Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Catholic Schools - A Blessing But Not In Disguise

     On Sunday, January 29, we began our annual celebration of Catholic Schools Week, an opportunity to reflect on the value of our Catholic schools.  We are happy that our community has strong Pre-K to 12 Catholic School to serve the people of Jefferson County.  
     Catholic schools are faith environments.  The primary reason for the existence of Catholic schools is our Catholic Faith.  The Catholic schools were founded for faith reasons.  Yes, they were in competition with public schools, but for one reason only - to assist parents to raise their children in the Catholic faith.  In their beginning, the founders recognized that public schools were opposed to the Catholic Church.  Thus, they established their own schools to assure that the schools continued to  teach and to live their Catholic heritage so that the children could embrace the faith as had their parents.
     I admit and recognize that today not all parents choose Catholic schools for that same reason.  Discipline, structure, sports, academic achievement, small classes, after school programs may be today's reasons for choosing Immaculate Heart.  Likewise, I admit that some come to the school who are not Catholic and who may not be Christian.  Sadly, I also admit that faith does not play an active role in the lives of some Catholic school parents who do not take an active role in their parishes or who do not worship with the Catholic community on weekends.
     All of these negatives do not negate the founding reason for our Catholic schools nor will they cause a change in why we continue to have Catholic Schools, especially Immaculate Heart Central.  
     An article recently appeared in The Priest magazine.  The article, written by a Father Scott Jablonski in Madison, Wisconsin, succinctly outlines the basic reasons for the continued value of Catholic schools.  I resume his thought here.

1.  Catholic Schools Form Saints
Now, I realize that statement may sound rather bold!  However, isn't the goal of Christianity to make us saints?  Didn't St. Paul refer to the early Christians as saints?  Sainthood was not a fait accompli.  Rather, sainthood was a goal being worked on by living the Christian life in its fullness.  All schools teach skills: reading, writing, arithmetic, etc, etc, etc.  However, the goal in public education is that these skills will help students get a good education, and good college education leading to making lots of money.  Catholic schools at all levels may teach these skills, and, yes, they may lead to the job of a lifetime, but that is not their goal in a Catholic school.  Rather, these skills are aimed at forming saints, to give them the skills to be of service to one another and to the community, and to fulfill their God-given potential.

2.  Catholic Schools Instill in Students the Conviction that Truth Exists and that Truth Can Be Known.
The current scourge in society is relativism, a false belief promoting the idea that what the person believes to be true is true, what the person believes is valuable is valuable.  Jesus was very clear in the gospel of John in declaring that he is the way, the truth, and the life.  Rampant in our society is the false belief that whatever the majority believes to be true and good is true and good.  Pope Benedict XVI spent much of his writing disproving such a view.  

3.  Catholic Schools Teach Children Their God-given Dignity
The fundamental dignity of each person is rooted in the fact that we are made in God's image.  This image of God must be respected by ourselves and others.  Likewise we must respect every other person from conception to natural death as the person returns to God.  Yes, competition can exist, but competition is meant to bring out our best, not to belittle the other, but rather to help the other also achieve maximum potential.

4.  Catholic Schools Form Students in Moral Virtue
All behavior has moral consequences.  Society today does not like to admit that reality especially when it believes that there is no objective truth and thus no objective morality.  Lying, hatred, violence, cheating, every man for himself represent the behaviors of so many.  Just watch the physical and psychological violence prevalent in many reality TV shows and so many current movies.  So much of what we experience in contemporary music, media, and even the news is the exact opposite of the Beatitudes, the Ten Commandments, the cardinal and the theological virtues.  Thankfully, there are Catholic schools where all can live and teach the Gospel message.

5.  Catholic Schools Offer Hope
"A future full of hope" are words used by Jeremiah in proclaiming the coming of the Messiah.  Yes, we live in the world of "right now."  No one can deny that.  However, the Christian perspective tells us that the world of right now is incomplete without the message of Jesus Christ such that what we have now can become better and ultimately lead to eternal life.  The Catholic schools insist that there is more to life than a good job, material success, the so-called good life.  Catholic schools believe that we are called to more and that every person should become the person that God wants him or her to become.  In life we should never believe that we have made it.  Rather, we should always believe that in following Jesus Christ we are becoming more of what God wants us to become.

The text of the original article can be found here.