Making Catholic Identity a Priority in Catholic Education

School chairsWhat a novel idea. Educators and schools making Catholic institutions unmistakably Catholic in their identity. When I visited Bishop Gorman Catholic High School in Las Vegas last year to speak to their faculty on evangelizing youth in Catholic school, it was refreshing to connect with a principal and administration with their goals properly prioritized. It inspired me to continue to speak and write on the topic, because I am passionate about seeing more of our Catholic schools follow suit. My husband and I have become increasingly interested in homeschooling over the years (the actual decision is still in the future, with our son being only eight months old), due in part to Catholic schools losing their Catholic identity and our desire for our children to have Catholicism imbue all of their educational pursuits. I could go on about this ad nauseam, but here is a recent article of mine in the National Catholic Register on Prioritizing Catholic Identity in Education: What Schools are Doing Right.

Look at Me

I sat there in the quiet chapel, feeling exceptionally grateful for my seven-month-old son’s spontaneous nap, which gave me the chance to savor a few minutes with Jesus in adoration. Still, prayerful moments like these before the Lord in the Eucharist seemed so fleeting lately that I was almost too giddy to buckle down and pray. I nestled into the folding chair at the back of the chapel, resting against its minimal padding to help support the weight of the sleeping baby in my arms. I closed my eyes and started to pray.

I wasn’t keeping track of how many minutes had gone by when I heard a clear, soft voice speaking in my heart: “Look at me.”

Instantly, I became acutely aware of the fact that in all the time I had been sitting with Jesus in the chapel, I hadn’t once stopped to gaze at Him in the Monstrance before me on the altar. I looked up. My soul flooded with an inexpressible feeling—like a perfect combination of love, peace, recognition, understanding, and hope—something like that. All it took was a look, “that look” which is described so beautifully in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

…”I look at him and he looks at me”: this is what a certain peasant of Ars in the time of his holy curé used to say while praying before the tabernacle. This focus on Jesus is a renunciation of self. His gaze purifies our heart; the light of the countenance of Jesus illumines the eyes of our heart and teaches us to see everything in the light of his truth and his compassion for all men… (2715).

After that moment, I couldn’t help but think of how easy it is to forget to look at Jesus. Sometimes we get so busy, whether with our work or the care of our family or even our prayer (all good things!), that we forget to take time to just fix our gaze on Jesus, even if for a moment.

Imagine passing a family member in the hallway of your home and failing to give them even a passing glance. Wouldn’t that be strange? But isn’t that what we do to the images of Jesus in our home? We get used to that picture of Jesus hanging in that special spot on the wall or the crucifix suspended in that particular corner of the room, and we frequently pass it by without a look. When we look at something or someone, it causes us to think about that thing or person. Of course, Jesus is not present in those holy objects like He is in the Monstrance or the Tabernacle, but aren’t those items in our homes to remind us of Him, to remind us to look at Him, to think of Him?

I think Jesus longs for us to take brief (and not-so-brief, more contemplative) moments of our day to stop and gaze on Him, whether that be in His True Presence in the Eucharist, or in pictures and statues and crosses in our homes, or in an image we hold of Him when we close our eyes. And I don’t think He longs for this for purely His own loving sake. When “I look at Him and He looks at me,” I am changed, instantly. “His gaze purifies [my] heart” and I am reminded, for one special, lasting moment, that I am deeply, indescribably loved.

Originally posted at IntegratedCatholicLife.org.