“We worked hard and saved $63,000 so that our son could have an education, only to have him come back from school and call us racists.’
As we see churches burning, statues vandalized, and anti-Catholic vitriol being spread all over the media, the above parental lamentation stuck with me. Am I working and sacrificing to have the schools prepare my kids to be professors or protesters, to get a meaningful job or to vandalize with the mob, to build and create or destroy and desecrate?
Amidst these thoughts, it occurred to me that education is much more than mere academic achievement or a successful career. It’s not just about forming the mind, it’s about forming the heart. Done wrongly, you end up with angry minions that need safe spaces. Done rightly, you create the possibility for a saint. Which one is our current Catholic education system creating today?
In his book “The idea of a university”, Saint John Henry Newman, states: “the undoubting infidel, the fanatic, the heresiarch. are able to do much, while the mere hereditary Christian, who has never realized the truths which he holds, is unable to do any thing.” Later he adds, “But, if we will make light of what is deepest within us, nothing is left but to pay homage to what is more upon the surface…virtue will be what pleases, vice what pains.” Amazingly, he wrote this book back in the late 1800s. Clearly, a well-formed Catholic student realizes “the truths which he holds” from his faith, and will look seriously at what is deepest within him. Imagine what religion class would look like with these two simple principles!
Unfortunately, religion class seldom reaches those heights, with some exceptions as in Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College and the Chesterton Schools Network, which curiously, do not rely on government funding. In a recent video on the future of Catholic education, Bishop Robert Barron pointed out several times that the main purpose of Catholic schools is evangelization. He also added that evangelization is not just for religious class. But if Catholic education is about forming the heart and evangelization, who then should be the primary educator? The clergy is increasingly absent or silent, Catholic educators are busy trying to imitate their secular counterparts, and parents are tired from working and running the household. Ideally, the three would work together, however, according to the Cathechism section 2223, “Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children.” The plural signifies that it’s not just mom’s job – dad has to be involved too. In his letter to the Ephesians, chapter 6 verse 4, St Paul tells us, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
My fellow brothers this is where we come in. If we want to stop the schools from provoking our children to anger, we need to bring them up in the instruction of the Lord. The “good news” is one does not need a masters in Divinity to teach our children (or grand-children, or nephews, etc) the Good News of our Risen Lord Jesus Christ. Here are five simple steps that I have found to be very helpful:
1- Spend 20 minutes each day with the Word of God. I highly recommend “Bible in a Year” editions which break down the Bible into a reading of the Old Testament, Psalm or Proverb, and New Testament reading with perhaps a daily reflection. Many men have fallen at Leviticus or the long genealogies when trying to read straight through, so this is a great way to overcome that.
2- Pray daily with your family (even a simple Grace before meals can be impactful) and attend Mass. In US, study showed that when dad attends Mass, there’s over 60% chance the kids will also attend as adults. Before worrying about the 40%,, remember that the same study showed only 12% will go to Mass if dad doesn’t. So go to Mass!
3- Create or join a Band of Christian Brothers group. Don’t try to do this alone. Even Jesus picked 12 men to help Him.
4 – Have to lead by example. No shortcuts. Jesus washed the feet of His disciples – We too have to serve our families. In my experience, when I ask the kids to help me with a chore, the response is much more positive than when I tell them to do a chore. Also, tons of opportunities arise to discuss the faith when doing activities together. Give water to the thirsty takes on a whole new meaning after playing sports on a hot summer day, and there’s only one small bottle left!
I hope that you find these tips useful and I encourage you to share your successes, challenges, and best practices with your group and with us. I also invite you to leave a comment or suggestions with us directly at www.bandofchristianbrothers.com.
St Joseph – pray for us.
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