English translation of fragments of
by Susan Verkerk-Wheatley / Anne-Marie Bos
Anniversary speech, St. George’s School, Eindhoven (fragments)
Fragments from the anniversary speech made on the occasion of the twelve-and-a-half-year existence of St. George’s School in Eindhoven, on Wednesday 30 April 1930..
It is very striking that this Copper anniversary of Saint George’s School falls on the Octave day of the feast of its patron. Instinctively on this day, our thoughts go back to the glorious knight who achieved great fame in his life but, moreover, lives on in the legend as the powerful adversary of a dragon, and stands today as the symbol of the fight for the glory of God and against all evil, a fight crowned with glorious triumph under God’s blessing.
The life of the human being is simply a trial and it is not surprising that people like to visualise the strong knight, whose help assures victory in that fight. For many, he was an example, an ideal, especially for the strong who wanted to be like him, but he was also for them what he was for many others in the first place a help, a protector.
As we now celebrate the anniversary of the twelve-and-a-half-year existence of Saint George’s School, then this thought of the battle does not abate. Human life being a trial, there are those circumstances and ventures which, more than others, imprint on that life the mark of battle. In general, the founding of a school is part of this, as is the founding of St. George’s School in Eindhoven.
Out of struggle it [the school] was born, out of a noble fight for the good and the best. It unleashed powerful forces for that purpose and it still calls for the tenacious energy of many who continue that battle.
And now I do not in the least refer to those who once founded this school and, as a result, had to overcome opposing views, and seriously had to contend with financial concerns and difficulties, this is not the battle which I mean. This is not the struggle of St. George against the dragon. These are simply the difficulties which are necessary for a matter to become deeply rooted, to awaken more love for it and to fortify and strengthen the vital energy in the founders and leaders.
The battle which I am referring to is the fight which St. George led against evil, in order to allow everyone, freely and unhindered, to quench their thirst at the fountain, threatened by the dragon; the fight for the child, the king’s daughter in the Libyan desert, the bloom of the desert of this world; the fight which rescues the child from the grip of the devil and nurtures it for the royal household of Christ, King for us all.
The dragon, fought against by Saint George, also roams around here. But even here, Saint George is at his post. And I can congratulate Eindhoven with this daring fighter. It means for Eindhoven, where much has already been done and what still needs to be done is constantly weighed up, an inestimable benefit that, next to so many other establishments on behalf of the young, in this place a school has also emerged to guard and to lead young people.
Unfortunately, we know too well how weak young people are, how poorly they are able to resist various dangers. Will we, as much as possible, form the young into the ideal, then it is a duty to keep them free of many dangers, because experience teaches that though danger and strife can fortify and strengthen some characters more than a life without those dangers and that struggle, the majority are not able to cope with it, and experience the detrimental impact.
Here, I do not need to go into those dangers and into the obfuscation of what is needed to quench the thirst of the young for knowledge. The danger particularly exists in teaching science, educating for life [and] leading [the young] into society, outside of all connection to God and religion.
All too often we encounter the drawbacks of the unfolding of human nature in various elements or factors. A person lives in constant abstraction, at one moment of his faith, then of his family, then of his business. At one moment a person is this, and then is that: is no longer able to be him/herself. The wholly harmonious outlook on life is completely lacking. The workman is a workman, whether or not he is a family man, whether he is sick or healthy, is Catholic or professes another religion, is old or young, lives in the city or outside. From all of this and from a great deal more, people want to make everything abstract and interpret society in as simple a manner as possible. But life is otherwise, and people are not simply all alike and do not comply with a casual construction or idea.
The human being, and even the child, is in each person different in nature and it does not help us when we would like to see beyond all the differences that are there, all the deviations from our ideal or of our abstraction. We must take young people as they are, and we know very well that if they attend school for years where the religious notion of life, which impacts on every area of knowledge, is bypassed, then they make many principles their own which are not in the least in harmony with the religious notion. Struggle and opposition occur where the greatest harmony ought to reign. From the outset, God and religion become abstract, whilst life itself cannot be extricated from it, without it becoming extricated from its source and its purpose, without it developing in a partial and fragmentary manner.
However, over the centuries religion has always been a factor of the greatest influence on the moral and social life of the person. Life is defined and guided by the very first questions about source and purpose. If this factor is erased as much as possible, then it cannot be otherwise that human life will be deprived of something which should have primary place in it. It will give a direction to it [human life], which shall hardly be, in all aspects, in agreement with the precepts of Church and Revelation. Thus, young people are deprived of the noblest and the best, not without the fact that this loss implies a danger, a very great danger, not without ideas seeping into education, principles being accepted that lead to a clouding of the truth, an obfuscation of elements, the adverse impact of which the weak child will ultimately not be able to bear.
Do we see a certain danger in non-denominational education, well, one should not exaggerate. One cannot bring up young people without danger. And if the system is wrong, the implementation of it by praiseworthy teachers, guided by high notions of their task, will take away from the system much of its inner perniciousness, but it cannot satisfy us. It can be so much better. And we who love the child and know that education is of the utmost importance for the rest of life and the eternal future of that child, we desire the best for the child.
And consequently, it leaves no doubt that education, leavened with the truth revealed to us by God, nurtured by respect for his laws, with reverence for his work, love for his goodness, must become a much more harmonious whole than can ever be provided by non-denominational education. It can and must be so.
