« PredošláPokračovať »
His rule was to visit it three times a week, and he remained there in general some hours. One time he gave instruction in arithmetic, another time in the history of the Bible, another in religion. During the period of the normal instruction, he would take the masters with him, in order to show them the method of instruction. His manner of teaching was calculated to be a pattern for them. When he taught arithmetic he attended particularly to this point, that the children should see through the reason of the working of the sum with entire clearness, and, where it was possible, should always find out the rule for themselves. By reason of the perfect order which prevailed in his own thoughts, by the calmness, clearness, and popular character of his delivery, he was able, in a way that few others are, to bring complicated and difficult calculations within reach of the comprehension even of children. As he was in all cases an enemy to barely mechanical operations in schools, he made use particularly of instruction in arithmetic, to give the children the habit of attention and reflection, and to inform their understanding. In his lectures on Bible history, his extraordinary talent for clear representation of things was of especial service to him. All the most important events he depicted in such lively colours, that the children fancied that they saw them with their own eyes. By this means, when he had been relating things for two hours, the time yet seemed to them too short.
No less captivating was the religious instruction which he gave every Sunday in the church of the convent, so long as his health permitted ; with the most affectionate kindness he used to go into the midst of the children, who stood round him in a half-circle, he greeted them with cheerful and truly benevolent familiarity, drew forward some of the smaller ones from behind the taller, placed them in the first rank, and began a conversation with them on some subject quite familiar to them, which seemed to have no connexion with the instruction which he intended to give. In this way he excited them to reflect, and to give him answers ; in a short time he tied on, in a surprising way, to this seemingly indifferent matter, some point of doctrine, which, being brought and placed in a clear light, from a quarter new and hitherto unusual, awakened a lively attention. The instruction went forwards in the tone of the most light and pleasing conversation. One point of doctrine rose out of another, and by reason of the connexion and order in which they were presented to the hearers, the whole was clear, forcible, and agreeable. Suitable examples and comparisons came forward, as if of themselves. Attention and reflection were constantly
maintained; but nothing was more charming than the good humour which predominated through it all. The soul of Overberg was penetrated with love, and this visibly communicated itself both to the children and the grown-up people. People of all conditions, and of every ago, crowded to his instructions; and when they saw Overberg in the midst of the children, they imagined to themselves that their Saviour was before them; as when he said, “ Suffer the little children to come to me." Students in theology sought to learn of him the art of teaching. The learned were in admiration at the clearness, the child-like simplicity of his descriptions, the rich variety of images and references to daily life, which, as it were, of their own accord presented themselves ; and all who heard him were captivated by the high and heavenly unction of his words. Many noted down in the church the steps of the instruction, as they succeeded one another, in order the better to preserve the impression which had been made with such power on their spirit and their heart.
With what care Overberg prepared himself for giving religious instruction, may be judged by the following extracts from his journal:
(January 15, 1790.) “This morning, I again went to the school, without due preparation. O God, help me to improve in this point. It is a delusion when I think with myself, I shall get on well enough as I am; I know the subject; this other affair is more pressing now—for no other affair (if it can possibly be put off) can for the time be so necessary. Want of preparation leads to many other defects; the instruction becomes dry, perplexed, without point, prolix; this puts the children in disorder, hinders attention, and makes the instruction disagreeable to them and to myself. I have in general to guard myself against going too much into detail,—against being too diffuse, too learned for children. It is much more to their advantage to have rightly comprehended and remembered one important point of doctrine, than to hear ten points explained, and to understand none of them rightly; or by attending to the others, to take no notice of, or to forget again, that one which is the most useful among all the ten. O God! help me to imitate more and more closely the way of teaching of thy beloved Son,-easy, full of divine simplicity, concise, perspicuous, and so easy to be remembered. Grant, that before I enter on any point of doctrine with the children, I may always first ask myself, is this a necessary doctrine ? is it a profitable one ? Is there none more profitable, which ought to be chosen in preference to this? Is this sufficiently comprehensible to the children? What is the end thou proposest to
thyself in treating it? When the children have learnt it, will it do no more than give them the reputation of learning ? If not, away with it. Is this matter the most profitable of all thou canst bring forward just now ?”
In another place, he reckons up all the disadvantages which result from mixing up with the instruction less profitable matter.
