Back to School – August 2017

But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened;
and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Matthew 14:30


My Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

It is the middle of August and we begin the season of “Back to School”. These past two weeks have been a bustle of activity as parents prepare their children to begin or return to school. There are school supplies to be considered, rescheduling of daily routines, and helping our children to be calm about the changes they may encounter. Our parents have also been praying for their own sense of quiet as the activity mounts like the waves described in St. Matthew’s Gospel. Our parish school faculty and staff have been preparing all summer for the return of students; appropriating classrooms, organizing lesson plans, attending meetings and classes; and praying for our parents and students. The last few weeks before school begins always bring with it some uncertainty and doubt as well as rejoicing in the knowledge of the Lord and His saving power.

Our parish staff with and without schools also ready themselves for faith formation classes for our young people who attend public school. This preparation is rigorous and time consuming as catechists are identified, scheduled, and checked for appropriate certification; lesson plans are prepared; and various meetings and educational opportunities are offered. Parents again have to rearrange schedules to accommodate faith formation classes for their children and to assure prompt arrival in the midst of other school schedules and demands.

Just as God is the focus for the disciples in the boat, and for Peter, particularly, God is also our focus and our purpose for this preparation. Yet, if we consider our call to holiness at baptism, this preparation or focus is not really relegated to a season, is it? A Catholic education, whether through Catholic school or faith formation classes, is limited to the time in which a student participates. For some it could be less than 8 years. At some point, each student graduates (the hope of every parent!) and leaves behind this ‘formal education’.

At baptism, our covenant with God to respond to His call to holiness lasts a lifetime. We cannot segment the time we learn about God nor the time we focus on God.  Our life through, with and in Him is 24/7, 365 days a year. That is why parents have such an important role because they are the first to form of their children’s faith and they and the entire family are called to bring this focus on faith-filled living to every moment with their children, even after their children graduate! Parents have a responsibility to guard their faith and to help it deepen. Pope Francis said to parents whose children were receiving the Sacrament of Baptism, “The faith is to believe what is the truth—God the Father who sent His Son, and the Spirit who gives life. But faith is also to trust in God, and that you must teach them, with your example, with your life… The Church gives the faith to your children through Baptism, and you have the task to make it grow, preserve it, and it becomes a testimony to all the others.”

Beyond the parents and godparents, each of us has a responsibility to each other to become a testimony of our faith in God. As Jesus reached out to Peter in his time of doubt to save him, so we reach out to each other to strengthen the faith in others and with outstretched hand, hold them in their focus on God. In order to grow in our faith, we must participate in the Sacraments, receiving the Eucharist as the source and summit of the Christian life for our spiritual nourishment. Our daily living is our daily prayer. Our study of the Lord never really ends.  Participating in Scripture or adult formation classes and parish retreats nourishes our minds and our hearts so we can be strong like the wind in professing our belief in the triune God.

The Diocese and parishes have many opportunities to help the ‘grown ups’ increase their study.  Two upcoming diocesan opportunities are the Liturgical Conference, “Liturgy in Action: Encountering Christ, to be held August 24-26 at the Orlando Airport Marriott and the Ministry Formation Conference, to be held August 16 at Bishop Moore Catholic High School.

In Chapter 14 of St. Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus had been teaching the people and afterward, He went to pray. After prayer, He encountered Peter who had doubt in the strength of the wind; in the strength of God Jesus said, “Do not be afraid.” May the strength of our faith relieve any doubt or fear, that we may be testimony of God for all the people.

Bishop Noonan
Diocese of Orlando