What do you seriously think will happen when enough of the staff of any Catholic school are non-Catholic or when enough of the Catholic staff within it either don’t practice their faith or can’t stand most of what the Church actually teaches?
If you are reading this there is a good chance you are university educated. Even if you’re not the question is pretty simple. What do you seriously think will happen when enough of the staff of any Catholic school are non-Catholic or when enough of the Catholic staff within it either don’t practice their faith or can’t stand most of what the Church actually teaches?
It would be nice to think that the end result of the massive demographic and sociological changes in developed nations in the last half century were to mean that the evangelizing mission of the Church would just carry on merrily into the sunset. The problem for Catholic schools is simply that the task they undertake is unlike any other. It is unique. Without enough individual teachers having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church then we are, sooner or later, running on vapors. A Catholic school cannot exist outside the Church and outside the Eucharist that sustains her. We have to ask some very confronting questions. How are we really different from secular schools? What happens when enough of the teachers in our schools, even if they are baptized Catholics live and teach from an unacknowledged worldview of secular post-modernism and its philosophical patrimony of nihilist atheism. We can’t just do the novelty of an Ash Wednesday liturgy and call ourselves a Catholic school. It has to permeate more than the principal’s column in the newsletter. Instead it must appear in tangible, powerful and multiple forms. From our personal life choices, to how we speak to colleagues, to how we view our role in the lives of each young person.
When I began my teaching career at a large Catholic high school I was, and obviously remain, passionate about what God had done in my own life and I was just as passionate about sharing that with young people. I was newly married, and after a long talk with Karen I was convicted that we needed to be praying as a staff. By this I mean actually praying. Not the, “…sharing our dream, singing our story, prancing our vision…” claptrap that gets rolled out in just about every Catholic educational gathering I have ever attended. I mean real prayer. Prayer where staff humbly kneel before the Blessed Sacrament begging God for His guidance, praying for families torn asunder by conﬂict and pain, praying for kids struggling with chronic depression,praying for the Pope and the Bishops, praying for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit to create a kingdom place of refuge, academic excellence and spiritual power.
To get us praying as a staff I hatched a cunning plan. Granted it wasn’t rocket science but I felt I was on to something. Karen and I printed over 100 invitations to a new staff prayer morning which would be held once a week for just ﬁfteen minutes. We rolled them into scrolls and tied them with ribbons and placed one in every staff locker and pigeon hole. We advertised in the staff bulletin, we even had announcements on the P.A. system. The morning dawned bright and clear. I made my way to the Chapel hoping that no one had been injured by any crowd crush. I should have spent longer over my instant coffee. I was alone…I was alone the week after that as well, and the ones that followed. No one came. Not a soul.
Friends, imagine a rocket fired into space. Sooner or later it runs out of fuel. Gravity does the rest. Certain laws run the universe. When enough staff in Catholic schools are not inspired by the Gospel, when they ignore the sacraments and treat the Church’s teaching, especially on the big ticket items, as optional extras then the result is not an increase in the evangelizing mission of the Church and it’s not even homeostasis. Sorry everyone, the result is atrophy and eventual death.
Why is no one talking about this? It’s the emperor’s new clothes. It’s not working anymore and it’s not fooling anyone. It’s time we started acting like grown ups and started calling them by their right names even if those names include sin, laziness, arrogance and cynicism.
What is needed is a massive New Evangelisation within the heart of each Catholic school. It’s not the kids we need to worry about. For crying out loud, they are not going to believe a thing we say about God and the Church unless we believe it and if we don’t believe it then we need to have the moral courage and integrity to review what we are doing with our lives. It is a heavy burden to realise we may be an actual stumbling block to young people knowing Christ if we sow seeds of doubt, indifference and sarcasm into their primary experience of contact with the Catholic tradition, that being their time in our schools.
It’s time to make some noise. It’s time to strengthen the remnant and to rebuild the wall that has been trodden down as it was in the time of Nehemiah. You need to realise the incredible power we each have by simply choosing to cooperate with what God wants to do in our lives through the ministry of the Church he established. As one pastor famously said, “Set yourself on ﬁre and everyone will come to watch you burn.” What we need now is passionate, committed Catholic educators on ﬁre for a New Evangelisation. Prophets of hope who refuse to give in to the fact that, as it stands, most of our students will be unlikely to visit a Church in ﬁrst twelve months after graduation. We can do better.
I know you are out there. I know that you care about what it means to be Catholic and that you love the Church and that deep within you is the desire that each precious young person you serve will come to know the same truths and ﬁnd in them peace, joy and a life of meaning and contribution.
In the forum below please share what you are doing that works and your stories of hope.
We need to hear them.