7 June 2021

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Tags: Educators, Parents, Students

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Categories: Homilies / Messages

Following a successful Catholic Education Conference 2021, we are proud to present a five-part series based on Archbishop William Goh’s address at the conference. In part 3, we reflect on parents’ expectations of a Catholic education for their children.

 


 

Catholic parents send their children to Catholic schools. For what reason? Because they believe and hope that our schools will continue to help their children to grow in faith, to guide them in their faith, to help them to be moulded in the Gospel values.

Otherwise, why should our Catholic parents send their children to Catholic schools? There are many secular schools today and many of them are doing equally well. We need to do justice to our parents.

 

Need for a Genuine Encounter

Whenever I walk about, Catholic parents always tell me, “Our Catholic schools are not doing enough for the faith of our children.”

A number of them, because they are so convicted that Jesus is the one who will be able to give them fullness of life, they prefer to send them to the Protestant schools.

The truth is that even our Catholic students, including teachers of course, many of them do not have a real personal experience of Christ in their life, at most some intellectual knowledge – that is the reason why we find that their transformation of life is weak.

 

The Catholic Ethos

I also want you to remember this: not only why Catholic parents send their children to Catholic schools – why do non-Catholic parents send their children to Catholic schools? They don’t have to, they can choose other schools. This is because, again, they have seen the fruits of children who study in Catholic schools.

They might not embrace the faith entirely, but certainly they approve of our Catholic ethos, the programs, our respect for their faith, and that is the reason why they believe that we will impart these Catholic ethos.

Otherwise, as I have said, I wouldn’t send my child to a school where I don’t believe in the ethos that the school is promoting.

In truth, many parents want their children to be brought up with faith in God and for moral values to be part of their educational formation.

 

Ultimate Happiness

So, it’s important for us to try to appreciate what Catholic schools can offer that secular schools cannot. Secular schools can offer good academic formation, human education, leadership, but can they offer the meaning and purpose in life? Can they tell you what is life? What is the purpose of life? What are we living for? What is the ultimate goal of all that we are doing?

Only religious schools remind us the ultimate goal is not just in this life, that we have a soul, we have a destiny. Our ultimate happiness is life with God. That is why Catholic schools offer a Catholic ambience, a Catholic way of life, Catholic values, but I think most of all, most importantly we offer students meaning and purpose in this world, in view of the world hereafter.

 


 

Reflection Questions:

  1. Teachers – how do you contribute to the Catholic ethos of your school?
  2. Students – are there ways in which you can engage more deeply with your faith in school?
  3. Parents – can you foster a faith-filled environment at home, which spills over into your child’s school life?

10 May 2021

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Tags: Educators, Parents, Students

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Categories: Homilies / Messages

Following a successful Catholic Education Conference 2021, we are proud to present a five-part series based on Archbishop William Goh’s address at the conference. In part 2, we consider how our Catholic schools facilitate a relationship with God.

 


 

The theme of our conference is “celebrating, encountering and creating our God experience.” This theme has to be seen in line with the overall theme, which is “to ignite and shine”, and most of all, in relationship to our founders’ mission.

It’s good for us to ask ourselves – if we were to really benefit from this celebration, in recalling what our founders have done for the last 200 years – we need to ask ourselves, what is the key to their success? Why is it that Catholic education, Catholic schools have played a very important part not just in the lives of our Catholics, but also the nation?

For our founders, real education is more than imparting skills and knowledge: it is to provide a solid holistic education, and this includes social, intellectual, physical and spiritual aspects.

Without a holistic formation and education, we would not be able to fully be human and be fully alive.

 

A Personal Relationship with Jesus

Now, when we speak about a Catholic education, it is more than just imparting a God experience, otherwise we would just be considered a religious school.

From the Catholic perspective, a God experience is ultimately a Christ experience, and that’s the reason why the heart of celebrating, creating, is for the sake of encounter.

It is this personal encounter with Jesus which is what we want to meditate on, simply because Jesus for us as Christians, is the way, the truth and the life. Jesus is our mediator, our way to encounter God deeply in a very personal way, because in Jesus we see Who God is, the mercy of God and His unconditional love.

Just to explain the doctrinal message of why God is present in Jesus: if you remember the Gospel of John chapter 14, Thomas said to the Lord, “How can we know the way?” and Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me. If you know Me, you will know My Father also.

Now, when Jesus said, “I am the way”, He was not saying He is a conduit or a means to an end. To come to Jesus is to come to the fullness of truth and life, and that is why Jesus is a sacrament of God.

 

Sacramental Life

What do we mean by sacrament? A sacrament is a sign that makes real what it signifies. So, to encounter Jesus is to encounter God, and that is why in the Catholic schools, our task is to mediate a Christ experience – but what is a Christ experience? A Christ experience must be real, it must be personal, it must be incarnational, in tangible relationships, so that it can be life-transforming.