George, who rescued the king’s daughter out of the dragon’s clutches, manifests Jesus Christ and points to new paths through life, the banner of the cross held high; Saint George is once again the symbol here. In the same way that he was not satisfied with slaying the dragon, but understood his task of liberating the princess as higher and nobler, so should the founding of these schools be seen as an attempt to make Christ manifest in the child, to give it a Christian education, to educate it not only in the subjects of the national State curriculum which is defined outside of all religious connection, but also in what Revelation teaches us, the Church holds before us and, without a shadow of doubt, in the religious elements which lie hidden in all of those different subjects and form the most beautiful aspect of them. Through that connection to God and religion, education becomes something different, becomes alive and responds to reality, it receives new life, warmth and inspiration. O surely, non-denominational education also recognises poetry and is not deprived of elements which awaken passion, reverence [and] love, but how much richer it is when the right connection is restored, [when] everything can be viewed in its wholeness, no longer forced into the straitjacket of a senseless and unreal abstraction. I concede that the beauty of denominational and religiously orientated education is not always enjoyed to the full, neither by teachers or by pupils. We are simply people who, when it comes to expressing that which might be recognised as the noblest expressions of our nature, to love God as well as our neighbour, we prefer [instead] to withdraw into ourselves and are not ourselves. We do not live out [in the world] the fine and splendid which in our heart we still love, we often suppress an act of love and reverence because we do not want to expose ourselves, we lack the courage to express our belief, to act according to our belief.
As a system, our own religious education is certainly much to be preferred to the non-denominational, but sometimes we make it neutral ourselves and sometimes, just for a while, we allow our Christian principles to shine through. We desire to offer the more perfect but remain often so imperfect that people might well be permitted to ask us: ‘Should all these costs be incurred’. But then at this anniversary feast, I might add directly that although things are certainly still not perfect here - it remains the work of human beings - very fine work has been done; the two schools here are known with honour amongst our Catholic schools, where people in their work are indeed guided by the idea of giving the best to our Catholic Children.
A word of tribute may certainly be expressed not only to those who founded the school, no matter how great their merits, but especially to those who work at this school and have made it what it is. A tribute to the staff of teaching personnel in these schools who, guided by the highest principles, have chosen the education of young people in a Christian way, in the Catholic sense, as their mission in life. People of Eindhoven, you owe them homage and thanks and I count it my duty here today, in your name – I also offer my own personal thanks – but especially today at this anniversary feast to give in your name, your homage and thanks to the smart Director van den Donk and the staff of the teaching personnel. They are the ones who deliver what you expect and ask from the Catholic Secondary and Preparatory Higher Education.
However, there is also another group to whom I wish to pay homage on this day. For a moment I even considered if the tribute to this group should have been paid earlier, even before the teachers and the founders. I mean the young people who have received and receive their formation here. Indeed, the young people who are educated here, form ultimately the actual life of the school. There is an ancient philosophical saying, to which I have often returned during my lessons. It says that everything which is assimilated is assimilated according to the receptivity for it, which is already there. Omne quod recipitur ad modum recipientis recipitur. That the schools of Saint George and Saint Catherine blossom here, we owe to the receptivity of the young people of Eindhoven, who have assimilated into themselves what the teachers have given them, who have responded to the expectations which the founders had of them. And now, both the Director and the teachers might say that it is risky, that people should be cautious in praising young people, that they also have other experiences; certainly, also the young people here at these schools are not perfect and not all the education provided here will sink in and flourish as intended. But now that these schools are blossoming and, in the space of twelve-and-a-half years, can boast of good results, now it proves that there is something that can be done with the young people of Eindhoven, and that hidden in them is a receptiveness to that which is offered here. Girls and boys of these schools and you who are present here as former pupils and representatives of the pupils, today it is first and foremost your anniversary celebration. Under the benevolent action of Catholic education, you have become what you are today, still as a student or already guided and formed, some already holding a position in society thanks to the formation received here.
Under the Blessing of Heaven. Not him who sows or who irrigates, but ultimately the credit for this work belongs to Him who brings forth the growth. It was begun for Him, it remains focused on Him. He keeps us all united in working for it. Where two or three are gathered in his name, He is in the midst of them. This not only applies to formal prayer. It also applies to work such as this, to a gathering such as this. God is in our midst. And as Saint Paul says, he can do everything in Jesus Christ who strengthens him. So, full of courage may we repeat that we have faith in the future of these foundations, that we trust that we shall be able to do what is necessary to maintain them and keep up the standard.
As a pledge of that blessing, as the month of May breaks out all around us, the month of Mary, we place ourselves this evening under her special protection. She, the carrier of the Divine Word, the Seat of Wisdom and Truth, will keep us connected to the Eternal Light, which may shine for us all, shine for the teachers so that they teach in accordance with his Word, shine for the pupils so that they learn what He teaches. May this Light shine out in both, so that what is seen is how the Son of Wisdom brings forth fruits of everlasting value for the human individual, for the human being in society.
- Translation of fragments of: Titus Brandsma, Feestrede ter gelegenheid van het 12½- jarig bestaan van het Sint-Joriscollege te Eindhoven
- See Carmelite Rule, Chapter 15.
- The Dutch the word ‘strijd’ has several meanings and we have translated it as battle, fight, strife, struggle.
Translation: Susan Verkerk-Wheatley / Anne-Marie Bos
© Titus Brandsma Instituut 2018