I was raised in an area where fishing was something of a social phenomenon. Parents would take their kids fishing in the summer, either on the lakeshores or out on a boat in the river. During the winter, once the ice got thick enough, families and friends would band together to go ice fishing. Fishing was both a way to eat and a way to socialize. We all learned how to fish. Our parents did tell us some things, like not to throw back our line without looking (“someone could lose an eye!” my mom would exclaim), to use our legs when we got a tug or were reeling a catch in (“you don’t want to end up in the water!” my mom would warn), and to value each fish that we caught as a gift. But mostly, we learned these things by watching. I watched my dad check over his shoulder before he made a cast, I watched how he used his arms and wrists to get the line where he wanted it. I watched how he sat calmly when waiting, and it was his relaxed posture that told me it was okay to enjoy the quiet and that I didn’t have to be impatient or worried or fill the silence with anything. I watched my mom’s wonder over each fish we caught. I learned those lessons far more powerfully from watching my parents than I did from my mom’s continually fraught warnings of how easy it was for someone to lose an eye.
In the Gospels, when Jesus calls Simon and Andrew, he tells them to follow him and he will make them fishers of men. But at no point does he ever sit them down and give them a detailed explanation of the definition of ‘fishers of men,’ how it’s going to work, who will be doing what… there were no charts or diagrams or maps or lectures. He taught them by showing them, as they lived alongside one another. Of course he explained things when necessary. Of course he pointed things out, warned them of dangers, and encouraged them on their little victories. But they learned most powerfully from watching.
As we prepare to celebrate Catholic Schools Week, much could be said about the legacy of Catholic Schools throughout history, the quality of academics, etc. But at the end of the day, none of those things are what makes Catholic Schools catholic. What makes Catholic Schools catholic is the presence of people who walk with our children and model to them what it means to be a disciple of Christ – who teach with their own lives, and their own faith. That faith is what gives the deepest meaning to every gift that comes of education. Even the most prestigious awards and successful careers are empty without meaning, and even the most seemingly mundane of futures can be ones of joy and love with faith. This is why the most precious gift of Catholic Schools is the creation of a safe place to live and learn faith.
Whether or not your kids attend a Catholic school, or whether or not you teach at a Catholic school, this week is one to step back and do two important things: 1) Take stock of the people in your life who were the kind of teachers who inspired you most by showing you the power of faith in life. Maybe that person was a saint, maybe a relative or friend, or maybe it was Jesus himself. Reflect on what they did that made such a deep impact on you, and thank God for their presence in your life. 2) Take a step back and reflect on who in your life may be looking to you for a lived explanation of what it means to have faith. Who are you teaching with your life, maybe without even knowing it? A child? Student? Friend? Family member? Neighbor? That same person you always see at the local Walmart check out? Ask yourself what kind of teacher you are called to be for that person, and ask God for the grace to be able to live in such a way as to teach them about Christ.
The best way to celebrate Catholic Schools is to support Catholic Education in its truest sense – to live as both a student and a teacher of our Faith.
Jesus Master, Way, Truth and Life,
form yourself in me,
that I may see with your eyes,
smile with your smile,
and love with your heart.
Mary, our Mother, Teacher, and Queen,
pray for us.
By Sr. Orianne Dyck, novice