The selection above is a musical setting by Claudio Monteverdi for evening prayers (vespers) on the eve of Marian feast days. Monteverdi lived from 1567 to 1643, and composed this work 1610 and dedicated it to Pope Paul V.
Monteverdi is important for us as we consider the restoration of classical Catholic education and the real-life challenges we face a parents and students.
The patron saint of students is St. Aloysius Gonzaga, who lived from 1568-1591, dying at age 23. Catholic parents often speak of “raising saints” as if this is a matter of choosing. The truth, however, is that there is often much more to the lives of the saints than good intentions of their parents. Only God can raise saints and many factors, including God’s grace, must work together for the cultivation of a holy soul.
What does this have to do with Monteverdi’s Vespers? Well, when we listen to Monteverdi, we are listening the work of a musician who, beginning around 1590, was employed by the Gonzaga family. This was the level of culture with which Aloysius Gonzaga’s family enjoyed. The saint was a member of a powerful aristocratic family that ruled Mantua, which happens to be the native town of the classical Roman poet Virgil. As a young child, he was sent to Florence–the center of Renaissance culture–to live with the famous Medici family–the wealthiest family in Europe. Oh, and if that’s not enough, you should know that when the time came for Aloysius to be catechized, his religious education was taken care of by St. Charles Borromeo. Oh yes, and while he served later as a Jesuit, his spiritual director was St. Robert Bellarmine.
So, what benefits do your children enjoy? (Kidding.)
When we consider the historical details of the lives of the saints, we can approach our work as parents, teachers and students with realistic expectations. Talking about raising saints like Aloysius Gonzaga in a generation where none of the culture advantages he enjoyed are available is unreasonable. Worse, such expectations will lead parents to set presumptuous and outright foolish goals they cannot achieve and, instead of aiming at goals within their reach, they will end up settling for something much lower than they could have achieved if their goals were proper.
You can provide your children with a classical Catholic education, which contains many of the benefits enjoyed by saints and wise men throughout history. However, while we seek to serve our children well in the present generation, we must look ahead and work to restore a multi-generational culture that offers much more to our children’s children and generations to come.
In the meantime, enjoy the music.
God bless your studies,
William C. Michael, Headmaster
Classical Liberal Arts Academy