September 8, 2022
by Assistant Principal – Mission and Identity, Mr Geoff Brodie
In its document “The Catholic School (1977)” The Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education proclaims Jesus Christ as the foundation of the whole educational enterprise in a Catholic school (34). The Sacred Congregation in the same section goes on to say,
“The fact that in their own individual ways all members of the school community share this Christian vision, makes the school “Catholic.””
As an Edmund Rice School, we are grounded on the Touchstone of Gospel Spirituality. The Edmund Rice Education Charter (EREA) Charter states:
A Catholic school in the Edmund Rice tradition lives and grows as a faith-sharing community by fostering personal relationships with God through Jesus Christ.
So far, so good.
An Edmund Rice School is also grounded on the Touchstone of Inclusive Community. On this the Charter states:
Our community is accepting and welcoming, fostering right relationships and committed to the common good
Our Touchstone is quite clear that a St Patrick’s education involves the engagement of families from the spectrum of backgrounds and worldviews. Now we are confronted with an interesting question. What impact do families with no explicit Christian commitment make on the ‘Catholicity’ of our College?
A possible response may be offered in two parts: faith and reason.
Let us first consider the potency and authority of human reason. Each of has received the gift of an unrestricted desire to know. We can always ask another question. We can keep asking questions until we are satisfied by the answer that concludes – and this is important – we have come to know what is really going on in our world. By asking questions and seeking answers – the life of reason – we constantly push back the boundary of what we do not know in pursuit of truth. The Congregation for Catholic education says of this gift of human nature:
The (Catholic) school considers human knowledge as a truth to be discovered. In the measure in which subjects are taught by someone who knowingly and without restraint seeks the truth, they are to that extent Christian. (41)
If the teachers at St Patrick’s College are leading their students in the life of reason, together asking every relevant question, collecting the data, proposing possible explanations, affirming, or rejecting the explanations on the weight of the evidence, we are living as a Catholic school. If our young men and their families take up the challenge to…
…open hearts and minds, through quality teaching and learning experiences, so that through critical reflection and engagement each person is hope-filled and free to build a better world for all (EREA Touchstone of Liberating Education)…
… then they are building up and strengthening St Patrick’s College as a Catholic school.
Secondly, there is the life of faith.
If each of us is limited to knowledge gained through our reason alone – the questioning of the data we have personally experienced – life would be much harder. We would have to discover for ourselves how to grow food, build shelters and make cricket balls that last ninety overs. Faith is the solution to this limitation. Faith is the reasonable and responsible decision to trust the questions and answers offered to us by others. Faith takes us beyond the limits of our reason.
Faith in our heritage allows us to collaborate with the discoveries of the past, so we may benefit from ancestral achievements and avoid repeating past errors. Faith in our present community is the ground of collaboration that creates a world no-one could ever bring about on their own. Faith in the generations to come creates within us a sense of justice that guides what we choose to do in our present. Through faith in the curriculum, their teachers, and their future, our students…
… overcome their individualism and discover, in the light of faith, their specific vocation to live responsibly in a community with others (45).
The faith our families and young men have in their teachers is an essential criterion for the flourishing of a Catholic school.
The extent to which the Christian message is transmitted through education depends to a very great extent on the teachers. The integration of culture and faith is mediated by the other integration of faith and life in the person of the teacher. The nobility of the task to which teachers are called demands that, in imitation of Christ, the only Teacher, they reveal the Christian message not only by word but also by every gesture of their behaviour (43)
Let us recall the question. What impact do families with no explicit Christian commitment make on the ‘Catholicity’ of our College? If education is about newness of life through the growth of faith and reason, then all families are essential to the Catholicity of St Patrick’s College. When “their aim is not merely the attainment of knowledge but the acquisition of values and the discovery of truth (39), our families are essential in the emerging Catholicity of St Patrick’s College.
Finally, how do we know if our emerging Catholicity is on the right path? The answer to that question is stated easily enough: Jesus. Catholic faith and reason are united in the person of Jesus, for God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life (John 3:16). The Touchstones and all insights into Catholic education emerge from and lead us to a personal relationship – a trust based in faith and reason – with Jesus. The beauty of our community is that each of us is called personally by God, so each of us in our individual ways, through faith and reason, in some way share this Christian vision. To love God is to love our neighbour. Love is the fulfilment of faith and reason. Love sustains us through every question and answer in the life of reason. Love grants us the courage to trust our heritage, our community, and our future. Love is participation in the very nature of God. No-one is excluded from the catholic/universal nature of that truth.
May we enjoy the peace and joy of this term break.