The Importance of the Catholic College for the Church and the World
Catholic Colleges are the seedbeds of renewal
The Catholic College is not a private College with a church affiliation. Catholic identity is not an "add on" to its mission but the very lifeblood which animates it. Catholic identity at a Catholic College requires that the academic community understand its ecclesial nature. In an institution, just as in persons, it begins from the inside and works its way throughout like leaven or yeast in a loaf. Catholic identity must be the beating heart of a Catholic College and provide the infrastructure for its entire educational mission. Catholic culture on campus becomes a fruit.
Catholic Colleges are the seedbeds of renewal for the Church and the world.
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic online) - I had a wonderful experience Monday evening. I spoke to a local "Theology on Tap" group which meets in Virginia Beach, Virginia. I rarely do that kind of speaking these days but succumbed to the pressure put on me by the young man who leads the effort. He is the kind of Catholic man we desperately need in this hour. He loves the Lord, loves the Church, understands his faith and lives it out in a naturally supernatural way. He is also persistent. He would not take "no" for an answer. As it turns out, I am glad he didn't.
I arrived to a packed out restaurant filled with men and women in their twenties with the same kind of commitment to living the Catholic faith that my persistent host showed me. They listened attentively to my talk and when I opened the floor to questions, they would have gone all night! The quality of the questions they asked revealed that they are genuinely trying to live their Catholic faith and share it with others. The evening filled me with hope.
After the event ended many stayed to continue our dialogue. I found that many of them were the good fruit of new or renewed Catholic Colleges like Franciscan University, Ave Maria, Belmont Abbey and the growing number of others. It was obvious that they had been formed in the faith and prepared for life in the "real world". They had intellectually solid, humanly integrated and healthy living faith.
They were also filled with evangelistic fervor. They were ready to offer themselves as leaven within their world in order to effect its transformation. They were not afraid of the world but loved it with the kind of redemptive love which comes when one understands the implications of Baptism. They were integrating their faith in their daily life. It was obvious in the way they carried themselves and it was refreshing to behold. I witnessed again just how vital these Catholic Colleges are for the future of the Church and the world.
The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council addressed a "separation between faith and life" in their document on the Mission of the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes). They said this "split between the faith which many profess and their daily lives deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age." Indeed it truly does! Western culture would not be in the current state of moral decline if Catholics understood and lived their Christian faith in an integrated manner, informing every aspect of their human experience and social participation with the principles and practices which flow from that faith.
It is to respond to this challenge that the Venerable John Paul II called for a "New Evangelization." That call has borne fruit throughout the entire Church. Included in this fruit are the new, renewed and restored Catholic Colleges preparing the next generation with missionary purpose. The young people I met on Monday evening are the "living stones" upon which this new missionary work of the Church will be built. These Catholic Colleges are the seedbeds of renewal for the Church and the world.
Before Antioch, where the followers of Jesus were first called Christians, they were referred to as "The Way".(See, e.g. Acts 22) Their lifestyle was different from that of the prevailing culture. Their faith informed how they lived their daily lives. To belong to Jesus Christ and to His Church worked its way into the every aspect of their lives, individually and collectively. This new way of living a vibrant and integrated Christian faith drew them together for worship and mutual support. It also made their evangelizing and sanctifying mission extraordinarily fruitful.
This new way of living is still meant to be normative among those who bear the name Christian. Its' recovery is essential to the mission of the Church in the Third Millennium. Within the Catholic College, this malady of the separation between faith and life led to a serious erosion of Catholic identity on many campuses. Fortunately, the tide is turning. These new, renewed and restored Catholic Colleges have put Catholic identity at the top of their mission, not simply given it a sentence in an otherwise obscure mission statement. Their graduates prove how important that primacy of placement truly is.
Catholic identity at a Catholic College requires that the academic community understand its ecclesial nature. In an institution, just as in persons, it begins from the inside and works its way throughout like leaven or yeast in a loaf. Catholic identity must be the beating heart of a Catholic College and provide the infrastructure for its entire educational mission. When it does, the building of a Catholic culture on campus becomes a fruit. This Catholic culture ...
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