Indeed, feelings are important and move people a lot, although not always in an adequate way, when they are not integrated into the whole person. Thus we see, for example in the cinema, how feelings make some people get their lives right (cf. Brooklyn, J. Crowley, 2015) and others make serious mistakes and even crimes (cf. Mule, C. Eastwood, 2018).
On the other hand, there are many people who carry on with their families, their jobs and many years of dedication to a solidary task without expecting or seeking to "feel good". And this does not mean that they have less merit; quite the contrary.
For so many reasons, feelings are important, but in isolation they are not enough to guide a person. And a purely sentimental education has its risks. But neither should we forget feelings, nor denigrate them, but rather value them, shape them, form them, taking into account the human experience with its structure and organicity. Here enters not only the corporeality with the external and internal senses, but also the spiritualitythe sociability and openness to the transcendence. And for a Christian, "experience" is configured centrally in the prayer and the sacramental life.
It is therefore important that the education of feelings, when it comes to Christians, be placed within the framework of Christian anthropology; that is, in the ability to assume the faith together with the search for truth, goodness and beauty. This includes, for example, Christian piety that can be learned in the family from childhood, popular religiosity and appreciation of Christian art, as well as knowledge of the teachings - in this field of education - of the Magisterium of the Church, together with some developments in contemporary theology.
This requires educating and integrating the sphere of feelings in close relationship with the other human dimensions that are at the same time interconnected:
1) In relation to the reason (faith-reason, science and art, and theology). It is necessary to teach, reflect and argue about one's own feelings and those of others, and to know what the sciences, including psychology, teach about affectivity, without forgetting what the humanities and art as well as theology teach. The integration of feelings with reason leads to the capacity to look at and listen to reality, to value it and to be able to discern where one's own actions should lead. And this leads to wisdom, which for a Christian is first and foremost the fruit of faith, of the dialogue with God and the Eucharist. Also of the personal effort to be coherent starting from one's own identity and history; because nothing of value is built in the present for the future, if it has no roots and lacks memory, both on a personal level and in relationships with others.
2) In relation to others (social, family and ecclesial dimension), feelings must be educated by underlining the value of family and work, service to the common good, dynamic fidelity to one's own family and work, and the need to be faithful to one's own family. vocation and mission. As for the ecclesial dimension, as a framework for an affective education, biblical formation and liturgical formation are important, since Sacred Scripture and the liturgy are schools of human and Christian values and feelings. And all this has to do with the sense of celebration and leisure.
3) In relation to God, feelings are a channel for transcendent openness and union with Him, although they are not "the only" way; for sometimes they are neither the first way nor the best way, but many other times they can be.
In any case, one cannot carry out the Christian life or seek holiness "apart" from feelings, because they are a fundamental dimension of human nature (cf. in relation to the theory of gender, Cong. For the Doctrine of the Faith, "Male and female he created them". For a path of dialogue on the question of "gender" in education, 2-II-2019).
Moreover, Sacred Scripture often speaks of the heart as the center and synthesis of man, thus designating the total density of human existence. Consequently, it does not refer with this term only to feelings, but to man in his concrete life, underlining that, in this life, feelings and affections play an important role.
The formation of feelings must take into account a map of the person as a whole.
As far as theology is concerned, in order to educate a Christian in affective matters, it is necessary to transmit the fundamentals of theology to him or her. theology which studies the realities of faith (the Trinity, Christ, Grace, the Church, etc.), as well as the theology of Evangelization. We have already discussed biblical and liturgical formation, as well as the importance of history.
In addition to Christian anthropology, other theological disciplines, such as moral theology and spiritual theology, study the virtues (both moral and theological virtues), which are closely connected to the education of human and Christian values, and which are also promoted by teaching the rules of conduct (the Decalogue and other commandments of the Christian faith), as well as the virtues of the human person. Church and the Beatitudes).
In this way, human virtues such as humility and love of truth, self-control, hard work, understanding and solidarity are integrated with the virtues of faith, hope and charity, which are at the heart of Christian action at the service of the Christian mission in the Church and in the world.
The main point of reference, the source and impulse of the Christian's heart is the Heart of Jesus, the living icon of God made flesh, pierced on the Cross for the salvation of mankind, who continues to live, act and intercede for us.
In synthesis, the education of feelings "in Christianity" is an overall task that requires today, above all from educators (parents, catechists, priests, teachers), a good formation mainly in Christian anthropology, as well as certain knowledge and developments in the human sciences and contemporary theology.
Mr. Ramiro Pellitero Iglesias
Professor of Pastoral Theology at the Faculty of Theology of the
University of Navarra.
Published in "Church and new evangelization".