Bishop's Blog

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Catholic Schools

  The identity of any Catholic school is both a distinction and an opportunity--a great challenge and a unique grace.  If it was the critical task of the 20th Century to ensure that Catholic colleges would be true colleges accepted academically by their peer secular institutions, it is perhaps just as vital in this 21st Century to ensure that our schools also continue to be unashamedly Catholic, morally grounded, and qualitatively self-consciously different from purely secular schools.  To be homogenized into the undifferentiated academic culture of most schools today would constitute a colossal loss of nerve and a sad, perhaps a shameful, betrayal of the Church’s academic tradition.  Because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ we should never be like everyone else.  Existing at the heart of the Church should make Catholic schools better.  Think of the Lord we serve.  Think of the history that is ours.  Think of the tradition of learning, the gift of culture, the spirit of holiness, the commitment to service, the shared sense of community that constitutes the educational heritage of the Catholic Church!  Our own CSC schools should never choose between being excellent or being Catholic.  A school in the Holy Cross tradition should not be either-or; but rather, both-and.  Catholicity in itself has both identify and universality.  Catholic tradition in all its ancient variety and richness is so profound, so wide, and so self-confident in its own exploration of the truth that it can dare to ask questions and it can dare to promote dialogue.  The excitement, the energy, and sometimes even the passionate dissidents of ‘disputatio’ all are a valued part of our intellectual heritage. It was well known to the Fathers of the Church, as to the great lecture halls of the first medieval universities that our Church invented.  Catholicism exposes needs and empowers capacities that can fill the human heart with amazement, the intellectual life with the light of the Gospels, and the academic enterprise with profound purpose.  The community experience, the vast exhilaration of worship can humanize the rigor of the intellectual life and give both students and professors an enduring passion for learning, and a deeper capacity for wonder. A hunger for knowledge, a commitment to justice, the connections between science and mysticism, friendship and generosity, and especially the transforming experience of God give hope and meaning to academic inquiry.  Scholarship and teaching if pursued in the context of faith should be open to a truth that is without end, that enlarges our hope, and diminishes our apprehensions.  Catholic colleges in general, and all Holy Cross schools in particular, are therefore called by our confidence in the Gospel to be the yeast in the loaf of higher education and make a singular contribution both in our own Church and to the educational mosaic of the wider world.  So, our schools can never think and act just like every other school—politically correct, unquestioning, and totally submissive to all the cultural dogmas of this moment.  The universal Church, and the world, does need excellent schools that have the conviction to be true to themselves and, therefore, stand out rather than blend in.