The Catholic College
Catholic Colleges must be....CATHOLIC
The Catholic College
By Deacon Keith A. Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC
The late Servant of God John Paul II wrote regarding the primary mission of the Church and Catholic education's role in that mission:
"The primary mission of the Church is to preach the Gospel in such a way that a relationship between faith and life is established in each individual and in the socio-cultural context in which individuals live and act and communicate with one another. Evangelization means "bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new.... It is a question not only of preaching the Gospel in ever wider geographic areas or to ever greater numbers of people, but also of affecting and, as it were, upsetting, through the power of the Gospel, humanity's criteria of judgment, determining values, points of interest, lines of thought, sources of inspiration and models of life, which are in contrast with the Word of God and the plan of salvation." By its very nature, each Catholic university makes an important contribution to the Church's work of evangelization. It is a living institutional witness to Christ and his message, so vitally important in cultures marked by secularism, or where Christ and his message are still virtually unknown.
Moreover, all the basic academic activities of a Catholic university are connected with and in harmony with the evangelizing mission of the Church: research carried out in the light of the Christian message which puts new human discoveries at the service of individuals and society; education offered in a faith-context that forms men and women capable of rational and critical judgment and conscious of the transcendent dignity of the human person; professional training that incorporates ethical values and a sense of service to individuals and to society; the dialogue with culture that makes the faith better understood, and the theological research that translates the faith into contemporary language. "Precisely because it is more and more conscious of its salvific mission in this world, the Church wants to have these centers closely connected with it; it wants to have them present and operative in spreading the authentic message of Christ."1
The Challenge and the Context
In our time, the challenges faced by all who are involved with serving the Church, as she is present in the Catholic College community, can be understood within a broader contextual challenge facing the whole Church, what the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council called the separation between faith and life. This separation was specifically addressed in their document on the Mission of the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes).2 All too often, there is a disconnect between the faith many Catholics profess and the way they live their daily lives. Western culture would not be in the current state of moral decline if Catholics understood and lived their Christian faith in an integrated manner, informing every aspect of their human experience and social participation with the principles and practices which flow from that faith.
It is to respond to this challenge that the late Servant of God, John Paul II, called for a "New Evangelization."3 That call has borne fruit throughout the entire Church. Included in this fruit are the new Colleges, the renewed and restored Catholic Colleges and the growing number of training Centers being formed to prepare the next generation with missionary purpose. Catholic Colleges are a primary resource for the work that must be done if we are to have any influence on the culture of the West, which, most would agree, is in decline. The Thrid Millennium is a new missionary age for the Church. The Catholic College, the academy, must become, as it has been in the past, the heartof such an effort.
Before Antioch, where the followers of Jesus were first called Christians, they were often referred to as "The Way".4 Their lifestyle was different from that of the prevailing culture. Their faith informed how they lived their daily lives. To belong to Jesus Christ and to His Church worked its way into the every aspect of those lives, individually and collectively. This new way of living a vibrant and integrated Christian faith drew them together for worship and mutual support. It also made their evangelizing and sanctifying mission extraordinarily fruitful. This new way of living is still meant to be normative among those who bear the name Christian. Its recovery is essential to the mission of the whole Church in the Third Millennium. Within the Catholic College, this separation between faith and life led to a serious erosion of Catholic identity on too many campuses.
Catholic identity at a Catholic College requires that the academic community understand its ecclesial nature. In an institution, just as in persons, it begins from the inside and works its way throughout like leaven or yeast in a loaf. Catholic identity must become the beating heart of a Catholic College and provide the infrastructure for its entire educational mission. When it does, the building of a Catholic culture on campus becomes a fruit. This kind of Catholic culture helps to ensure the integration of the faith in every aspect of the academy, through both word and witness. It flourishes when all who are involved in this educational mission, from the Catholic College President to the Professor in the classroom, first view themselves as disciples, lifelong learners, followers of the Teacher, Jesus Christ. This response is always lived within His Body, the Church, into which they have been incorporated through Baptism. That Church is by its very nature, a teacher, and they participate in her educational mission.
