Reflection: The Pope’s ‘new commandments’ – how we can use them in schools

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Having a read through the Pope’s speech to the Curia yesterday it struck me that these ‘commandments’ apply to schools & at the end of the year may give us a chance to reflect on our working behaviours.

1) Feeling immortal, immune or indispensable.
“A Curia that doesn’t criticise itself, that doesn’t update itself, that doesn’t seek to improve itself is a sick body.”

Honest self reflection is the only way to move forwards. Do we all do this without egos getting in the way?

2) Working too hard.
It is the disease of those who, like Martha in the Gospel, “lose themselves in their work, inevitably neglecting what is better; sitting at Jesus’ feet.” The Pope said that Jesus called on his disciples to “rest a little”, because neglecting necessary rest brings anxiety and stress.

Working all hours and/or expecting others is inhumane. Do you send emails at midnight and expect a response?

3) Becoming spiritually and mentally hardened.
“It’s dangerous to lose that human sensibility that lets you cry with those who are crying, and celebrate those who are joyful.”

There is a fine balance between being professional in our behaviour and lacking humanity in our responses. If someone is sad, show you care. If you don’t care maybe it’s time you moved on or out.

4) Planning too much.
“Preparing things well is necessary, but don’t fall into the temptation of trying to close or direct the freedom of the Holy Spirit, which is bigger and more generous than any human plan.”

Too many initiatives cause chaos and we end up losing core values and aims. Keep it simple.

5) Working without co-ordination, like an orchestra that produces noise.
“When the foot tells the hand, ‘I don’t need you’ or the hand tells the head ‘I’m in charge.'”

Team work. United we stand, divided we fall.

6) Having ‘spiritual Alzheimer’s.’
“We see it in the people who have forgotten their encounter with the Lord … in those who depend completely on their here and now, on their passions, whims and manias, in those who build walls around themselves and become enslaved to the idols that they have built with their own hands.”

Don’t forget what we’re here for. Take time to reflect on what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. If the answer doesn’t link to the students maybe it’s time to rethink.

7) Being rivals or boastful.
“When one’s appearance, the colour of one’s vestments or honorific titles become the primary objective of life.”

Again, united we stand, divided we fall. One person won’t change much. A team will.

8) Suffering from ‘existential schizophrenia.’
“It’s the sickness of those who live a double life, fruit of hypocrisy that is typical of mediocre and progressive spiritual emptiness that academic degrees cannot fill. It’s a sickness that often affects those who, abandoning pastoral service, limit themselves to bureaucratic work, losing contact with reality and concrete people.”

Staying in an office all day? Saying one thing to one person and then doing another? Chastising someone for doing something and then doing it yourself? Keep it real.

9) Committing the ‘terrorism of gossip.’
“It’s the sickness of cowardly people who, not having the courage to speak directly, talk behind people’s backs.”

Not much to say. If you’ve something to say that’s important, day it sensitively and humanely to the person that needs the advice. If it doesn’t overall have an intended positive outcome, should you be saying it?

10) Glorifying one’s bosses.
“It’s the sickness of those who court their superiors, hoping for their benevolence. They are victims of careerism and opportunism, they honour people who aren’t God.”

Maybe not such a common occurrence in education. My take on this is the opposite. Remember however much we may hate what people do they are still humans. They have feelings. Love the sinner, hate the sin. (I include Mr Gove in this.)

11) Being indifferent to others.
“When, out of jealousy or cunning, one finds joy in seeing another fall rather than helping him up and encouraging him.”

Think carefully through the possible consequences of anything you do. Surely it isn’t your intention for someone to look bad?

12) Having a ‘funereal face.’
“In reality, theatrical severity and sterile pessimism are often symptoms of fear and insecurity. The apostle must be polite, serene, enthusiastic and happy and transmit joy wherever he goes.”

I’m sure we’ve all met the person who thinks that if they have a ‘funereal face’ this makes them important, serious, respectable. It’s your actions not your face expressions that gain respect.

13) Wanting more.
“When the apostle tries to fill an existential emptiness in his heart by accumulating material goods, not because he needs them but because he’ll feel more secure.”

We all want the best for students and teachers but remember some teachers operate in classrooms without windows or anything more than paper and pencil. Children still learn.

14) Forming ‘closed circles’ that seek to be stronger than the whole.
“This sickness always starts with good intentions but as time goes by, it enslaves its members by becoming a cancer that threatens the harmony of the body and causes so much bad – scandals – especially to our younger brothers.”

Are there ‘cliques’ within the staff? Within leadership? Do certain people find out things first? Showing favouritism or allegiance is dangerous and promotes distrust.

15) Seeking worldly profit and showing off.
“It’s the sickness of those who insatiably try to multiply their powers and to do so are capable of calumny, defamation and discrediting others, even in newspapers and magazines, naturally to show themselves as being more capable than others.”

Is your main aim to get your school on the front of the newspaper? Do you spend more time trying to create good PR than actually working with the students? Good work leads to natural good PR. A newspaper headline will never outweigh the views of the students, teachers and local community.

I’m not Catholic but I’m beginning to think that Pope Francis is going to be a force for good, not just for the Catholic Church. These insightful comments show he is clearly a highly intelligent, reflective leader; a role model for all.

Originally quoted by Josephine McKenna, The Telegraph

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