I cannot underscore enough that encountering Christ is critical and fundamental, because our faith is rooted in Jesus and our commitment to Him as our Saviour and Lord.

Faith is not just intellectual – Christianity is not simply a set of doctrines or some ethos, some morality. Christianity is fundamentally a relationship with Jesus, falling in love with Him, so that this relationship with Jesus will help us to see life in perspective and to live our lives with purpose and meaning.

Passion and Purpose

A real passion for Christ can only come about when we have real encounters with the Lord. If you read the scriptures, those who were witnesses to Christ’s resurrection walked with the Lord. Martyrs, our foreign missionaries – have you ever asked them why they give up so much of their lives, so to speak, for nothing? They left their homeland, their families, their culture, to go to alien lands.

Certainly, for missionaries to give up their life and to suffer for humanity, it is because they have encountered Jesus’ love.

In the first letter of John, chapter 1, verses 1 to 4, Saint John said, “We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life.”

Indeed, my dear brothers and sisters, helping people to encounter Jesus is to help people to encounter God. To encounter God is what gives us meaning and purpose in life – that is why following the question of Thomas, Philip asked the Lord Jesus, “Show us the Father and we will be satisfied.”

The Father stands for ultimate meaning, truth, love and life.

 


 

Reflection Questions:

  1. Teachers – how do you inspire your students to encounter God in daily life?
  2. Students – are there ways in which you can help your friends grow closer to God?
  3. Parents – how are you an example of faith to your children? Do you prioritise family prayer and time with God?

12 April 2021

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Tags: Educators, Parents, Students

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Categories: Homilies / Messages

Following a successful Catholic Education Conference 2021, we are proud to present a five-part series based on Archbishop William Goh’s address at the conference. In part 1, we recall the legacy of our Catholic schools’ founders, the missionaries who sacrificed everything to answer God’s call to bring the Gospel to the ends of the Earth, serving our local community by providing quality education and human formation.

 


 

A Missionary Legacy

In the past, Catholic schools had a major role in the spread of the Catholic faith.

We know that our Catholic schools were very often supported by foreign missionaries. We see all the brothers and sisters who have started Catholic education in Singapore: the Infant Jesus Sisters, Good Shepherd Sisters, Marist Brothers, Brothers of St Gabriel, La Salle Brothers, Canossians, Franciscan Missionaries of Mary Sisters, and [we also have] our diocesan schools [such as] Holy Innocents’ High School and Catholic High School. The foreign missionaries came to Singapore two hundred years ago, in order to give their lives to us and to bring us the faith.

And so, as we are celebrating this 200th anniversary, it is important that we are not just trying to celebrate our achievements – what is more important is that the celebration is to be in gratitude to our founding fathers and mothers.

 

Profound Sacrifice

When we celebrate the past, the whole purpose of celebrating it is in order to remind us of what our forefathers have done, so that we can continue their legacy. I think it’s very important for us in this celebration, to really call to mind the spirit of our founders, who have given their lives.

The greatest gratitude we can give to someone, is to honour them by continuing the work that they begun, and that is why it is important for us during this celebration to return to the roots of our founders. We need to rediscover their apostolic and missionary zeal – what it is that gave them the impetus to sacrifice their lives for us all.

Without the missionaries, without the Catholic schools, we would not be where we are today, because when the foreign missionaries came to Singapore, the brothers and sisters, they came not just to provide us with a good education. Of course, that is important, but their ultimate goal was to save us, to give us fullness of life; it was not just concerned with academic performance, it was principally concerned with imparting Gospel values that can help us to live a meaningful life by having faith in Jesus.

 


 

Reflection Questions:

  1. Teachers – how do you incorporate the charisms of your school’s founders in your everyday work?
  2. Students – how do you make the best of your education? Are there key virtues which you can exercise in school and at home?
  3. Parents – how do you support the mission of your child’s school? Are there certain values which you prize in your child’s education?

22 March 2021

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Tags: Educators, Parents, Students

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Categories: Homilies / Messages

Go home” Jesus said, “your son will live.”

These are Jesus’s words to the court official who seeks healing for his sick and dying son. These are words of hope that today’s Gospel reading offers you and me.

They are hopeful, hopeful because they are Jesus’s promise that this court official’s son will live, and it comes true because Jesus always heals.

You and I gather across this island this morning in many schools, and we gather because we begin this day for our conference, the Catholic Education Conference of 2021.

We are each like the court official, because we come to this conference with different desires and different wishes; and we believe that in this day together, God will grant all our desires and all our wishes. He will grant them, as Jesus granted the court official’s desire for his son to be healed.

 

Genuine Hope

Whatever our desires or our wishes are, our readings tell us that we can hope; our readings express a core belief in our Christian faith, and this faith is filled with hope. We can believe in God, because we’ve all experienced the numerous examples of God’s goodness in our life, of God’s love for you and me.