Education is the very heart of the ecclesial mission. In speaking of herself, the Church often notes that she is an "expert in humanity" who "walks the way of the person". In words of Pope John XXIII echoed in so many pronouncements of the Magisterium, The Church is, both "Mater et Magister" "Mother and Teacher." She is an educating community and institution. Education is not something the Church adds something to, as though the process of educating were some kind of nakedly secular pursuit which the Church somehow makes religious. Rather, education is the very heart and core of the Churches mission. The Catholic College is a part of the educating mission of the whole Church. In 1997, the Congregation for Catholic Education summarized the Catholic educational mission in "The Catholic School on the Threshold of the Third Millennium". They addressed the ecclesial identity of the Catholic School and the integration of faith, culture and life:
"It is from its Catholic identity that the School derives its original characteristics and its "structure" as a genuine instrument of the Church, a place of real and specific pastoral ministry. The Catholic School participates in the evangelizing mission of the Church and is the privileged environment in which Christian education is carried out. In this way "Catholic Schools are at once places of evangelization, of complete formation, of inculturation, of apprenticeship in a lively dialogue between young people of different religions and social backgrounds
The ecclesial nature of the Catholic School, therefore, is written in the very heart of its identity as a teaching institution. It is a true and proper ecclesial entity by reason of its educational activity, "in which faith, culture and life are brought into harmony". Thus it must be strongly emphasized that this ecclesial dimension is not a mere adjunct, but is a proper and specific attribute, a distinctive characteristic which penetrates and informs every moment of its educational activity, a fundamental part of its very identity and the focus of its mission. The fostering of this dimension should be the aim of all those who make up the educating community.
By reason of its identity, therefore, the Catholic School is a place of ecclesial experience, which is molded in the Christian community. However, it should not be forgotten that the School fulfills its vocation to be a genuine experience of Church only if it takes its stand within the organic pastoral work of the Christian community. In a very special way the Catholic School affords the opportunity to meet young people in an environment which favors their Christian formation. Unfortunately, there are instances in which the Catholic School is not perceived as an integral part of organic pastoral work, at times it is considered alien, or very nearly so, to the community."
Seven years earlier, the late Servant of God Pope John Paul II, had released his apostolic letter entitled "Ex Corde Ecclesia" (At the Heart of the Church) affirming the same educational mission for the Catholic College. In that letter he wrote:
"Since the objective of a Catholic University is to assure in an institutional manner a Christian presence in the university world confronting the great problems of society and culture, every Catholic University, as Catholic, must have the following essential characteristics: 1. a Christian inspiration not only of individuals but of the university community as such; 2. a continuing reflection in the light of the Catholic faith upon the growing treasury of human knowledge, to which it seeks to contribute by its own research; 3. fidelity to the Christian message as it comes to us through the Church;4. an institutional commitment to the service of the people of God and of the human family in their pilgrimage to the transcendent goal which gives meaning to life"
. In the light of these four characteristics, it is evident that besides the teaching, research and services common to all Universities, a Catholic University, by institutional commitment, brings to its task the inspiration and light of the Christian message. In a Catholic University, therefore, Catholic ideals, attitudes and principles penetrate and inform university activities in accordance with the proper nature and autonomy of these activities. In a word, being both a University and Catholic, it must be both a community of scholars representing various branches of human knowledge, and an academic institution in which Catholicism is vitally present and operative"
These two documents are not the only pronouncements on Catholic identity and the mission of Catholic Schools, including the Catholic College or University. The Catholic Church has spoken clearly, repeatedly and consistently about Catholic identity as the foundation stone of all authentically Catholic education. Though there may be some difference in the application of these principles depending upon the level of the educational institution, the principles remain the same. The President and leaders of a Catholic College should both know and implement Catholic teaching concerning Catholic education. They should think with the mind of the Church in choosing faculty and staff who do likewise and articulate that teaching to the entire academic community under their care. The Catholic College
The Catholic College is not a private College with a church affiliation. It is a Catholic College. In his masterful letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul calls all Christians to a "
renewal of their minds". (Romans 12:2) This renewal of the mind is the essence of Catholic education. It affirms that there is a constitutive connection between truth, freedom, education and the ability to form an authentically human and just culture.5 This commitment to truth characterizes the entire Catholic educational mission.6
The Purpose of a Catholic College is to teach, form and prepare students in Christ, through Christ, and with Christ, who has been raised and continues His redemptive mission through His Body, the Church. It is that Church which is vested with His authority to teach. In the words of the great Western Bishop Augustine:
"Let us rejoice then and give thanks that we have become not only Christians, but Christ himself. Do you understand and grasp, brethren, God's grace toward us? Marvel and rejoice: we have become Christ. For if he is the head, we are the members; he and we together are the whole man. . . . The fullness of Christ then is the head and the members. But what does "head and members" mean? Christ and the Church."
