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Pope Benedict XVI and Catholic Education: Dr. Joe Lanzilotti on the Adventure of Truth

Hell, Dante expresses, is being trapped by our false attempts to be free. Thus, the Comedy’s Satan is forever stuck in the ice of a lake made frozen by the beating of his wings as he attempts to “free” himself from the reality of God. Education, on the other hand, frees us from such a lake by leading us to embrace, with the fullness of our being, the Truth which sets us free.

This week on HeightCast we welcome Dr. Joseph Lanzilotti for a discussion of what Pope Benedict XVI can teach us about such an education. Drawing especially from the late pope’s 2008 address to educators at The Catholic University of America, Dr. Lanzilotti explains how hope and the beauty which engenders it rests at the heart of Pope Benedict’s response to what he called a crisis of education in the modern world.

Moving between theology and praxis, Dr. Lanzilotti focuses our attention on the nature and calling of educational institutions, both as they relate to the Church and to the world at large. Beyond places of data transfer or ready-made success measurable by test scores, such institutions are meeting places that reverberate with the life of the Church. They are places where students encounter the truth and especially that Truth which is found in prayer. They are places where beauty—the splendor of truth—can reverberate first in the hearts of students and then in the families and communities where they are called to serve after graduation.


  • 1:23 Introduction: Pope Benedict XVI’s address to educators
  • 2:40 The virtue of hope and education for the future
  • 6:22 What does it mean to be a Catholic educator?
  • 11:00 Restoring the fullness of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty
  • 13:30 The importance of why questions
  • 14:30 The communal dimension of education
  • 19:10 Egalitarian elitism and intellectual charity
  • 21:35 The intellect and the will
  • 25:15 The will and our heart
  • 28:25 The interaction between affectivity and the human heart
  • 30:50 Moral truth
  • 33:55 The adventure of education
  • 37:53 Both for Catholic institutions and Catholic teachers who are not in Catholic schools
  • 40:15 Concluding thoughts: more than a facade

Additional Resources 

Introduction to Christianity by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

“Joseph Ratzinger as Doctor of Incarnate Beauty” by Tracey Rowland

“Address to Educators at The Catholic University of America” by Pope Benedict XVI

“Letter on the Urgent Task of Educating Young People” by Pope Benedict XVI

“General Audience on Prayer and the Holy Family of Nazareth” by Pope Benedict XVI

“Message on Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization” by Pope Benedict XVI

Also on the Forum 

Order and Surprise: On Beauty and the Western Tradition with Lionel Yaceczko

Artwork in Schools: On the Buildings that Build Us with Joe Cardenas

On the Education of the Human Heart with Anton Vorozhko

About the Guest

Joseph Lanzilotti

Math, Classics

Dr. Joseph Lanzilotti joined The Heights School faculty in 2022. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with a second major in Philosophy from DeSales University, a Master of Arts degree in Theology from Ave Maria University, and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in Theology from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. Having grown up in rural New Jersey, Dr. Lanzilotti developed a great love for the natural world. He is a beekeeper and gardener. He enjoys trail running, swimming, and skiing. Joseph and his wife, Caeli, have a two-year-old son. They reside in Reston, VA.

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