This question, posed by Fr. Lou Delfra in January at a retreat for the Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program, has lingered with me.
Why do we do what we do? Why do we have Catholic schools? Why do we expend resources for Catholic schools? Why do the women and men working there fight so hard? Why do parents and families sacrifice so much to send us their children?
Answering this question and then operating from this response can energize, inspire, animate and enliven us and all those with whom we come into contact.
Why do we do what we do?
We do what we do because we were created for joy.
We do what we do because Catholic school communities and everyone in them deserve this joy, this fullness.
We are made for dancing and intended for the divine.
Jesus tells us, "I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). "They" is us. You. Me. Them. All. Everyone.
Our Catholic schools need to be dance floors, not auditioning stages. Feasts, not invitation-only events. All should be welcomed, known, and cherished. All nations, every tribe and tongue.
The mission of our Church is the salvation of all souls and the total human formation of every person, to build up the Kingdom of God in heaven and establish it here on earth. We are called to "generate new creatures in Baptism" and to awaken in everyone a life in Christ (Divini Illius Magistri, #94). Our Catholic schools are a ministry of the Church to accomplish this mission. In fact, they are "privileged means" used by the Church for this purpose (The Catholic School, #8).
Salvation and total human formation for everyone.
In Plato's Allegory of the Cave, the experience of liberation is intended for all members of the state, not just the philosopher queens and kings meant for leadership.
Our Church offers a similar stance:
A Christian formation process might therefore be described as an organic set of elements with a single purpose: the gradual development of every capability of every student, enabling each one to attain an integral formation within a context that includes the Christian religious dimension and recognizes the help of grace. (The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, #99)That's every capability, of every student. Fullness of life. For all.
Our Church also poses this:
In its ecclesial dimension another characteristic of the Catholic school has its root: it is a school for all, with special attention to those who are weakest. (The Catholic School on the Threshold of the Third Millennium, #15)We are called to be schools for all, with special attention to those who are the weakest. Fullness of life. For everyone.
For those of us called to work in Catholic schools, this is a huge task. But, we can do hard things. Our ongoing formation in greatness, holiness and sainthood must lead us to an apostolic boldness that invites others onto the dance floor.
What is the deepest reason we do what we do? The answer isn't a what, it's a Who: Jesus Christ. We do what we do because Jesus Christ conquered sin and death and desires a personal relationship with everyone.
In the Father's House there are many rooms and a huge dance floor, big enough for everyone to fit. In the words of Fr. Lou Delfra, paraphrasing Notre Dame, Our Mother, "I didn't go through the Virgin birth so people could live comfortably. I want people on the dance floor!"
So, keep dancing, continue inviting others into your schools, into relationship with Christ, and into fullness of life, because that's what Jesus did.
And, He is the deepest reason we do what we do.
"For the love of Christ impels us, once we have come to the conviction that one died for all; therefore, all have died. He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh; even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him so no longer. So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come" (2 Corinthians 5:14-17).