Monday, January 30, 2012

Why I Love Being a Catholic Teacher

I absolutely love being a Catholic educator and I cannot imagine teaching in any other realm, or in any other light than that of the Sanctuary Lamp, nestled near the Altar of God.

For me, it means Jesus is close at hand. It means the Master is just a heartbeat away, and He is the heart of my classroom. For me, being a Catholic educator means exactly the opposite of what some might imagine teaching religion to be (religio means "binding"). I AM FREE.

I am free to think, to question, to seek and to explore the universe God made and to find the truth of things and the inexhaustible mystery of things. I can live and move and have my being in a relationship that God has joined and no one can tear asunder: the marriage of faith and reason, biology and theology, heaven and earth, at once the mathematically measurable and the mysterious. 

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and science... It is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute a truly religious attitude.” 

- Albert Einstein
As a Catholic teacher... 

I am free to inject into my words the beliefs of my heart. I can let the light of the name through Whom all things were made, JESUS, shine throughout the work of my classroom and not fearfully hide it under a basket. My Catholic faith takes me out of the present Dark Ages that divorce God and Science. In the world of Catholic education, they are still happily married.

In a noisy age full of distortion and media deception, my work can be a subtle kind of inceptionLike Leonardo DiCaprio in the film Inception, I am planting the seed of a thought into all of my students that they are called to greatness. A greatness not only in this world... in any field they choose, but beyond the rim of this world, in everlasting relationships expanding towards an eternal horizon.

I can tell you without hindrance that life is not just about acquiring facts but more importantly friendships. We are destined to be a communion of saints burning with the desire to know not only the world in which we live but the Word in Whom and through Whom all things were made.

I can be holistic in this call to holiness, weaving the threads of all things sacred and secular into the tapestry of my classroom, never divorcing what God has joined. Since the WORD became flesh and dwells among us.... everything is holy now.

I love being a Catholic educator because here I can “speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth..." so thank You, God.

But there are many false images of what Catholic education looks like in the media. Played to death is the idea that the Church hates and fears science, that it is outdated, antiquated, and always belated when it comes to new discoveries. This is a lie pure and simple. 

The Catholic vision is not to be confused with a rigid, fundamentalist, creationist view of the world so often ridiculed in the media. I’d like to shine some light on the lies and dispel the shadows:

Science was actually born in the Church, as was the concept of education as we know it today, the idea of the university.

Some Fun Facts (taken from the work of Ben Wiker and Jonathan Wright)

Fr. Giambattista Riccioli was the first person to measure the rate of acceleration of a freely falling body. 

Fr. Athanasius Kircher has been called the father of Egyptology. 

Fr. Roger Boscovich has been called the father of modern atomic theory. Copernicus the astronomer was a Catholic, and later in life it is thought that he was ordained a priest and actually administered a diocese. 

Gregor Mendel, an Augustinian monk, is hailed as the father of modern genetics.

 Lazzaro Spallanzani, one of the greatest biologists of the eighteenth century, was a Catholic priest.

In the sciences it was the Jesuit order in particular who stand out as pioneers; there are some 35 craters on the moon named after Jesuit scientists and mathematicians.

 By the eighteenth century, they had contributed "to the development of pendulum clocks, pantographs, barometers, reflecting telescopes and microscopes, to scientific fields as various as magnetism, optics and electricity. They observed, in some cases before anyone else, the colored bands on Jupiter's surface, the Andromeda nebula and Saturn's rings. 

They theorized about the circulation of the blood, the theoretical possibility of flight, the way the moon effected the tides, and the wave-like nature of light. Star maps of the southern hemisphere, symbolic logic, flood-control measures on the Po and Adige rivers, introducing plus and minus signs into Italian mathematics..." - Jonathan Wright, The Jesuits, 2004, p. 189

"In January 1933, the Belgian mathematician and Catholic priest Georges Lemaitre traveled with Albert Einstein to California for a series of seminars. After the Belgian detailed his Big Bang theory, Einstein stood up applauded, and said, “This is the most beautiful and satisfactory explanation of creation to which I have ever listened.”

 (from this excellent article)
During this Catholic Schools Week, I want to invite all of us to meditate on a quote from Blessed John Paul II that I’ve often shared with my own students: “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth - in a word, to know himself - so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.”
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