Feast day

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have Mercy on us. Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.

 

A Celebration of Legacy, Hope for the Future

Catholic Schools Week is a time to celebrate the blessings of Catholic education. Along with the academic excellence that Philly Catholic schools provide, the affordability of the private education provided in the archdiocese of Philadelphia is another reason for prospective parents to take a look at how Holy Cross could be a good fit. With numerous financial aid options and scholarships, we believe that every student’s presence in the classroom is an investment not only in their own future but that of every person who will come in contact with them.

 

  1. A Cause for Celebration

 

According to greatphillyschols.org, one in 10 Philadelphia students attends a Catholic school. Philadelphia public schools have an estimated 121,000 students in 2023 and a student to teacher ratio of 16 to 1. On average, Philadelphia Catholic schools ratio varies between 4:1 and 13:1.

 

Philadelphia has three Catholic schools devoted to special education. This is a tremendous blessing, especially if we consider that many Catholic dioceses and archdioceses around the country don’t even have one!

 

In addition to the high quality education provided by Archdiocese of Philadelphia schools, our school offers various financial aid opportunities. Check out the financial aid options available through Philly Catholic schools!

 

2 Hope for the Future in the Midst of Challenge

 

Graduates of Catholic schools in the Philadelphia area are serious about higher education. $449 Million in college scholarship money was earned by the 2022 class of all 15 Catholic high schools in the archdiocese of Philadelphia. This is an impressive metric of how Catholic education prepares students to aim towards the future and to be a positive impact in the world.

 

What about the challenges? The challenge facing Catholic education is not economical, it’s not finding ways to run enough fundraising drives.

 

The central challenge which every Catholic school must face in today’s society is the exploding ferocity of, to use Pope Benedict XVI’s words, the “dictatorship of relativism”, of the pernicious ideologies which dominate today’s world, cutting at the roots of Divine Revelation: the nature of man and woman, of an alluring and empty promise of boundless license to be free of every moral ‘inhibition’ and ‘constraint’. This promise is nothing but poison sugarcoated in that primordial lie first made in Eden by Satan: “You will be like gods” (Gn 3:5) by turning against God.

 

Therefore, the challenge facing every Catholic school is the same it has always been: to proclaim the truth of Christ who – contrary to the lie of the devil – has already made it possible, not to “be like god”, but to be one with God (Jn 17:21), to receive the same divine nature of Christ by the maturation of the baptismal grace we have received.

 

There is, however, something utterly unique and unprecedented about our current situation in 2023: the need for Catholic education has never been more urgently necessary for children and young adults.

 

Our children have a right to the truth, they have a right to know the dignity and beauty of their vocation to be a boy or girl, a man or woman. Every child has the right to be defended and protected by their parents and educators from the multi-billion dollar industry of media influence which is broadcasting anti-Christian ideologies and dogmas at a level of invasiveness unprecedented in human history.

 

At Holy Cross, we are committed to defending these rights. Despite the immense challenge we face as a Catholic school in today’s world, we are filled with hope by the words of Christ: “I am with you always; Yes, to the end of time” (Mt 28:20). We are filled with hope for the future by each one of our students. They are our mission. And we are profoundly humbled and honored to be able to say that.

 

Happy Catholic Schools Week!

 

Christmas and 2023 : A New Beginning

Christmas is here: a time of hope and joy as we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus born in Bethlehem. After teachers and students take a well-deserved break to rest, have fun and enjoy the company of family, school will resume in a new year.

With 2023 fast approaching, it would be worthwhile to look at a few things Catholic high schools and elementary schools in Philadelphia have to be grateful for and why there’s every reason to be hopeful in pursuing a Catholic education for your child.

1. Christ-centered classrooms
We can’t have Catholic schools without Christ. After many students have had the joy of singing carols and hymns in their recent Christmas concerts across the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the centrality of the presence of Jesus has been celebrated and lived. Private education has the great benefit of offering our classrooms with the religious freedom necessary to bring Christ to our students and, through them, to our world.

2. Academic Excellence
A Peoria Magazine article found that “Catholic school students consistently score higher on advanced achievement tests, and by eighth grade, they outscore their public school counterparts in mathematics by a full 13 points.” This is one example of many which underline how a Catholic secondary education is continually being proven to give students an high quality academic edge over their peers who haven’t had the benefit of private education. What is the reason for this academic edge? I believe the answer is, to a large extent, to point #3.

