Note: November’s message was a reflection on the first of the five marks of a Catholic school as outlined by Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB in the Holy See’s Teaching on Catholic Schools. This month’s message is a reflection on the second of the five marks:
II: “Founded on a Christian Anthropology”
About fifteen years ago when I was a new Headmaster at a Catholic school here in New Hampshire, I gave a tour to a prospective mother and her 2nd grade daughter. After hearing about all the ways our school tried to ensure an authentic Catholic identity with the desire that children learn what it means to be authentically human as it relates to God, she stopped me to say she was not going to teach her kids about any particular religion and let them decide what they want to believe. As someone who usually has no loss for words, I suddenly found myself not knowing how to respond. Being a new principal in a Catholic school it was the first time I heard this parenting strategy so I quickly prayed to the Holy Spirit and asked for the right words to say.
I would never be so bold as to question someone else’s parenting philosophy never mind that it was a parent inquiring about our school. I was appalled at myself the moment this question left my lips. “Would you let your daughter eat ice cream for every meal of every day if she decided that is what she wanted?” “No” the mother responded. “Why not,” I asked, yelling at myself in my mind, “Stop!” “That would be absurd”, she said. I made my point by agreeing with her that such a diet would be absurd because as parents we want our children to be healthy and learn how important it is to understand good nutrition. But God did not just give us a body. He gave us an intellect. He gave us a soul. I went on to explain how our children need to learn not only how to be physically healthy, but how to be mentally and, most importantly, spiritually healthy. I ended with, “For if we want what is truly best for our children, we want them to go to heaven.”
If our mission as Catholic schools is to help our children and their families realize their eternal destiny, we need to help them understand the concept of what it means to be fully human, both body and soul. To do this we must fully develop all that is human in our students by showing them the perfect model and means, Jesus Christ. (Miller, p. 23) Our Catholic schools must be “centered on Christ, who through his incarnation, is united with each student.” (Miller, pg. 24) Jesus Christ, the Son of God, cannot be an afterthought. He has to be the center and the focus in everything we do in each and every Catholic school. By doing this our children will realize that they too are children of God and that is their true identity.
We live in a world culture today that breeds confusion regarding our true identities. Students and young adults are bombarded with the notion that their sexuality, their career, or their interests define who they are as a person. To combat this we must insist Christ be the Teacher in our schools and not make the mistake of focusing solely on the academic success of our students. For an authentic Catholic school is one that places above all things the desire for each teacher, staff member, student, and family an understanding of what it means to be truly human through their relationship with Jesus Christ. My prayer is for the continued fulfillment of this desire in our Catholic schools whose students are habitually recognizing Christ in one another and being Christ to one another.
Superintendent of Schools
Diocese of Manchester
The Catholic Church in New Hampshire
153 Ash Street, Box 310
Manchester, NH 03105-0310
Fax: (603) 669-0377
© Diocese of Manchester