Escola de Bethlem: amor e pedagogia

Sara Augusto


Escola de Bethlem [School of Bethlem], a work published in Évora in 1678, is a result of two factors: in the first place, the author’s concern (the Jesuit priest Alexandre de Gusmão (1629-1724), that founded the Bethlehem Seminar in the State of Bahia) with the education of the younger generations and their spiritual training. Secondly, is his special affection for the Lord Jesus in the Crib and his use of this image as a never-ending source of metaphors and images of divine love. The Escola de Bethlem, as a compendium of lection and meditation, which is centred on the three paths to spiritual maturity, is a didactic work that perfectly fits into its religious and literary setting. In its didactic function, and taking into account the Company of Jesus’ practices of spirituality and prayer, this work by Alexandre de Gusmão incorporates the need of an intimate relationship between action, mission and evangelization, together with the need of prayer and intimacy with God. Secondly, the Escola de Bethlem also follows the principle that oriented most of the religious and moral works of the Baroque time: that the lesson is more effective when given in a more pleasurable form. The discursive artifices, the metaphors and emblems, the ingenuity and sharpness, all at the same time capture the reader’s attention and satisfaction, making the transmitted lesson more effective. Therefore between the lection and the meditation, Escola de Bethlem tells us step by step, class by class, the story of the human soul, up until its union with the divine, from each detail of the nativity scene, the origin and engine of the creation of concepts and the efficiency of education.

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