Today we culminate the celebration of Catholic Schools week. Before I introduce our principal to say a few words, I would like to put this in the context of today’s second reading. St. Paul tells us that a person can be a great motivational speaker, work his fingers to the bone, make great sacrifices (including his very life) but if he does not have love, it does no good. He is nothing
Then St. Paul gives his famous Hymn to Charity. In this poem, which engaged couples often choose for their wedding ceremony, Paul describes love’s qualities: Patient, kind, not jealous, rude or self-seeking, never hot-tempered.
Then he tells us that true love does not come to an end. It never fails. He cannot be referring to the love described in popular songs. That love is an emotion - a strong, irresistible attraction. That kind of love does not last very long – as Hollywood stars have dramatically demonstrated. Emotions change. But love is not an emotion. Love is a decision.
Now, emotions are obviously important. We float on a sea of emotions - like small boats which the waves and tides can toss here and there. For that reason we should do all in our power to cultivate emotions which help us do the right thing. Yet - thanks be to God - love itself is not an emotion. Love is a decision.
Someone who articulated this was the great civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King. He dreamt of the day when people would judge others not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Character is the ability to make a decision and carry through, to fulfill ones promise.* Love requires character. It is a decision.
This brings us to the topic of Catholic education. Whether it happens in he home (far and away the most important place), religious education class, here at Sunday Mass or in our parochial school, the goal is the same - formation in character or moral values.
Studies show that we are doing a good job in realizing that goal. Graduates of Catholic schools not only excel academically and professionally, but - what is most important - in service to others. In a disproportionate degree, they enter helping fields like medicine, education and public service. We saw that in a poignant way nine years ago. Most of us remember the Pang Warehouse fire which took the lives of four young men. It turned out that all four of the firemen were Catholics, one of them, Randy Terlicker, a graduate of Holy Family School. That the four firemen killed were Catholics seemed a remarkable coincidence, but it was not so surprising. Something similar happened in New York. No one noticed at first, but when they started doing the funerals of fire fighters after the September 11 attack, most took place in Catholic parishes. You see a higher percentage of Catholics in many helping professions.
Catholic schools are effective. Certainly, we could do better in many areas, but overall they deserve our support. This week I have three handouts. One is the Northwest Progess which has a special issue on Catholic Schools. Second, a three-page statement by our Washington State bishops. It is titled Educational Excellence, A Matter of Choice. Our bishops are promoting a system of school vouchers which other states have adopted. It would involve returning to parents a part of their taxes so they could have a real choice in where to send their children to school. It is a matter of simple justice. Take Holy Family School for example. Last year we saved the taxpayers almost two million dollars. (The Seattle Schools cost about $8,000 per pupil and we have 240 in our school.) We receive only a very small support through the Title One program. We are not asking for a direct subsidy, but that our parents would receive a voucher which they could use to make their own choice. As the bishops argue, it would improve education overall.
Third, you will see a flier titled Champions of Catholic Education. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, we need some people who can "adopt a child" at our school. This will enable families with more limited resources be able to send their child to our school. Not all of our grades are full. It costs us very little more to have thirty students in a grade than twenty. I would like to see all our grades full, pre-K through 8.
We have a great school with a dedicated faculty - most have been teaching at Holy Family for a number of years. And we have a great principal. He is a strong family man, dedicated to Catholic education. Please warmly welcome Mr. Stephen Morissette.
From Archives (Homilies for Fourth Sunday, Year C):
Bulletin (Catholic School, Tuition Rates, Matter of Choice)
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Books I recommend: Theology for Beginners, Salt of the Earth and Making Senses Out of Scripture
“A society which does not privilege and protect the family is a society that it doomed. The result of gay marriage will not be gay marriage.”
College Students Help Close Abortion Clinic
Samwise Goes to Olympia (2004 March for Life)