Each of today’s readings expresses this reality of God with us, of God loving us.

In our first reading from Isaiah, God promises new things that will invoke in the humans a response of infinite rejoicing and happiness. There will be no more sad sounds of weeping all around them, only rejoicing in happiness.

In Isaiah’s description of this happy time, life is in abundance in both quality and quantity. What an inspiring and hope-filled promise of the fullness of life that God wishes to offer all of us – but this goodness, aren’t we experiencing it right now in our schools every day?

God’s Gift of Catholic Education

The hard work of the early missionaries and teachers has taken root and flourished, and so you and I enjoy what is school today in all our Catholic schools. Surely this is the goodness we have of being community, of being together in the schools, that we are enjoying God’s many gifts in our lives, and we are the recipients of this goodness that helps us to be better people, living purposeful lives by making a difference to all.

This is why we have come today, to celebrate, to celebrate God’s gift of Catholic education in Singapore, not just in our schools, but over the last 200 years.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus acts with great mercy and compassion. The court official comes to Jesus with faith, with faith that Jesus will heal his dying son, and Jesus heals the son.

This encounter between the official and Jesus is not for our hearing only, or even for our seeing as words on the page; this encounter is offered to you and me today as the experience of you and me in faith, knowing the love of God that works through Jesus to heal the official’s sick son.

It is an experience of our faith, that God will always save, that you and I, we experience even now as the Good News proclaims.

 

Seeking God

We have come, all of us in all our schools – we have come also to seek God in an encounter in this conference, in prayer and reflection, in learning and sharing, and even envisioning the kind of school we want to be as a place of grace. We are all hoping throughout the course of today for an encounter with God.

The good news that Jesus announces in today’s Gospel is that God will meet us, God will come to us and God will lead us forward as Catholic schools and as teachers and students, who come to know the love of God in our schools, and God will do this as God did so for the official who experienced God’s goodness through Jesus’ healing.

Sing Praise

Our responsorial psalm today appropriately invites you and me to praise. Praise is the most human expression of gratitude to God; praise naturally springs from a grateful heart, and in gratitude, you and I want to say thank you to God for so many things, so many gifts that we have received. Especially for His mercy, that reminds us that we are always forgiven, because we are His beloved children.

In our conference today, we will learn how to recreate similar experiences of encountering God’s love, in order to praise God. Indeed, the psalmist who wrote this wonderful psalm created for us a space of prayer, a space of praise, and it’s precisely through the words in the psalm, that we have the space, this time to praise God, to pray to God and to truly give thanks.

This is what we hope to do today as well, to learn how to create these spaces of prayer, reflection and praise in our schools.

 

Signs of Love

Today God will give us many gifts through the conference, many moments in which you and I will experience the love of God. I wonder what you will see and hear, what you will taste, smell and feel, as the visible expressions and signs of God’s faithfulness meeting us through the conference, as signs of God’s infinite love, to bless us through this conference, as signs of God’s love, that moves us forth to allow others to share in the experience we’ve had in this conference.

For me, an example of God’s faithful love each day in school, is when my students and teachers wave “hello” or say “good morning” or even say “God bless you.” These are the simple ways my students say, “God is with us and God is good.”

You and I, we are all searching for God. We are searching for God in all the many things and all the many moments in our daily life, and this search is worthwhile, as worthwhile as the verse we hear before the Gospel: “Seek good, and not evil, that you may live and the Lord will be with you.

This is the promise for all of us today. We are seeking the good and God will meet us in our search, and God will be with us and God will live with us. This is the promise God makes us.

Will you and I then, hearing this promise, celebrating this reality, encountering this God and recreating these moments of knowing this God, will we then celebrate the education we have, know the goodness of God in our lives, and like the psalmist, go forth and share the good news with many in our schools that we are in God’s holy presence? Let us pray we will, so that we can go home after this conference and live with God alone. Amen.

17 February 2021

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Tags: Educators

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Categories: Events, Homilies / Messages

Here is the homily of his grace Archbishop William Goh at the Holy Mass commemorating the Commencement of the School Year, as well as the commissioning of 11 new principals.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as educators, all of us are called to be leaders, not just in imparting knowledge, but to be educators of life, of love and of truth. We need to do this with authority. But what kind of authority needs to be exercised, so that this authority of instructing—of teaching—would be effective?

In today’s Gospel reading (Mark 1:21-28), we are told that Jesus went to the synagogue and began to teach. His teaching [leaves] a deep impression on [those who hear Him] because, unlike the scribes, He taught with authority.

What is this authority? Most of us we tend to rely on our juridical authority, because we are principals, because we are bishops, because we are priests. Juridical authority is not a very effective mean to form people and to get things done. In fact, if we have to use juridical authority, it can be a sign of bankruptcy in leadership. Some of us use our professional authority, our academic authority; we like to show our string of degrees and credentials, so people will believe what we say, what we teach.

