TEACHING AND LEARNING
It’s that wonderful time of year when students head off to schools and teachers welcome them aboard for the adventure of learning. As our schools and faith formation classes start up for another year, we are excited at the new opportunity our young people have to grow in grace and wisdom. Pope Francis, in his apostolic exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel,” acknowledges the wonderful contribution of so many Christians in our world today, people like teachers who devote themselves to the education of children and young people, sacrificing their lives and their love in helping so many to grow in grace and wisdom. I thank all who will engage in teaching and catechesis with our young people this year.
On Aug. 28, I had the delight of joining our Catholic School teachers, administrators and staff members at the Diocesan School In-service Day. We offered Mass asking God’s blessing on our new year of learning. The following Thursday, I joined youth ministers and directors of religious education from our parishes and we too offered Mass for God’s blessings on the new school year. I reviewed with both groups the rich heritage of our Catholic Church on the ministry of Catholic education. As we go about the task of education, I invited all to keep in mind five principles for Catholic education found in our rich heritage of Catholic Church documents.
1. Teaching in our Catholic tradition is inspired by divine mission. We engage in teaching because that is what Jesus sent his disciples to do and what he sends us to do. As he was sent by the Father, so Jesus sends us out: “Go out and teach all nations … Teach them to follow everything I have commanded” (Mt 28).
2. Teaching in our Catholic tradition models Christian communion and identity. We know that the first and natural environment of education is the community of the family. All other Catholic education takes its place beside the family. Catholic education is education for communion. We are made for communion with God, the Trinity of divine persons, and with one another. We know that communion in the Body of Christ and we experience it in our parish communities of faith.
3. All Catholic education encounters Christ. Teaching for us is helping people find and know Jesus Christ. Teaching for us is helping people be fed by Christ in frequent experiences of prayer, scripture, and the liturgical and sacramental tradition of the Church. Christ is that perfect man.
4. Catholic education aims for an integral formation of the whole person. During this new year of learning, our young people will grow in all the dimensions of their personhood, the physical, intellectual, psychological, sexual, and spiritual dimensions. They will grow to be more like Christ. Education in the light of faith will help our young people come to understand themselves as made in God’s image.
5. Catholic education also imparts a Christian understanding of the world. Teaching in the light of faith helps our young people see what is good in our world and what is not. It is teaching that treasures and transmits both the secular and religious cultural patrimony handed down from previous generations. May God bless all our teachers this year. And may God grant that through their work, all our young people may grow in understanding who they are and what a wonderful world God continues to provide for us.
BORED AGAIN CATHOLIC?
As I mentioned in the last edition of OND, I want to review with you some thoughts about the Mass, using as a springboard a little book entitled: “Bored Again Catholic: How the Mass Could Save Your Life” written by Timothy P. O’Malley of the Department of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. Remember, Christ calls us all to be missionary disciples who evangelize the world. To be so and do so, as Pope Francis reminds us, we need to begin with ourselves. A good place to begin is with our own understanding and involvement at the central event of our Christian life, the Eucharist. It’s true: “The beauty of the Mass can change not only us but the entire world.”
I’ve shared before how, as I grew up, my family went to the early daily Mass together. We took Saturdays off, but every other day of the week our family went to Mass. Many mornings, amidst the last minute scramble to get everyone in the car, I remember asking myself, “Why in the world are we doing this?” Well, first of all, we go to Mass because Jesus asked us to. On his last night with his apostles, at their last supper, Jesus gave us the Eucharist and said: “Do this in remembrance of me.” Right from the beginning of the Church, (the very word “Church” means those gathered) the believers of Jesus have gathered on the first day of the week to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus by joining together in celebrating the Eucharist. In saving us, Jesus calls us to become part of his Body, the Church. As Mr. O’Malley puts it: “In Catholicism, joining together to pray, coming from all corners of our towns and villages, is an enactment of what it means to belong to the Catholic Church to begin with. To pray together, to worship together, this is what it means to belong to the Church.”
We become all God intends us to be by joining with other believers to participate in praising and thanking God in Eucharist (the word “Eucharist” means thanksgiving). And too, we know, God wants all people to be saved. And O’Malley reminds us, “Going to Mass is not fundamentally about my unique spiritual experience but about giving over part of myself in love to all other believers so that together we can manifest Christ’s love for the world.”
The Entrance Rites: The gathered believers join in making room for God’s presence. In the entrance procession, those gathered together welcome the presence of Christ. Remember that the ministerial priest has been ordained to be present “in persona Christi capitis,” that is, in the very person of Christ the Head of the Church. As he processes in with the other ministers, the assembly makes room for Christ who is present when we gather, who will speak his word in the Scriptures and be present to us in his Eucharistic sacrifice. The incense we use at the beginning of Mass is an image of the cloud of glory, the Shekinah, found in the holy of holies of the Temple. The Roman Missal sets out the Introit for each Mass. These are entrance chants taken from Scripture and call our attention to God’s presence in history. When a “Gathering Song” is used instead of the Introit chant, that song should also focus our attention “less upon ourselves and more on how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit has redeemed the human race, gathering us together now to sing a new song to the Lord.” (Ps. 96)
We mark ourselves with the sign of the cross, identifying ourselves as Christians, believers baptized into the life of the Trinity, brothers and sisters of the Son of God made flesh, brothers and sisters with one another. So, right from the beginning, there is a lot going on and none of it is boring.
Brothers and sisters, we gather with our loving God for a banquet of love. We open our hearts. We know God’s love. Our hearts sing God’s praises.
O’Malley writes, “Participation in the Mass every week attunes us to a truth that we might have forgotten in the course of our daily lives: that we are called to become a hymn of praise to the world.” Next time, we’ll finish our look at the Entrance Rites with thoughts about the Greeting, the Penitential Rite, the Gloria and the Collect. Between now and then, let us look to see how the beauty of the Mass can really change us and our whole world.