We are all in this together
Posted: Thu, 12 Nov 2020 14:43
In this week's Catholic Teacher Article, Mike explores the radical idea of unity within Catholic education and the importance of a loving approach to teaching.
In St James Bootle, I always wait until last to receive Holy Communion. The journey towards the Eucharist is my weekly pilgrimage. The beautiful long aisle, the marble altar, the oil paintings of St John Bosco and St James which adorn the sanctuary evoke a sense of awe and wonder. And then, the simple wooden crucifix to the right of the lectern with its mystical beauty always catches my eye. There is something powerful and deeply spiritual about a line of people prayerfully waiting to be in communion with Christ and each other. As each receives the Body of Christ from the same plate and, when it was permitted, to drink the precious blood from the same cup, it becomes a radical act of unity. Young and old, rich and poor, male and female cease to be individuals but become rededicated members of the Body of Christ. This communal moment is an act of solidarity. To eat and drink from the same plate and cup demonstrates that we share in the Body of Christ and ultimately in the mission of his Church; we are all in this together!
In the Creed, we proclaim "I believe in one holy, catholic and apostolic Church". At the moment of the Eucharist, the individual ceases to be an individual and is transformed into the Body of Christ that is the Church. St Paul tell us that there is one body with many parts. This is true, my 'part' of the body is Catholic education. My role within that body is to be the eyes, ears, hands and heart of Christ. This is my mission. This is the mission of the Church.
Catholic education was founded on the principles of educating those disadvantaged in the material goods of this world, giving them the knowledge and skills to forge for themselves a way to feed themselves and their families, and thus giving dignity. Such profoundly Gospel-driven principles were an act of radical solidarity with the poor and marginalised; an act of Eucharist, one might say. This remains at the heart of the vision of Catholic education. How many of us go the extra mile to ensure that each student has a uniform, equipment and a hot meal? Catholic schools are radical in their commitment to social justice, and by supporting groups like CAFOD, this commitment is always on display. These acts are eucharistic acts. In the same way that we become one Body in Christ through the Eucharist, we also become one Body in Christ when we proclaim the Gospel through our attitude and actions. Some wise theologians call this the sacrament of the present moment. Any moment of radical solidarity in our schools is an act of communion—Christ is present.
Catholic schools are a source of evangelisation. In his address to Catholic teachers in 2008, Pope Benedict XVI said:
Education is integral to the mission of the Church to proclaim the Good News.
First and foremost, every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living
God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth.
- Pope Benedict XVI, "Education integral to church", April 17, 2008
The Good News of Catholic education is that within our schools all can come to know and love Christ, and in doing so be drawn into a deeper union with him. Many years ago, I taught a child from the Hindu tradition. She would respectfully join in collective worship and she never missed Friday Mass. Sitting in the chaplaincy base after Mass eating our chips, I asked her why she always came to the chapel. Her answer blew me away, "Because it is where Christ is." This profound and deeply spiritual child had understood the true shape of God. God is so big, so wide and so loving; God includes all people. God's very being is to include. The very act of creation was an inclusive act that brings the material universe into the body of Christ. Catholic schools evangelise by boldly welcoming all children and by opening them up to the mystery of Christ. In eating and drinking from the same sacred vessels we proclaim that we are in communion with Christ and each other. Catholic schools are also sacred vessels as they contain the most sacred of treasures—children and those adults who are called to love and serve them.
The ancient Hebrews understood the concept of radical unity when they named the Divine "Yahweh". Try inhaling and exhaling slowly—you will hear "Yah", "Weh". They understood that each breath we take is breathing the name of God. That which gives us life is God! The Lord is never more than a breath away. The role of the educator is to nurture the young ones in their care and open them up to the life-giving breath of Christ. To do so is an act of communion, which in our consumer driven materialistic culture, is indeed an act of radical union.
Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash.