Saturday, January 27, 2007

Catholic Education: readiness for times of trial (Sunday homily)

In the first reading, God prepared Jeremiah: Jeremiah would play a decisive role,
in a time of crisis. Just as God formed Jeremiah, physically, in his mother’s womb,
so he also formed Jeremiah spiritually and intellectually—
with faith, and knowledge of his ways.

What difference did it make?

God’s people thought all was well; but in a flash, everything they counted on, crumbled.
And when it did, Jeremiah saved the day: He’d kept them connected to God,
so that in their crisis, they knew where to turn.

Hasn’t that happened for you?

When our crisis comes, that’s when we’re glad someone told us about Jesus Christ;
when we have no words for prayer, that’s when we’re glad
someone taught us an Our Father, a Hail Mary, the Rosary, the Memorare.

How fast can our world fall in on us? Lose a job, or face a divorce, and you’re there.

This Sunday begins Catholic Schools Week. And it’s important to talk about
why we have Catholic schools—why we make so many sacrifices to keep them open.

Piqua Catholic, and Lehman High do for our children, our families, and our community,
what Jeremiah did for his people, in his time: ensure they know the Lord,
and have a foundation of faith for when everything else falls apart.

I know many of our children attend one of the city or county schools.
Parents, that is your decision, I respect it.

But I would fail in my duty, if I left the impression there wasn’t a big difference.

Now, someone can always cite an example where someone did better at a public school;
but our academics are very strong.

When our Piqua Catholic children get to Lehman, they’re ready;
Lehman’s high standards, in turn, make them ready for a job, or for college.

When one of our children transfers from Piqua Catholic to a city or county school,
they are ahead of the game.

Academics matter; but something else is supremely important.

When you walk into our Catholic schools, you see the name Jesus Christ in huge letters!
When a student or teacher is in trouble, the class, the school, can pray together, right there.

In our Catholic schools, our children meet priests and nuns walking the halls.

I wish that were true of our public schools; but our youth minister and I
are not allowed in, unless we’re invited. Two years, I’m still waiting.

Yes, we have a religious education program on Sundays. Our catechists do a good job.

But again, I would be lying if let you believe our Sunday school equals
what we do every day in our Catholic schools.

On Sunday we have, at best, 75 minutes. Realistically, it is more like 50-60 minutes.

Now—that is about the same as Piqua Catholic—for kindergarten.

Starting in 1st Grade, at Piqua Catholic, our children get 150 minutes of religious instruction—
that’s 2-1/2 hours every week. From 5th grade on, they get 225 minutes—
more than 3-1/2 hours—every week!

Now, of course, parents can—and many do—sit down during the week,
and provide another 2 hours of dedicated instruction in the teachings of the Faith;
but if not, then our Sunday school, good as it is, cannot come close
to what happens in a Catholic school.

After all, children don’t ask questions on our tidy schedules.
In our Catholic schools, they can ask how Scripture fits with biology;
how the Holy Spirit influences history; how the ten commandments relate to social studies.

But at Miami East, answering those questions is against the law.

So I fully respect your choice about where your children attend school,
but I do want to highlight the advantage of a Catholic school.

And for those who have chosen a public school, I want our parish to do our best to help you.
If you have suggestions, please let me know.

Some of our families home-school—and that is admirable.
For those can’t do that; we provide Catholic schools.
And for those who don’t attend a Catholic school, we provide all the help we can.

For example, I have been looking at resources for home-school religious instruction—
give our office a call for more information.

When Jeremiah was needed in a time of peril, it was a good thing
he’d been prepared for that time. It was good he’d been able to prepare God’s People.
You and I have the same, urgent task in our time—to know our faith well, and where to turn.

Not only for ourselves, but so we can prepare the next generation,
for the trials of faith that always come.

When you and I equip our children for the future—not just in this world, but in eternity…
When we give them a foundation of faith that will stand, when all else fails…
We are giving them the greatest gifts: “Faith, hope…and the greatest of these is love.”


Anonymous said...

Fr - another great homily. A couple of points that absolutely DO NOT change anything you have said nor the truth of what you have preached.

Knowing about Christ and knowing HIM is the most important thing we can do and the most important thing we can teach, share and show our children and the rest of the world. It is this knowledge of and faith in Christ that carry us through the tough times and the good times.

But, just as many of us struggle to find a parish and a priest who has the courage to preach the truth, all of the truth and all of the time (with charity and prudence, of course) we also struggle to find Catholic Schools that REALLY AND TRULY teach the faith and make it THE most important thing they do.

My son is now in college, but he went to 12 years of Catholic school before that. To say that I was disappointed would be an understatement. The school was better academically and certainly was much better is most aspects of discipline as well as usually being safer. BUT, to say that my son was taught the faith and that it held as important a place as academics or sports (forget being more important) is just not what happened for 12 years. I spent over $30,000 on his education over 12 years.

And for that $30,000 from a Catholic perspective I got incomplete catechesis, incorrect teachings, horrible books, the religion class in grade school was ALWAYS the one skipped when they had an 'extra activity, play, etc.' as well as basic heresy and disregard for the Church. (We don't think children NEED to go to First Confession prior to First Holy Communion - they REALLY can't sin you know. So long as they get there before the end of the 4th grade its ok. They never checked.)

High School - while it was now a required class - 1 out of 7 - it generally didn't have the level of importance or rigour as the 'real' classes. Then, of course, the unadulterated heresy - Mary wasn't always a virgin; Women should be able to be priests - it's just a power thing in the all male heirarchy, etc. This was from the co-chair of the religion department.

So, I would have LOVED to have my son go to the school you described. (And while I believe you in the number of hours on paper they are getting = is it the first class to be cut?) But, like having a pastor who normally gives your homilies, who works so diligently on the liturgy, who really wants to think with the mind of the Church are far and few between - so are the kind of Catholic schools you describe. At least where I live (the same diocese as you).

(And just for the record - there were some very orthodox teachers and a couple of priests - but they were well below 10% in my experience.)

I hope and pray that we are moving to a better educated group of adults and a better Catholic school system. Most importantly, parents ARE THE PRIMARY EDUCATORS of their children - everything else is just an assist. But it will be years before priests like you are the norm and likewise it will be years before adults are properly educated and Catholic Schools, as you have described, are the norm.

the Joneses said...

Fr. Fox, good homily. I work at a homeschool association, so I was delighted to see you highlight that aspect.

Nice tie-in to the OT reading, too. For some reason, I tend to like OT-based homilies better.

God bless.

Anonymous said...

One of the many reasons we home schooled our children was the very poor catechesis at the nearest Catholic elementary school. No emphasis at all on the Faith, just another subject. No emphasis on devotions or First Friday Mass, or Confession or vocations. It was a average private
school. One sister, the principal, did not teach, and could not easily be recognized as a religious given her school day attire. The only other sister, elderly, was the librarian and did not teach. Religion class was watered down, warm and fuzzy stuff. Nothing that would lead one to defend the faith or to a vocation.
This was all well known by the bishop and his silence indicated indifference or approval...take your pick.
For the price I paid the short time the children were there, it was a waste of money. So we did it ourselves and for our efforts were looked down upon by the diocese at those few times we asked for some simple assistance. No big deal, such is life. It is, nevertheless, the reality of the American Catholic Chuch.

Jim said...

While I would not say that my experience with my kids in Catholic school swas quite as bad as Jackie's I would say that it left a lot to be desired.

One would think that Catholic schools would try to stand out more to give parents a reason to spend almost $8,000 a year to send their child to the school. When my friends ask me why I send my kids to Catholic schools I give the answers that the quality is better, it is safer etc but they would know I'd be lying if I said that the religious instruction was great.

I'm not aware of one religious vocation coming from that school in the 20 years since I graduated from high school until now.

Anonymous said...

