Divine Mercy Academy will use a historically based curriculum, rooted in an understanding of the human person as a creature, created in the image and likeness of God. From this starting point, the curriculum presents history as a coherent story propelled by the human desire for God and God’s coming to meet, inflame and satisfy that desire in Christ.
This means placing special emphasis on the Greek, Roman, Jewish, and other ancient Near East cultures that make up the Western tradition. This understanding of the person as a creature provides a basis for exploring and appreciating these and other pre-Christian cultures in their own right, for seeking to understand them as they understood themselves.
But rooting history in the understanding of the human person as a creature with a natural desire for God also orients those cultures toward the coming of Christ, after which they are taken up, transformed, into a new Christian culture in which the deepest of human longings and the highest of human aspirations are met by a gift from God which surpasses all these. Other subjects such as literature, art, and music and even math and nature studies complement this understanding and deepen it. For instance, a class studying Greek culture in the Grammar stage might read and discuss stories from Greek mythology to think along with the Greeks ‘from the inside’. A class studying the Middle Ages in the Logic stage might learn Gregorian chant in music, or consider the symbolism of Gothic architecture in art or the symbolism of shapes in medieval stained glass in conjunction with their introduction to geometry.
The coming of Christ and the Church is central to history.
As Christ reconciles all things to himself, his Church and the culture to which it gives rise takes up and transforms all that is beautiful, good, and true in pre-Christian culture and becomes a decisive reference point for all world cultures thereafter. Understanding the human person as a creature and seeing all of history and all cultures as expressions of the human desire for God and as lived answers to ultimate human questions, students should learn to appreciate the great cultures of history on their own terms, seeking to understand them as they understood themselves and resisting the prejudice that equates the newest with the best.
However, they should understand history neither as a story of constant progress culminating in the present, nor as a series of disconnected events lying side by side in time, but as the story of the world’s anticipation of and longing for the truth and happiness revealed in Christ and the events his incarnation sets in motion.
They should therefore have a special understanding of those classical cultures—Greek, Jewish, Roman—which become ingredients of Christian culture. They should read those portions of the Bible that are contemporaneous with the historical period they are studying and appreciate the window that the Bible provides into the development of this history. And they should seek to understand the birth of modern culture as an event within Christianity, as simultaneously a development of Christian culture and a reaction against a Christian view of reality.
Students should thus come to understand American history as a chapter in this larger story.
American history should be studied in the same spirit of love for truth, goodness, and beauty that animates the rest of the curriculum, and American history and culture should therefore be viewed through the same lens as other historical cultures: as a lived answer to these fundamental human questions. American history should therefore form in students a love of their country and its ideals, but it should also encourage them to subject that love and those ideals to the still higher love for the truth of God and the human person revealed in Jesus Christ and through his Church. In this way, the study of history should prepare students to become both virtuous and responsible citizens and faithful Catholics and begin to equip them with the tools of discernment necessary to live deeply Catholic and deeply human lives amidst increasingly challenging times.
The study of history in these terms is central to “incorporating our students into the wisdom of two thousand years of Catholic thought, history, culture, and arts.”
Students are incorporated into the received wisdom of the Christian tradition in two ways: first, by understanding themselves as products and heirs of a culture which represents the deepest of human longings, the highest of human aspirations, and the most profound of human artistic and cultural achievements; and second, by making the desires and questions that have animated and propelled that history their own—Who am I? Who is God? How am I to live? What is goodness? What is truth?
The proper presentation of history should therefore further cultivate the art of questioning, as an expression of their innate desire for the happiness found in God.