In the 13th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a mustard seed. “It is the smallest of all the seeds,” Jesus teaches, “yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches’” (Matthew 13:31-32).
A mustard seed, something small, can take root and grow and bloom into something much, much larger.
From humble beginnings...
The Log Chapel at the University of Notre Dame is a recreation of the first building planted here at Our Lady’s University. 175 years ago, Fr. Sorin and a group of his companions had the zeal, vision and hunger to turn their work - this University - into
“one of the most powerful means for doing good in this country.”The University started as a trade school. Its first students were orphans who were trained as apprentices to help assist manual laborers in the area.
Fr. Sorin and other members of the Congregation of the Holy Cross endured a fair amount of hardship. Cruel winters. Impossible deadlines. Fires that decimated their work. A scarcity of workers and support.
Yet, Fr. Sorin was able to see the large bush in the small seed. He possessed absolute faith in his work, utter dependence on the Eucharist, and unwavering trust in the protection of Mary. During a particularly discouraging period of the first winter here, Fr. Sorin found hope in the light of the sanctuary lamp. He even states, “They tell us we won’t be able to afford to keep it burning. But we have a little olive oil and it will burn while it lasts...We can see it through the woods and it lights the humble home where our Master dwells. We tell each other that we are not alone, that Jesus Christ lives among us. It gives us courage.”
From humble beginnings…
As educators within Catholic Schools, our story, too, has humble beginnings. Countless men and women, priests and nuns, parents and students dedicated their entire lives - like Fr. Sorin - to the establishment and building up of Catholic schools within our country. And yet, despite hardship, despite oppression, despite financial challenges, despite humble beginnings, our Catholic schools continue to be one of the most powerful means for doing good in this country and in our world.
In 1977 the Vatican’s Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, in a document titled, The Catholic School, affirms the importance of Catholic schools:
It is when the Catholic school adds its weight, consciously and overtly, to the liberating power of grace, that it becomes the Christian leaven in the world (#84).Leaven, like a mustard seed, is small. Like a mustard seed that grows into something much bigger, leaven - or yeast - is the quickening agent, the animating ingredient in bread that makes it rise.
I hope this metaphor offers you encouragement and inspiration to know that your work within Catholic education is the leaven that is causing hope to rise up in our world.
I hope that you understand that your work within Catholic education is building up the Kingdom of God. I hope that you understand your work within Catholic education is erasing ignorance, reversing poverty, and inspiring the hearts and minds of others.
I hope you know you are affecting eternity.
I hope you know that you are literally changing the world.
And while you’re too humble to believe that this is true, be humble enough to believe that with the liberating power of grace something amazing can come from humble beginnings.