Of course, juridical and professional authority have importance, especially when people do not yet know us. But, my dear brothers and sisters, at the end of the day, it would not be your juridical or professional authority that would make you an effective leader educator. It is ‘personal authority’ that will bring the two together. Without this ‘personal’ authority we will end up as inept, ineffective leaders. 

This was the situation of the scribes in today’s Gospel. The scribes were professional rabbi, professional teachers. They went to theological schools, they knew all the laws, they were the official interpreter of the laws—and there were 613 of them. [The scribes] were deeply schooled in the commandments, and yet, we are told Jesus taught differently from them; “unlike the scribes” (Mk 1:22). These did not teach with authority, [for] the only authority they had was juridical authority and professional authority; they lacked ‘personal authority’, because what they taught was not how they lived. What they taught was not relevant to the lives of the people, they were just abstract knowledge and laws that did not give the people life, that did not lead them to the truth.

Educators can fall into the same threat. To be a good educator, it is not enough to acquire professional knowledge of whatever subjects we are teaching. Of course, that is important! But unless a teacher—an educator—truly believes in what he or she is teaching, truly interiorises his or her knowledge, he would not be able to teach with passion and conviction; it would just be imparting knowledge, but not [himself].

What is it that changes people’s lives? It’s not just what we say, [but also] how we say it, and how we integrate it into the way we look at the world, the way we look at situations, the way we look at life. Whether you’re teaching geography, history, or mathematics, they have to do with life.

We cannot teach them as if they are just dry subjects; they are not. [This is] why a Catholic school does not mean that we have all these academic subjects, and—over and above all these—we have another optional subject called “Religious Knowledge”. Rather, if a teacher is imbued with the Gospel, and is convinced that what he is teaching has great importance in the lives of our students and of future generations, he would, in a very subtle or unconscious way, inject the values of the Gospel, his convictions, her convictions, into what she is teaching. That is what it means to be a Catholic school: Catholic in the way we look at life, [Catholic] in the values that we are offering.

My dear brothers and sisters, to teach with authority, therefore, requires us that we teach with this ‘personal authority’.

In the first reading from the book of Deuteronomy (18:15-20), we see Moses, who gave the same laws to the people. But Moses was highly respected. The people did not always obey the laws, that is true, because of their weakness, but they respected him. Why? Because Moses was not just a friend of God, he was a man of God. They saw him as someone who was infused with the presence of God, not by what he thought, not by what he said, but by how he lived.

The Book of Exodus told us that Moses, he spoke to God “face to face”, as a friend (33:11). Moses was the one who journeyed with the people 40 years in the desert. Moses was the one who interceded for them whenever things went wrong, and God wanted to punish them. Moses was the one who fed them with manna in the desert when they were hungry, gave them water from the rock when they were thirsty. Moses was the one who was always with them, every step in their journey; he was living among them. That was how Moses was different from the scribes and that was how Jesus lived his life as a teacher.

 

Interestingly, in the Gospel, Jesus is portrayed as the second Moses, the new Moses, the real Moses. That is why the life of Jesus paralleled the life of Moses. Like Moses, Jesus was persecuted by the king. Like Moses, He fled to Egypt. Like Moses, He went up the mountain and He gave them the new law—at the sermon on the mount—the beatitudes. Like Moses, He gave them the new manna, the bread of life. Like Moses, Jesus, in John’s Gospel, is the living water (John 4:14).

Jesus was one person who went about living with the people, healing the sick, carrying their sins and infirmities in his body. He was one with them. He knew the hunger, the thirst, the sufferings of the people that He ministered to. That was the reason why Jesus preached “with authority”, authority that they had never seen before.

In the Gospel [last week], when Jesus said to the disciples, “follow me” (Mark 1:17) and immediately they dropped their nets; they left their boats—Peter, Andrew, James and John—because it was a divine command. Jesus never asked, “would you like to follow me?”. “Follow me”! And they saw in Jesus the divine presence; this is why they followed Him.

Into today’s Gospel, even the evil spirit recognised the divine presence in Jesus. Jesus was only teaching in the synagogue. He was not trying to exorcise anybody! It was the devil who said, “You are the Son of God, the Holy One of God”, because they could not withstand His divine presence, that was the kind of authority that exuded from Jesus.

This is our challenge today: would our students, would our staff, see us a man and woman of authority? Not by what we say, but by our very presence. [This] is very important [for] educators and leaders, because in the final analysis, a true prophet is not so much seen by his teaching, is by his way of life: walking the talk, showing the way, being true to what we believe in.

That’s why, if you as an educator, are not convinced of what you are doing, you are in the wrong job. Don’t stay. Don’t waste people’s time, don’t waste your time. It’ll be a chore. You will be a burden. You must live and breathe this vocation that the Lord has given to you. You must be utterly convinced that what you are doing will make a difference in the lives of many people, and you will be excited, you’ll be passionate, you’ll be enthusiastic, and you’ll give hope to those being taught by you.

