Reflection for the Faculty of John Paul II Preparatory School

One of the biggest challenges for me when I was first starting out in bioethics was learning to ask the question why. For some reason I was so accustomed to evaluating the what in a situation, that I rarely stopped to evaluate the why. Sure, there are certain actions that are always wrong no matter why you want to do them, but when it comes to the more difficult questions of bioethics, so often the intention cannot be overlooked. As I have grown as an ethicist, I have found this question why to be an important question not just in ethical evaluations but also in life.

So why are you teaching this year? I dare say if I went around the room today, I would get all different kinds of answers. I hope each of us has a very personal answer for that questions. For me, I take time out of my crazy schedule to teach seniors because I can’t stand to watch our world hold another innocent person hostage. Day in and day out, in the various ministries of my priesthood, I see people held back because they have bought into the many lies that are prevalent in our society. Since so much of my ministry is curative, it only seems logical that I should spend some time doing proactive ministry.

You see, Jesus clearly teaches that “the truth will set you free.[1]  Since “true freedom means obeying the truth of who we are, the truth of our being”[2] every day we gather in this building to teach truth and show our students who they truly are as children of God, we set them free. Up until recently everyone understood that “freedom was thus not an arbitrary concept, but rather a task with a goal. The accomplishment of freedom always demanded serious discipline according to what was good and true and right.”[3] Our work here helps students choose the often difficult and laborious work of freedom rather than the easy path of servitude.

I’m sure all of us understand the value of education, but what is it that brings you to teach here at John Paul II Prep? Let’s be honest, education here looks much different than most other places in our country. Unlike so many other schools we strive to go beyond simply teaching facts or preparing students for college or a job. Instead we base our teaching on truth, because any pseudo education that makes students jump through hoops to achieve any goal besides arriving at the truth only leads to slavery. Our teaching is based in the words of our patron Pope St. John Paull II who reminds us that “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 know the fullness of truth about themselves.”[4] Thus, as we lead students into an encounter with the Truth Himself, Jesus Christ, we show them who they are meant to be, and set them up for true success in the future.

As we begin another year of leading students to freedom in Jesus Christ, the way, the truth and the life,[5] I hope we stop to recall that education is a sacred pursuit which reveals to each of us who we really are while giving us a glimpse of the divine. Since each and everyone of us is created in the image and likeness of God, when you look out at your students do you see the face of Christ?

We can never forget that nothing great is ever accomplished without the enthusiasm of faith.”[6] Yet, “without reason, faith would not be truly human; without faith reason has neither a path nor a guiding light.”[7] It is thus our job to shape our students minds to view the world through the Christian lens, a lens that acknowledges the complimentary between faith and reason. Since “it is an act of faith to assert that reason itself is a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all,”[8] and thus before all else we must be people of faith. In other words, as our students increase in knowledge of the truth their faith increases and as their faith increases, their knowledge of the truth increases.

Now that we have asked why we are teaching and why we are teaching at this school, I think we need to ask how do we know if our teaching is successful. Well since “development is impossible without upright men and women … whose consciences are finely attuned to the requirement of the common good,”[9] we are successful if we train our students to use their God given abilities to think coherently, so that no matter what profession they choose in life, they can work for the common good. Since, Jesus is clear “you shall love the Lord, you God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. The second is like it; you shall love your neighbor as yourself,”[10] we are successful if we demonstrate to our students how to love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves. And, since, “love without truth would be blind truth would be like a clanging of symbol,”[11] we are only successful if we teach our students how to live charity in truth.

All we have to do is turn on the news to see that we live in an enslaved world and that is in desperate need for Catholics to jump into action to lead those who are enslaved to error to Jesus who alone can set them free. While our students no doubt come from far better families then many teachers have the privilege of teaching, we cannot deny that they are still affected by the culture. Ultimately “the proper education and instruction of children will do much toward making them (students) more free and habituated to the practice of virtue, since thus they will be accustomed to follow the sure and safe guiding star of reason from its first dawn.”[12] We are blessed to come here day in and day out to either set our students free or if they are already free to give them the tools they need to fight the culture and remain free.

So then, as we come to the start of a new year I think it is important for us to stop and ask ourselves why are we teaching, why are we teaching here at John Paul II prep, and what is the goal of our teaching.

[1] Jn 8:32

[2] Paul Scalia. That Nothing May Be Lost. San Francisco: Ignatius Press (2017) Pg 64

[3] University of Mary, From Christendom to Apostolic Mission: Pastoral Startigies for an Apostolic Age. Bismarck: University of Mary Press (2020) 86.

[4] John Paul. 1998. Encyclical letter, Fides et ratio, of the supreme pontiff John Paul II: to the bishops of the Catholic Church on the relationship between faith and reason. Boston: Pauline Books and media. Introduction.

[5] Jn 14:6

[6] Cardinal Albert Vanhoe. Our Priest is Christ. (1969). Pg 49.

[7] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Behold The Pierced One. San Francisco: Ignatius. (1986). Pg 43.

[8] GK. Chesterton. Orthodoxy 1905 Reprint in Lexington, KY April 2013. Pg. 30

[9] Pope Benedict XVI. Caritas in Veritate. Washington DC: US Conference of Catholic Bishops. (2009) Par 74.

[10] Matthew 22:37-39

[11] Robert Cardinal Sarah. God or Nothing: A Conversation on Faith with Nicolas Dias San Francisco: Ignatius (2015) pg 181.

[12] Mary Agreda. The Mystical City of God Vol 1. Tan Books and Publishers Inc: Rockford, 2006. Pg 323

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