The Atonement Academy teachers have regularly-scheduled conferences with the parents of our students, and today was a conference day. We began the day as usual with Mass, and all the teachers were present. The appointed Gospel reading was from St. Luke’s Gospel:
Now it happened that as Jesus was praying alone the disciples were with him; and he asked them, "Who do the people say that I am?" And they answered, "John the Baptist; but others say, Elijah; and others, that one of the old prophets has risen." And he said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" And Peter answered, "The Christ of God." But he charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, "The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised." - Luke 9:18-22
In many ways this very familiar passage describes the work of Catholic educators. Jesus began by asking what men were saying about him; and then, suddenly, he aims the question at the Twelve, "Who do you say that I am?"
Those of us who are Catholic educators do teach our students what “others have said” – whether it be about Jesus, or His moral teaching, or the various philosophies and concepts which are part of the search for truth, or the principles of science, or the mystery and beauty of music, all of which open up truth to them. It is important for students to know what others who have come before them have said. But when it comes to the ultimate Truth – the fullness of Truth which we know in Christ Jesus, it is never enough to know only what other people have said. A person educated only in what others have said might be able to pass any examination on what has been said and thought about Truth; he might have read every book about theology and philosophy, about science and the arts, and he might have read all the great literature ever written in every language upon earth and still not be engaged with the Incarnate Word as the final and highest and most personal expression of the fullness of Truth. The greater part of our task as Catholic educators must always be to have our students answer the question our Lord asked the apostles, “Who do you say that I am?”
In the end, any educational institution which cannot engage its students in that question cannot be educating the whole person. It is the fatal weakness of public schools, including charter schools. Truth can never be something that is only talked about. Ultimately, Christ comes to each person asking not, "Can you tell me what others have said and written about me?" but, "Who do you say that I am?" When he was writing to St. Timothy, St. Paul did not say, "I know what I have believed"; but he said, "I know whom I have believed" (2 Tim. 1:12). This is our great task as Catholic educators – that of presenting the truth, and then making it personal because Truth is a Person.