Bishop's Homily for the Mass of the Holy Spirit for Catholic School Educators
...every subject is religious because its beauty & truth reflect the One...
by Bishop Larry Silva, August 19, 2013 www.CatholicHawaii.org
[2 Thessalonians 3:6-12,16; John 14:23-26]
Earlier this year I had a dialogue with Governor Abercrombie regarding Early Learning Centers. As you know, he is very interested in promoting Early Learning Centers for all children, especially for those who cannot afford the private ELC’s in our community. He knows that our Hawaii Catholic Schools system is one of the largest operators of Early Learning Centers in the State, and he wanted to talk about helping craft some legislation that would enable even religious Early Learning Centers to receive public funding. So far, we were in agreement. We believe in early childhood education, and that is why we have so many Catholic ELC’s. We have no problem receiving children who are not Catholics, since we have been doing that in all of our schools for decades. And we certainly could use more money for our ELC’s, so the proposal was very tempting. The glitch, however, was that the funds could only be used to cover “secular” subjects, which must be taught in a secular mode, without any reference to religion. There was also a question as to whether the day would have to be divided up into a “secular” ELC mode, in which religious symbols and language could not be employed and for which public funds could be used, and a “religious” part of the day, in which no public funds could be used, and we would be free to teach and celebrate our faith. As tempting as it was to bring in extra funds to our schools, I told the Governor that such a dichotomy is simply not in our way of thinking, and that for us every subject is religious because its beauty and truth reflect the One who is Beauty and Truth itself. I did not want to come to the point where our Christmas programs would have to be “Holiday” programs, and where we would be forbidden to sing Silent Night, but could teach our children Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer without worries.
I think this dialogue with the Governor is a good place to reflect upon our mission of listening to the word of God that is taught to us by the One he sent, Jesus Christ, because “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.” (John 1:3) It is the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, that leads us to all truth, but we need to listen to the word of God and keep it. This takes some work, of course. As St. Paul says, “those who do not work should not eat.” No one will accuse our Catholic school teachers of not working or of being lazy. Just the opposite! We are inspired always by your total dedication and the many hours you give to this very important work! Yet there is a more important food that people cannot live without for very long, a food that no money can buy, and no successful career can guarantee. It is the food that is the Word of God, a Word that nourishes as it guides; a Word that makes us hungry not for the fast food of success but for the lasting food of genuine love for all people. And it takes a deliberate effort to prepare this food, this Word of God, and to make it appealing, palatable, and digestible to our students.
I just returned from vacation and went on an Alaskan cruise. I saw some natural wonders that were astounding. I am sure there must have been atheists on board who were moved by the beauty just as I was. I am sure they marveled at the magnificent fjords and canyons carved by glaciers. They were fascinated by the behavior of whales, sea lions, bears, and salmon. And surely there is a scientific explanation for all the wonders of nature, whether it be the physics of erosion or the beauty of evolutionary adaptation. But what caused all this? Who came up with such a brilliant idea as evolution? How, mathematically, could all this wondrous complexity come to be in such a relatively short time, unless there were a God who created it all and placed within the seed of creation the plan for its unfolding?
It is this step that we must take in going to the source of all being, the God who made all these things, so that our students do not learn only part of the truth, but the entire Truth. To take that step is not always easy, especially in our very secularized environment. Yet that is our task as Catholic school educators. It takes the extra work of prayer and reflection. It requires more than academic preparation, but rather faith. For us to even have a glimpse of the great Beauty of the Creator, we need a teacher ourselves. And our loving Father has sent us the best of Teachers in his Son Jesus and in the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, who will teach us all things. It is fitting, therefore, that as we begin our school year we gather to invoke this Holy Spirit, so that we may work throughout the year for food that will last, for the Bread of Life, the Word through whom all things were made.