3. Strong Moral Values
Great grades are nice but every parent, I’m sure, would certainly rank a strong moral character as a higher priority. After all, education is about forming youth not about churning out test scores.
The commitment to instilling moral values lies at the cornerstone of any Catholic education. This mission is what brings our teacher to work every day and is what continues to solidify the position Catholic schools hold in the eyes of parents. The same article mentioned earlier cites a study from the University of Pennsylvania which found that “success is not the number-one priority for most parents. We’re much more concerned about our children becoming kind, compassionate and helpful.”

As any working adult can attest, a person’s GPA in high school is not what bosses are looking for: bosses look the person in front of them, their communication skills, their character, how they treat others around them. And with good reason! At each and every Catholic school in Philadelphia we are happy to know that the moral values our students are receiving are preparing them for whatever the future has in store.

We give thanks in this Christmas season for these and so many more reasons. We give thanks for our heroic and committed educators who have made it their life’s mission to prepare future generations to be Christ-filled men and women. We give thanks to our dedicated parent volunteers who so generously give of their time, talent and treasure to make Holy Cross one of the leading private schools in the Philadelphia area.

A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and your families!

Catholic Schools on the Rise

Catholic education around the country is making a major comeback.

While public schools have been struggling to bounce back from over a year of virtual learning, Catholic schools have been gaining territory. An article in America magazine connects a 3.8% increase in enrollment in 2021-22 with the commitment to in-person learning. This uptick breaks a 20-year skid in enrollment and is a possible indicator of widespread resurgence in private education.
This enrollment increase points to a significant trend and could point to a shift in how private education is being perceived across the nation. We certainly know that there are various reasons for choosing to send one’s children to private, christian schools: faith, educational excellence, commitment to smaller classrooms and to an in-person approach to learning.

But why has this increase in Catholic enrollment happened? Is it a shift towards private elementary schools or a shift away from the public education system?

The Costs of Public Education
The 2020 Census found that school attendance for all schools was just over 73 million, 48 million of which were in public schools (K-12th grade). In 2019-2020, the average cost to send one student to public school was $13,494. The following year (that is last school year) that number was $15,205.

The Cost Benefit of Private Education
According to the Private School Review, the average cost to send a student to private school in that same year was $11,645, almost $4,000 less than public schools. In fact, private elementary and middle schools is less expensive on average than public school in 42 states. Without wanting to over-generalize, it seems that we can add sheer cost as another reason to choose private education.

Decline in Public School Enrollment
Public school and charter school enrollment is still down 1.3 million than when the pandemic began. This is a staggering statistic. With population growth factored in, the fact that enrollment has decreased in raw numbers means that the impact is far greater when taken as a percentage.

The Search for Public School alternatives
One study shows that, on the other hand, private school enrollment increased 53% during COVID. This is an even more staggering statistic. Whatever the reasons for choosing Catholic elementary schools – and there are several – the educational landscape is trending across the nation towards choosing faith-filled, student-first classrooms.

If you are considering making the move to a private education in Philadelphia – or know someone else who is – please consider Holy Cross as a possible option. The average classroom size and the student-first mentality at Holy Cross puts us in line with the countless other Catholic schools in the Philadelphia area that are continuing to flourish and grow.

All Hallows’ Eve: Why It’s a Celebration

Americans aren’t used to thinking of Halloween as a religious holiday. With all the horror movies, the skulls and gory figurines on peoples’ lawns and the – well, spookiness – the Catholic roots of Halloween now generally lie six feet under people’s minds. This is precisely why it’s time to dig up these roots.

As many know, Halloween (or Hallowe’en) is a shortened version of “All Hallows’ Eve”. As such, it is the vigil or “eve” of the Solemnity of All Saints Day (or Feast of All Hallows) on November 1. As we say “hallowed be Thy name”, this word is familiar as meaning “holy” (which is what “saint” means). How did Halloween become so eradicated from this origin in popular culture? More importantly: how can the authentic meaning of the vigil of All Saints be regained?

