Friday, April 29, 2011

'Opportunities' in Catholic Education

Each morning, right after fulfilling my chivalric duties of devotion, I spend a minimum of fifteen minutes reading. Usually the author who receives my undivided attention at this time is Monsignor Ronald A. Knox (Eton, Oxford). During World War II and the German bombings of industrial and municipal centers, Monsignor Knox had the opportunity to retire to the countryside of England to work on his translation of the Bible. Sounds idyllic, doesn't it? So it is amazing how the Holy Spirit sees things, most often, differently.

Just as Knox was settling into the lovely manor setting, it was decided that the manor would also be an extraordinary setting for Catholic school girls to continue their studies, far removed from the Blitz .

Indeed, now Knox would have the delightful daily opportunity to say Mass, hear weekly confessions, and generally serve as chaplain to gaggles of prepubescent schoolgirls while he attempted his mandated work of translation. Ah, yes. How plans change!

I thought of this as I read Monsignor Charles Pope's post, A Catholic University and Recovered Catholic Identity - A Study of Change and Possibility of Reform (a fine article, but one to which I will not allude here except as a jumping-off place).

When I was confirmed into the Catholic Church ten years ago this summer, I went looking for work and was honored to be offered a teaching position at a Catholic school in northern Virginia (St. Charles Borromeo School, pictured above as it looked when I arrived there). I remained there, a fixture in the sixth grade for nearly all of those ten years (the students, both male and female, probably looked at me as a "fixture" of sorts, also).

While working diligently to fulfill the requirements mandated by the diocesan Office of Catholic Schools, I found some of the most amazing times of learning came in planned, yet never choreographed, moments. For example, each morning students came in, hung up coats, etc., prepared for the day, sat and read the Gospel for Mass for the day, and then answered a related question on the board in their "Bellwork Journal."

Using these questions, I sought to help students move into "higher cognitive thinking" (Bloom) and also make them dig more deeply into the meaning of faith, morals, and other vital teachings of the Church. We would discuss the question and their answers before our Morning Offering and intentions.

I am grateful for the years that our Lord allowed me to teach in a Catholic school classroom. Never neglect to cherish and support your parish school (if you have one) and/or your diocesan Catholic schools. It is a unique place of growing, learning, catechesis, morality in action, and other "opportunities" for the Holy Spirit to help the young to come into a closer, richer relationship with God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit ... and their "neighbor as themselves" (Mark 12, 30-31).

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