As a homeschooler, I'd be interested to see your impressions of the various materials available to homeschoolers for Religious Ed. Right now, I'm supplementing the parish RE program with various things, but haven't found anything we all like.

Greywolf said...

Father Fox,

Might you be looking into the Family Faith Family program to allow to promote at-home catechesis? I am currently looking into this program for my parish.

All the heroic work of Catholic school, catechism, and RCIA seem to disappear with the wave of a wand when Mom and Dad or Spouse or Neighbor says, "Most Catholics don't really believe that. You don't have to believe that. I don't." Or just as bad, maybe even worse, when these role models of those being initiated into the Faith don't live what is taught, e.g., only assisting at Holy Mass on Sundays/Holy Days when it is convenient and not going to Confession for receiving Communion the next time.

When Catholic school is not chosen because of zeal for Catholic faith (we like uniforms or the kids are better behaved), when catechism becomes drop-off/free babysitting time, when RCIA is done to make a future spouse happy or to not feel uncomfortable at Mass, what it taught by orthodox priests, sisters, and laymen is the seed that lands in the thorns. The twisted thorns kill the seed which wants to produce good fruit. In short, the home, i.e., the primary educators, is what is essential. Ideally, home, church, and school agree. A child can survive faith intact bad preaching and bad schooling if good things are happening at home. But if bad things are happening at home, church and school can only throw seed to the thorns.

It seems that in Catholic circles the favorite thing to complain about is the preaching of priests. Lay people complain about their priests, priests where they have visited, and stories told to them. And we know that no one is harder on priests than other priests (except maybe for seminarians).

If parents are primary educators and the paragraph above holds some truth, should not all of us - not only priests - examine the effort we make to pass on the Faith we have received. I would guess (from my experience as pastor) that typical parents only talk about faith when a child asks a particular question (and this usually scares the parents). Above average would seem to be families that discuss something that was said or heard at Mass after Mass at the dinner table, pizza shop, or sitting around reading the Sunday morning paper. The best parents intentionally plan conservations to have, questions to ask, virtues to point out, behavior of which to show disapproval, and the viewing of media which will invite mature discussions of how to live out the Faith. Most average parents say, "I don't know. That is what the Church says. We've always done it that way. Father likes it that way. Sister told me so." Underaverage includes the very negative role models that some parents give. One of the saddest and most common situations: a grade school child, sometimes with tears in his eyes, says, "Father, I want to go to Mass on Sundays, but my parents are always sick on Sunday mornings." The first time that I heard this I thought, "I can't believe that parents would give a lame excuse, while lying, to their children." I quickly realized what was going on and was saddened to the depths of my being. Children longing for the Eucharist (because of the good seeds planted by church and school) are being pulled away by the thorns (drinking, carousing parents who haven't accepted the responsibilities or marriage, children, or the baptism of children).

We need faith formation in the home! And at church and in school!

Anonymous said...

... what jackie said.

in my parish school open house I asked the teachers about the school's mission, and all touted that 'our school is just as good as the public school.' I even asked very pointed questions to evoke some religious-related responses, but sadly none came. My kids go to a small bible school where the teachers see their job as a ministry and are very dedicated in 'modeling' Christian virtue as well as high academic standards. This happens because the school leadership screens demands it.

I am waiting for such a Catholic school.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Catholic homeschooling mom because I want my children to be "Catholic for a lifetime" not have "Values for a lifetime". An atheist can have values like leadership, citzenship, etc.

Anonymous said...

Fr Klingele,

You a spot on regarding faith formation in the home. If it does not happen there, in this day and age, it simply won't happen...the faith will not be passed on.
What disappoints and puzzles me, however, is the complete avoidance
by many priests and almost all bishops, of the core issues of the Faith; heaven, hell, sin, grace and
salvation of soul.
I have not heard a sermon on any of the above from a parish priest for 20+ years.
I do, however, hear these preached consistently from the priests of Opus Dei.
I don't get. But I really no longer care if I do get it.