Monday, April 9, 2018

Keep Your Eyes Open, Part II

As a parent, my wife and I try to give our three children roots and wings. We want them to understand the importance of family, tradition and history while simultaneously giving them the skills, tools, and courage to go out into the world to change it for the better.

We want them to feel the safety of our home while also encouraging them to take risks to become the people that God created them to be.

We hope to pass on to them the gift of faith, that they may come to know, love and serve Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and be so grounded in it, so rooted in their faith that they would be willing and able to follow Jesus on whatever journey He leads them to.

Roots and wings.

In so many ways, this is so much easier said than done. Parenting brings with it millions of decisions that must be made without forethought but potentially with much consequence. Think of the myriad of decisions teachers make throughout the course of a class. Decisions on everything from classroom management to formative assessment to spiritual formation must be made by teachers. Throughout the course of a class period and/or school day there are hundreds if not thousands of decisions made by teachers. Teachers, though, get to say goodbye to their students. A class period is finite. A school day comes to an end.

There is no bell, however, in parenting.

Parents constantly oscillate between micromanagement and giving their kids complete freedom. This balancing act is tricky, much like the balance that I would assume is required of tightrope walkers. There is constant attention and adjustment. There is constant focus and flexibility.

There really should be an instructional manual.

Luckily for us as Catholic educators, the Church in Her infinite wisdom has given us the model of the Holy Family and centuries of Church teaching and tradition on the important role that must be played by parents.

Consider the Holy Family. Bl. Basil Moreau, founder of the C.S.C. spoke of the unity enjoyed between and among Mary, Joseph and Jesus:

Bl. Moreau writes:
Our association is also a visible imitation of the Holy Family, wherein Jesus, Mary and Joseph, notwithstanding their difference in dignity, were one at heart by their unity of thought and uniformity of conduct (Moreau, p. 384).
Blessed Moreau saw the beauty of the Holy Family - being unified in thought and uniform in conduct - and actually used it as a model for the Congregation of the Holy Cross - consecrating the priests to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the brothers to the Heart of St. Joseph and the sisters to the Heart of Mary pierced with the sword of sorrow. The Blessed Virgin, as we know at the University of Notre Dame, plays a special role in helping to inspire, lead, guide and protect the order. St. Joseph is also a prominent figure within the C.S.C. This lake is named after St. Joseph and the order observes the feast of St. Joseph in a special way.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church proclaims the importance of parents in the lives of their children:
Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery - the preconditions of all true freedom...Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children. (#2223)
Church documents on Catholic education also speak of the importance of parents.

In Gravissimum Educationis, the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education writes:
Since parents have given children their life, they are bound by the most serious obligation to educate their offspring and therefore must be recognized as the primary and principal educators. (11)
The documents encourage parents to zealously advocate for Catholic education. Furthermore, Church documents recognize the power that can be wielded by Catholic educators when there is a strong and united partnership between a student’s home and his/her school.

Parents and teachers being on the same page is a recipe for student success. Do a quick thought experiment: your most successful students probably have parents who are appropriately involved. Helicopter or absentee parents typically foster a student who struggles. Parents who can navigate the tightrope of roots and wings, of being involved but allowing autonomy, of shepherding and guiding while also empowering most often have children who find success.

This isn’t an attack on parents, and it certainly isn’t meant to criticize those parents who face extreme hardships and difficulties. Even in the best of circumstances, being a parent, like being a teacher, is hard. Couple this with the very real spiritual attack on families and it’s easy to see that parents could use a bit more help, support, and love. In 2014 Pope Francis said this about the battle being waged on the family:

Families are the domestic Church, where Jesus grows; he grows in the love of spouses, he grows in the lives of children. That is why the enemy so often attacks the family. The devil does not want the family; he tries to destroy it, to make sure that there is no love there. Married couples are sinners, like us all, but they want to go forward in faith, in fruitfulness, in their children and their children’s faith. May the Lord bless families and strengthen them in this time of crisis when the devil is seeking to destroy them.

As Catholic educators and leaders, we are charged with helping to form and support parents in addition to their students.

Finally, leadership guru Simon Sinek, in a talk about organizational culture, challenges leaders to stop saying that their companies – or in our cases Catholic schools – are like families. Sinek says, “They aren’t like families, they are families. And we need to start acting like it.”

Let’s stop referring to our Catholic schools as being like families – Catholic schools are families and it’s time we start acting like it.

We need to strive for unity in thought and conduct in our schools and help to support parents in recognizing and seizing their role as the primary educators of their children. We need to give parents and families the skills and tools to be domestic churches, the natural training ground “where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule.”

We need to give the families that come to our Catholic schools the roots of knowing that they are truly members of our school family - and that we will love them and support them and fight with and for them. And we need to give the families at our schools the wings to be the parents that God created them to be - united in thought and conduct to each other and to the Heart of Jesus.

Roots and wings.

*Did you notice that the title says, "Part II"? For Part I of "Keep Your Eyes Open" visit this link: 

-Moreau, B. (2014). Basil Moreau Essential Writings: An introduction to the life and thought of the founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross. Garwych, A., & Grove, K. (Eds.). Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press.