The Most Rev. David Konderla, Bishop of Tulsa, recently wrote a Memorandum on the Celebration of Halloween, in which he says:

“As the annual celebration of Halloween approaches, we are reminded of the importance of maintaining the Catholic meaning and purpose of all holy days, especially those which have been adopted and adapted by the culture around us. Over time, popular culture has made it difficult to discern the authentic spirit of this great feast, an important time when we, God’s pilgrim church on earth, rejoice in the lives of all God’s saints whom we wish to follow into eternal life.”

 

In an enlightening and informative article, Dr. Marcel Antonio Brown spells out two steps towards this goal:

“If Catholics are to reclaim the authentic meaning of Halloween for all ages by making a genuine religious observance on All Hallows Eve, the first step must be to recognize and reject the secularization of the feast, the second step to think creatively about ways in which to recover the evening’s authentic devotional festivity.”

 

Step 1: Recognizing and Rejecting

This step doesn’t need to imply not having fun or not enjoying the evening of October 31. Quite the contrary! After all, if sainthood – holiness! – is the goal of each Catholic and to be holy means to be joyful, why shouldn’t the Solemnity of All Saints be enjoyable – and fun?

Brown points out that the very inspiration for placing All Saints on November 1 – and its vigil on October 31 – was born of the desire to teach and educate the non-Christians or those who had received insufficient catechetical instruction. He says:

“In order to turn the attention of the faithful towards God and away from divination, astrology, clairvoyance, magic, sorcery, occult powers, and spiritism (see Exodus 20:1-3, Deuteronomy 5:6-7, and CCC 2115-17), the Church situated the Solemnity of All Saints in a manner which would turn the evil of pagan culture to some good. No longer would the evening be devoted to “all witches” or “all evil ones”; instead October 31 would be dedicated to All Saints.”

 

In this context, the symbolism of death – and other spooky figures – takes on a meaning only in relation to Christ’s Resurrection:

“Props such as scythes and skulls have historically recalled our mortality and Christ’s victory over death. For example, a fresco by Giusto de Menabuoi in the Baptistery in Padua depicts our Lord as the prototype of the Reaper, as “one who looked like a son of man, with a gold crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand” (Revelation 14:14). Halloween’s visibly grim reminders of mortality therefore ought to elicit our devout attentiveness to the last things—death, judgment, heaven, and hell (CCC 1020-65)—while at the same time reminding us of Christ’s ultimate dominion over all.”

 

Bishop Konderla marks out the dangers that come about when these symbols are misunderstood:

“Separated from Catholic teaching, grim or ghoulish or “Gothic” costumes can furthermore be mistaken as a celebration or veneration of evil or of death itself, contradicting the full and authentic meaning of Halloween”.

 

Step 2: Thinking Creatively

So how can this “authentic meaning” be lived and celebrated in a way that is both meaningful and enjoyable, fun and educational? One big way is to use the saints as role models, as superheroes of faith that – unlike Superman and Batman – we can actually really imitate! What is more, the saints who are alive and reigning with Christ in Heaven are actively pleading for us before God and can be powerful protectors and lifelong friends. So one key step towards recovering the Catholic sense of Halloween is to imitate the saints. Brown says:

“By imitating the saints, Christians young and old make discipleship their own in a special way, following the exhortation of St. Paul who adjures the Corinthians, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). St. Basil the Great extends this logic to the lawful veneration of images, writing, “the honor rendered to an image passes to its prototype,” to which he adds, “whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it” (CCC 2132). Proper veneration of the saints naturally leads to adoration of the Lamb who was slain (Revelation 5:12), whom all the saints adore (Revelation 7) and whom the 144,000 virgins joyously follow wherever he goes (Revelation 14). By imitating their witness, true devotion to the saints leads us sinners back to Christ.”

 

 

Does this mean that kids shouldn’t dress up? Certainly not! Bishop Konderla says that “The custom of dressing up for Halloween is devotional in spirit. By dressing up as the saints whom we most admire, we imagine ourselves following their example of Christian discipleship.”

Perhaps children could dress up as their patron saint or a saint that they would like to learn more about. The tradition of giving and receiving candy and other goodies can easily be linked back to Christ who is God’s gift to us, as well as the Holy Spirit who is the gift that Jesus sent to his Church.