‘Leadership’ is the authority of bringing the people together: looking after your staff, caring for your staff [and] students. Everybody needs ongoing formation. Everybody needs to be reassured. Everybody needs to be encouraged. This is what educators are for: to give encouragement [and] hope.

And so, my dear Principals, Vice Principals, educators at large, I urge you: let us pray that we be focused on the Lord, as St Paul asks of us (1 Cor 7:35). When he talks about marriage, it’s not [just] about marriage, about singlehood, [but] about having undivided attention to the Lord, and to our vocation. If you are focused on the Lord, and if you are focused on your vocation, I assure you: you’ll be the greatest educator, and your life will impact the lives of everyone, including your fellow teachers. This is my prayer for you all, and I know: you will live up to your calling. Amen.

7 December 2015

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Tags: Parents

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Categories: Homilies / Messages, News

Here is Pope Francis’ address to representatives of the Catholic Schools Parents’ Association on 5 December 2015.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am pleased to welcome you all, representatives on the Catholic Schools Parents’ Association, on the occasion of the 40 years of your foundation. You are here, not only to be confirmed in your journey of faith, but also to express the truth of the commitment that distinguished you: that, freely assumed, of being educators according to the heart of God and of the Church.

An important world congress took place a short time ago, organized by the Congregation for Catholic Education. In that circumstance, I made evident the importance of promoting an education to the fullness of humanity, because to speak of Catholic education is equivalent to speaking of the human, of humanism. I exhorted to an inclusive education, an education that has a place for all and not to choose in an elitist way the recipients of its commitment.

It is the same challenge that you face today. Your Association places itself at the service of the school and of the family, contributing to the delicate task to throw bridges between school and territory, between school and family, between school and civil institutions. To repair the educational pact, because the educational pact is ruined, because the educational pact is broken! — and we must repair it. To throw bridges: there is no more noble challenge! To build union where division advances, to generate harmony when the logic of exclusion and of marginalization seems to be the best.

As an Ecclesial Association, you draw from the very heart of the Church an abundance of mercy, which makes of your work a daily service for others. As parents, you are the depositories of the duty and the primary and inalienable right to educate your children, thus helping in a positive  and constant way the task of the school. It is your right to request an appropriate education for your children, an integral education open to the most authentic human and Christian values. It is up to you, however, to see that the school is up to the measure of the educational task entrusted to it, in particular when the education proposed is expressed as “Catholic.” I pray the Lord that the Catholic school will never take for granted the meaning of this adjective! In fact, to be Catholic educators makes the difference.

And then we must ask ourselves: what are the requisites for a school to be able to say that it is truly Catholic? This could be a good work to do in your Association. You certainly have done it and do it, but the results are never acquired once and for all. For instance: we know that the Catholic school must transmit an integral, not ideological, culture. But what does this mean concretely? Or again, we are convinced that the Catholic school is called to foster the harmony of diversities. How can this be done concretely? It is a challenge that is anything but easy. Thank God, there are in Italy and in the world many positive experiences that can be known and shared.

In the meeting that Saint John Paul II had with you in June of 1998, he confirmed the importance of the “bridge” that must exist between the school and the society. Do not evade ever the need to build an educating community in which, together with the docents, to various operators and to students, you, parents can be protagonists of the educational process.

You are not outside of the world, but alive, as the leaven in the dough. The invitation I address to you is simple but audacious: be able to make the difference with the formative quality. Be able to find forms and ways so as not to pass unobserved behind the scenes of society and of culture. Not arousing clamors, not with projects made up of rhetoric. Be able to distinguish yourselves for your constant attention to the person, in a special way to the least, to those that are discarded, rejected, forgotten. Be able to make yourselves noted not by a “facade,” but for an educational coherence rooted in the Christian vision of man and of society.

At a moment in which the economic crisis makes itself felt heavily also on private schools, many of which are constrained to close, the temptation of “numbers” appears with more insistence, and with it that of discouragement. Yet, despite everything, I repeat to you: the difference is made with the quality of your presence, and not with the quality of the resources that can be put in the field, with the quality of your presence, there, to be bridges. And I was pleased that you [he turns to the President], speaking of the school, talked about the children, the parents and also the grandparents. Because grandparents have something to do! Do not discard the grandparents who are the living memory of the people!

Never sell off the human and Christian values of which you are witnesses in the family, in the school and in the society. Make your contribution generously so that the Catholic school never becomes an “expedient,” or an insignificant alternative among the various formative institutions. Collaborate so that Catholic education has the face of that new humanism that emerged from the Ecclesial Congress of Florence. Commit yourselves, so that Catholic schools are truly open to all. May the Lord Jesus, who in the Holy Family of Nazareth, grew in age, wisdom and grace (cf. Luke 2:52), support your steps and bless your daily commitment.

