What happens when we don’t let go and let God? I was listening to a group member express his concern that there are teachers of religious education in Catholic schools who do not believe what the Church teaches about some moral issues. He mentioned abortion in his contribution to the review that was being conducted. There are many involved in Catholic education who would agree with him, but for every teacher who would argue that they don’t have to believe what the Church teaches, they only have to teach it, there are many who live with God and share that life with their students. Yet, there still exists a problem in the Church of people who do not let God lead them. That is why we need apostles in our schools as much as we need them in other places of work.
Cardijn reflected on the role of parents as the primary educators of their children and of the responsibility of teachers in schools to be places “where you learn to live and to love in line with the education that mothers and fathers are responsible for giving to their children.” He knew only too well that this was an expression of the ideal. Earlier in the talk on formation and education he gave as part of the 1950 Godinne lecture series on Person, Family and Education, he acknowledged that many parents had not been prepared well for their responsibilities as the first educators of their children. He also acknowledged the difficulties created by teachers who were not formed in the faith that parents sought to pass on to their children. Moreover, then as now, there are teachers in schools who reject the faith as being integral to a fully human life.
Clearly, from a perspective of faith, those who work in Catholic schools are duty bound to support parents who want to bring up their children in the faith. And where that happens the trinity of family-parish-school is marked by peace and happiness. Children are able to mature in faith. St Luke provides us with an image of the childhood of Jesus, who grew up in the safety of this trinity of faith (Luke 2:40).
Today, February 10, is the Feast of St Scholastica, the twin sister of St Benedict. The Gospel for today (Luke 10:38-42) is pertinent to this reflection. Luke takes us into the home of Martha and Mary. Martha is all action, the model for hospitality workers. Mary is criticised by her sister for not helping out with the meal preparation. Instead, she sits and listens to Jesus, who reminds Martha of the importance of prayerful reflection in a life dedicated to spreading the Good News. How does this apply to Catholic schools? In a research project I undertook in 2021, I learned from Catholic school staff I interviewed that they are “time poor,” meaning that some were too busy with their work to take time to reflect and pray. That might be true, but it is also true that they have lost focus.
So, what has to change? How do we encourage those who work in our schools to focus on and share their faith so that more will come to experience and appreciate the presence of God in their lives and in their schools? A recent experience of a YCW meeting has shown me the importance of listening to people’s experiences of being taught in a Catholic school and of the need for teachers to listen to one another. Likewise, the stakeholders in Catholic education need to sit and listen with prayerful hearts and minds rather than simply sending out surveys to be completed and using the data to make decisions regarding the type of education to be delivered.
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Person, Family and Education – the 1950 Godinne Lecture series given by Fr Joseph Cardijn: Lecture 3 – “Formation and education”