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.  

Friday, January 17, 2014


Vatican City, 16 January 2014 (VIS) – Following is the Holy Father's message to the bishops, priests, consecrated, and faithful throughout the world for the 51st World Day of Prayer for Vocations, which will take place this 11 May and has the theme of “Vocations: Witness to the Truth”.
“Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. The Gospel says that 'Jesus went about all the cities and villages... When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest”' (Mt 9:35-38). These words surprise us, because we all know that it is necessary first to plow, sow and cultivate to then, in due time, reap an abundant harvest. Jesus says instead that “the harvest is plentiful”. But who did the work to bring about these results? There is only one answer: God. Clearly the field of which Jesus is speaking is humanity, us. And the efficacious action which has borne “much fruit” is the grace of God, that is, communion with Him (cf. Jn 15:5). The prayer which Jesus asks of the Church therefore concerns the need to increase the number of those who serve his Kingdom. Saint Paul, who was one of 'God’s fellow workers', tirelessly dedicated himself to the cause of the Gospel and the Church. The Apostle, with the awareness of one who has personally experienced how mysterious God’s saving will is, and how the initiative of grace is the origin of every vocation, reminds the Christians of Corinth: 'You are God’s field' (1 Cor 3:9). That is why wonder first arises in our hearts over the plentiful harvest which God alone can bestow; then gratitude for a love that always goes before us; and lastly, adoration for the work that he has accomplished, which requires our free consent in acting with him and for him.
2. Many times we have prayed with the words of the Psalmist: 'It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture' (Ps 100:3); or: 'The Lord has chosen Jacob for himself, Israel as his own possession' (Ps 135:4). And yet we are God’s 'possession' not in the sense of a possession that renders us slaves, but rather of a strong bond that unites us to God and one another, in accord with a covenant that is eternal, 'for his steadfast love endures for ever' (Ps 136). In the account of the calling of the prophet Jeremiah, for example, God reminds us that he continually watches over each one of us in order that his word may be accomplished in us. The image is of an almond branch which is the first tree to flower, thus announcing life’s rebirth in the springtime (cf Jer 1:11-12). Everything comes from him and is his gift: the world, life, death, the present, the future, but—the Apostle assures us—'you are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s' (1 Cor 3:23). Hence the way of belonging to God is explained: it comes about through a unique and personal relationship with Jesus, which Baptism confers on us from the beginning of our rebirth to new life. It is Christ, therefore, who continually summons us by his word to place our trust in him, loving him 'with all the heart, with all the understanding, and with all the strength' (Mk 12:33). Therefore every vocation, even within the variety of paths, always requires an exodus from oneself in order to centre one’s life on Christ and on his Gospel. Both in married life and in the forms of religious consecration, as well as in priestly life, we must surmount the ways of thinking and acting that do not conform to the will of God. It is an 'exodus that leads us on a journey of adoration of the Lord and of service to him in our brothers and sisters' (“Address to the International Union of Superiors General”, 8 May 2013). Therefore, we are all called to adore Christ in our hearts (1 Pet 3:15) in order to allow ourselves to be touched by the impulse of grace contained in the seed of the word, which must grow in us and be transformed into concrete service to our neighbour. We need not be afraid: God follows the work of his hands with passion and skill in every phase of life. He never abandons us! He has the fulfilment of his plan for us at heart, and yet he wishes to achieve it with our consent and cooperation.
3. Today too, Jesus lives and walks along the paths of ordinary life in order to draw near to everyone, beginning with the least, and to heal us of our infirmities and illnesses. I turn now to those who are well disposed to listen to the voice of Christ that rings out in the Church and to understand what their own vocation is. I invite you to listen to and follow Jesus, and to allow yourselves to be transformed interiorly by his words, which 'are spirit and life' (Jn 6:62). Mary, the Mother of Jesus and ours, also says to us: 'Do whatever he tells you' (Jn 2:5). It will help you to participate in a communal journey that is able to release the best energies in you and around you. A vocation is a fruit that ripens in a well cultivated field of mutual love that becomes mutual service, in the context of an authentic ecclesial life. No vocation is born of itself or lives for itself. A vocation flows from the heart of God and blossoms in the good soil of faithful people, in the experience of fraternal love. Did not Jesus say: 'By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another' (Jn 13:35)?
4. Dear brothers and sisters, this 'high standard of ordinary Christian living' (cf John Paul II, “Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte”, 31) means sometimes going against the tide and also encountering obstacles, outside ourselves and within ourselves. Jesus himself warns us: the good seed of God’s word is often snatched away by the Evil one, blocked by tribulation, and choked by worldly cares and temptation (cf Mt 13:19-22). All of these difficulties could discourage us, making us fall back on seemingly more comfortable paths. However, the true joy of those who are called consists in believing and experiencing that he, the Lord, is faithful, and that with him we can walk, be disciples and witnesses of God’s love, open our hearts to great ideals, to great things. 'We Christians were not chosen by the Lord for small things; push onwards toward the highest principles. Stake your lives on noble ideals!' (“Homily at Holy Mass and the Conferral of the Sacrament of Confirmation”, 28 April 2013). I ask you bishops, priests, religious, Christian communities and families to orient vocational pastoral planning in this direction, by accompanying young people on pathways of holiness which, because they are personal, 'call for a genuine “training in holiness” capable of being adapted to every person’s need. This training must integrate the resources offered to everyone with both the traditional forms of individual and group assistance, as well as the more recent forms of support offered in associations and movements recognized by the Church' (“Novo Millennio Ineunte”, 31).  Let us dispose our hearts therefore to being 'good soil', by listening, receiving and living out the word, and thus bearing fruit. The more we unite ourselves to Jesus through prayer, Sacred Scripture, the Eucharist, the Sacraments celebrated and lived in the Church and in fraternity, the more there will grow in us the joy of cooperating with God in the service of the Kingdom of mercy and truth, of justice and peace. And the harvest will be plentiful, proportionate to the grace we have meekly welcomed into our lives. With this wish, and asking you to pray for me, I cordially impart to you all my Apostolic Blessing.”