“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27).
This week, the Church in the United States celebrates Catholic Schools Week. The primary purpose above all in Catholic schools is to form children and adults (in colleges and universities) into men and women of virtue in light of the Person of Jesus Christ. In so doing, these students successfully live the abovementioned Commandment to love God and our neighbor as oneself, and even more pointedly, to love our neighbor as if he were Jesus directly present.
However, the formation of our youngest children through adulthood intellectually and spiritually does not just happen out of nowhere. The formation of children occurs within the context of the family. Indeed, the Church has always placed a high value on the family in society:
Parents, in virtue of their participation in the fatherhood of God, have the first responsibility for the education of their children and they are the first heralds of the faith for them. They have the duty to love and respect their children as persons and as children of God and to provide, as far as is possible, for their physical and spiritual needs. They should select for them a suitable school and help them with prudent counsel in the choice of their profession and their state of life. In particular, they have a mission of educating their children in the Christian faith (Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 460).
The choice of a Catholic school goes far beyond choosing it because it a private school segregated from the public school population. The ‘Catholic’ title is most important. For this reason, families that send their children to Catholic schools but fail to live the faith in the home or to attend Mass every Sunday send a mixed signal. That signal will often result in children being able to spot hypocrisy easily. They will fail to live the virtuous practice of religion: giving God what is His due—first and foremost by worshipping Him properly each Sunday. The education, therefore, spent by such families then results only in failure and wasted dollars.
In addition, teachers and school administrators have an obligation to live the Catholic faith. Their job also is not simply to teach in a private school segregated from the public school population. Their example in living the faith provides many signals that children are so adept at being able to recognize. Children both notice and digest, as it were, the authentic living of the Catholic faith or its absence from their school leaders. Consequently, Catholic school administrators and teachers have an essential duty to provide the authentic faith in all its integrity for their students—in what they teach and how they live. That means the Catholic faith as divinely revealed through Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture and interpreted by the authentic Magisterium. This is the only Catholic faith that ought to be presented. Too often, however, especially when one advances to the high school and college/university levels, the Catholic faith is essentially thrown into the dustbin while the destructive and pallid ideas of the current age are presented as current thinking that the Church has to “catch up” with to remain relevant. We are familiar with the horror stories of many parents sending their children to so-called Catholic universities/colleges (that actually were at one time) only to have these children return home with a complete loss of the faith. Certain religious orders that run such schools are more notorious for this situation than others, with one such order particularly guilty in this regard (and I am sure that we all know which order that is).
For this reason, the mission today of Catholic schools—those that are left—is even more important than ever. Authentic Catholic schools still form their students into who they are meant to be—persons reborn into the very image and likeness of Jesus Himself. Those schools are to be celebrated and supported. The Church’s hope for future vocations rests largely among those children today who will be the religious and consecrated men and women of tomorrow who love the Church and think with the mind of Christ.
One of the greatest Churchmen of our day who, indeed, loves the Church and thinks with the mind of Our Lord is Raymond Cardinal Burke. He is one of the few prelates who courageously speaks uncompromisingly about the state of the Church today, how we arrived at this point, and where we hope to turn for a much better future. His words, as always, are clear and directly in line with the Church and Jesus Christ. In his speech at the Rome Life Forum on 19 May 2017, His Eminence spoke about education:
Education, if it is to be sound, that is, for the good of the individual and society, must be especially attentive to arm itself against the errors of atheistic materialism, secularism and relativism, lest it fail to communicate to the succeeding generations the truth, beauty and goodness of our life and of our world, as they are expressed in the unchanging teaching of the Faith, in its highest expression in Divine Worship, prayer and devotion, and in the holiness of life of those who profess the faith and worship God “in spirit and in truth.”
Education which takes place first in the home and is enriched and supplemented by schools and, above all, by truly Catholic schools is directed fundamentally to the formation of good citizens and good members of the Church. Ultimately it is directed to the happiness of the individual which is found in right relationships and has its fulfilment in eternal life. It presupposes the objective nature of things to which the human heart is directed, if it is trained to follow a correctly formed conscience. It seeks an ever deeper knowledge and love of the true, the good, and the beautiful. It forms the individual to this fundamental pursuit throughout his or her lifetime…
Today, the Church is beset by confusion and error about even some of her most fundamental and constant teachings. As a secular agenda continues to advance in the world, promoting the attack upon innocent and defenseless human life, upon the integrity of marriage and its incomparable fruit, the family, and upon the very freedom of man to worship God “in spirit and truth,” the Church herself seems confused and even at times indulgent toward a mundanity which rebels against God and His law. The world has great need for the Church to announce the Faith, the truth of Christ, with clarity and courage, but sadly too often she remains silent or seems uncertain regarding the truth and its steadfast application to daily life in the world. At the same time, the confusion, which remains uncorrected, generates profound divisions among individual Bishops and Conferences of Bishops, among priests and among the faithful, in general. The most fundamental and important moral questions receive a different response from the pastors of the Church in different places. A new evangelization has been confused with a sentimental embrace of a secular culture which fails to call the culture to conversion and to give witness to conversion by the integrity of life of Christians. Not without reason, the faithful find themselves confused and disoriented. Such a situation leads also to a sense of abandonment.
However, we know that we are not truly abandoned. Now is the time when we do not give up the true faith and follow the immense crowd led by false teachers who say the things that people like to hear not because they are true, but because they are merely convenient: “For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths. But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). We proudly follow Jesus Christ only, are open to how He continues to form us intellectually and spiritually all throughout our life, and are gratefully present to worship Him by receiving His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity so that the divine life that He shares with us is kept alive and well until, we pray, we behold Him forever in His heavenly majesty.
May you have a most blessed and holy week!
Fr. Shawn William Cutler
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