 

Conclusion

 

Brown sums up:

 

“Halloween, an essentially Paschal holy day, represents an unsurpassed opportunity for the lay faithful to express devotion to God through the veneration of all his saints. The good to be done is evident, as is the evil to be avoided. The saints are to be glorified, Christ’s victory over sin and death recalled. Anything which detracts from the glory of God and his saints is to be avoided.”

 

All of these reflections ultimately lead to a reflection on the Catholic understanding of death and life, which is only ultimately understood in the context of Eternal Life:

“Death glorified, death apart from its subjection to the Paschal Mystery, death apart from Christ’s victory over death, is not death properly considered from a Christian standpoint. Christ has conquered death, as has been prophesied and fulfilled, “Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55; cf. Hosea 13:14). By his passion, death, and resurrection, by his Paschal Mystery, Christ’s victory over sin and its wages, death (Romans 6:23), has made available to us some share in “the lot of the saints in light” (Colossians 1:12).

 

With all these thoughts in mind, I wish a Happy Halloween and Happy All Saints Day to you all.

 

Sources

No Learning Loss in Catholic Schools

Schools across the nation reported that students fell behind due to distance learning during the COVID pandemic.

 

Not so with Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

 

Students enrolled in the Catholic grade schools operated by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia advanced in grade-level learning during the COVID19 pandemic.

 

A recent NPR story noted that “students learned less when they were remote.”  This, of course, comes as no surprise. NPR notes that many public-school systems were caught unprepared. Teachers were not trained to manage remote learning.  School districts did not have available technology to support online learning.

 

“‘Even students who spent the least amount of time learning remotely during the 2020-2021 year-just a month or less-missed the equivalent of seven to ten weeks of learning,’ says Thomas Kane of the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University.”

 

Conversely, students enrolled in a Catholic grade school operated by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia demonstrated “at least a full year’s growth.  At one level, in mathematics, there was more than a year’s growth.”  This data comes from a report commissioned by the Office for Catholic Education (OCE) working with the Data Recognition Corporation who analyzed Terra Nova scores which demonstrated the growth and advancement achieved by Catholic school students.

 

Bottom line:  Catholic schools stayed open, and kids kept learning!  Today, Catholic school students are ahead of their public-school peers thanks to the incredible job done by schoolteachers and administrators.

 

How They Did It

When the COVID19 pandemic forced schools to close on 15 March, 2020, the Catholic grade schools of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia immediately pivoted to distance learning.  OCE teachers and administrators had taken advantage of state-funded programs aimed at training teachers to implement distance learning for short periods of time (ie weather events).  With this foundation, Catholic schoolteachers were better prepared than their public-school colleagues. Many districts did not take advantage of the state training programs.  But Catholic school teachers had been developing plans for remote learning and were able to immediately shift to a longer-term distance learning model to finish out the 2019-2020 school year.

 

During the summer of 2020, while public school districts doubled down on keeping their doors closed, Catholic school teachers were meeting and planning how to open for the 2020-2021 school year.  The Catholic Schools Onward (CSO) taskforce coalesced educational experts, healthcare professionals, teachers, and administrators to develop a plan to safely open schools for in person instruction.

Examining Profits

It worked.

 

The Data Recognition Corporation’s analysis showed how Catholic school students in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia were able to advance with grade level learning during the pandemic while so many public-school students fell behind.

 

Moreover, the health and safety procedures developed by the CSO taskforce kept the spread of COVID to a minimum.  In most cases Catholic schools had fewer cases compared to the community at large.  This was achieved through a robust and innovative set of initiatives including cohorting, social distancing and health screenings.

 

In addition to the incredible leadership demonstrated by the Office for Catholic Education, parents showed courage and commitment throughout the pandemic.  Catholic schools believe that education is a partnership between parents and teachers. This was never more apparent in 2020 and 2021 when parents worked with schools to ensure in person learning was successful.  We cannot thank our parents enough.

 

The Word is Out

Parents are making the choice to enroll their students in their local Catholic grade school.  Clearly, the commitment to learning and the foundation in the Catholic faith are attracting parents. Catholic school enrollment has increased for the 2nd year in a row.  This is the first time in decades where school enrollment has increased.

 

Holy Cross is one of over 100 Catholic grade schools operated by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  We offer a dynamic curriculum for students in Pre-K through 8th grade.  During the pandemic, we kept our students on track, in school and safe.  We are dedicated to protecting the wholesomeness of childhood while we offer a world-class education to our students.

