Piety is a virtue that makes us fulfill worthily our duties toward God.
This we do when we perform them with respect and zeal; for the infinite majesty of God and his immense goodness require that we pay him our most reverent homage and that we show the greatest zeal in serving him as he requires.
A teacher should possess the virtue of Piety in an eminent degree, that is, his Piety should be both interior and sincere; otherwise he would only be a hypocrite; it should also be outward and exemplary because he should show externally the sentiments that fill his heart.
What indeed is a Christian teacher charged with the education of the young? He is a person into whose hands Jesus Christ has placed a certain number of children whom he redeemed with his precious blood, for whom he gave his life; in whom he dwells as in his temple, whom he looks upon as his own members, his brothers and co-heirs; who will reign with him and glorify God through him for all eternity. Why has Jesus Christ entrusted these children to the teacher? Was it merely to make them good penmen, great mathematicians, clever calculators, learned savants? Who would dare say or even think in this way? He entrusted them to the teacher to preserve in them the precious and priceless gift of innocence that he placed in their souls at Baptism so that they will become true Christians. Such is, in fact, the end and the purpose of the education of children: all the rest is accessory.
It follows that a teacher should have the greatest care to bring up his students in religious sentiments; and so he will apply himself, as we have said elsewhere, to instruct them in the mysteries of faith, especially in those truths that they must by all means explicitly believe: in the Creed, in the truths of a practical nature such as the Commandments of God and of the Church, the dispositions required for receiving the sacraments profitably, and so forth.
Nor will he fail to speak to them of the obligations contracted in Baptism; of the reconciliation to which they consented in receiving this sacrament, of the esteem they should have for the graces given to them, and of what they are bound to do to preserve these.
He will explain to them what concerns Holy Mass, the obligation of hearing Mass on Sundays and feasts, the precious benefits they will derive from attending Mass daily, and the manner of doing so. He will teach them to be assiduous in frequenting religious functions, and he will instruct them how to behave in church.
He will teach them how necessary prayer is, how and when they should fulfill this essential duty, for example, in the morning, at evening, and in so many other circumstances of life. He will make sure that they know the usual formulas of prayer, that they recite them well and distinctly.
He will also teach them how to make their actions meritorious by offering them to God and asking for his help to perform them well; how they should profit by the pains and sorrows of life; how to submit with resignation to the will of God in sickness and other unpleasant happenings; how to carry out the duties of their state of life; how to avoid occasions of sin; how never to be a cause of scandal for others, and so forth.
He will make them understand well the Christian and moral virtues: faith, hope, charity, justice, goodness, honesty, wisdom, prudence, fortitude, temperance, modesty in talk and in all their conduct, the respect and submission they owe to civil and ecclesiastical authorities, the immortality of the soul; the last ends of man; grace, sin, and so forth.
He will inspire them not only with solid Piety with regard to God and to Our Lord but also with a special devotion to the Most Blessed Virgin, to Saint Joseph, to their holy patron, and to their holy guardian angel. He should instruct them on the reasons for these devotions and reward those who take them most to heart. In the proper circumstances he should mention certain striking examples from the lives of the saints and of other illustrious persons. Good examples in themselves impress the minds of the students more deeply than long discourses, even the most carefully prepared ones.
Finally, he will without ceasing impress on the students the duty of preferring their own salvation to anything else; by all these instructions he will form in them the qualities that make a good Christian, a good citizen, a good father of a family, a good magistrate, a good soldier, a good businessman, and so forth, depending on the various vocations to which each may be called by Divine Providence.
But let us not forget to observe here that we must, above all, teach religion well to the children, and for this we need to diversify, as we mentioned above, and to simplify the instructions given, depending on the students needs. It is not enough to have them study the catechism and make them learn it every day; we must, in addition, illustrate Christian doctrine for them by giving them clear explanations according to their capacity. The teacher who does this, who provides them with an example of all the virtues, will infallibly produce great results.
Furthermore, it should not be necessary to mention that all exercises of piety should be performed with respect, with modesty, with interior and exterior recollection. At such times we should never permit anything that might distract the children from applying themselves to what they are doing. In church we must also require that they have their prayer books in their hands and follow in them assiduously.
Such are the principal objects about which a teacher should instruct his students. But once again, how can he give them such an education and form them properly to a Christian life if he himself is not filled with all that he is trying to teach them? We were right, then, in saying that his Piety must be outstanding. But to make it solid, he must not fail to take Jesus Christ as his model, the morals of this Divine Savior as the foundation and the principle of his conduct; thus he will scorn the passing goods of this world, the human praises bereft of all substance, and the pleasures of this life, which are only a danger and an illusion.
A teacher would lack Piety if he spoke of God in a lifeless manner without any feeling, without being convinced of the truths of religion; by saying or letting another say the prayers with great haste, without marking the pauses, or too loud, or without modesty, respect, or attention; by neglecting or by performing languidly and without fervor certain practices of devotion, such as using holy water, making the sign of the cross, joining his hands, bowing his head, kneeling at the proper times and places, especially if he failed to do so out of human respect.
Train yourself in godliness. . .;
godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life
to come (1 Timothy 4:8).
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed (2 Timothy 4:8).