Thank you for this meeting, thank you for your work and for your witness. I assure you of my remembrance in prayer. And you, please, do not forget to pray for me.

 

Translation (from Italian): Zenit
Photo credit: L’Osservatore Romano

16 October 2015

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Tags: Educators, Parents

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Categories: Homilies / Messages, News

The following is from Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation Catechesi Tradendae, given this day, 16 October, in 1979.

69. Together with and in connection with the family, the school provides catechesis with possibilities that are not to be neglected. In the unfortunately decreasing number of countries in which it is possible to give education in the faith within the school framework, the Church has the duty to do so as well as possible. This of course concerns first and foremost the Catholic school: it would no longer deserve this title if, no matter how much it shone for its high level of teaching in non-religious matters, there were justification for reproaching it for negligence or deviation in strictly religious education. Let it not be said that such education will always be given implicitly and indirectly. The special character of the Catholic school, the underlying reason for it, the reason why Catholic parents should prefer it, is precisely the quality of the religious instruction integrated into the education of the pupils. While Catholic establishments should respect freedom of conscience, that is to say, avoid burdening consciences from without by exerting physical or moral pressure, especially in the case of the religious activity of adolescents, they still have a grave duty to offer a religious training suited to the often widely varying religious situations of the pupils. They also have a duty to make them understand that, although God’s call to serve Him in spirit and truth, in accordance with the Commandments of God and the precepts of the Church, does not apply constraint, it is nevertheless binding in conscience.

Admittedly, apart from the school, many other elements of life help in influencing the mentality of the young, for instance, recreation, social background and work surroundings. But those who study are bound to bear the stamp of their studies, to be introduced to cultural or moral values within the atmosphere of the establishment in which they are taught, and to be faced with many ideas met with in school. It is important for catechesis to take full account of this effect of the school on the pupils, if it is to keep in touch with the other elements of the pupil’s knowledge and education; thus the Gospel will impregnate the mentality of the pupils in the field of their learning, and the harmonization of their culture will be achieved in the light of faith. Accordingly, I give encouragement to the priests, religious and lay people who are devoting themselves to sustaining these pupils’ faith. This is moreover an occasion for me to reaffirm my firm conviction that to show respect for the Catholic faith of the young to the extent of facilitating its education, its implantation, its consolidation, its free profession and practice would certainly be to the honor of any government, whatever be the system on which it is based or the ideology from which it draws its inspiration.

22 September 2015

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Tags: Educators, Parents, Students

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Categories: Homilies / Messages, News

Unprepared remarks of the Holy Father given at the Fr Félix Varela Cultural Center, Havana on the occasion of his visit to Cuba on 20 September 2015.

 

You are standing up and I am sitting. How rude! But you know why I am sitting; it is because I was taking notes on some of the things which our companion here was saying. Those are the things I want to talk about.

One really striking word he used was “dream”. A Latin American writer once said that we all have two eyes: one of flesh and another of glass. With the eye of flesh, we see what is in front of us. With the eye of glass, we see what we dream of. Beautiful, isn’t it?

In the daily reality of life, there has to be room for dreaming. A young person incapable of dreaming is cut off, self-enclosed. Everyone sometimes dreams of things which are never going to happen. But dream them anyway, desire them, seek new horizons, be open to great things.

I’m not sure if you use this word in Cuba, but in Argentina we say: “Don’t be a pushover!” Don’t bend or yield; open up. Open up and dream! Dream that with you the world can be different. Dream that if you give your best, you are going to help make this world a different place. Don’t forget to dream! If you get carried away and dream too much, life will cut you short. It makes no difference; dream anyway, and share your dreams. Talk about the great things you wish for, because the greater your ability to dream, the farther you will have gone; even if life cuts you short half way, you will still have gone a great distance. So, first of all, dream!

You said something which I had wrote down and underlined. You said that we have to know how to welcome and accept those who think differently than we do. Honestly, sometimes we are very closed. We shut ourselves up in our little world: “Either things go my way or not at all”. And you went even further. You said that we must not become enclosed in our little ideological or religious “worlds”… that we need to outgrow forms of individualism.

When a religion becomes a “little world”, it loses the best that it has, it stops worshiping God, believing in God. It becomes a little world of words, of prayers, of “I am good and you are bad”, of moral rules and regulations. When I have my ideology, my way of thinking, and you have yours, I lock myself up in this little world of ideology.

Open hearts and open minds. If you are different than I am, then why don’t we talk? Why do we always throw stones at one another over what separates us, what makes us different? Why don’t we extend a hand where we have common ground? Why not try to speak about what we have in common, and then we can talk about where we differ. But I’m saying “talk”; I’m not saying “fight”. I am not saying retreat into our “little worlds”, to use your word. But this can only happen when I am able to speak about what I have in common with the other person, about things we can work on together.

