Family, Parish, School: When people don’t let God

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. 


Pat Branson


Person, Family and Education – the 1950 Godinne Lecture series given by Fr Joseph Cardijn: Lecture 3 – “Formation and education”

A New Year’s Resolution for 2023


New Years’ resolutions are a part of our culture. They symbolise our intention to make the new year a better experience for ourselves and others than the previous year(s). It is my view that the best resolutions are spiritual and apostolic. I think of them as being missionary, action-oriented: specific actions or behaviours to be adopted and habituated that point to a change in attitude, a renewal, a conversion of mind and heart and will. 

In 1949, Joseph Cardijn gave a series of lectures which were titled “The Young Worker Faces Life.” In his third lecture he reminds young leaders that they are apostles and he gives them a simple spiritual checklist: making an offering of each day to God (When I was very young, I learned a “morning offering” prayer, which I still pray each day after waking.); carrying out an examination of conscience at the end of the day (which I try to do before falling asleep at night); recalling God’s presence throughout the day (trying to see God’s presence in every situation of each day); and offering one’s work to God in prayer and as a prayer (something I was taught to do each day). I must admit I struggle with all of these spiritual exercises, even after seventy or so years, but Jesus encourages me to keep trying.


The Gospel reading for the feast of Mary, Mother of God, which we celebrate on January 1 each year, comes from Luke and it is his account of the shepherds finding Mary and Joseph and the baby lying in the manger. It is also about the Jewish practice of circumcising male babies on the eighth day after the birth. It was on this day that they named him Jesus. Placed in between these two accounts is the simple response of the Blessed Mother: “As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). 

What is there in my life that is Christ-centred and that I treasure? Mary treasured the presence of God in her life. She is thankful for the blessings she has received. As she looks at her baby, the fruit of her labour, she knows in her heart that God saves (the meaning of the name she and Joseph give their child). She is gentle and patient, her meditation like her heart beating slowly in harmony with God. That is how I want to approach my work as an apostle of Jesus; the fruit of my labour will be received as a gift from God and received with a thankful heart. 


The apostolic spiritual life Cardijn identifies as essential to the work of leaders of young workers is not only reflective, it is also active. And that’s where my New Year’s resolution has relevance. What will I do to move forward in my work as one of Jesus’ apostles in the twenty-first century? One thing I can do to ensure that I remain faithful to my vocation is to imitate the practice adopted by our Holy Mother: to treasure and ponder in my heart the presence of God in my life. 

When I awake each morning, I will begin my Morning Offering with the question, “What am I thankful for and that I treasure as a gift from God?” I will thank God for being present in my life and in me. Then I will offer the life I have been given this day as a prayer of thanksgiving for God’s loving presence and ask him to bless all whom I meet during the coming day. I will conclude by asking God to help me to be generous enough with the gifts he has given me so that I might be a “silent witness” (Pope St Paul VI said that this is the best way to evangelize.) to his loving presence in the world.

Read the Young Worker Faces Life

About Pat Branson

I am an Aussie Catholic, married and living in Western Australia in the presence of God. I have been involved in Catholic education for most of my life, teaching and leading in the field of religious education. I quit the classroom at the end of 2020 and am now engaged in research and writing, something that I started in my postgraduate studies. For almost two-thirds of my life, I have been influenced by Cardinal Joseph Cardijn through the movements he founded, particularly the YCS. I hope this reflection bears testimony to the good work done forming me by Jocists young and old.