The beauty of Catholic Schools: A homily for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

21616169_10109958530142629_6772128256187421009_nWe’ve been reading some interesting stories in our readings at daily Masses these past few days.  We’ve heard about Saul, the first king of Israel, and how he made so many mistakes that God appointed a new king….king David.  David made mistakes, too, but he was sorry for them, unlike his predecessor.  During Saul’s time, the Ark of the Covenant was put out of Israel. And then David takes over and says, as long as I’m king the Lord will be where the Lord belongs: in the middle.  And so there is a beautiful moment where David dances and buys meat and bread for everyone….he is overcome with joy….because the Ark of the covenant is being put back in the middle.  It would be like us here in Shelbyville without a tabernacle for 70 years.  I cannot imagine life without a tabernacle. David did the right thing in saying, God needs to be right in the middle.

A lot of people have done similar things down through the years.  Good parents do this with their children.  As for us in this house, we will pray before eating. We will read the bible. We will pray the rosary. We will love each other. God is in the middle of this house. I try to do that here in the parish, and it’s the same with a diocese….it is the bishop’s job to keep Jesus in the middle of everything.

I want to talk about a bishop who did that very well. A few days ago, Archbishop Daniel Beuchlein, OSB, went home to the Lord. Talk about a man who kept God in the middle of his diocese.  He did it in a thousand ways, largely through prayer.  He led this diocese on his knees.  And one of his greatest passions was Catholic schools.  That is, one of the best ways he knew to keep God in the middle of the diocese was through our Catholic schools. During his time, enrollment in Catholic schools went up 30,000 students. He loved them fiercely.

He had good reason to.  Now today begins Catholic Schools Week. We celebrate our schools. We celebrate their roots. In our Gospel today, we hear about Jesus going into the synagogues…which he did often.  A synagogue was different from a temple.  The temple had a priest, but the synagogue had a rabbi…a teacher.  A synagogue was a religion school.  Still a house of prayer, yes, but it was a place of learning.  In some ways, the temple was like this church and the synagogue was like the school that is attached to this church.

Religion schools have always been important.  They are biblical, historical, and canon law puts great value on them.  I always say, our school is important not just because we teach religion classes here (one of my favorite things I do here is teach religion to our fourth and fifth graders during the week), that is a given.  The most important thing is that this school has an atmosphere of prayer and faith and love…and our kids get to breathe that in every day.  They are immersed into it.  It seeps into you.  Our kids are happy, they have a huge hunger for Jesus.  I see it every day.  And the end result, what we hope for….is that because of our schools, our graduates will always keep Jesus in the center of their lives.

Back when the Catholic schools were opened, of course, our faith was very much on the fringes….the Protestant US was not happy with the Catholics.  So, in response, many wonderful saints built our school system so that the faith would remain in the middle.  Archbishop Daniel is one of those saints.

Jesus continues to teach through his body the church, and one of the best ways he does so is through our beautiful Catholic school system.  I want to thank you all for supporting  our school, especially the parents who place your kids here. It is a wonderful thing that you trust the Church to help you in your role as primary catechists in passing along the faith.  We can’t do the job for you, but thank you for letting us do the job with you. More than anything, this school is a school of love. I hope you kids know how much we love you!