Catholic Colleges are an extension of the teaching work of the Catholic Church. This living Christ still teaches, and directs His Church. Through that Church he continues to influence all of human culture. The faithful of the Church are called to inculcate and live the truth as articulated under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit by the teaching office of the Church. At the forefront of the mission of the Catholic Church is this education of the next generation of Catholic men and women. It is Christ the Teacher who teaches His children in the Catholic College. As the late Servant of God John Paul II said so succinctly in an address to educators in 1979 "Catholic education is above all a question of communicating Christ, of helping to form Christ in the lives of others."7 This mission is inter-generational because the Church exists to evangelize, catechize and educate until the Lord returns.
The Catholic College, like the Church of which she is a cell, find its strength, spiritual nourishment and power in the Eucharist, the source and summit of Catholic worship and life.8There is a Latin maxim that addresses the centrality of worship in the life, identity and mission of the Church; "Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi". The phrase literally means the law of prayer, the law of belief and the law of life. In short, it affirms that how we worship reflects and reinforces what we believe and informs and shapes how we will live. The Catholic College needs to make worship integral to its way of life. For Catholics, the Eucharist is the "source and summit" of all worship.9 It effects our communion, brings us into an actual participation in Divine Life and should enlighten and inform how we think, and therefore how we live. Thus, leaders at every level of a Catholic College should cultivate a Eucharistic spirituality in their own lives and make the celebration of the Eucharist the center of the worship of the academic community they oversee. The Eucharist is the foundation of Catholic identity, revealing what we truly believe and how we view ourselves in relationship to God, one another and the world into which we are sent to carry forward the redemptive mission of Jesus Christ. How the Church worships is a prophetic witness to the truth of what it professes.
Good worship is a dynamic means of drawing the entire human community into the fullness of life in Jesus Christ. It attracts - through beauty to Beauty. Worship informs and transforms both the person and the faith community which participates in it. There is reciprocity between worship and life. Thus, although many forms of prayer should permeate the lived culture of a Catholic College, the Eucharistic Liturgy should be the center which informs and directs them all. The Catholic College derives its very reason for existence, its identity, by living in the Heart of the Church and the Eucharist is that heart.
An emphasis on Catholic identity in culture and worship does not exclude other Christians, students from other religious traditions or no religious tradition at all. Catholic Colleges should be authentically ecumenical and welcoming precisely because they are Catholic. However, the leaders of a Catholic College need to understand ecumenism as taught by the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is not just one tradition among many nor is the Catholic Church a denomination. Catholics believe that the Catholic Church is the Church of Jesus Christ. All baptized Christians are in some form of limited communion with that Church. The fullness of truth subsists in the Catholic Church. That is why we do not re-Baptize our Christian friends who come into full communion with the Catholic Church from other Christian traditions or denominations.
