“Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practise what you teach”
Posted: Thu, 17 Sep 2020 10:11
In this week's Catholic Teacher Article, Mike explores his recent ordination as a deacon, and how he intends to use this role to aid his teaching.
At the beginning of the second week of the summer holidays, I was ordained a deacon. In spite of the Covid-19 restrictions, there were fifty-six guests, and St James Bootle looked fuller than it had been since the lockdown began. To be a deacon means to serve. The root of the word is diakonia, which is a Christian theological term from Greek that encompasses the call to serve the poor and oppressed.
During the sacrament of Holy Order, the archbishop handed me the Gospels and instructed me, "Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practise what you teach." His words struck a profound chord within me. First, was a feeling of inadequacy! Could I really practise what I am to preach? Secondly, was a fear; I simply cannot do this. Finally, came a realisation that at the heart of what the Church believes is that all of humanity, indeed all of creation, is the product of a loving presence whose very core is to love. Thus, what I am promising to practise in my daily life and ministry is to love the children in my care. Nothing more, yet significantly nothing less!
My primary vocation is the ministry of education. This lies at the heart of the diaconate. School is where I am witness to the truth that all are made in the image and likeness of the Creator. I am a deacon of the Church and my primary ministry is to my pupils.
At the beginning of a new school year it is important to take time to reflect as a community what is it we believe. A new school year, like a new lunar year, offers us all the opportunity to take stock of what has come before and resolve to do things differently, even better, in the year to come. As for myself, I am going to reflect on the teachings of Pope Francis who said:
The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds. ... And you have to start from the ground up.
As we emerge into the 'new normal' in our schools, how am I going to be an instrument of healing for my pupils and for the staff? How can I see God giving beauty and dignity in each and every member of the community, but most importantly, from those who present the greatest challenge and need. In short, how am I going to practise what I preach?
The answer is simple, I am called to love. In the ministry of education, our vocation is to love. Our love must imitate the love of Christ and thus be truly universal, and therefore authentically Catholic. The wise Thomas Merton once said, "The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image."
My resolution is to start the year by resolving to practise what I preach. And that is to try more concretely to love the children I serve and the staff whose servant I am.
I would challenge all those who work in schools to do the same and to embrace the words of Christ as outlined in the Gospel of John:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
To do so is to "Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practise what you teach."
Photo by Ivan Aleksic on Unsplash