LUX EDMUNDI: JULY, 2018
REFLECTION ON THE CATHOLIC SCHOOL – TOWARDS A FAITH-BASED VISION OF A FAITH-BASED SCHOOL:
First, last and always, the Catholic school is about Christ.
Christ is the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, the Word of God made flesh. He both is, and proclaims, the euangelion, the Good News, the Gospel, to all peoples and for all times.
Christ is the eikon of the invisible God and the first-born of all creation (Col 1:15). He shows us what God is like and he also shows us what we ourselves are meant to be like as children of God.
Christ is God’s paradigm and plan for each and every human person who is, who was or ever will be. He is the means to, and the measure of, humanity at its most complete and most authentic. It is only through, with and in Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, that we become truly, fully and authentically human, truly, fully and authentically ourselves, truly, fully and authentically the child of God each of us is meant to be.
The definitive purpose of the Catholic school is the formation of the young in Christ. All that a Catholic school is, and all that it does, its religious worship and instruction, its curricular, pastoral and its co- and extra-curricular activities, serve that end. In a manner of speaking, Christ is the real curriculum in a Catholic school, the programme, the course, the subject, the lesson, taught in, and through, the entire life of the school.
The Catholic school teaches Christ to the young with “a disciple’s tongue” (Is 50:4), i.e., The tongue of a speaker who is first a listener, of a teacher who is first a learner, of a leader who is first a follower, who hands on the Faith given to her/him by way of Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium of the Church.
In the Catholic school, authority is always given, not for power, but for service, and the definitive representation of the exercise of authority in a Catholic school, the example that must be followed by all set over others there-in, is that of Christ washing the feet of his apostles (cf. Jn 13:12-15).
The Church itself is always both docens and discens, both “teaching” and “learning”, and, in the things that matter most, in all to do with the love of God and of the neighbour, the teacher is always a condiscipulus, a “co-disciple”, with the students, a fellow-pupil with them at the feet of Christ.
“[W]hoever causes one of these little ones who have faith in me to falter, it is better for him to have a millstone, of the kind turned by an ass, hung about his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea (Mt 18:5-6)”[Though the phrase “little ones” embraces others besides them, it includes actual children]
I serve in this Catholic school, at this time, in this capacity, not by chance, but by Providence. From all eternity I have been meant by God to be here. No matter what the circumstances by which I may have arrived here, from all eternity it is here I am meant by God to be, here I am meant to make disciples of those committed to my care, and here, consequently, that I will grow in grace and favour before God and man (cf. Lk 2:52)
The Catholic school must be “primarily, fundamentally, definitively, not about ideas or disciplines or courses, but about people, and not about ideal people or about perfect people or about holy people, but about these people, as they are, right here and right now. [It is] not about some people, but about all people, about the son who strayed and about the son who stayed (Lk 15:11-32), about ‘the people of the land’, about ‘these little ones’ (cf. Mt 18:6). It would be open, inclusive and, if biased at all, would – like Christ himself … – be biased towards the poor, the powerless, the marginalised, the ‘lost’ (Steele, 1995, pp.162-163)”.
The Catholic school is called by Christ to educate the whole person, body, mind, soul: It must “see its fundamental and definitive role as the formation, not of artists or of scientists, not of producers or of consumers, not even of citizens, but, primarily, of people, of people gifted by God and obligated by that giftedness to become, in Christ, their own most authentic selves, at the service of God and the neighbour. … (ibid., p. 163)”.
The Catholic school is a koinonia, a communion, a kind of ecclesia, a community of believers gathered by, and in, Christ to serve the Gospel. It is, so to speak, a “church of the school”, a “scholastic church”, at the service of “the domestic church”, “the church of the home”. The Catholic school must be a real, a living part of the local church, especially in the evangelisation of the community they both serve, and must live and move and have its being (cf. Acts 17:28) as a “cell” of the Body of Christ, the People of God, the Church.
The Catholic school is always on its pilgrim way through time to eternity. It is “ever Christian but always in need of Christianisation, never content with what it is but unceasingly becoming what it is meant to be. The [Catholic] school will be a peregrinus, a ‘pilgrim’, a ‘resident alien’. It will be part of the things that are in time yet faithful witness to the things that matter in eternity. This, precisely, will be the ‘crisis’, the occasion of temptation, decision, judgement, for the [Catholic] school in its often all too earthly, mundane and, even, secular pilgrimage – to balance the urgent claims of the temporal against the ineluctable demands of the eternal; to be, and to teach others to be, both ‘resident’ and ‘alien’, ready for life here and fit for life hereafter … (Steele, 1995, pp. 164-165)”.
Because Christ is always the real Master it serves (cf. Col. 3:24), because he leads it to the heavenly city through the earthly, the Catholic school will be all that it is, and do all that it does – including those things which relate immediately to its specifically secular responsibilities – as perfectly and as is humanly possible. It will do the ordinary but do it extra-ordinarily well. In all the things required of it as a school, therefore, not least in all to do with teaching and learning, it will have no truck with mediocrity, no truce with the sloppy, the slip-shod, the second rate. It will require excellence from all and in all, so that its “light [will] shine before men, that they may see [its] good works and give glory to [the] Father who is in heaven (cf. Mt 5:16)”.
The Catholic school must protect and promote its Catholicity, zealously, unceasingly, now more than ever, but not to the point of self-absorption. “It will be other-orientated, concerned with and for the service of God and the neighbour. It will seek ‘to preach the good news to the poor … to proclaim release to the captives … to set at liberty those who are oppressed … (Lk 4:18-19)’. It will be at the service of that truth which, because it is grounded and vindicated in the absolute reality of ‘I am who I am (Ex 3:14)‘, offers to humanity liberation from the threat of ultimate unreality, unrealisation, annihilation (cf. Jn 8:32). In the [Catholic] school, education will be an Exodus, a going up to the fullness of life (cf. Jn 10:10), an enfranchisement in respect of human culture, an empowerment in respect of all that produces and protects the dignity of the of the children of the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ (ibid. pp. 165-166)”.
I can neither see the Catholic school as it is, nor serve it as I must, if I do not pray unceasingly for God’s help.
MORNING: “Dearest Jesus, teach me to be generous. Teach me to love and serve you as you deserve. To give, and not to count the cost; to fight and not to heed the wounds; to toil and not to seek for rest; to labour and to look for no reward, save that of knowing that I do thy will. Amen”. [Ignatius of Loyola, d. 1556]
NIGHT: “Thanks be to Thee, my Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits I have received from Thee this day; for all the pains Thou hast borne for me. O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may I know Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly and follow Thee more nearly, day by day. Amen”[Richard of Chichester, d. 1253]
MORNING, NOON AND NIGHT: “Lord, I believe: Help my unbelief (Mk 9:24)”.