A message from Michelle Bertany: Cultivating simplicity and wonder in a chaotic world

In the age of Airpods, binge-watching, and everything-as-a-service, it is so easy to allow the still, small voice of God to be drowned in the minutiae of our lives. This easily ripples through our families, affecting even our youngest children and making it difficult to see God.

Simplicity, or purity of heart, is the antidote. The Scriptures tell us: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” While we often associate purity with chastity, in this beatitude, the meaning is most closely tied to intention – a purity not simply of the flesh, but of the heart. St. Augustine describes purity of heart as “singleness of heart”—in other words, to pursue “the one thing necessary” described by Jesus to Martha at Bethany. Jesus exhorts us here to pursue God with undiluted purpose—to not let ourselves be sidetracked by the allures of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

When we describe someone who acts earnestly, we often say that they acted “wholeheartedly.” The reason this word works so well is because “wholeness” of heart obviously precludes a divided heart, a distracted heart.

Our children often find it easier than we do to demonstrate this kind of purity of heart, allowing themselves to become wholly absorbed by what they are doing. Simplicity lends itself to awe and wonder. We see a waterfall, and we want to take out our smartphones to take a picture. A child sees a waterfall and wants to jump in, to literally immerse himself in the waterfall and experience it in all of its fullness. That kind of wonder – that kind of complete willingness to experience beauty wholly for its own sake, is something we adults should strive to practice in our own lives.

Unfortunately, our modern education system has not only ceased to cultivate wonder, but has played a major role in extinguishing it entirely by the time a child graduates from high school. Illustratively, when I pass by certain buildings while driving, sometimes I am not sure whether I am looking at a factory, an office, or a school. The utilitarian learning spaces used by so many educators today do little to encourage an appreciation for beauty and wonder.

As classical Catholic educators, we are committed to cultivating simplicity and wonder in our students. Something that works beautifully toward this end is the art of memorizing poetry. To sit with a poem or a psalm for a long time, taking one line at a time and repeating it until it imprints on the mind and heart, is a wonderful practice of simplicity, wonder, and prayer.

Here at Holy Spirit Preparatory School, we believe the study of the liberal arts opens the mind to wonder. Our students go outside to study the geometry and music of nature. They encounter the great art in our tradition, and we teach them what makes art good and beautiful. They meet saints—those who pursued God with singleness of purpose and built up His kingdom on earth by the profound way they loved their fellow man.

I would like to leave you with a prayer from the old collect of the Mass on the feast day of St. Therese of Lisieux, a saint of great love and simplicity:

“O Lord, You have said, ‘Unless you become as little children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.’ May we imitate the humility and the simplicity of heart of the blessed virgin Therese, so that we too may win an eternal reward.”

Please keep us in your prayers as we continue the great work of forming our young people intellectually and morally. May we be able to learn from them as they learn from us.


 

Michelle Bertany

Vice President and Head Principal

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