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Matt EmersonJanuary 28, 2014

In June of 2013, Pope Francis addressed students of Jesuit schools in Italy and Albania. To mark Catholic Schools Week, I want to share a favorite passage from his speech, wherein the Pope specifically addresses Ignatian education. He said:

In following what St. Ignatius teaches us, the main element at school is to learn to be magnanimous. Magnanimity: this virtue of the great and the small (Non coerceri maximo contineri minimo, divinum est), which always makes us look at the horizon. What does being magnanimous mean? It means having a great heart, having greatness of mind; it means having great ideals, the wish to do great things to respond to what God asks of us. Hence also, for this very reason, to do well the routine things of every day and all the daily actions, tasks, meetings with people; doing the little everyday things with a great heart open to God and to others. It is therefore important to cultivate human formation with a view to magnanimity. School does not only broaden your intellectual dimension but also your human one.

Magnamity comes from two Latin words: magna (great) and anima (mind, soul, spirit). Readers with philosophy backgrounds might detect the influence of Aristotle, but in interpreting the above passage, I like what Thomas Aquinas said about magnaminity: "Magnanimity by its very name denotes stretching forth of the mind to great things."

What a wonderful way to think about Catholic education; what an inspiring thought to meditate upon this week. In the planning of our lessons, in the subject of our class discussions, in our conversations with parents and students, greatness is at stake. Greatness is our first goal. Not the greatness of the world, of course, but the greatness of Christ. The magnanimity of the Beatitudes. The courage of the cross. The splendor of truth. 

A "stretching forth of the mind to great things." We might ask: what can we do, what can we do this week, to encourage this excellence of soul?

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