 

 

 

 

Mary, Our Guide in the Classroom

Since October is the month of the rosary, it may be helpful to reflect on what this powerful prayer means for us and our families. How can the rosary help us grow in our relationship with our Blessed Mother? How can devotion to Mary help form students in and out of the classroom? Three themes come to mind: meditation, service and love.

 

Meditation

 

St. John Paul II said of Mary’s constant meditation of the Word made flesh: “The meditation of Mary constitutes the prime model of the prayer of the Rosary. It is the prayer of those who hold the angel’s greeting to Mary dear. Persons who recite the Rosary take up Mary’s meditation in their thoughts and hearts and as they recite the prayer they wonder “what his greeting meant””. Mary’s meditation is a humble search for the meaning of God’s word, of God’s reality, of the mystery of God’s presence. In order to do this Mary was constantly “listening” in an active way to every event that God was “saying” through the facts of her history. After the visit of the shepherds in Bethlehem, Mary “treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Lk 2:19). The verb used here for “pondered” literally means “to place together” or “to confront”. There are thus two realities in front of Mary that are difficult – or seemingly impossible – to reconcile: the abject precariousness of Jesus’ birth and the excelling greatness of the words of the angels which the shepherds have conveyed.

After having found Jesus in the Temple, Luke writes “His mother stored up all these things in heart” (Lk 2:51). The heart of Mary is the “treasury” of the powerful acts of God, her “hard drive” in which was stored in her memory the interventions that God had done for her. And not only for her alone but for all of the human race.

 

Service

 

When the angel Gabriel brought Mary the news that she would miraculously be a mother – without the aid of a man – not only of a son but of the Messiah (the ‘Son of God’), Mary realized that her life would no longer be her own; in fact, she knew – as Joseph would soon realize (Mt 1:19) – that her own life would be in danger. But rather than focus on these frightening and traumatic possibilities, Mary was convinced of one thing: that her mission, her vocation came from God. By opening herself and abandoning herself to God’s will, as Simeon prophesied, Mary knew that “a sword will pierce your own soul” (Lk 2:35a). But this “piercing” had a purpose, as Simeon continued: “so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare” (Lk 2:35b). Before pronouncing these troubling words, however, Simeon first prophesied the Resurrection when he said that “[this child] is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel” (Lk 2:34). The word used here for “rising” is that used for “resurrection”. Although Mary couldn’t know what this would mean, she trusted that it was something wonderful. Why? Because it came from God! Jesus would say “The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me” (Jn 10:27).

 

Mary is the truest and most humble “sheep” of Christ: she followed the voice of God through her trust even though she did not understand the what this voice was saying. As children, we first came in contact with the voice of our parents before we were ever able to understand what they were saying. With God, before we ever can understand the meaning of our vocation in life, like Mary we must first trust the voice of God. This Voice “spoke” to Mary through the events of her history. She said: “God is speaking here; I will listen!” not “I understand what God is saying; therefore, I will do it”. Mary’s complete trust in God is what makes it possible for Mary to follow Christ (Jn 10:27).

To instill and foster this trust in God is the prime goal of Catholic Education.

 

Love

 

Shakespeare wrote “love is not love which alters when it alteration finds” (Sonnet 116: 2-3). This true and unfailing love is to be found in Mary. She found many “alterations” from her own plan for her life and Jesus’ life and found “alterations” everywhere she looked at the foot of the Cross: In the very same city where Jesus was acclaimed as king only one week ago, Jesus was being crucified. All of his apostles – except John – had fled for fear. But Mary stood near the cross of Jesus (Jn 19:25). As Jesus received his precious wounds by which “we are healed” (Is 53:5) – “like a sheep that is dumb before its shearers” (Is 53:7) – Mary’s soul was pierced by the “sword” (Lk 2:35). Mary’s love was a co-suffering with her Beloved, with Christ. Like the Passion of Christ, Mary’s Passion was also life-giving: just as she became the Mother of Christ at Bethlehem, she now becomes the Mother of the Church at the foot of the Cross (Jun 19:26).

