TMW Book Reviews

What Makes Education Catholic: Spiritual Foundations


Thomas H. Groome

What makes an education Catholic? Professor Thomas H. Groome, a senior faculty at Boston College, and world-renowned religious educator aims to answer this question in his book, “What Makes Education Catholic: Spiritual Foundations.” Whether you are Catholic or belong to other denominations or faith, he offers a dynamic and life-giving vision of what Catholic educators prioritize and hope to achieve in the lives of all participants.

Catholic educators ground their foundations in a faith stance towards life. Its defining characteristic is to provide a faith-based education that encourages students to live with a sense of “Ultimate Horizon”—a general life-stance of faith in God—to find meaning, purpose, and values. For Christians, this Ultimate Horizon is the God of Unconditional Love revealed in Jesus Christ. As such, Catholic education proposes such a source of light and understanding will enable students to fill their lives with meaning and a life-giving ethic for themselves and the common good of all.

Groome reviews some highlights and leading architects from the history of Catholic education. From Jesus to the Didache to Augustine and Aquinas, from Julian of Norwich to Angela Merici and Mary Ward, the author showcases how these forefathers and foremothers in faith have helped shape the spirituality of Catholic educators today. He seamlessly discusses contemporary Catholic education in postmodern times, emphasizing that many Catholic schools’ expanding horizons must include students and faculty of different faiths (or no faith) and all should be welcomed with open arms. Indeed, he cites the same sentiments that Pope Francis has on the importance of providing a solid Catholic education to all who seek it without prejudice to their personal background or affiliation.

For almost two thousand years now, the Catholic church has played an integral part in education throughout the world. Meanwhile, many other institutions have “moved on” from their religious origins, instead replacing transcendence with immediate alternatives. A faith-based education doesn’t mean that we must make students choose a particular religion or force them to join it. Additionally, a Catholic faith-based education can offer rich contemporary possibilities, not only to Catholics but to all people who seek to live life with a sense of Transcendence and ultimate meaning.

On the whole, the author excellently chronicles the history of Catholic education from its roots to today’s current events. He also considers what values Catholic faith emphasizes most, showcasing how anyone can benefit from its solid foundation regardless of one’s personal faith or beliefs. If you want to understand the nature of a Catholic-based education, Groome’s book will make an excellent resource to your queries.

– The Moving Words Review

Official Entry: The Most Moving Book Award, Jan. 3, 2024