Catholic Free Press

Catholic Free Press Digital Edition

  • Sep
  • 27

Handing on the faith through education

Posted By September 27, 2012 | 4:14 pm | Featured Article #4
Cardinal O'Malley
Cardinal O'Malley

By Tanya Connor

Catholic education is about handing on the faith, which is what Anna Maria College is about, Cardinal Seán O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap., said in a talk there Sept. 20. He noted that the worldwide Year of Faith was about to begin.
The archbishop of Boston was keynote speaker for the fall academic convocation, at which the college awarded him an honorary doctorate in Sacred Theology.
The convocation was the culmination of activities for Anna Maria’s 65th anniversary, which focused on what it means to be a Catholic college, President Jack P. Calareso told The Catholic Free Press. This year’s theme, introduced by Cardinal O’Malley, is what it means to be a person of faith, he said.
“Our goal is to use the convocation as a springboard for conversation,” the president said. Faculty will be invited to use the cardinal’s talk in their classes and to discuss with each other and the staff how it applies to them, he said.
Father Manuel A. Clavijo, chaplain and campus ministry director, said the cardinal’s call to evangelize fit perfectly with what they are trying to do with campus ministry.
“If we really believe, passing on the faith is not an option, but a commandment,” Cardinal O’Malley said. “It kind of kills that theory of faith as being just a private matter. …
“Passing on the faith is God’s enterprise. … We all have to do a better job, but that happens only when we become more pliable clay in the Potter’s hands.”
When the Holy See sent him to prepare a report on seminarians in Cuba, he found that 90 percent of them were converts, having joined the Church despite Marxist indoctrination and knowing few Catholics, he said.
Cardinal O’Malley quoted from an ancient letter which called early Christians quaint for not killing their babies and for respecting marriage. He said it was scary that it could have been written now.
“Catholic education must be … training in a way of life which is increasingly alien in the secular world,” he said. “We need mentors … who are prepared to pass on the faith. … Our challenge in the new evangelization is to transform secularized Christians into apostles.”
Adult faith formation needs to reach out to various groups, he said. One task is to help active Catholics have a deeper understanding of the faith and enjoy the richness of the Scriptures, the catechism, the social encyclicals, the spiritual masters and medical ethics.
The unchurched also need outreach, he said. And inactive Catholics present a challenge. Some have “stormed off, dozed off or simply fallen through the cracks,” he said. He advocated making the most of Christmas, Easter, weddings and funerals, when they come to church. Discussion about how to reach out to them is needed, as is belief in God, who loved the world so much he sent his Son.
“The  Church’s medical ethics, service to the poor, sick and infirm, the works of mercy and social services, the promotion of a more just society are all interconnected and crucial in our task of passing on the faith and building a civilization of love,” he said.
“Passing on the faith means helping people to have a relationship with Christ that will equip them to lead a good life, a moral life, a just life,” he said. “Thus part of our job as teachers is to help our people to be virtuous.”
He said Boston College professor Peter Kreeft said that people today have reduced all virtue to one – being “nice.”
Youth need to learn the truths of the faith, the cardinal said. He  spoke of celebrities with superficial, chaotic lives and advocated using saints as examples instead.
In a culture addicted to entertainment, youth often find Mass unsatisfying, he said.
“Our challenge in Catholic education is to … help our young people experience prayer, so that when they gather for the Sunday Eucharist, they have a notion of why they are there and how to pray,” he said.
“It’s important for us to appreciate other faiths, but generic Christianity and comparative religion courses can often have disastrous effects in our attempts to pass on the Catholic faith,” he said. Apologetics needs to be incorporated, he said. He spoke of promoting the distinctiveness of Catholic identity: the Eucharist, confession, Marian piety, the papacy, community and church social teaching.
It is valuable to bring young people together, the cardinal said, noting that thousands of them attend the pro-life march in Washington, and millions attend World Youth Day. Doing things outside of the classroom is needed, he said.
He said author Father Andrew Greeley said Church teachers should realize that beauty, by which goodness and truth are present, is their strongest tool for drawing people to God. And Prince Myshkin in Dostoevsky’s “The Idiot” says, “Beauty will save the world.”
“We want to share with new generations what we have discovered … being a Catholic … is a beautiful life,” Cardinal O’Malley said. “Our mission is about helping people catch a glimpse of the beauty that saves and to have an appetite for that beauty.”
“He gave a very strong message that was also … touching on so many topics in Catholic life,” said Andrew McCarthy, who is an assistant professor of humanities and theology and director of Catholic studies and pastoral ministry. “Often some of those topics are presented in competition with one another, and they should not be. There’s meant to be a cohesiveness in Catholic thought and action. … So much of what he talked about is what I cover in my classes.”
“What he said … made me realize I can join the programs here and give back to the community,” freshman Kolin Matthews said. “And just having his presence here made me realize how special the school is, because not everybody gets this opportunity.”
“It was really inspirational to see how the school takes the Catholic perspective so seriously, with presentations and Mass,” said freshman Jennifer Ferron. “I’ve personally never been involved with a Catholic community as upcoming as this one.”

PHOTO: Bishop McManus and Cardinal O’Malley join Anna Maria officials at an academic convocation including Father Manuel A. Clavijo, chaplain and campus ministry director, and President Jack P. Calareso. Photo by Tanya Connor: