Tag Archives: Catholic education

Giving with All Our Mite

19 Mar

When my family lived in Steubenville, Ohio, my wife Maureen and I always looked forward to the dinner in which our bishop would launch the annual diocesan fund-raising campaign. It became an annual “date” for us. We have always tried to give what we can to our diocese and parish, Catholic apostolates, and worthwhile charities.

Each year we’re stretched a little thinner as we support more and more “good causes.” And at the same time, our children have gotten older and have more expensive educational and personal needs, including Catholic schools.

We know that good stewardship involves looking out for number one, except our “number one” is not ourselves, but Our Lord.

The biblical concept is tithing. In the Old Testament, tithing was a moral and spiritual obligation to make an offering to God of ten percent off the top of all the fruits of one’s labors (cf. Lev. 27:30). In fact, if one didn’t tithe, it was considered stealing from God! (Mal. 3:7-8).

Even more fundamental than the mere “accounting” aspect is the sense of generosity and piety that goes along with tithing. It’s all about making the Lord the priority in one’s life, as brought home so clearly in the story of the widow’s mite (Lk. 21:1-4). The poor widow was not a major Temple benefactor by earthly standards, but her gift was singled out for praise by the Lord because of the great love she showed in giving the little she had.

Maybe that’s why my favorite birthday or Father’s Day gifts tend to be the ones my children make themselves. These artistic treasures, often saved for posterity on our refrigerator or my office’s walls, serve absolutely no practical purpose. What makes them valuable to me is that they represent a loving sacrifice on the part of my children, which means infinitely more than any monetary value other gifts might have.

When it comes to tithing today, the Church doesn’t require that we give 10%, but we are required to support the Church through the generous use of our own time, talent, and treasure. The exact amount isn’t as important as the priority and generosity that accompany the giving. The traditional 10% is a helpful, biblical measuring rod, but there’s nothing preventing us from giving 15 or 20%!

Speaking for myself, I wasn’t raised in a tithing home. We really valued a buck. It has taken me a while to really soak in the Church’s teaching in this area, and I am far from where I need to be in this area. Still, I can say from personal experience, despite many financial obligations and the fact that over twenty years ago I left my law practice to work for Church-related entities, that the more our family has given, the more Our Lord has provided for our every need. I shouldn’t be surprised at this, because He pretty much tells us that this would be the case (cf. Mt. 6:33). Yet, I still truly marvel at this reality.

Perhaps God multiplies our offerings like Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes. Maybe generosity instills a right order that shapes all of our spending. Perhaps tithing encourages us to do without things that really aren’t necessary. Or, more likely, it’s a combination of all of the above.

I know Christian financial advisors whose first advice to clients who are heavily in debt is to begin to tithe, and if they won’t do it, then they can’t help them. Tithing is part of the solution even on a most pragmatic, worldly level.

As the saying goes, Our Lord will not be outdone in generosity. Ordinarily, we are commanded not to put the Lord to the test. But when it comes to supporting the Church, Scripture invites us to put the Lord to the test (cf. Mal 3:10). Those who do are amazed at what happens.

Generosity involves much more than writing a check–but Maureen and I long ago decided that that’s not a bad place to start. I guess we’re just putting our money where our hearts are.

Pope’s Intentions for August

1 Aug

Pope with childrenFollowing are the Intentions of our Holy Father Pope Francis for the month of August, courtesy of the Apostleship of Prayer:

  • Parents and Teachers. That parents and teachers may help the new generation to grow in upright conscience and life.
  • The Church in Africa. That the local Church in Africa, faithfully proclaiming the Gospel, may promote peace and justice.

    How appropriate it is that we especially remember the educators of our children as the new school year begins later this month!

  • School Choices

    14 Feb

    Catholic schoolsWhen I was growing up in the 1960s and ’70s in the immediate aftermath of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), Catholic education didn’t seem that complicated to me. Like most of the other kids from St. Elizabeth parish, I attended the parochial elementary school for eight years and then went to one of the Catholic high schools in the area.

    Now, as the father of six children, I understand that there’s much more to providing an education for my children than meets the eye. There are now more educational options than ever, and Catholic schools can be very expensive for medium-to-large middle-class families.

    My wife Maureen and I annually survey the horizon to help us prayerfully discover what’s best for each particular child, keeping in mind his or her needs, gifts, and interests, but above all our duty to provide for our children’s formation in the Catholic faith. We’re well aware that many of our own school contemporaries stopped practicing the faith upon graduation, and so we see clearly the need to discern the matter with great care. The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms that parents not only should select a suitable school, but even more “they have the mission of educating their children in the Christian faith.” It seems to me that this “mission” from God should not be taken lightly.

    There are many ways that Catholic parents can fulfill their mission to educate their children in the Christian faith. This brings us to the next document in our survey of the documents of Vatican II: the 1965 Declaration on Christian Education (Gravissimum Educationis, or “GE”).

