The person as a vocation

“Pedagogy that lacks an answer to the question “what is man?” will do nothing but build castles in the air.” (Edith Stein)

The school is more than a place for teaching subjects that are taught orderly and systematically. In it, relationships are founded that go beyond the presence of the student in the classroom and, thanks to repeated attendance, interpersonal links are established in order to the characteristics, social needs, and patterns learned in the culture of each family.  The norms, traditions, coexistence between peers, camaraderie and group goals, friendship, effort and school work, achievements and failures, etc., categorically express that life is recreated in school with all its nuances. The child, from the beginning until the end of school, is in a constant process of evolution. Morphological, emotional, and intellectual changes occur in it. Growing up is a universal fact, but it is unique to each person. Therefore, the right educational task must affirm the person to ensure the authenticity of his belonging to the “type” or the role of student, otherwise, it would become a mere “instant”, in a general process of collective development. Edith Stein warns of this danger:

Whenever we try to understand the individual exclusively from the type, it will be inevitable to misinterpret him. It will constitute a dangerous fracture of the unity of the pedagogical act if the educator does not focus his attention directly on the student, but rather, so to speak, his gaze is in a continuous coming and going between him and a general scheme [[1]]

One must go after understanding the concrete man. “Individuality is inherent to man, and the latter will not have been understood until the former has been grasped” [[2]] The teacher’s work has the theoretical support of the nomothetic sciences—which seek the universal law in They both study the individual as an exemplar—and ideographics—which describe particular or singular events; However, “the multiplicity of concepts can make the fence around individuality increasingly tighter, but it will never allow it to be fully captured” (Stein, E.) This way of being so typical of each subject is revealed and welcomed in personal treatment, attentive listening, recognition of their individuality through empathy.

The person is a vocation, it is a who oriented and moving towards the future; with pretensions and a call to fulfill a mission. Human life is a project that is resolved over time, where the future is imposed as a duty that must be built: “but the condition is that I be better in it. If not, we fall into utopia. I have to be the one to reach it”[3]. Indeed, the future is a task that requires effort to pursue its conquest. At present, we want to retain it, but when we think we have it in our hands, it evaporates; perhaps because we have not supported it with firm pillars. Sometimes, the present is so pressing that we forget that it is just a station on the journey of life. In the growth of the person there are no backward leaps: investment of time, process, gradualness, are like points of the same star. Man writes his story every day, but every day contains his own challenges. Hence, the importance of setting goals, projects, setting objectives that oneself is capable of achieving and self-determination towards achieving them. The person is able to realize that he has chosen correctly and recognize when he has failed due to not having taken the necessary measures.

Man is not a group, although he lives in a community, nor pure solitude, although he intensely experiences his own “I”. Man is not an animal either, although he is pressured by instincts and, like man, reacts with force when his life is in danger. He seeks stillness and peace with the same intensity with which he loses them at the behest of love. He flees from fatigue, but in action he reveals his condition as a perfecter. He allows himself to be enraptured by the flash of sparklers and forgets that his spirit expands in the heat of the sun’s rays.

Potentialities and deficiencies mysteriously coexist in human beings. He wants, he searches, he dreams, but fatigue, weakness and laziness divert him from his objectives. When he walks, he kicks up dust. However, along with this reality, he opens up the vast horizon of becoming better and better, of being able to constantly travel along the path of perfection. The person’s optimism lies in the possibility of being able to review, correct and amend to go further.

The person’s capacity for growth is unrestricted: it is expressed over time, it is gradual and proportional to the nature received. In order to understand the meaning of “gradual”, it is good to take the following into account:

  • The natural endowment received determines the starting point of growth; That is, the person has a human type made up of natural characteristics, such as personality, temperament, way of being, family, culture, etc.
  • Spiritual powers can be stimulated with education.
  • What is characteristic of intelligence is the intellectual object, whose tendency is activated with teaching oriented toward learning and growth.
    What is characteristic of the will is the Good, but it is necessary to activate it so that it “wills” and “maintains” the desire for that good.
  • The formation of the person never ends, because the acquisition of habits and virtues of the will is achieved with the intentional and constant repetition of habits and because wanting is a free act in which the commitment to continuity is implied.

The acts of the will, insofar as they correspond to an “I want”, perfect the person more than those of the intelligence: through reason the ends are known, but virtue allows us to constantly improve what we are. If each person freely decides how much and why to grow, then it becomes a pure educational function to enlighten and help the student discover the meaning of arranging his or her growth for the benefit of others and society.

The person manifests himself in and with his actions, but it is not what he does; It is always more. This “more” not only marks the distinction between the author and his work, but also proposes two lines of growth in the human being: a) regarding his nature as the center of his operations; and b) regarding the intention and destination of his acts. The first line involves the improvement of what was received naturally: intelligence through the acquisition of intellectual habits, and will through the acquisition of moral habits and virtues. On the other hand, the second line accepts that a virtue, talent or perfection is incorporated into nature. These can only result in the optimization of the person if it has a meaning and a purpose, if one is willing to grow in the act of personal love, of donation to another “I”.


[1] Stein, Edith, Anthropological and pedagogical writings, Volume IV, Ed. Monte Carmelo, Burgos, 2003, pp. 580-581

[2] ibidem, p. 585

[3] Yépez, R., Understanding the world today, Madrid: Ed. Rialp, 1993, p. 149.