"This call to personal holiness and to apostolic mission is common to all believers; but there are many cases in which the life of a lay person takes on specific characteristics which transform this life into a specific 'wonderful' vocation within the Church" (Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, 1982, #7).
The Catholic Church believes that teachers within Catholic schools form 'an authentic apostolate'" (Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, 1977, #63). In this way, the Church recognizes Catholic school teachers as apostles sent by Christ to carry out His saving mission. This work, according to the wisdom of the Church, becomes a vocation - a calling - in order to bring to life Christ's mandate, "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20).
Apostle means a person who is sent on mission. And, mission literally means "sending" and involves one person going to others to bring about some sort of positive change in their favor.
In succession from the first apostles, an apostle can be anyone who performs a "unique and invaluable work for the Church” (Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, 1977, #63). Most often used in reference to bishops, we can apply "apostle" and its derivatives apostolic and apostolate to ministers whose primary function entails furthering the mission of Jesus Christ.
Catholic school teachers are apostles. They take up the mission of Christ to bring about positive change in others' lives. In order to execute this work, Catholic school teachers must foster their own personal holiness in order to more fully accomplish this apostolic mission.
The two go hand in hand.
In order to further the apostolic mission to make God known, loved, and served, a Catholic educator must grow in her/his own personal holiness. As Catholic school teachers increase their own personal holiness, they will more zealously, courageously, and purposefully accomplish the apostolic mission.
This can be illustrated quite simply through a pedagogical maxim familiar to many: the best way to learn something is to figure out how to teach it to others.
All I wanted for my second birthday was a soccer ball. Shortly thereafter I joined a team and played soccer through 8th grade, stopping in high school to switch to football. More than 10 years later, I had the blessing to serve as a high school girls' soccer coach. As the athletic director of a brand new Catholic high school, finding coaches proved more difficult than one might assume. Because I couldn't find a viable option, I decided to take the reins myself. These student-athletes on the varsity level had already entered into a higher plane of experience, competition, and ability than I had. Most of my players knew more about the strategy of soccer and many of its skills than I did.
But, I dedicated myself to learning the game. I devoted myself to mastering the skills that I hoped to teach members of the team.
In order to teach soccer to others, I had to learn more about it. As I learned more about it, I was even more effective in my abilities as a coach.
The better that we get at something, the more that we will do it. The more that we do it, the more that we will want to get better at it.
The same is true of our role as ministers of Catholic education. As we set out to accomplish the mission entrusted to us by Christ, we must grow in our own holiness. As we grow in our own holiness, we will be more capable to carry out Christ's mission.
As you devote yourself to growing in personal holiness, whether that be through faithful weekly mass attendance, reading the daily scripture readings, taking up a habit of prayer such as the Rosary or the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, or consuming even just a few tidbits of the plethora of faith-based content - videos, podcasts, blogs, articles, books - your desire to share this will increase. See below for a list of resources that might assist you in your personal sanctification.
Try any of the strategies listed above even just for a short period and you will notice your commitment to the apostolic mission swell. You will start to acknowledge connections between the daily scripture and something specific to you. You will start to close the gap between faith and culture and/or faith and life. You will start to recognize God working in all things.
And as you become more and more aware of the movements of the Spirit, you will sense a growing urge to talk about it with others.
That's why it's called Good News. We aren't meant to keep it to ourselves.
And, the only real way to bring people to the fullness of life in Jesus Christ is by knowing Jesus yourself. No program, no policy, no curriculum, no theory - nothing - can bring others to Christ.
Disciples create disciples.
- Word on Fire, Bishop Robert Barron
- Ascension Presents, various presenters
- Bulldog Catholic, Fr. Mike Schmitz
- McGrath Institute, University of Notre Dame
- Dynamic Catholic, Matthew Kelly
- USCCB, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
- Catholic Dictionary, Catholic Culture