Brethren, let not your instruments of music rest in your work: sing one to another songs of Sion. Readily have ye heard; the more readily do what you have heard, if you wish not to be willows of Babylon fed by its streams, and bringing no fruit. But sigh for the everlasting Jerusalem: whither your hope goes before, let your life follow; there we shall be with Christ. Christ now is our Head; now He rules us from above; in that city He will fold us to Himself; we shall be equal to the Angels of God. We should not dare to imagine this of ourselves, did not the Truth promise it. This then desire, brethren, this day and night think on. Howsoever the world shine happily on you, presume not, parley not willingly with your lusts. Is it a grown-up enemy? Let it be slain upon the Rock. Is it a little enemy? Let it be dashed against the Rock. Slay the grown-up ones on the Rock, and dash the little ones against the Rock. Let the Rock conquer. Be built upon the Rock, if you desire not to be swept away either by the stream, or the winds, or the rain. If you wish to be armed against temptations in this world, let longing for the everlasting Jerusalem grow and be strengthened in your hearts. Your captivity will pass away, your happiness will come; the last enemy shall be destroyed, and we shall triumph with our King, without death.
–St. Augustine, Ennarrationes in Psalmos, 136
Last year I had the good fortune to accidentally end up teaching Pelagianism to my Third Formers. Like many accidents in teaching, it worked out very well and I think I’ll repeat the lesson this year.
As the academic year came to a close I realized I had a timing problem. With only 3 or 4 class days left, I did not have time to teach my usual close-out lesson on the basic moral content of the Gospel. Typically I take 5 or 6 class days to go through the Sermon on the Mount and the basic Pauline exhortations so that my students will have some idea what Catholicism is about outside of their primary source of information, the TV and the internet.
Since I was short on time, I let my students choose their final lesson. I could teach a shortened version of my Sermon on the Mount material, or I could teach any topic they wanted me to tackle. Any at all! I have a lot of theological hobbies and many had come up over the course of the year without us having a chance to do more than touch upon them. New astronomy? Church history myth-busting? Thorny scriptural interpretations? Philosophy of science, the nature of numbers?
Most students were indifferent but the active voters lobbied for “cool-sounding heresies.” I’d already covered the most famous ones–you can’t teach Trinity without talking about Arius, for example–and in fact I’d already covered Pelagianism indirectly. It’s quite astonishing just how much of the basic Catholic catechism is influenced by a repudiation of Pelagianism and the later battles over the same topic (*cough* Protestantism *cough*). But when I suggested Pelagianism they jumped, with one of them slyly asking me if I’d ever heard the tragedy of Darth Pelagius the Wise (that’s a Star Wars joke, for my non-nerd audience). Topic settled!
So how do you teach Pelagianism to 9th-graders? I’m glad you asked! Continue reading Conversational Pelagianism