In Buenos Aires, in a new parish in an extremely poor area, a group of university students were building some rooms for the parish. So the parish priest said to me: “Why don’t you come one Saturday and I’ll introduce them to you”. They were building on Saturdays and Sundays. They were young men and women from the university. So I arrived, I saw them and they were introduced to me: “This is the architect. He’s Jewish. This one is Communist. This one is a practicing Catholic”. They were all different, yet they were all working for the common good.

This is called social friendship, where everyone works for the common good. Social enmity instead destroys. A family is destroyed by enmity. A country is destroyed by enmity. The world is destroyed by enmity. And the greatest enmity is war. Today we see that the world is being destroyed by war, because people are incapable of sitting down and talking. “Good, let’s negotiate. What can we do together? Where are we going to draw the line? But let’s not kill any more people”. Where there is division, there is death: the death of the soul, since we are killing our ability to come together. We are killing social friendship. And this is what I’m asking you today: to find ways of building social friendship”.

Then there was another word you said: “hope”. The young are the hope of every people; we hear this all the time. But what is hope? Does it mean being optimistic? No. Optimism is a state of mind. Tomorrow, you wake up in a bad mood and you’re not optimistic at all; you see everything in a bad light. Hope is something more. Hope involves suffering. Hope can accept suffering as part of building something; it is able to sacrifice. Are you able to sacrifice for the future, or do you simply want to live for the day and let those yet to come fend for themselves? Hope is fruitful. Hope gives life. Are you able to be life-giving? Or are you going to be young people who are spiritually barren, incapable of giving life to others, incapable of building social friendship, incapable of building a nation, incapable of doing great things?

Hope is fruitful. Hope comes from working, from having a job. Here I would mention a very grave problem in Europe: the number of young people who are unemployed. There are countries in Europe where 40% of young people twenty-five years and younger are unemployed. I am thinking of one country. In another country, it is 47% and in another still, 50%.

Clearly, when a people is not concerned with providing work to its young – and when I say “a people”, I don’t mean governments; I mean the entire people who ought to be concerned whether these young people have jobs or not – that people has no future. Young people become part of the throwaway culture and all of us know that today, under the rule of mammon, things get thrown away and people get thrown away. Children are thrown away because they are not wanted, or killed before they are born. The elderly are thrown away – I’m speaking about the world in general – because they are no longer productive. In some countries, euthanasia is legal, but in so many others there is a hidden, covert euthanasia. Young people are thrown away because they are not given work. So then, what is left for a young person who has no work? When a country – a people – does not create employment opportunities for its young, what is left for these young people if not forms of addiction, or suicide, or going off in search of armies of destruction in order to make war.

This throwaway culture is harming us all; it is taking away our hope. And this is what you asked for in the name of young people: “We want hope”. A hope which requires effort, hard work, and which bears fruit; a hope which gives us work and saves us from the throwaway culture. A hope which unites people, all people, because a people can join in looking to the future and in building social friendship – for all their differences – such a people has hope.

For me, meeting a young person without hope is, as I once said, like meeting a young retiree. There are young people who seem to have retired at the age of twenty-two. They are young people filled with existential dreariness, young people who have surrendered to defeatism, young people who whine and run away from life. The path of hope is not an easy one. And it can’t be taken alone. There is an African proverb which says: “If you want to go quickly, walk alone, but if you want to go far, walk with another”.

So this is what I have to say to you, the young people of Cuba. For all your different ways of thinking and seeing things, I would like you to walk with others, together, looking for hope, seeking the future and the nobility of your homeland.

We began with the word “dream”, and I would like to conclude with another word that you said and which I myself often use: “the culture of encounter”. Please, let us not “dis-encounter” one another. Let us go side by side with one other, as one. Encountering one another, even though we may think differently, even though we may feel differently. There is something bigger than us, it is the grandeur of our people, the grandeur of our homeland, that beauty, that sweet hope for our homeland, which we must reach.

Thank you very much. I now leave you with my best wishes. For you I wish… everything I told you; that is what I wish for you. I am going to pray for you. And I ask you to pray for me. And if any of you are not believers – and you can’t pray because you don’t believe – at least wish me well. May God bless you and bring you to tread this path of hope which leads to the culture of encounter, while avoiding those “little worlds” that our companion spoke about. May God bless all of you.

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Dear Friends,

I am very happy to be with you here in this Cultural Center which is so important for Cuban history. I thank God for this opportunity to meet so many young people who, by their work, studies and training, are dreaming of, and already making real, the future of Cuba.

I thank Leonardo for his words of welcome, and particularly because, although he could have spoken about so many other important and concrete things such as our difficulties, fears, and doubts – as real and human as they are – he spoke to us about hope. He talked to us about those dreams and aspirations so firmly planted in the heart of young Cubans, transcending all their differences in education, culture, beliefs or ideas. Thank you, Leonardo, because, when I look at all of you, the first thing that comes into my mind and heart, too, is the word “hope”. I cannot imagine a young person who is listless, without dreams or ideals, without a longing for something greater.

