The congregation for Catholic Education at the Vatican has issued a document on schools and their Gospel-inspired mission, stressing that Catholic Schools are for all who want to attend “especially for the weakest.”
A good school offers education as a model of “a Church which goes forth, in dialogue with everyone.” We must not lose our missionary impetus by confining ourselves on a Catholic island but must have the courage to bear witness to a Catholic culture which is universal – “a healthy awareness of our Christian identity.”
The “narrow” Catholic school model measures its mission by liturgical, spiritual and social occasions and the presence of a Catholic chaplain; but good Catholic schools have their origin in a deep concern for the education of children and young people to prepare them to exercise their freedom responsibly, forming attitudes of openness and community solidarity.
The ethos of a good Catholic school is beautiful. Prayer is part of it, awareness of God’s universal love is, seasons of the year are seen as blessings, “saints days” are a reminder of God’s call to everyone, and the friendliness and respect for everyone in the school is “love of neighbour” that they understand and respond to.
We who have worked in Catholic education know this reality and we treasure it; those of us in the parish pastoral and sacramental life know that same reality in “the parish way” – and we recognise there are two callings, each of heart and mind, that may work together or alongside each other.
No good school forces religion. It shares faith. No good parish demands attendance, it invites. No good priest or teacher threatens. God’s love cannot be taught with or from fear. The fear is in the wounded personality of the priest or teacher and people and students must be protected from the full-of threat or fearful pastors and educators. God’s love is the call, the invitation. The good schools and parishes hear the call.
The Vatican document explains the ethos open to everyone who wants to come, an acknowledgment of the mission given by Jesus to his disciples – to offer everyone the love of God, to speak to them in ways they will understand. Religion is a system that can stifle, control, maintain discipline; but Faith is love in action, excludes no one and longs to share love of neighbour and God.
God bless us,
(10th April 2022)