In 1506, construction began on a magnificent new basilica which would serve as the center for Catholics all around the world. Like the previous basilica, it would be built over the bones of our first pontiff, Pope Peter. Construction would not be finished until the 1700s. Even the dome would not be completed until 1590, nearly a hundred years from the start of its construction. Even though the people who began that construction knew that they would not see it finished, they still tirelessly went to work. The painters, sculptors, designers, patrons and the faithful knew that what they were doing was first of all for the glory of God, and for the generations to come.
Go out and teach all nations, Jesus tells us. This week is the national celebration of “Catholic Schools Week,” a week in which we draw our attention to the education of our children. Catholic education, after all, is everybody’s business.
What was true then is true now: it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure the faith is passed on in its integrity to our young people. One of the reasons why young people leave the faith is a lack of knowledge, that, is not being sufficiently instructed in the teachings, beliefs, philosophy, theology, scripture and so on, of the Catholic Church. As Fulton Sheen would often say: “There are millions of people who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church.” You cannot love what you do not know. And if our young people do not know the faith, God, Jesus, Mary, the Saints, the saving truths and lofty mysteries, how can they love it?
Many of our Catholic schools were founded long ago. Like the builders of St. Peter’s Basilica, the faithful then knew that they might not see the fruits of their labors, but they sacrificed to give the children of the diocese a Catholic education. Because of their sacrifice, and the sacrifice of educators, parents, and the faithful of the Diocese of Providence today, we have a privileged opportunity to teach our young in our faith-filled schools, which provide a daily encounter with the Good News of Jesus Christ, the saving truths of the Catholic faith, and the daily instruction in the virtuous life and spiritual formation. Every day our students learn to pray, they experience Holy Mass, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the reception of the Sacrament of Penance.
Of course, a Catholic school is not the only place to educate one in the faith. We also have our parish religious education programs. There, parents and educators are to be commended, too, for teaching the truth about God at home and in the classroom. Still, many faithful would love to send their kids to a Catholic school but feel it is not a financially feasible option. That is why our parish schools throughout the diocese offer considerable tuition assistance through scholarships and support through institutions like the Catholic Charity Appeal. Seeing if a Catholic school education is the right fit for your family is worth a conversation with the pastor of your parish.
Catholic education is everyone’s task, whether it be as a teacher, a volunteer, an aid, or as financial contributor. Much like those who built St. Peter’s, we may not live to see the fruit of our labors. But like them we know we are doing something necessary. We are building something more magnificent than a historic basilica; we a building Temples for the Holy Spirit. We are trying to form the future scholars and statesmen, moms and dads, priests and religious, and please God, future saints. The reason our Catholic schools exist and why they are so needed is to form the future saints of the Church.