 

This love is the source from which the classrooms of Holy Cross draws its inspiration. Mary is not an image, an ideal, an example: she is a living person, she is our Queen, she is the spiritual Mother of all students and teachers at our school. She is our true teacher. And she was able to be a teacher because she was a “sheep”, a humble child before God. Through her meditation, service and love, she is the model of what it means to be a Holy Cross Crusader. Mary, Seat of Wisdom, pray for us!

The Archangels: Models of Catholic Educators

With the upcoming feast of the archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, it can be helpful to reflect on what they mean for us as Catholics today and what they can mean for a Catholic education. Angel means messenger, so an archangel is an angel that has an especially important message to bring. Why are important for us today and how can they help in the classroom?

First of all, there are many messages bombarding today’s youth, in social media, Netflix, the internet. We live in an age of instant messaging. This has had unprecedented effects on communication: what once took work and effort to produce, even if it was a handwritten letter, now takes a few movements of the fingers and seconds to produce. The benefit of these messages of course, doesn’t depend on the media use but on the one speaking and listening. What communicative media have brought about is a significant reduction in barriers to producing messages.

 

  • Michael

What does this have to do with the messengers we call angels? As pure spirits, angels have no barriers in communicating; no email can say that! The problem is that not all spirits are good. This is why the Church looks to Michael (Rev 12:7) as the one who led the angels to fight against “the Great Dragon”, that is Satan, once called Lucifer, the most splendid of all the angels before his revolt against God. Michael has always been a powerful advocate against the devil’s work. In a vision of the work of devils in the world, Pope Leo XIII was inspired to compose the prayer to Saint Michael that would then become one of the most common Catholic prayers since then, commonly said at the end of mass as we go forth into battle. How can a devotion to St Michael help Catholic education? As we all know, education isn’t just receiving information, it’s a battle and a competition. It involves a certain amount of pain and suffering, of effort, a foregoing of what might be easiest and most enjoyable in the pursuit of a higher goal. Thus, the enemy and opponent of authentic Catholic education is the devil, who seeks to snare the souls of youth, especially since they are our future. I don’t write all this to scare but to be realistic and true. St Michael, from this perspective, can effectively be a real help and guide for Catholic youth and not only an image on walls or an ideal.

  • Raphael

What about St. Raphael? His name means “healing (or medicine) of God”, as shown in the book of Tobit. In this story, Raphael heals an old man (Tobit) of blindness and a young girl (Sarah) from the oppression of the demon Asmodeus. In the case of Tobit, Raphael heals him through the liver of a fish, a symbol of Christ, caught by his son Tobias. Raphael heals Sarah through expelling Asmodeus, who had been impeding her from entering into marriage. Thus, the archangel Raphael made it possible for Sarah to marry Tobias by ridding her of the devil (and shackling him up in Egypt; Tb 8:3).

Raphael didn’t act of his own accord however. He helped and guided Tobias along the way but it was Tobias who needed to catch the fish and follow Raphael’s instructions about how to use the fish properly. Thus, God’s healing includes obedience and instruction; he doesn’t use Angels like magic tricks. Nonetheless, without God’s help, without God’s healing we have no hope of salvation. That’s why Raphael can be such a powerful presence in our life, this word of God in the Book of Tobit can become our own experience through obedience to the messengers that God sends us in our life. In this way, every Catholic educator is called to be an “angel” for his or her students, to show the way to Christ, who is the true healer and doctor of each and every affliction of the soul.

 

  • GabrielWe remember Gabriel from the Annunciation made to Mary (Lk 1:26-38). He’s the one who gets to bring the joyful news that God wants to enter into the human race through becoming a human baby and to save mankind from their sins. He brings good news to Mary, that is a gospel (literally meaning “good news”), through this dialogue. Through Mary’s humble submission to God’s marvelous and mysterious plan, Jesus was able to enter the world. This is truly a powerful event in the life of every Catholic: first, the dialogue with the angel and secondly, the acceptance of that word.

 

It makes the world of difference who we have conversations with. Let us keep in mind that in the garden of Eden, sin entered the world also through a dialogue with another angel, the messenger of evil (Gn 3:1-7). We need God’s help and the guidance of the Church to know which messages come from God and which do not. And this is not always easy to do.

 

Fortunately, at Holy Cross, the Catholic environment of the curriculum and teaching staff helps to form students into making this distinction, in being able to recognize God’s voice and through fostering virtue to be able to respond to it. With the help, healing and intercession which the archangels bring us, all students at Holy Cross can come closer to Christ. And that, after all, is the true and final goal of Catholic education.

