closing the door
how education can inform our faith
Learning for some people can be arduous and even unpleasant. I was visiting my nephews recently and could sympathize both with them and their parents. The adults kept at them to “go and do your homework!” They moaned. Eventually, after the moaning died down, they got to their study. While it may not seem so at the time, such discipline is good for the soul. It contributes to curing the deadly disease we call ignorance.
We all suffer from this affliction. We are limited. Yet while we realize we cannot “know it all,” we also realize we need to know many things for our good and the good of others. Ignorance can be dangerous, even deadly.
Consider the ignorance of young teens regarding sexual activity. I have spoken with a few who had sex just once and became pregnant. They told me they did not know that could happen with just one encounter. Another young person contracted a sexually transmitted disease. He did not think it could happen to him. Sadly, many seem ignorant of how such behaviors affect not only the body, but even more the soul.
There was another young person who was being convinced to have an abortion. She was told that what was in her was just some tissue and she should not worry. There was no child yet. Her ignorance of the simple facts of biology allowed her to be a victim of a lie.
Fortunately, ignorance is what Christ our teacher desires to dispel. Jesus established his church to destroy ignorance and error through its proclamation of the truth of Jesus Christ. We have the gift of 2,000 years of saints who lived the faith – 2,000 years of liturgy, creeds, prayers, doctrines and dogmas. We also have numerous expressions of our faith in the church’s living members in every corner of the world who draw their life from Jesus. Through all these, the radiant light of Jesus shines.
All such expressions reveal the activity of learning that has overcome the deadly foe of ignorance. Yet the work goes on until the end of this world. Every age must learn anew. No wonder God constantly reminded his people to remember. No wonder Jesus established the New Covenant at the end of his life and told us to “Do this in memory of me.” Remembering takes study, prayer and living the faith, but it has a great power to dispel the evil of ignorance.
Spiritual fitness requires us to know our faith. We need to dig into the sacred Scriptures as though they were a sand box.
One way I became more motivated to learn the faith was to think about Jesus and his own experience of learning. Even Jesus went to school.
When visiting Nazareth and many Galilean towns some years back, I saw how each village had its own synagogue where the young people and adults of the village went to learn their faith. Jesus would have attended such a synagogue like everyone else. Of course, Joseph and Mary would have been his first and constant instructors of the faith. Parents have a huge role in dispelling ignorance. Truly, the home is the first school of faith for all of us.
Another place Jesus went to learn was the Temple in Jerusalem, as early as age 12. As the Gospel of Luke says “Jesus, for his part, progressed steadily in wisdom and age and grace before God and men. (Luke 2:52) When Jesus began his ministry, he taught in the synagogues and temple.
Interestingly, a similar pattern of teaching has existed in the church from the beginning. Local parishes throughout the world have served as centers of learning for their community, much like synagogues in Jesus’ day. Historians show evidence of parish schools dating all the way back to the second century.
Those seeking entrance into the church (catechumens) learned their faith through catechetical instruction from the bishop. Priests, deacons and catechists were also involved in these cathedral schools. Cathedrals are churches so named because they hold the bishop’s chair or cathedra. The chair is a sign of the teaching office of the bishop. Every diocese has one cathedral church, and through the ages, cathedral churches established schools for the faithful. Often these schools would train young men to be priests, or serve in the church in some way.
As the church grew, monasteries also became important centers of learning. Many great saints were educated through monastic schools. Some scholars have even claimed that such efforts actually saved Western civilization. (How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill; How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization by Thomas E. Woods) Later on, universities and colleges were established.
Before ascending into heaven, Jesus told his Apostles to go out and make disciples of all the nations. Baptize them and “teach them to carry out everything I have commanded you.”(Matt 28:20) Through the ages, the church has done just that in numerous ways.
– Father Bill Ashbaugh