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The Catholic Church has realized more than any other religious body the necessity of religious training in the education of the child. Since her very foundation, she has exercised great care in instructing the faithful, especially the children, in all the truths and practices received from her Divine Founder. Not satisfied with carrying on this instruction for an hour or two on Sunday, the day particularly set apart for divine worship, the Church has established and maintained at an enormous expense and at the cost of much labor and sacrifice, a complete system of schools wherein her children of all ages receive instruction in the fundamental branches, in all the arts and sciences, together with a thorough training in the principles and practices of the Catholic religion. The essentials of Catholic belief in a simplified form are taught to the children in the primary grades, and simultaneously with the teaching of these elements, the young pupils are trained to the observance of the customs and practices that have prevailed in the Catholic Church since the first century of the Christian era. As the child advances from one grade to another, and his mind develops and becomes capable of a more thorough understanding, the sacred truths are presented to him in a more detailed and complete way, and a more rigid compliance with the practices of religion is demanded of him. Thus the child's knowledge of religion, his appreciation of its teachings, and his co-operation with its obligations increase and expand with the constant development of his mind in its several stages. Throughout his entire education it is intended that the child be, moreover, surrounded by a Catholic atmosphere, that the spirit of the Catholic religion pervade the various branches of the system; all of the subjects taught, every one of the arts and sciences making up the curriculum is to be presented in the light of the revealed religion, so that the truths of the Catholic faith may filter in and permeate every thought and action of teacher and pupil. Thus religion will become a vital part of the child's life, a dominating power that will govern his mind and will, and direct him aright in the fulfilment of his duty to his Creator, to his country, and to his fellowcitizens.
In order, however, that the teaching of religion may bring about this desired result, the work of the instructor must con
form to certain fixed principles of method. A haphazard, incoherent manner of presentation would fall far short of conveying an adequate idea of the profound truths of religion to the immature mind of the child, of impressing him with the sacredness and importance of these truths, and of leading him to recognize the relation between belief and practice. Within recent years all teaching has been reorganized along the lines of scientific methods. The sciences, more especially biology and psychology, have been used as a basis on which modern educational methods have been developed. Recognizing the analogy that exists between the growing organism and the growing mind, psychologists have concluded that the laws governing the former are equally active in regard to the latter; hence, just as it is necessary to regulate the quality and quantity of food in order that the body of the child derive therefrom the nourishment required for its proper growth and development, so is it equally important that the child's mental food be supplied to him in such quality and quantity as will contribute most effectually to the growth and development of his mind. Language, reading, arithmetic, spelling, and all the branches of elementary education more particularly are, therefore, now taught in accordance with the methods formulated by experts in the field of psychology, which methods proceed on the sound principle that education must adapt itself to the laws of mental activity. If these methods have been found efficacious in the teaching of the secular branches, the instructor in religion cannot afford to disregard them. If religion is to be a vital factor in the life of the individual, if it is to be a governing force, the motive power animating every thought and action, such methods must be used in its teaching as will most effectively bring about a clear understanding of its content, and a just appreciation of the importance of the subject as a branch of study. Precisely because of its unparalleled importance in the school curriculum, religion calls for the best methods, in order that the instruction may not fail to attain the desired results.
Since the recent ways of imparting knowledge and conducting classes were not prevalent before the time of Rousseau, Pestalozzi, and Herbart, the credit for the discovery of the fundamental principles upon which modern methods are based has been given to modern times and modern educators. As a matter of fact, however, they were used many centuries before the dawn of modern psychology by our Divine Saviour.