The Catholic Teacher and The Need For Courage
This week at Going Deeper we began the first in a two-part series on the need for the Catholic teacher to reflect upon the virtue of courage. You can see some of this week’s video at the bottom of this post.
After almost two decades involved with Catholic schools I’m coming to think that courage is increasingly becoming the rarest and simultaneously most important character trait we need to find in ourselves, encourage in our colleagues and mentor in young staff.
The focus on courage in this weeks Going Deeper episode began with a reflection upon some rather confronting words from the Church’s document The Catholic School. It states:
Often what is perhaps fundamentally lacking among Catholics who work in a school is a clear realisation of the identity of a Catholic school and the courage to follow all the consequences of it’s uniqueness. (66)
This is the kind of line that needs a lot of reflection. It’s the kind of line that one should print out and sit in the back of a Church with it until it goes to work on you. The most important phrase here is, “…all the consequences of it’s uniqueness.”
The first thing here is that the Church draws our attention to the possibly startling fact that as a Catholic teacher, or rather one who loves Christ, the Church and her teachings, we may face consequences. This is problematic and confronting.
We are, what I have often called a therapeutic culture of ease. We like life to be comfy. No one, at least not naturally, loves the Cross. We all, and quite reasonably so, want life to unfold without too many threats and seasons of desolation. We want to get along.
The problem with this is that all throughout history. Catholics who have made the greatest impact on culture have often faced enormous hardships, rejection and even death. Why?
The answer is that whether we wish this or not, following Christ seems to involve the occasional walk to Calvary with him. I can honestly say I wish it were not so. Scripture is full of references to the dynamic of Christ’s earthly life being repeated in the committed believer. The entire paschal mystery is the story of misunderstanding, rejection, suffering and death for speaking the truth. However, it does not end there. The decision to walk with Christ in his suffering and experiencing it in our own lives comes with a promise that we will also rise with Him. Good Friday leads to Easter Sunday.
So what does this mean in practice for the committed Catholic teacher? It means you may, perhaps, suffer the hostility and rejection of some colleagues and students if you begin to witness to the Gospel in your teaching, your staffroom, your conversations. It may mean you have to find the courage to challenge ideas, decisions or practices in your school that are contrary to Church teaching and are harming the value and dignity of the human person.
Fools For Christ
None of this is easy. It is suffering. It is always easier to avoid, go along and say or do nothing. You may be seen as a fool…but so was St. Francis. You might be seen as militant…but so was St. Ignatius. There may be an easy way out…but Maximilian Kolbe would not have taken it. It may be easy to turn away….but Mother Teresa didn’t. You are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who have walked the road before you.
So this week I pray you can find a moment to reflect on the need for courage as a Catholic educator. The courage to speak the truth into a culture of death. The courage to love and to go the extra mile for the poorest of the poor in your school community. The courage to pray and the courage to actually live an authentic Catholic life of prayer and sacrament.
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Do you have a story of courage or a word of encouragement for other teachers? Leave a comment in the comments section below.