nights it was hard because other duties seemed to be pressuring us to not fit in reading. Some nights we were just so
tired. And yet, even on most of those nights we made sure to read at least one chapter of the story we were enjoying.On the far side of this exercise, we have seen the powerful and lovely benefits of this practice. Our lives, and the lives of our children are much richer for the friends we met (Tom Sawyer, Bilbo Baggins and Alice and the Cheshire Cat), the places we visited (Dickens’ London, Dante’s Inferno, and the raccoon’s den where we wait till the moon is full), and the things we saw (trolls, cows jumping over the moon and Pa swinging his ax.) Goodnight Moon!

I shared before the great benefits of reading aloud to the children – it should be a high priority for young children, and a priority which may re-arrange but not disappear even for older children. One suggestion I read for Lent was to decrease “electricity time.” Spend LESS time with TV, radio or the computer…especially the internet where much time is truly wasted in social surfing and Enquirer-like news sites.

[The top two trending news stories on right now…”Texans Cheerleader” and “Chipoltle Guacamole.”] NOW, take that time and spend it on more human endeavors like playing a game, hand-writing a letter to a friend or relative, or reading a book!


Consider this letter from Teddy Roosevelt to Mr. Grahame, author of The Wind in the Willows. As Professor Anthony Esolen reflects, “[W]e do not read The Wind in the Willows in order to build knowledge about talking rats, or to broaden worldviews, whatever that term from political sloganeering is supposed to mean. We read The Wind in the Willows to enter the world of The Wind in the Willows, and maybe learn something about ourselves in the process. But the aim of  reading the work is simply the joy and the wonder of it; it is a good book, because it tells us good and true things in an artful way.


[From Theodore Roosevelt] My mind moves in ruts, as I suppose most minds do, and at first I could not reconcile myself to the change from the ever-delightful Harold and his associates, and so for some time I could not accept the toad, the mole, the water-rat, and the badger as substitutes. But after a while [my wife] and two of the boys, Kermit and Ted, all quite independently, got hold of The Wind Among the Willows [sic] and took such delight in it that I began to feel that I might have to revise my judgment. Then [she] read it aloud to the younger children, and I listened now and then. Now I have read it and reread it, and have come to accept the characters as old friends; and I am almost more fond of it than your previous books. Indeed, I feel about going to Africa very much as the sea-faring rat did when he almost made the water-rat wish to forsake everything and start wandering! I felt I must give myself the pleasure of telling you how much we had all enjoyed your book.