It is common in our age to think of education as a means to some further end.  Whether we take it to be the acquisition of knowledge and skills for a particular career, or preparation for some sort of ministry or simply to be a “productive member of society,” we tend to make education essentially a stage in our development, through which we pass on the way to something else.  But this way of seeing things fails to do justice to the reality.  However fruitful we can expect a real education to be, we deeply misunderstand its nature if we make it a mere instrument.  Education is first of all a thing worth pursuing for its own sake. 

For the ancient Greeks, in fact, education was not only an intrinsic good, it was one of the very highest, a good to which society itself is subordinate.  According to Plato, education is the only acquisition you can “take with you” when you die.  The Fathers of the Church took over this Greek ideal, and uncovered its theological roots.  For Christians, who believe that “the glory of God is the living man,” the task of cultivating humanity is inseparable from the call to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves.  Education, properly understood, lies right at the center of the Christian mission.

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