Precisely because of this belief we also know one application of the biblical admonition that "
that to those to whom much is given, mush more will be required" (St. Luke12:48). The Catholic College should respect, love and welcome other Christians, other people of faith, indeed all people of good will into its academic community. However, it should not water down its identity, worship or culture. The parents of these children have chosen a Catholic College for their children. Catholic identity is lived within an authentically Catholic ecclesiology. Such a full witness reveals a living Catholic heart which beats with the Heart of the Lord whose prayer "May they be one" (John 17:21) will one day be answered.
Catholic Identity as constitutive of the educational mission of the Catholic College requires continual review by Catholic College leaders. It is their highest priority. Along with it, the development of curriculum must not fall prey to its own form of a separation between faith and life. Faith and Reason are sisters within the Catholic faith. This integration of faith and reason should be understood by those who lead a catholic College and become a pillar for their curriculum development. Forming students with a Catholic world view is not a part of the curriculum; it is the heart of the curriculum. Faith is not simply taught in religion or theology class. Catholic identity provides the hermeneutic, the lens, through which the entire educational mission is viewed. It should also structure the framework for all curriculum development.
The Catholic educational mission is to inform and educate the whole student, who is an integrated human person, in the teaching, the mind of the Catholic Church, thus preparing men and women with a profoundly Catholic anthropology which permeates the meaning of human life. In the words of the Congregation for Catholic education:
"The Catholic School is committed thus to the development of the whole man, since in Christ, the Perfect Man, all human values find their fulfillment and unity. Herein lies the specifically Catholic character of the School. Its duty to cultivate human values in their own legitimate right in accordance with its particular mission to serve all men has its origin in the figure of Christ. He is the One Who ennobles man, gives meaning to human life, and is the Model which the Catholic School offers to its pupils."
In the Sacred Humanity of Jesus Christ we discover the call of the living God to every man, woman and child. This theological anthropology is developed brilliantly in one of the most often quoted sections of the Second Vatican Councils Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes 22):
"The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him who was to come, namely Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear. It is not surprising, then, that in Him all the aforementioned truths find their root and attain their crown. He who is "the image of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15), is Himself the perfect man. To the sons of Adam He restores the divine likeness which had been disfigured from the first sin onward. Since human nature as He assumed it was not annulled, by that very fact it has been raised up to a divine dignity in our respect too. For by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man. He worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, He has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin."
Through Baptism into the Church we are called to continual transformation in order live our human lives fully and completely. Through the Paschal mystery of Jesus Christ we are capacitated, with the help of the grace mediated through the sacraments and our participation in the mystery that is the communion of the Church, to live as Jesus lived. We are invited into a life of continual conversion where we grow in Virtue and learn, like Him, to do all things well. (St. Mark 7:37) The mission of a Catholic College is the conversion, education and formation of students as whole Persons into the Image of Jesus Christ. All Subjects and all activities in a Catholic College should be imbued with this theological anthropology and the derivative understanding of education it entails.
Catholic education exists to put students in touch with the source of all Truth and Beauty, who is the living Trinitarian God, revealed in Jesus Christ. For example, instruction in the sciences, though certainly pursuing and utilizing all available methods for scientific inquiry, should present that science is to be at the service of truth, the dignity of the human person from conception until natural death, marriage and the family and the common good. Math should be presented as a language with which we are enabled to plumb the depth and beauty of Gods creation. Students should learn to read by being introduced to the masters, the great classics of Western Civilization. They should discover the rich tapestry of art which is found in the heart of the Church, which has birthed some of the greatest artists in human history precisely because she proclaims that God is the Divine artist. Students at Catholic Colleges should not just read about Aristotle, or Plato, or Saint Thomas Aquinas but they should actually read these great teachers who formed the very Foundation of Western Civilization.
