They call it the “triple mandate of Jesus: to teach, to serve, to sanctify.
Call it what you want, it’s the “mission statement” of His Church.
Today I want to write about the first of the trifecta, to teach.
What were the last words of Jesus before He ascended back to His Father in heaven? “Go, teach all nations!”
Obedience to that final imperative has been a constant of the Church’s identity and mission. In the first days of the Church, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles of St. Paul, we see that the earliest apostles were indefatigable in their instruction of anybody who would listen. The earliest followers of Jesus were termed disciples, or students, and He was reverently referred to as Teacher.
The Fathers of the Church, in those first centuries, taught others by writing and gathering students around them, towering intellects like Augustine, Jerome, Ambrose.
When St. Benedict established the monastic system, his monasteries became renowned centers of learning. No surprise: the Church is considered the founder of universities, and religious orders such as the Dominicans, Jesuits, and Ursuline sisters were acclaimed as scholars and teachers of the young.
The Catholic Church in the United States is celebrated for its vigorous system of schools, from children through high schools and universities.
Just last Sunday, we dedicated the radiant new side chapel in St. Patrick’s Cathedral dedicated to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, given by her Sisters of Charity, reverencing her establishment of schools.
The obedience to the command of The Teacher continues in your archdiocese:
- yes, we trumpet the splendid work of our Catholic grade schools. Stay tuned for some refreshingly glowing news about blockbuster test scores, dependable enrollment (actually increasing a bit), and financial stability;
- but we revel as well in the sparkling array of our religious education programs, offering catechesis to our children in non-Catholic schools, especially strong in preparation for first confession, first holy communion, and confirmation;
- we can never forget impressive initiatives at the parish level preparing parents for the baptisms of their new baby;
- adult faith formation continues with a wide array of classes, courses, and technological offerings for deepening the faith;
- Catholic campus ministry at non-Catholic universities accompanies our young adults in those decisive years;
- our young adult movement brings thousands together for prayer, the sacraments, socials, works of service, and strengthening knowledge of the faith;
- and our just renewed archdiocesan-wide marriage preparation receives positive reviews from couples eager to build their marriage on the foundation of their religion.
- don’t forget this award-winning newspaper, our Catholic Satellite Radio, our communications endeavors, and our outreach through social media.
This story I’ve told before. About ten years ago, as chairman of Catholic Relief Services, I visited the poor struggling nation of Ethiopia. The president of that country met with us. He told us that the most valuable gift the Church could give his struggling country would be the establishment of a Catholic university!
He was not a Catholic; his country only had a tiny Catholic minority. But, he knew the Church’s huge contribution in teaching...and wanted in on it!
I’m hoping Jesus would give us a good grade in our vigorous attention to His instruction to teach.