Thursday, August 20, 2015

Homily, The Sacred Secret of Catholic Education

Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit
St. Dominic Savio High School
August 19, 2015
Austin, TX

You have all made a great and terrible mistake. Parents do you realize what you have done? They will corrupt the youth! Are you crazy? They are going to teach them Theology, all that stuff those backwards thinking people at the Vatican believe about faith and morals. They are going to teach them about God and the creation of the world, the Bible and all those other outdated books. They are going to teach them a history in which God’s providence is real and the Church a divine institution working for the betterment of all things truly human, even their souls. They are going to teach them literature that is part of a tradition reaching back thousands of years in which through the beauty of words the true human story is told. They are going to teach them about politics and government modeled after the Ruler of the Universe, God, and how that is manifest through the governance of men by men, working for the true common good of society. They are going to teach them music and art and theater that is not just an expression of my own view of the world but taps into the very nature of reality and draws out its true splendor, the very beauty of God! They are going to teach them math that marvels at the complexities of logic and the human mind as well as seeing into the inner rationality of the world. They are going to teach them chemistry and physics such that they learn to tame and to subdue the earth according to God’s plan and to stand in awe before God’s creation. They are going to teach them biology such that the ethics of how we treat the environment and most importantly ourselves reflects the dignity of God’s creation. They are going to teach them languages so that they can build bridges between cultures and peoples ever ancient ever new. They will even teach them how to play sports such that as St. Paul says they become a paradigm for running the race of salvation.

Such is the voice of those outside these walls. But we know, we know the sacred secret to real education and learning—the Spirit of Truth. 

In today’s mass, we celebrate the votive mass of the Holy Spirit. We hear of that great torrent of wind in the upper room, Pentecost, when Jesus sent down upon His disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, who would lead them to all truth and in so doing glorify God. This is the sacred secret to Catholic education, the reason why in fact if done well, Catholic education is better than any other. For at the heart pumping through its ecclesial veins is the very Spirit of Truth, God Himself, leading us out and guiding us teachers, students, administrators, staff (dare I leave now one out) to all truth giving glory to God. 

Are you saying Deacon DeWitt, that the secret to better teachers and students is the Holy Spirit? That in leading them to all truth, they will perform better in class, on tests, college applications, etc…? that all I have to do to get a better grade is pray to the Holy Spirit? 

Yes, actually. Yes, you see, the Fall—Adam and Eve’s you know—Original Sin and all personal sins darken the intellect and cloud the mind. Sin blinds us to the truth, for sin is a consequence and reinforcement of error, not seeing or understanding God and the World He created. Thus we need to be led out of sin and into truth by the Spirit of God which dwells in our hearts. The word “education” or the verb “to educate” does come from the Latin educere which literally means “to lead out of.” So yes, the Holy Spirit will make us better students and teachers because He will wipe us clean of our sins and lead us to all truth, that is to a real understanding of God and His creation—there is nothing else to learn about! The Holy Spirit will actually bear fruit, real concrete fruit in our lives. 

If you do not believe me look at St. Paul. Look at that long list of sins—immorality, impurity, lust idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outburst of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like—he juxtaposes these temptations of the flesh with fruits of the Holy Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control—as if to say these works of the flesh must be left behind in order to live in the Spirit. Further more, the gifts of the Holy Spirit and His fruits are not meant merely to make us nice good meaning people! No, they make us awesome people, people filled with the Holy Spirit who inspire in others awe and wonder. Awesome people like St. Paul who was super smart and spoke and debated with the philosophers, kings, emperors, princes and principalities, etc…

Upperclassmen, those who have received confirmation: Are you not expected to lead this school? It makes sense does it not, if the secret to the education is the Spirit of Truth with which you have been sealed, then are you not suppose to lead these others in this race? Be fruitful, be awesome. Live in the Spirit. 

So yes, there has always been a connection between the moral and intellectual life. Why else would St. Thomas Aquinas go to great lengths to carry around a relic of St. Agnes, a Virgin Martyr and patron of purity? He only turned out to be one of the greatest minds the world has ever seen, whose teachings on human nature were so ahead of their time that Martin Luther King Jr would make recourse to them from a Birmingham jail in order to justify a peaceful civil rights movement. Or Franciscan Friar Junipero Serra about the be Canonized a saint by Pope Francis during his visit to the US, who was the second to write a declaration of human rights for the natives of this land. He was beat only by another priest, a Dominican Friar Juan de las Casas, and both were years before both the French and US declaration of rights. Or Venerable Bede who wrote down the first history of England—the only original source work for over a 500 year span—all in the supposed "dark ages." Or Gregor Mendel, a Catholic priest, who discovered in the garden of his monastery hereditary genetics, which would then father the modern day interest in genetics. Or Guido d’Arezzo a benedictine monk who in order to help his out of tune brethren invented musical notation. Or Maria Agnesi, the first female math professor. Or J.R.R. Tolkien who literally invented the modern fantasy novel with a single hand—a catholic layman. Or Christopher Columbus who fulfilled the words of Ps 19 bringing the Word of God to the ends of the earth. Or Georges Lemaitre, father of the Big Bang theory and modern cosmology, adding to a long list of Catholic astronomers such as Fr. Copernicus and Keplar just to name a few. Not to mention the very institution of the University and the idea of Hospital fruits of the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church. The list goes on and on.

And you know who told me all of this? A Catholic priest who used to be a particle physicist in Geneva at the first particle accelerator. 

Brothers and Sisters, live in the Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Truth. Open your hearts and minds this year and be led to all truth. Study hard. Pray harder. Such that your life gives glory to God. Yes, we know the sacred secret to education, the Holy Spirit. But are you ready for Him to lead you to all truth?           

1 comment:

  1. Hi Sean! It's great to see you blogging. Thanks for sharing your homily with us! May God bless your time at St Dominic's!