The new academic year has begun now in earnest, and teachers and students are settling into another school term. We in the Diocese of Brooklyn are rightly proud of our Catholic schools and academies, as well as our Catholic high schools. We should be especially pleased that Cathedral Preparatory School and Seminary was named seventh best all-boys school in New York State by niche.com, as well its unique place as our high school seminary program, gently urging young men to listen to the calling of the Lord to discern a possible vocation to the priesthood.
Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. offers us an opportunity to reflect on the key role that not only do our primary and secondary schools serve in the passing on of faith, but also the major impact that the Catholic colleges and universities have in the Christian education and formation of our people. We are blessed to have two fine colleges in the Catholic tradition here in the Diocese of Brooklyn (St. Francis College and St. Joseph’s College), as well as a Catholic university, St. John’s.
“Evangelii Gaudium,” Pope Francis’ post-synodal exhortation of 2013, although not an encyclical (remember, the current pope has only written two encyclicals so far – “Lumen Fidei” (2013) and “Laudato Si’” (2015), is truly his signature piece, his magna carta and offers a clear vision of the direction in which the Holy Father wishes the Church to progress. Although addressing a much broader concept of evangelization, Francis addresses the place of the Catholic university in the midst of the secular culture. He writes:
“Proclaiming the Gospel message to different cultures also involves proclaiming it to professional, scientific and academic circles.”
The scholars who teach at our Catholic universities in the department of Theology or religious studies fulfill a key task in the New Evangelization – being “pontifexs” or “bridge-builders,” between their colleagues who teach secular studies, their students who will be leaders in the culture in the future, and the Christian faith.
On the one hand, the culture seems to reject natural law, with its embracing of same-sex marriage and a culture of death, as exemplified by the contraceptive and abortive mentality and, on the other hand, the fascinating, burning desire to see and listen to Pope Francis. Much like Herod, who was “perplexed by John the Baptist, but greatly wished to listen to him,” our American society is crying out for the transcendent, screaming to be fed and led by the word and example of the Vicar of Christ and the Church he represents.
For the professor of theology and/or religious studies, the papal visit to the U.S. is a remarkable opportunity to bring Catholics, other Christians, those of other faiths, and those of no faith, to come to appreciation of the beauty, dignity and truth of the Catholic faith. With the presence of this modern day St. Paul in the areopagi of New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., the opportunity to teach theology has never been stronger and the openness to faith in the culture has never been clearer.
We hope that not only our parishes, secondary and primary schools, and faith formation programs use this opportunity to teach the faith, but so too do our institutions of higher education in the Catholic tradition. This papal visit is an amazing opportunity. Professors, don’t forget to engage your students in a dialogue about it!
As Others See It
“Since July 14th, the Center for Medical Progress has released over 16 hours of footage exposing Planned Parenthood for their exploitation of aborted fetal tissue. According to a recent Media Research Center study, only 1 minute and 30 seconds of those videos have been aired by ABC, NBC and CBS collectively. To make matters worse, the same three networks have yet to mention the past 5 videos released by CMP.”
– Tom Buchanan, CMP public relations