(February 7, 1790.) “ Thou teachest me, O my God! ever, more and more, by my own experience, to see that I can do nothing of myself. When I fear that the instruction with which thou hast charged me will not go on successfully, it succeeds in a way which astonishes me; and exactly the contrary happens, when I promise myself that, this time at least, it will turn out well. Is not this a hint from thee, that I ought to trust, not in my own strength, but only in thy grace? Help me then also to put this in practice. Ah! my God, thou givest me so many graces. To-day also thou hast enabled me to remark, that every time that I have to instruct youth publicly in the church, thou removest the obstacles which often prevent my speaking loudly and intelligibly. Give me yet at last the grace of which I must own I am unworthy, since I have so often resisted it ;-the grace, I mean, that in all which I do or leave undone, and especially in all which concerns the instruction of youth, I may have solely and simply thy will before my eyes. Ah! Father. My Father is Jesus Christ ! Do thou stand by me, that I may not make the instruction unnecessarily burdensome to thy beloved ones,--that I may not give them strong meat instead of milk, chaff instead of pure corn,—that I may not dwell too long on what is less important, and thereby neglect what is the most important. Thou hast permitted that, in giving instruction, I should have struck into an hitherto untrodden path; if it is not a more profitable one than the other and if it is not thy will that I should pursue it, draw me, I beseech thee, back from it; if it be thy will that I should continue in it, make it so plain to me that I may not miss it,- that I may not at every moment lead the children into by-paths, from which I shall have to bring them back again. I am not worthy of this grace; but those little ones, whom thou hast sanctified by the blood of thy Beloved, to those little ones thou wilt not refuse it. Therefore I trust in thy assistance, O God ! would that I were wholly thine! How much more good might I then effect for thine honour, and for the salvation of my brethren! O, let them not put so much confidence in me in vain.”
We see hereby with what holy earnestness, with what carefulness and trouble, Overberg went to work in the instruction of little children.
This care and these efforts he redoubled, as the moment drew near when they were to be prepared for their first communion. ‘A year in advance, he caused their names to be given him; and began, from that time, to observe and to direct them individually, in the most careful manner, according to the spirit and the heart of each respectively. He increased the strictness of this observation of them, as the time approached of the more immediate preparation, or of the particular instruction for communion. Overberg gave this instruction during the holy time of Lent, till the third Sunday after Easter, every day for an hour and a half. He then condensed together the leading doctrines of Christianity; to guard himself against digressions, he wrote out in full the instruction for each day. This instruction also was numerously attended by grown-up people, and, among others, by students in theology. Only on Saturdays and Sundays strangers were not admitted, these days being devoted to a repetition of the instruction, and to an examination of the children, to see how far they had understood what they had heard, and how they had performed their spiritual exercises. Although the leading principle on which Overberg fixed his eyes in the whole of his instructions was, that religion is an affair of the heart, and from the heart passes to the feelings and into the conduct of life, he nevertheless looked on the time of instruction for communion as that when the child has to become most deeply and distinctly conscious of his exalted and holy destiny, and to dedicate himself irrevocably to its pursuit. Besides the public instructions, he taught, he admonished, he warned the children individually without ceasing, as the peculiar dispositions and the circumstances of each seemed to require. He guided them to the contemplation of the truths of salvation, to the practice of mental prayer, and other spiritual exercises. He made them often go to confession, in order that they might become the more observant of the state of their consciences, and the more faithful in the fulfilment of their duties. He also had prayers offered for them publicly in the school, from time to time. As the time of the first communion drew near, he sent for the parents ; he represented to them the importance of their duties towards their children, adverting particularly to the circumstances in which they happened to be; he admonished and entreated them conscientiously to fulfil these duties, and made them give him their solenın pledge that they would. From the children he took a promise in writing, that they would live according to the rules of the Gospel, that they would shun all dangers to their faith and their virtue, and that they would make use of the means of grace. He used the utmost care VOL. VI.
in the choice of those who should be made partakers of this feast of love; he prepared himself for making this choice by the most fervent prayer, and by the holy sacrifice of the mass, in order to obtain light and help from God, that no other consideration might influence his determination, besides the worthiness of those to be admitted. He performed all this with so much labour, that many times, when he came to a conclusion, he fell ill. During the first year after their first communion, the new communicants had, from time to time, to partake together of the Lord's Supper, and each time he prepared them for it particularly.
For twenty-seven years he had in this manner given instructions for communion, and the weekly religious instruction in the school of the Lorraine nuns, when the convent being suppressed, and the school becoming a parochial school, the religious instruction became the duty of the parish priest. When Overberg had for the last time finished the instructions for communion, he fell grievously ill, and thought himself about to die. The reflexion which now principally occupied his pious heart,—that the exertions which he had heretofore made for the children of the school were coming to an end,-may perhaps have occasioned this foreboding of death. He wrote at the same time the following letter to the children hom he had instructed and admitted to the holy communion :
“ Dear Children: In order that on this day, a day to you so important, and in the anticipation of which I have long taken so great delight, I might, in the most intimate manner possible, unite myself with you in love, I have desired to receive the holy communion at the same hour with you.
“I hope to see you all again in good health ; but if the will of God, which is not only good, but is always the best, should be otherwise, then I thank you, my good, my docile, my obedient children, whom I have in the course of twenty-seven years brought to your first communion in this parish, for your obedience, and particularly for the pleasure which you have given me after your first communion. You are my delight, my crown ; and you will make my joy perfect, if I see you again at that great day on the right hand of your Saviour. As to you, ye indocile, disobedient children, who, after your first communion, have quickly forsaken the path of virtue, on which you were placed with such great pains, I forgive you from my heart ; I will pray to God that he will yet again in due time open your eyes, so that your souls, which