A Catholic school is a place where students live a shared experience of faith in God and where they learn the riches of Catholic culture. Taking proper account of the stages of human development, the freedom of individuals, and the rights of parents in the education of their children. Catholic schools must help students to deepen their personal relationship with God and to discover that all things human have their deepest meaning in the person and teaching of Jesus Christ. Prayer and the liturgy, especially the sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance, should mark the rhythm of a Catholic school's life. Transmitting knowledge about the faith, though essential, is not sufficient. If students in Catholics schools are to gain a genuine experience of the Church, the example of teachers and others responsible for their formation is crucial: the witness of adults in the school community is a vital part of the school's identity.
Numberless religious and lay teachers and other personnel in Catholic schools down the years have shown how then-professional competence and commitment are grounded in the spiritual, intellectual and moral values of the Catholic tradition. The Catholic community in the United States and the whole country have been immeasurably blessed through the work of so many dedicated religious in schools in every part of your country. I also know how much you value the dedication of the many lay men and women who, sometimes at great financial sacrifice, are involved in Catholic education because they believe in the mission of Catholic schools. If in some cases there has been an eroding of confidence in the teaching vocation, you must do all you can to restore that trust.
5. Catechesis, either in schools or in parish-based programmes, plays a fundamental role in transmitting the faith. The Bishop should encourage catechists to see their work as a vocation: as a privileged sharing in the mission of handing on the faith and accounting for the hope that is in us (cf. 1 Peter 3:15). The Gospel message is the definitive response to the deepest longings of the human heart. Young Catholics have a right to hear the full content of that message in order to come to know Christ, the One who has overcome death and opened the way to salvation. Efforts to renew catechesis must be based on the premise that Christ's teaching, as transmitted in the Church and as authentically interpreted by the Magisterium, has to be presented in all its richness, and the methodologies used have to respond to the nature of the faith as truth received (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:1). The work you have begun through your Conference to evaluate catechetical texts by the standard of the Catechism of the Catholic Church will help to ensure the unity and completeness of the faith as it is presented in your Dioceses.
Next installment: part three of three
There is, of course, an alternative to the above invitation and many there are who take it. It is to be brazen and proud of heart. These two qualities lead one to the hardness of heart which Jesus spoke of in St. Mark 16:14, "Afterward He appeared to the eleven as they sat at table; and He upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart." It would seem that it would follow that if one has not meekness, he finds himself in unbelief, and if there is no humility, there is hardness of heart.
When in His life would you think that these qualities of meekness and humility shone the brightest in the life of Jesus? Was it when He stood before Pilate? When He was being scourged? When He hung pinned to the Cross? Perhaps in all of these, but I think these qualities stood out most as He spent the three hours beaten and broken, hanging naked and covered shame before the reviling crowd. It was an ugly scent and yet within that ugliness there came forth a beauty as no one had ever before or since witnessed. The King of Heaven and earth bridged earth with Heaven to accomplish the purpose for which He came among men. It was so very ugly in what mankind did to Him; it was very beautiful in what He did for mankind. It is the same ugliness and beauty, the same meekness and humility that have manifested themselves down through the centuries and are found in our midst today in the re-enactment of Calvary, in the unbloody sacrifice of the Mass.
There is beauty in the fact that Jesus has made it possible for the faithful of all centuries to be able to have before their eyes and hearts the continuation of the sacrifice of the Cross. Though not actually present at the scene of the sacrificial crucifixion, through receiving the benefits thereof, the faithful of every age can participate actively in the sacrificial action as confected by Jesus at the Last Supper. The fruits of Christ's suffering and death flow out to the faithful, the fruits merited for them at Calvary. Through the separate consecration of the bread and wine and the fact of the transubstantiation, a real sacrifice takes place each time the Mass is celebrated. At each Mass, Jesus gives Himself again to the Father in our behalf, winning for us a flood of graces and an extended period of mercy. The faithful, as living members of the Mystical Body of Christ, together with its Head, Jesus, working through the priest at the time of the Consecration, actively participate in a mystical, but real sacrificial act of worship, an act duly recognized and readily accepted as such by the Father. Jesus, meekly and humbly makes use of a mere human being, one set apart and anointed, empowering him to bring the sacrifice about in His stead.
Next installment: Backed by Canon Law
Saint John Fisher, born in Yorkshire, England in 1469, became a priest at the age of 25 after graduating cum laude from Cambridge University. His claim to fame was his brilliant defense of the Faith against the attacks of Martin Luther. Because of his expertise in both theology and the humanistic arts, he was appointed Chancellor at Cambridge in 1504 and later became the Bishop of Rochester. Soon after he was summoned by Queen Elizabeth of York, mother of Henry VIII, to minister to the royals where he emphasized a monastic austerity in their prayer life and an insistence on the Liturgy of the Hours by all. Though he was beloved by Elizabeth, he was resented by Henry who had succumbed to the world, the flesh and the devil. When Bishop Fisher officially proclaimed Henry's first marriage valid after Henry tried to annull it, the good bishop was imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1533. Given another chance by Henry to refute what he had proclaimed and to take an oath of loyalty to the King of England over the Pope of Rome, Fisher who had been appointed a Cardinal while in prison by Pope Paul III refused, condemning the king's marriage to Anne Boleyn. For this he was beheaded, receiving his crown of martyrdom.
While John Fisher was a Cambridge grad, Saint Thomas More was an Oxford man, having studied law. Born in 1477 in London, Thomas was married twice. With his first wife he had four children. After she died, he remarried for the welfare of his children. After John Fisher had been imprisoned, Henry VIII appointed Thomas the new Chancellor, a position at that time which was second only to the king. He succeeded Cardinal Wolsey. The ribald king had thought that by placing a layman in this position he could further distance himself from Rome and better control the Church of England. But Thomas More was a holy man who owed his allegiance to the King of Kings before the king of England. More than a few times when summoned by Henry while Thomas was attending Holy Mass, Thomas replied by messenger: "As soon as my audience with the King of Heaven is ended, I will at once obey the desire of my earthly king." This did not sit well with Henry who was determined to have his own way. When Henry proclaimed himself head of the Church of England, Thomas, who also was opposed to the king's divorce, abstained from taking the oath and resigned as Chancellor, refusing to recognize Henry's spiritual supremacy before God. Like John Fisher's fate, Henry retaliated vehemently and had Thomas imprisoned in the same Tower of London where he too was beheaded shortly after St. John Fisher in 1535, joining the ranks of martyrdom for the One, True Faith.