The custody of spiritual education in Ireland
O'Higgins-Norman, James and Renehan, Caroline (2013) The custody of spiritual education in Ireland. In: Watson, Jacqueline and de Souza, Marian and Trousdale, Ann, (eds.) Global Perspectives on Spirituality and Education. Taylor & Francis, pp. 33-44. ISBN 978-0-41563619-3
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This chapter will explore the historical and sociological context of spiritual
education in the Republic of Ireland. It will show how spirituality in educa-
tion in Ireland has mostly been characterised by Jansenistic themes such as original sin, human depravity and the necessity of divine grace. Consequently, spirituality in education in Ireland has mostly been associated with Religious Education with an emphasis, although not exclusively, on cognitive learning.
This understanding of spirituality, particularly with the development of non- faith-based schools, is only beginning to be replaced by a more holistic view of the person in which the spirit does not have to be identified with religious knowledge. In this chapter we understand spirituality as a fundamental concept that defines humanity as distinct from all other living things. It has to do with our relationship with self, with all other people, with the environment and with the transcendent. A person who has achieved some level of integration between all of these relationships in his or her life then can be said to be spiritual. Human spirituality is transformational in that it takes one out of one’s self to connect with and be concerned for everything else outside of self. We can recognise people’s spirituality in their capacity for love, compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, happiness, generosity, responsibility and harmony. Spirituality is nourished by connecting with the transcendent but not in any abstract or theoretical way. For some this connection will be maintained through prayer while for others it is achieved through quality relationships that raise us up and out of ourselves. In this sense, to recognise the spiritual in oneself is to challenge oneself and the quality of the relationships that contribute to who we are and how we live.
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