Catholic Colleges should stretch students academically, promoting excellence and not minimalism. In an authentically Catholic educational philosophy there is no dichotomy between faith and reason or faith and intellectual excellence. In one of the great encyclical letters of the late Servant of God John Paul II Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason) he expressed this unity so clearly:
"Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truthin a word, to know himselfso that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves."
The development, articulation and sustenance of this kind of vision and mission is the primary responsibility of the Catholic College President. Thus, such a President must understand his/her task as pedagogical, pastoral, catechetical and developmental. All leadership within the Catholic College is a part of the Catholic ecclesial community and participates in the leadership of the Church. Catholic College Presidents need to understand the uniqueness of Catholic leadership, believe it, and live it. Catholic identity should be the first criterion considered in choosing Presidents. It should motivate their service, and inform everything that they do in discharging their office.
The Catholic College President is at the service of the Catholic Church and then through her called to prepare leaders for the world. He or she should understand the implications of the faith on the entirety of the educational mission. They are not simply secular professionals offering their skills in a Catholic College. As with leadership of any Catholic institution, they now participate in the saving mission of the Catholic Church. They must be properly formed and up to this kind of task. The students entrusted to their care are "living stones being built into a spiritual household" (I Peter 2:5) who have been called to build the future. Their call as Catholic College Presidents leaders is to articulate a compelling vision and mission in word and deed and help the academic community placed in their care along the Catholic way.
To Prepare Saints
In the "Catholic School on the Threshold of the Third Millennium" the Congregation for Catholic education spoke to the totality of the educational enterprise by grounding it in the centrality of Jesus Christ. In so doing they also made it exceedingly clear what makes a School, including a College, Catholic:
Christ is the foundation of the whole educational enterprise in a Catholic School. His revelation gives new meaning to life and helps man to direct his thought, action and will according to the Gospel, making the beatitudes his norm of life. The fact that in their own individual ways all members of the School community share this Christian vision makes the School "Catholic"; principles of the Gospel in this manner become the educational norms since the School then, has them as its internal motivation and final goal
Being aware that Baptism by itself does not make a Christian - living and acting in conformity with the Gospel is necessary - the Catholic School tries to create within its walls a climate in which the pupil's faith will gradually mature and enable him to assume the responsibility placed on him by Baptism. It will give pride of place in the education it provides through Christian Doctrine to the gradual formation of conscience in fundamental, permanent virtues - above all the theological virtues, and charity in particular, which is, so to speak, the life-giving spirit which transforms a man of virtue into a man of Christ. Christ, therefore, is the teaching-centre, the Model on Whom the Christian shapes his life. In Him the Catholic School differs from all others which limit themselves to forming men. Its task is to form Christian men, and, by its teaching and witness, show non-Christians something of the mystery of Christ who surpasses all human understanding
gradual formation of conscience in fundamental, permanent virtues is at the heart of Catholic education. This will require the cultivation of a genuine Catholic culture and community among the faculty, staff and students. It must be demonstrated by the President in word and deed and encouraged through the structural and relational way of life that he/she establishes in the educational community. This kind of excellence takes a President who understands that the leadership of a Catholic College is a sacred trust requiring both knowledge of - and fidelity to - the fullness of Catholic teaching. These kinds of leaders will teach, live and promote a virtue based educational philosophy and lead the entire Catholic educational community, faculty, staff and students, to the source of all Virtue and Excellence, Jesus Christ.
Building a Catholic College for the twenty first century, stretching into the Third Millennium, requires a clear vision, mission and leadership. The President of a Catholic College must be able to articulate this mission and vision in a way that inspires the entire academic and parish community to join together in a singular educational missionary purpose. Students at Catholic Colleges deserve a fully Catholic Education. The future requires a new generation of Catholic men and women who understand the implications of their faith on the entirety of their lives and are motivated by their faith to take their place within every segment of society and build a better future. These kinds of men and women do not appear on the scene through happenstance; they must be properly educated and then enlisted in the mission of the Church, for the world. This is the vital task of the Catholic College.
