August 24 – St. Bartholomew (or Nathaniel), Mass for the Catholic School System

Before entering seminary, I had never attended, a single, full day, in any Catholic school. I had kindergarten and all 12 grades in public school, followed by four years at a Wisconsin state university. So, out of this poverty of first-hand experience regarding Catholic schools, I will not claim that I have a perfect vision of how our Marshfield area Catholic schools should be. I’m the definitely the new guy here, and I don’t know all the answers. But I do think I know the big question; the question that every Catholic school needs to answer: Why do we have Catholic schools?

It’s certainly not for the money. The bishops of Catholic dioceses are just happy to see the Catholic schools break even. And it’s not only so our kids can learn reading, writing and arithmetic, along with the humanities, sports, and all the rest. The public schools can provide all that without us. And it’s not only so we can give our kids religion classes. Catholic kids attending public school have CCD like I did, or after-school Religious Education classes. So… why do we have Catholic schools?

What is it that we have uniquely to offer that the public schools don’t? I think the answer to these questions may be discovered through another question: What is the difference between an American and a faithful Catholic American?

If we think the difference is merely one of Mass attendance, then simply incorporating a Mass and a religion class into our curriculum would be sufficient to make our schools “Catholic.” But if a Mass and a religion class are the only things more that our Catholic schools have to offer, then why not sell off our schools or close them down? We could hand over all the headaches and liabilities of education systems to others, and still have our kids go to Mass before school and to a religious class after. But, if the difference in being faithfully Catholic (or Christian) means more than just going to church, if it extends to all aspects of our lives, in a way that makes us stand-out in a crowd, then we as Catholic school educators have something unique to offer.

What do we have to offer? Catholic schools promote the highest ideals and moral excellence.  These are fruits of our faith that we can pass on, but these are not the heart or the root of our faith. As Pope Benedict says, “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” Having a friendship with Jesus Christ, a personal relationship with Him in His Church, uniquely transforms how we see the world and live our lives. If we are formed and empowered by our relationship with Christ, then we can share with our students what we have received. We begin with the love of Christ, which directs and touches everything, including Catholic education.

For example, alongside the study of history, our Catholic faith delivers us from the blind slavery of being a child of our age.

With the study of world cultures and languages, our faith takes us beyond our own particular nationality to identify ourselves as belonging to a worldwide family in Christ, made up of every race and nation.

In politics and current events, our Catholic faith enlightens us to be informed Christians who happen to be Americans, instead of Americans who only happen to be Christians.

In literature and writing, our faith teaches us that the truth is good, that the truth is richer than my own narrow experience, and that the truth is what is to be honored and shared, instead of my cherished prejudices.

In music and art, our Catholic faith affirms the conviction that to behold beauty is not an illusion, or merely a human fancy; beauty reflects what is most real.

In biology and ecology, our faith teaches us that living creatures, and all Creation, merit our reverence as God’s handiwork and gift.

With mathematics, physics and chemistry, our faith unmasks the Logos, the order and reason, within and behind our universe. Scientific knowledge leads to wonder; and with faith, wonder leads to praise.

We must not merely teach knowledge. All academic study yields knowledge, and knowledge is power, but power without wisdom can and will easily turn to selfish and harmful ends. Catholic schools must teach knowledge and wisdom, and not just knowledge alone.

What is our mission? One can say it other ways, but we, are in the work, of forming and educating, saints, for the lives that they will lead. Like St. Bartholomew (or Nathaniel) Christ is calling us to follow Him closely. He calls us to show others the City of God, in all its splendor.

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One Response to “August 24 – St. Bartholomew (or Nathaniel), Mass for the Catholic School System”

  1. Katie Reigel Says:

    Very nicely done!!! Great homily to start off the school year!!!

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