St Josemaría Escrivá
The inspiration behind the educational vision of Harkaway Hills College is St Josemaría Escrivá, a Catholic priest and founder of Opus Dei.
Opus Dei’s mission is to spread the message that work and the circumstances of everyday life are occasions for growing closer to God, for serving others, and for improving society.
St Josemaría was inspired to found Opus Dei in 1928. In 1982 Pope John Paul II established Opus Dei as a Personal Prelature of the Catholic Church. It is currently established in 66 countries and its faithful come from all backgrounds and occupations. About 98 per cent are lay men and women, most of whom are married. Josemaría Escrivá was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1992 and canonised in a ceremony in front of some 250,000 persons in St Peter’s Square in 2002.
Rights and Responsibilities of Parents as Educators
St Josemaría had a profound educational vision. He saw that genuine education must be integral, developing the whole person. He tended to use the word ‘formation’ more than education to express the idea that young people needed help to grow in character, emphasising human virtues such as diligence, generosity, sincerity, humility and kindness.
Because he knew that education was more than academics, St Josemaría highlighted that education is primarily the right and duty of parents; the role of the state and the role of schools being secondary. He encouraged parents to establish schools which recognise their educational rights and support their values. Today there are more than 200 schools like Harkaway Hills College across the world.
In a letter as far back as 1939 he said that “parents are the first and principal educators of their children”. In this he foreshadowed later pronouncements at an international level.
“Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.” – Article 26, UN Declaration of Human Rights
“The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.” – Article 18, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
“The right and the duty of parents to educate their children are primordial and inalienable… Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2221, 2223
Spirituality and Christian Ethos
The Christian ethos of schools like Harkaway Hills College is inspired by the spirituality of St Josemaría and Opus Dei:
— God as Father – as Christians we are children of God. Living with this awareness brings peace, security and confidence. We can abandon all our problems and worries, big and small, into his loving arms.
— Holiness in Ordinary Life – by virtue of their baptism, all Christians have a vocation to holiness. This message was at the core of the Second Vatican Council. Pope John Paul II called St Josemaría the ‘precursor to Vatican II’.
“All Christian faithful, of whatever state or rank, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity….The laity, by their vocation, seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God.” Vatican II Lumen Gentium
— Sanctification of Work – Christ’s life as a worker is the model for our own encounter with God. For 30 years he lived an ordinary life, loving God and serving others through his work. St Josemaría taught that Christians should be ‘contemplatives in the middle of the world’, living in a constant, loving conversation with God through professional, family, social and civic duties.
— Life of Prayer – St Josemaría taught a very practical approach to living one’s faith, emphasising the sacraments, particularly Mass and Reconciliation, and reading the scriptures, and dedicating time to personal prayer.
— Love for Freedom – Christians have the same rights and duties as other citizens and respect the freedom and opinion of others. They act with freedom and responsibility in professional, family, political, financial and social activities.
— Apostolic Spirit – all Christians are called by their example and by their word to bring others to know and love Christ. St Josemaría encouraged Christians and all people of good will to join together to promote initiatives including youth clubs, hospitals, universities and schools, building a more just and peaceful society.
“Apostolate is love for God that overflows and communicates itself to others…. A necessary outward manifestation of interior life.” – St Josemaría, Christ is Passing By 122