The Importance of the Catholic College for the Church and the World
then helps to ensure the integration of the faith in every aspect of the academy, through both word and witness.
Catholic identity flourishes when all who are involved in this educational mission, from the Catholic College President to the Professor in the classroom, first view themselves as disciples, lifelong learners, followers of the Teacher, Jesus Christ. The Christian life is lived within the Body of Christ, the Church, into which we have been incorporated through Baptism. The Catholic College is an expression of that Church.
The Church is by its very nature, a teacher. Those involved in serving at a Catholic College participate in the educational mission of the Church. Education is the very heart of the ecclesial mission. In speaking of herself, the Church often notes that she is an "expert in humanity" who "walks the way of the person". In the words of Pope John XXIII echoed in so many pronouncements of the Magisterium, The Church is, both "Mater et Magister" "Mother and Teacher." She is an educating community and institution.
Education is not something the Church adds something to, as though the process of educating were some kind of nakedly secular pursuit which the Church somehow makes "religious". Rather, education is the very heart of the Churches' mission. On August 15, 1990 Pope John Paul II, issued his apostolic letter "Ex Corde Ecclesia" (At the Heart of the Church) affirming the vital mission of the Catholic College.
We will soon celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the release of that letter. The Cardinal Newman Society is dedicating the month of August to presenting once again the vital importance of this letter. We will be covering their effort throughout the entire month of August. In that letter John Paul II wrote:
"Since the objective of a Catholic University is to assure in an institutional manner a Christian presence in the university world confronting the great problems of society and culture, every Catholic University, as Catholic, must have the following essential characteristics: 1. a Christian inspiration not only of individuals but of the university community as such; 2. a continuing reflection in the light of the Catholic faith upon the growing treasury of human knowledge, to which it seeks to contribute by its own research; 3. fidelity to the Christian message as it comes to us through the Church; 4. an institutional commitment to the service of the people of God and of the human family in their pilgrimage to the transcendent goal which gives meaning to life"
The Catholic College is not a private College with a church affiliation. It is a Catholic College. Catholic identity is not an "add on" to its mission but the very lifeblood which animates it. In his masterful letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul calls all Christians to a ".renewal of their minds". (Romans 12:2) This renewal of the mind is the essence of Catholic education. In an age which is being enslaved by the Dictatorship of Relativism, the catholic College affirms the existence of truth and insists that there is a constitutive connection between truth, freedom, education and the ability to form an authentically human and just culture. This commitment to truth characterizes the entire Catholic educational mission.
The Purpose of a Catholic College is to teach, form and prepare students in Christ, through Christ, and with Christ, who has been raised and continues His redemptive mission through the Church. It is that Church which is vested with His authority to teach the whole world concerning truth.
In the words of the great Western Bishop Augustine: "Let us rejoice then and give thanks that we have become not only Christians, but Christ himself. Do you understand and grasp, brethren, God's grace toward us? Marvel and rejoice: we have become Christ. For if he is the head, we are the members; he and we together are the whole man. . . . The fullness of Christ then is the head and the members. But what does "head and members" mean? Christ and the Church."
The living Christ still teaches and directs His Church. Through that Church he continues to influence all of human culture. The faithful of the Church are called to inculcate and live the truth as articulated under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit by the teaching office of the Church. At the forefront of the mission of the Catholic Church is the education of the next generation of faithfully Catholic men and women who do just that. It is Christ the Teacher who teaches His children in the Catholic College. As the late John Paul II said so succinctly in an address to educators in 1979 "Catholic education is above all a question of communicating Christ, of helping to form Christ in the lives of others."
In the midst of our struggling economy there have been several recent articles asking whether a College education is "worth it". They approach answering the question by placing increased earning capacity at the top of the analysis. In other words, a college education is reduced to equipping a student to make more money. Such a minimalist approach is tragic. Education is about much more than increasing earnings capacity. It is about cultivating character and instilling virtue. Catholic education is about even more, it is about preparing men and women to participate in the ongoing redemptive mission of Jesus Christ.
The Catholic College serves a vital role in the mission of the Church in this critical time in history. Those young men and women I met Monday night are evidence of the importance of the authentically Catholic College. During the coming months we will be offering articles which highlight the growing number of Catholic Colleges and Universities taking their mission seriously. They are preparing the men and women who will carry on the mission of the Church in the Third Christian Millennium.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
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