1 EX CORDE ECCLESIAE:APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTION ON CATHOLIC UNIVERSITIES, Par. 48 and 49, Promulgated By His Holiness John Paul II On August 15, 1990.
2"This council exhorts Christians, as citizens of two cities, to strive to discharge their earthly duties conscientiously and in response to the Gospel spirit. They are mistaken who, knowing that we have here no abiding city but seek one which is to come think that they may therefore shirk their earthly responsibilities. For they are forgetting that by the faith itself they are more obliged than ever to measure up to these duties, each according to his proper vocation. Nor, on the contrary, are they any less wide of the mark who think that religion consists in acts of worship alone and in the discharge of certain moral obligations, and who imagine they can plunge themselves into earthly affairs in such a way as to imply that these are altogether divorced from the religious life. This split between the faith which many profess and their daily lives deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age."
3 See, e.g., Apostolic Letter of the Servant of God, John Paul II at the close of the Great Jubilee year 200, Novo Millennio Ineunte par. 40: To nourish ourselves with the word in order to be "servants of the word" in the work of evangelization: this is surely a priority for the Church at the dawn of the new millennium. Even in countries evangelized many centuries ago, the reality of a "Christian society" which, amid all the frailties which have always marked human life, measured itself explicitly on Gospel values, is now gone. Today we must courageously face a situation which is becoming increasingly diversified and demanding, in the context of "globalization" and of the consequent new and uncertain mingling of peoples and cultures. Over the years, I have often repeated the summons to the new evangelization. I do so again now, especially in order to insist that we must rekindle in ourselves the impetus of the beginnings and allow ourselves to be filled with the ardour of the apostolic preaching which followed Pentecost. We must revive in ourselves the burning conviction of Paul, who cried out: "Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel" (1 Cor 9:16).
4 See, also., the account of the conversion of St. Paul in Acts 22:
I persecuted this Way to death, binding both men and women and delivering them to prison.
5 Pope Benedict XVIs reference to the prevailing
dictatorship of relativism (Homily for the Mass Pro Eligendo Romano Pontific (April 18, 2005): Origins, 34:35 (April 28, 2005) Pp. 720 continues to express the deep concern that Holy See has concerning the current educational challenge facing the West.
6 See, e.g. Veritatis Splendor, by the late Servant of God John Paul II for the most recent synthesis of the Churches teaching on both the capacity to not only grasp its existence but live in it.
7 John Paul II, Message to the National catholic Educational Association of the United States (April 16, 1979) Insegnamenti, 2, (1979): 919-920.
8 For a recent restatement of the centrality of the Eucharist, see, ORDINARY GENERAL ASSEMBLY THE EUCHARIST:SOURCE AND SUMMIT OF THE LIFE AND MISSION OF THE CHURCH
9 See, e.g., Synod of Bishops, The Eucharist: Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church, http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/synod/documents/rc_synod_doc_20040528_lineamenta-xi-assembly_en.html Also, CCC. 1324-1327: The Eucharist is "the source and summit of the Christian life."136 "The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch. The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and that unity of the People of God by which the Church is kept in being. It is the culmination both of God's action sanctifying the world in Christ and of the worship men offer to Christ and through him to the Father in the Holy Spirit. Finally, by the Eucharistic celebration we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life, when God will be all in all .In brief, the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith: Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking."
Deacon Keith Fournier is a married Roman Catholic Deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, who also serves the Melkite Greek Catholic Church with approval. He is a human rights lawyer and a graduate of the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University, Franciscan University of Steubenville and the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Law. He is the founder and Thomas More Fellow of the Common Good Movement and is a Contributing Editor to Traditional Catholic Reflections and Reports. The author of seven books, he recently wrote "The Prayer of Mary: Living the Surrendered Life". He recently concluded his PhD coursework in Moral Theology at the Catholic University of America.