Friday, October 5, 2012

Things I Wish I Learned in Catholic School

More prep for tomorrow's radio show on EWTN (1-2 p.m. Eastern)

What do I wish I would have learned in my 13 years of Catholic school, but didn't?

Grade School

I don't recall any clear teaching when I was in school on what we Christians mean when we say we have been MADE God's children in baptism.  No clear teaching on the operations of grace.

What was communicated to me by teachers was that God expected us to be good people, and that the judgment at the end of our lives was basically God weighing our good and bad actions in a scale.  Those who came up on the good side would need some purification in purgatory but were going to heaven.  If you did more bad then you were going to hell.  Alright, that isn't what you find in the New Testament; and that isn't what the Catholic Church teaches.

I was taught that God the Father had adopted me, that Jesus came to me in the Eucharist, and that I would receive the Holy Spirit in Confirmation, and that's all of course true; but I wasn't taught the audacious truth that God Himself, the Blessed Trinity had already come to live in me in Baptism.  I became His Temple.  My body and soul are His Church.

Jesus wanted to love and pour Himself out to His Father and brothers and sisters, in the Holy Spirit, through me!  I was to be another Christ in the world; that was why I had been created.  I was already in an intimate, personal relationship with all three members of the Blessed Trinity; and I should expect it to deepen throughout the course of my life - expect to see God doing things in and all around me.

This is the dignity of Christian children.  This is where our moral teaching becomes more than a laundry list of right and wrong.  Instead we understand that we must do the actions of Jesus.  We do not lie, we do not degrade our bodies or use other people's bodies as toys because we could never imagine Jesus doing that.  And He lives in us!

The good that we do isn't done under our own power.  It is Jesus living and acting in us through the Holy Spirit.  It's the grace of God.  We say yes, we cooperate with it and, as St. Paul says, become God's coworkers.  We will inherit eternal life not because the things we've done under our own power have tallied up to 51% good, and only 49% bad, so God owes us life in heave.  We enter life in heaven because we've already been living it here below:  Jesus giving Himself to the Father, in the power of the Spirit, through us!

High School 

I will forever sing the praises of my teacher sophomore year, Mr. Burns.  He was Jewish by birth, Catholic by belief; and he taught me an incredible semester course on the synoptic gospels with close attention to their first century context.  He also gave me a good look at the two creation stories we find in Genesis.

But we never attempted to study the writings of Paul, that's 2/3 of the N.T.  And we certainly never ventured into the Book of Revelation!  We didn't actually read the OT's historical books or chart the images of Jesus that run through the OT from Genesis to the Wisdom Books and Prophets.

I had classes on morality and the Sacraments that told me what we Catholics believe; but it wasn't explained WHY we believed these things.  It wasn't properly anchored in the truth that "This is what God has revealed - through His Church and the natural law.  Here let me show you ..."  There is something about us human beings that when we are told what we are to believe, but not WHY it is true, we come to assume there ISN'T a reason.

A thought:  what if we made Scripture our primary text in Catholic schools, and it was read in the light of the Fathers and the great Tradition of the Church, the way Vatican II instructed us to read Scripture?  What if someone had read John 6 with me and stopped there to unfold our belief in Jesus' Real Presence in the Eucharist?

What if someone had read Matthew 16 and stopped to unpack what it meant for Jesus to give Peter the Keys of the Kingdom and to appoint him as the rock on which He would build the Church.
What if my teacher had said, "The First Epistle of Peter (5:13) alludes to his presence in Rome and we have writings beginning before 100 A.D. that witness to the bishops who succeeded Peter in Rome having pure, binding teaching and a responsibility for leading the entire Church?"  What if he was able to show me the writings of Irenaus of Lyons in 185 A.D. where he records Peter's successors up until that point, and claims that all Christians must be in agreement with the great Tradition that has come down to us through them?

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