    Among the various choices, pride of place still belongs to Catholic schools, where the faith is taught in the context of a thoroughly Catholic curriculum and environment. In fact, GE “reminds Catholic parents of the duty of entrusting their children to Catholic schools wherever and whenever it is possible and of supporting these schools to the best of their ability and of cooperating with them for the education of their children” (no. 8).

    In addition, there is now a growing number of “independent” Catholic schools. Many of these schools have arisen in response to perceived deficiencies in the existing Catholic and public schools. They tend to be smaller and more autonomous, giving parents greater control over curriculum and student life.

    Other private schools, including Protestant-run Christian schools, often provide a high-quality education coupled with strong moral formation. The downside, of course, is that the Catholic faith is not taught and in fact the child will likely be challenged early and often regarding his or her distinctively Catholic beliefs. The child will require very strong grounding in the faith at home to flourish in that setting.

    Public schools are always an affordable option, and in some cases they may be the best choice because of the range of special educational services and programs they provide. Given the pervasively secular nature of the public school system, however, parents need to be especially vigilant lest their children end up being formed by the popular culture rather than the Catholic faith.

    Home schooling continues to be the fastest-growing option. In the United States, more than 2 million children are home schooled, and that number is increasing every year. My own family home schooled for many years. No doubt, it can be demanding–especially for larger families. Yet, by seeing our home as a “Catholic school,” we firmly believed that we were singularly embracing our mission as the primary educators of our children as described by Vatican II.

    We must consider all of our options in light of the reality of today’s political and social climate. Societal attacks on marriage and family life filter their way down to individual families in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. If someone today speaks out against perverse lifestyles, he’s vilified and sent away for “sensitivity training.” However, large families are fair game, and derogatory comments about the Catholic faith or one’s family size are commonplace and socially acceptable.

    Further, exercising our right to educate our children as we see fit comes at a significant cost. For example, as a home schooling father, even before buying books and school supplies for my home, I still had to support the public and Catholic school systems through my taxes and tithes. Now with kids in Catholic elementary and secondary schools as well as a Catholic college, I can understand the financial pressures Catholic parents face when it comes to education.

    While assistance from the government in the form of vouchers would be most welcome, parents should also be able to expect assistance and support from the local Church when it comes to our educational choices. It seems to me that a culture of cooperation would be much more constructive than a culture of competition and suspicion. One encouraging example of this cooperation occurs when Catholic schools, taking their lead from the public schools, allow home schooling families to use some of their resources.

    For many reasons, there is a natural tension among proponents of the educational alternatives available to us. The fact is that in choosing what’s best for their particular children, Catholic parents “should enjoy the fullest liberty in their choice of school” (GE 6). The Catechism further affirms the parents’ right to choose a school that corresponds to their own convictions (no. 2229).

    In response to all this, I’d like to offer four principles that have guided my family’s decisions regarding the education of our children, which has led us to home schooling, Catholic schools, public schools, and independent schools at different times. Continue reading

    Catechizing for Conversion

    30 Aug

    I often hear complaints that many Catholics are ignorant of the faith. We rightly critique the various factors that contribute to this phenomenon, from defective catechetical materials to uninspired teaching and a lack of parental support. There seems to be plenty of blame to go around.

    While all of the above may be true, it’s nonetheless fair to say that the problem is not so much a failure of catechesis so much as it’s a lack of evangelization (and thus a lack of faith).

    Catechesis is about helping a person mature in the faith. In other words, it’s about “educating the true disciple of Christ by means of a deeper and more systematic knowledge of the Person and the message of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Pope John Paul II, On Catechesis in Our Time, no. 19). 

    Notice that the Holy Father assumes here a living faith, that the person being catechized is already a disciple. In practice, that’s an assumption we cannot afford to make, especially in today’s culture. The Holy Father admitted as much, and also said that catechesis not only must nourish and teach the faith, but also unceasingly arouse it.

    While all of this is part of  ”evangelization” in a broad sense, arousing one to a personal commitment to Christ is evangelization in the stricter sense, and that’s the sort of evangelization that I think is often lacking, and when it is, catechesis just doesn’t stick. Continue reading

    Primary Education

    2 Jun

    The Church has always taught that the primary end of marriage is the procreation and education of children. This traditional formulation dates back at least as far as St. Isidore of Seville, a seventh-century Doctor of the Church.

    In 1944, the Holy See unequivocally affirmed in response to a formal question (dubium) that the procreation and education of children is the one and only primary end of marriage.

    It is true, nonetheless, that over the past 50 years the Church has used slightly different terminology that gives greater attention to the unitive dimension of marriage. Yet the Church still affirms that marriage “is by its nature ordered toward . . . the procreation and education of offspring” (Catechism, no. 1601). This teaching can be traced to the first command given by God to man: “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:22).

    With regard to the phrase, “the procreation and education of children,” the first part of this formulation gets most of the attention. After all, “procreation” conjures up a host of issues, from contraception and women’s “liberation” to the complementarity of the sexes and the intrinsic value of motherhood. It’s the second part of the formulation–the “education of offspring”–that is sometimes overlooked. What does the Church mean when she says that an objective “end” or purpose of marriage entails the education of offspring? Continue reading