Catholic Schools Week begins with this Sunday Mass, with these words from the opening prayer of the Mass: “Grant us, Lord our God, that we may honor you with all our mind, and love everyone in truth of heart.” We honor God by using our minds; God is glorified when we educate the human intellect that He gave us.
Indeed, “a mind is a terrible thing to waste,” but much of what passes for education today cannot be considered independent and critical thinking. Many schools and most universities today, if I may be excused for saying so, simply generate groupthink and propaganda.
It is simply irrational not to posit a First Cause to empirical phenomena, and a rightly-ordered society, a peaceful and just human community, begins by honoring this “First Cause” with our minds—being “mindful” of the First Principle and Final End of all reality.
By using the minds God gave us, as the opening prayer continues, we attain the capacity to “love everyone in truth of heart.” One cannot love what one does not know, so education in the truth must precede love, and even basic respect, for others. Love comes through an understanding of Truth — the truth about God, the truth about man, the truth about all of the natural world.
Authentic educators lead students to see the whole of reality, from the first principles of philosophy to an empirical knowledge of astronomy to molecular biology and subatomic physics, to geometric theorems and every kind of mathematics, to the science of history and languages and music and art. Every subject brings us to God’s truth, and every subject is integral to “Catholic” (meaning universal) education. Learning how to love by learning how the human person and the natural world works is the genius of Catholic education.
In 1894 God gave this part of San Francisco a precious gift: a new parish, which the Irish horse farmers out here asked to be called “Our Lady, Star of the Sea.” In 1909 God gave the Richmond District another treasure: a Catholic school taught by the sisters of St. Joseph.
Five years ago the Archdiocesan superintendent of Schools asked me to make Star of the Sea School a Catholic Classical Academy, reclaiming the integrated classical method of teaching, the full patrimony of Catholic education. “Seek the Lord, you humble of the earth” the prophet Zephaniah tells us in the first reading. “Seek justice, seek humility.” The Catholic approach to education requires an intellectual humility that discovers knowledge rather than inventing it. The Catholic approach receives truths from God rather than fabricating our own “truths.”
Parents of our school tell me that their children are so much more peaceful at Stella Maris, and I think that this is because they are learning where they have come from and where they are going. Parents tell me that their children want to go to school now because each day reveals new wonders to them. Parents tell me that the anger and sadness with which they used to come home from school have been replaced by a joyful humility.
Teaching our children the truth, goodness, and beauty of the natural order is how we “honor God with our minds.” Be mindful of heaven, and your mind will flourish on earth. Be mindful of the truths of God, and your mind will see the truths of man. A Catholic education does not teach children to “make” their own reality, or to control their environment, but to seek understanding and wisdom and beauty in the world as it is given to us.
This intellectual humility and realism is what distinguishes a Catholic education. It is our patrimony, and the Archbishop has asked our parish school to reclaim what is rightfully ours as heirs of the Kingdom, for the glory of God and the good of the world.
From Father Illo’s Blog