I am very happy to be here again with you. This got on my calendar a bit later – and so because I had already committed to celebrating Mass later today with our priests who are on retreat at San Pedro, you had to shuffle around the schedule this morning and that’s the reason why we are celebrating the Mass a bit earlier than past years. I thank you for making this accommodation so that I could be with you.
Catholic Schools light the Way. That’s the theme for today’s gathering – as for next year’s Catholic Schools’ Week. Catholic Schools do indeed light the Way and they do so because our mission is to the whole human person. And this is important to remember and to foster – especially since the trend in our times seems to be the fragmentation of education – with education being reduced to its purely technical and practical aspects. As I said here before: other schools teach the test, in Catholic schools we teach the “yes”.
The goal of Catholic education – and what makes Catholic education “good news” is the development of the whole man. And in pursuing this integral formation which aims to prepare our students for life – both this life and the life to come, we are convinced that all human values find their fulfillment and unity in Christ. It is in Christ that the fullness of truth concerning man is to be found.
Catholic Schools light the Way because we witness to the Truth that is the Way, the Truth that has a human face. We witness to Christ who as True God and True Man shows us the human face of God and the divine face of man.
I am sure you all have had the occasion to watch some of those old reruns on T.V. of Perry Mason, or Matlock, or even Law and Order – when you’re not too busy grading papers. In any case, you all can probably remember how before someone gives testimony he or she swears “to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”.
And that is our testimony as Catholic teachers and professionals: “to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”. This is how we are called to “light the way” Pope John Paul II said that “the Church is the friend of every authentic search of human thought.” This is why the Church invests so much of her own resources in education. And as Catholics we are convinced that truth is one – we do not hold that there is any real conflict between faith and science. In the beautiful words of Pope John Paul II faith and reason are like two wings in which the human ascends to knowledge. And as Catholics we know members of the Church we serve both truth and humanity by our efforts to lead our young people to the knowledge of the truth, the whole truth.
And today – more than ever – our world needs to encounter truth. The world needs to know that truth is knowable. The world needs to know its demands and to know that its demands are reasonable. Without truth there is no freedom; and without truth, there is no hope. And this is what a Catholic education can offer our youth – an education founded on truth – which, if we’re honest, is available no where else. For, today in a society which is characterize by a crisis of anthropology – the understanding of man – because of the sway of ideologies which offer a reductive – and therefore diminished – understanding of the human person, where else but in a Catholic school can you speak the whole truth about God, and the whole truth about man. We light the way precisely because we can teach that truth that is written with a capital “T”.
How can anybody say that he or she is educating someone about the truth – and yet to be able to speak about God? The history of these United States would be incomprehensible without acknowledging the role of Faith, the role of religion, in its foundation as well as in its foundational documents. And yet, how well – and how fairly – is this topic addressed in our secular schools? How can anyone say that he or she is educating someone about the truth, if they cannot teach that we exist not only for this life – but also for the next? Not to know that we were created for eternity is to be as ignorant as not knowing how to multiply fractions. In Catholic schools we can and do teach both well.
In 2008, we will be celebrating our 40th year as a diocese – and in view of this celebration I have designated 2008 as a Year of Evangelization. Almost three years ago, Pope Benedict XVI stirred the world with his inaugural homily on the steps of St. Peter’s. What he said then bears repeating today: “We are living in alienation, in the salt waters of suffering and death; in a sea of darkness without light. The net of the Gospel pulls us out of the waters of death and brings us into the splendor of God’s light, into true life. It is really true: as we follow Christ in this mission to be fishers of men, we must bring men and women out of the sea that is salted with so many forms of alienation and onto the land of life, into the light of God. It is really so: the purpose of our lives is to reveal God to men. And only where God is seen does life truly begin. Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is. We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary. There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him”
Catholic Schools by lighting the way are an indispensable part of our Church’s mission to evangelize. Isn’t that the good news about Catholic education – that it helps our young people to decide their futures in light of Christ? To teach our kids to know that they are loved by God, the one love that never lets us down and never dies – which you are called to do, which you are privileged to do – is, to borrow that punch line for the credit card commercial, priceless. And that’s the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth – so help me God.