Premise of the Proposal

This article intends to be a contribution to the ongoing discussions on the core values of our educational institutions. I have already expressed my opinion on the formulations made by the University of San Agustin-Iloilo and the Colegio San Agustin-Bacolod on the basis of my understanding of how the Ten Augustinian Values are related not only to Augustinian spirituality but also to Christian life in general. This is found in the article entitled “Ten Augustinian Values Revisited”.

My proposal will be characterized by the following points:

1.  The formulation of the three core values will take into account the traditional motto of our Augustinian schools, namely “Virtus et Scientia”.  I already explained that this binomial is the opposite of an Augustinian binomial “Concupiscentia et Ignorantia” the two effects of original sin.  A motto expresses in pithy language the motivation and purpose of an institution.  It was originally meant to remind enrollees what they are supposed to expect from their school.  I think it also was intended to give an idea of what society should expect from the school’s graduates, men and women of virtue and science.  Besides, the binomial also echoes the purpose of the ancient Greek schools which trained their students to be healthy in mind and body so that they may truly become “viri“. men that society can depend on.

2.  My proposal will take into account Augustine’s idea of ordered love as the dynamic thrust of a human being towards his/her ultimate goal.  Love is not “basically benevolence”.  It is attraction towards the “thing” that is to be loved.  It is here however that human love shows its ambiguity:  what is to be loved?  Angustine writes that it is not a question of whether one loves or not, since everyone loves.  The problem is “What do you love?”  Thus even human loving requires Truth, which is the object of knowledge (scientia).  But since concupiscence has weakened the heart that it constantly wavers between “the good” and the “apparent good”  (evil is never the object of love), then there is also a need for training in virtue.

3. Values are not activities or tasks to be done. They are characteristics of a lifestyle.  The ten Augustinian values that I have described are intelligible within the context of a community of persons who are living their baptism in accordance with their states of life and professions.  Outside of that context, those ten Augustinian values are reduced to an academic discussion on the ideas of an ancient writer. 

Having stated my premises for this proposal, let me express in three words what I consider to be the core values of an Augustinian school in the Philippines:  Caritas, Virtus et Scientia.  Only one word is added to  two other words that have become familiar to our students and teachers, but that one additional word when explained well gives a new meaning to an old familiar phrase.  Below is an illustration of how the other values hang together with Caritas, Virtus et Scientia.  Click on the picture for a bigger view.


Caritas, Virtus et Scientia:  An Illustration

 A general overview

 


The Three Core Values

The Core Values

Love has to be purified.  It needs the Truth and formation in Virtue.  Hence, an integral element in formation in ordered loving is the devotion to Truth and the pursuit of Wisdom of which the academic life is but an introduction.  Knowledge becomes Understanding and finally, it can grow into Wisdom.  Humility and Interiority animate formation and training in all its aspects.  If “Caritas” is the operating system of a computer, and “Scientia” are the installed applications, then “Humility” and “Interiority” are like your anti-virus and firewall protection.  When “Caritas” is turned on, and “Scientia” is loaded, “Humility” and “Interiority” must also be operating in the background. 

One may object that “virtus” isn’t only “humility” and “interiority”; all the other values can also be called “virtues”.  True and I will not deny that.  But the concept of “virtus” as “strength” whether of character or will is being presented here as the requirement for living out the other values.  If “Caritas” is the dynamic force that moves the human being and “scientia” provides the light, “virtus” is the rudder that keeps the vessel locked on its target.  “Interiority” in this respect is the constant vigilance over the motions of the heart and the mind and “Humility” is the attitude that opens one up to instruction and training.  In all the phases of the person’s formation in love, these two “scientia” and “virtus” will be at the background, always turned “on”.


Freedom Invested; the Symbol of the Heart

Freedom

Love that is constantly guided by Truth, never presumptuous about its own strength (humility) and under constant watch (interiority) becomes freedom that is invested for the good of others.  We all know that definition of “freedom”:  it is the capacity to choose what is good.  It is the way one defines oneself through the choices one makes.  Or to put it in another way, freedom is love defining itself concretely, in particular moments in history.  Love externalizes itself in freely chosen actions. 

I have explained how freedom  is invested by the Christian whose love is being formed in ordered loving.  (Refer to the article entitled “Ten Augustinian Values Revisited”).  What remains for me to explain is this:  love and freedom makes up the subject.  That is, both “love” and “freedom” are symbolized in the heart that yearns to be at rest in the One who has created it.

 The Heart

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines the symbol of the heart thus:


The heart is the dwelling-place where I am, where I live … the place to which I withdraw.  The heart is our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully.  The heart is place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives.  It is the place of  Truth … It is the place of encounter… (CCC, 2563)

The definition is both biblical with echoes of Augustine’s metaphoric use of it.  It is also one of the more prominent symbols in our schools.  Everyone knows that the heart symbolizes love.  What many don’t realize is that the heart is the place of decisions.  It is in the heart that one chooses God or something else.  It is in the heart that one discerns “What” to love.   In short, the heart symbolizes the human person who defines him/herself in the choices he/she makes daily.  It is the symbol of the human being who cries out to God in prayer.

Thus we come to the next point…


Prayer, the Cry of the Heart

I have explained why I don’t agree that “Prayer” should be associated with “Interiority”.   That would be reducing “Prayer” to an activity.  While it is true that “Prayer” is something done (e.g. one says, “Let us go to the chapel and pray”) for Augustine it is more than that.  It is a life-style, not just an activity.  For Augustine, prayer is the cry of the heart.  It is the expression of a love that longs for fulfillment. If love expending itself in freedom for something that is good  is the human heart toiling daily, then prayer should be its heart beat.


Conclusion

Caritas, Virtus et Scientia. These are three words that both students, educators and graduates have held sacred in our schools. They recognize these words as the qualities that make up an “Augustinian”, the ideals to which they are called. I think these are sufficient for expressing the core values of our educational institutions and that they are expressive enough of the idea that the whole of Christian life is a training in ordered loving. Formation in ordered love however requires “virtus” et “scientia”, the humility that accepts one’s ignorance and weakness, the “interiority” that keeps watch over the motions of the mind and heart and the light of Truth that helps one recognize the Good that is to be loved. It is by this training that love is externalized in free decisions to be generous and self-giving one the one hand and expresses itself in sighs of longing for that moment when faith gives way to vision, hope to possession and love transformed into heavenly delight.

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