But what kind of hope does a young Cuban have at this moment of history? Nothing more or less than that of any other young person in any other part of the world. Because hope speaks to us of something deeply rooted in every human heart, independently of our concrete circumstances and historical conditioning. Hope speaks to us of a thirst, an aspiration, a longing for a life of fulfillment, a desire to achieve great things, things which fill our heart and lift our spirit to lofty realities like truth, goodness and beauty, justice and love. But it also involves taking risks. It means being ready not to be seduced by what is fleeting, by false promises of happiness, by immediate and selfish pleasures, by a life of mediocrity and self-centeredness, which only fills the heart with sadness and bitterness. No, hope is bold; it can look beyond personal convenience, the petty securities and compensations which limit our horizon, and can open us up to grand ideals which make life more beautiful and worthwhile. I would ask each one of you: What is it that shapes your life? What lies deep in your heart? Where do your hopes and aspirations lie? Are you ready to put yourself on the line for the sake of something even greater?

Perhaps you may say: “Yes, Father, I am strongly attracted to those ideals. I feel their call, their beauty, their light shining in my heart. But I feel too weak, I am not ready to decide to take the path of hope. The goal is lofty and my strength is all too little. It is better to be content with small things, less grand but more realistic, more within my reach”. I can understand that reaction; it is normal to feel weighed down by difficult and demanding things. But take care not to yield to the temptation of a disenchantment which paralyzes the intellect and the will, or that apathy which is a radical form of pessimism about the future. These attitudes end either in a flight from reality towards vain utopias, or else in selfish isolation and a cynicism deaf to the cry for justice, truth and humanity which rises up around us and within us.

But what are we to do? How do we find paths of hope in the situations in which we live? How do we make those hopes for fulfillment, authenticity, justice and truth, become a reality in our personal lives, in our country and our world? I think that there are three ideas which can help to keep our hope alive:

Hope is a path made of memory and discernment. Hope is the virtue which goes places. It isn’t simply a path we take for the pleasure of it, but it has an end, a goal which is practical and lights up our way. Hope is also nourished by memory; it looks not only to the future but also to the past and present. To keep moving forward in life, in addition to knowing where we want to go, we also need to know who we are and where we come from. Individuals or peoples who have no memory and erase their past risk losing their identity and destroying their future. So we need to remember who we are, and in what our spiritual and moral heritage consists. This, I believe, was the experience and the insight of that great Cuban, Father Félix Varela. Discernment is also needed, because it is essential to be open to reality and to be able to interpret it without fear or prejudice. Partial and ideological interpretations are useless; they only disfigure reality by trying to fit it into our preconceived schemas, and they always cause disappointment and despair. We need discernment and memory, because discernment is not blind; it is built on solid ethical and moral criteria which help us to see what is good and just.

Hope is a path taken with others. An African proverb says: “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go with others”. Isolation and aloofness never generate hope; but closeness to others and encounter do. Left to ourselves, we will go nowhere. Nor by exclusion will we be able to build a future for anyone, even ourselves. A path of hope calls for a culture of encounter, dialogue, which can overcome conflict and sterile confrontation. To create that culture, it is vital to see different ways of thinking not in terms of risk, but of richness and growth. The world needs this culture of encounter. It needs young people who seek to know and love one another, to journey together in building a country like that which José Martí dreamed of: “With all, and for the good of all”.

Hope is a path of solidarity. The culture of encounter should naturally lead to a culture of solidarity. I was struck by what Leonardo said at the beginning, when he spoke of solidarity as a source of strength for overcoming all obstacles. Without solidarity, no country has a future. Beyond all other considerations or interests, there has to be concern for that person who may be my friend, my companion, but also someone who may think differently than I do, someone with his own ideas yet just as human and just as Cuban as I am. Simple tolerance is not enough; we have to go well beyond that, passing from a suspicious and defensive attitude to one of acceptance, cooperation, concrete service and effective assistance. Do not be afraid of solidarity, service and offering a helping hand, so that no one is excluded from the path.

This path of life is lit up by a higher hope: the hope born of our faith in Christ. He made himself our companion along the way. Not only does he encourage us, he also accompanies us; he is at our side and he extends a friendly hand to us. The Son of God, he wanted to become someone like us, to accompany us on our way. Faith in his presence, in his friendship and love, lights up all our hopes and dreams. With him at our side, we learn to discern what is real, to encounter and serve others, and to walk the path of solidarity.

Dear young people of Cuba, if God himself entered our history and became flesh in Jesus, if he shouldered our weakness and sin, then you need not be afraid of hope, or of the future, because God is on your side. He believes in you, and he hopes in you.

Dear friends, thank you for this meeting. May hope in Christ, your friend, always guide you along your path in life. And, please, remember to pray for me. May the Lord bless all of you.

 

 

Source: Vatican.va
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