The Holy Family: The Model of a Catholic School

If education begins at home, this means that parents are the first, primary and fundamental educators of their children. If this is the case, we should take Mary and Joseph as our models of mother, father and teacher. Mary and Joseph were able to be parents of Jesus because they were first and foremost children themselves, they were able to be teachers because they were students. In the mouth of Saint Bernard, Dante in his beautiful hymn in the Divine comedy calls Mary “daughter of your son”, normally and naturally a contradiction but in Mary miraculously realized through the mystery of the incarnation. If it’s a mystery to us, imagine what it must have been for her! Mary is our model because she kept all of these mysteries throughout her life in her heart and pondered them, contemplating the marvels of God and being an obedient servant to God’s wisdom which far surpassed anything she could comprehend by her human faculties.

 

This act of obedience is what would give her authority as mother. The same goes for Joseph. We don’t have a single record of any word he said in the gospels. Yet, he would be the father of the Redeemer and would teach and instruct him in the faith by his life, not his words – or not merely his words. This is because what he said would be in perfect consonance with his example. Joseph is a model of listening. God reveals his plans at the outset of the holy family’s mission to Joseph, not to Mary. Without Joseph’s listening ear and obedient and prompt action to the words of God, Jesus would be lost to the murderous advances of Herod’s army. How important it is to listen! Joseph’s listening takes place because of his personal relationship with God, which is prayer. Since Joseph is in communication with God, he can obey him  (obedience literally means “to listen from below”). We don’t communicate with those we don’t respect and without mutual respect there can be any learning.

It is evidently true that the influx of information, of various voices through various media, in our modern society has greatly impeded and inhibited the faculty of listening and obeying. How sorely needed are these actions and faculties today! As in every Catholic school, Holy Cross presents each student with the model of Mary as a model of listening, obedience and virtue. She shows us what obedience looks like, not blind acceptance against our will but, on the contrary, the opening up of our hearts and minds to God. Obedience is an action that has so greatly been derided in our culture that we don’t hear speak of it anymore. At Holy Cross, by putting a relationship with God at the center of the curriculum, both students and teachers learn from each other because, with Mary as model both as educator and student, mutual respect is fostered between everyone in the classroom. Mary, Mother of the Savior, pray for us!

 

How the Saints can Help with School

The start of a new school year is always the time of transition, forming new habits of school work and, normally, moving away from or altering summer habits. This certainly goes for both students and parents. Whether you’re a parent or student – or both -forming habits, by their very nature, is not easy. How can the saints help us in this regard and how can their help be transmitted to us?

 

  • John Henry Newman and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Here’s a snapshot of two Saints who devoted their lives to education: Saint Teresa Benedicta of the cross Edith Stein and St John Henry Newman. Edith Stein worked tirelessly as an educator, especially of young women. She stressed that education goes far beyond the subject matter: it’s about forming persons, forming men and women. In this way it is clear that education always needs to focus on the spiritual elements of the person, not only the material or social elements.

 

Both Saints tirelessly spent their energy for the good of transmitting the faith to the next generation and forming the hearts, mines, and souls of young people. It’s interesting to know that both Saints converted to Catholicism in their adult years, Newman from the Anglican Church – already a prelate – and Stein from Judaism. Heroes don’t just have great powers and do amazing things: they inspire, they change people’s lives by their example. Saints are heroes of the faith.

  • The Saints and School

One big advantage of Catholic education, in addition to academic excellence and being committed to opening children’s mind to truth, is that Catholic schools but the lives and examples of the Saints front and center in the classroom. Big or small, there’s always a saint that you can relate to, a saint whose Life experiences are very close to our own. At Holy Cross, children are put in contact with the lives of the Saints on a regular basis and is an integral part of the school’s approach to Catholic education. Whether it’s a patron saint of a kid’s dream job or one of the numerous stories of young Saints, there’s inspiration just waiting to happen for everyone. There are so many conflicting role models out there today, so many different ways of living or ideals that we are told we should aspire to. At Holy Cross, students are given the very best: lives of exemplary virtue in the face of real life struggles and the Holiness of lives lived for the love of God and neighbor.