Homily of Bishop Fintan Monahan for RTÉ Radio Mass at the conclusion of Catholic Schools Week

04 Feb 2018

· Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, Ennis, Co Clare, in the Diocese of Killaloe

Catholic Schools Week 2018
During Catholic Schools Week, this week just past, we got an opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the many, many excellent and outstanding things in our Catholic Schools, and Catholic education in general, here in the Diocese of Killaloe and all over the island of Ireland.

Theme for Catholic Schools Week
The theme for this year’s Catholic Schools Week has been; ‘Catholic Schools – A Family of Families’. This encourages to link in with the preparation ahead of the great international World Meeting of Families which will be celebrated this summer in Dublin. The organisers of the week have encouraged reflection on four key moments:
– Celebrating as family through hope
– Celebrating as family through faith
– Celebrating as family through love
– Celebrating as family through joy

The Irish love for, and interest in, education
In Ireland we are fortunate to have been blessed with a love, passion and interest in education. Going back to pagan times, to the time of the Celts, to the Ireland of the ‘Saints and Scholars’ and up to the present day. Irish people have a great interest, a passion and a talent for education. We are noted for bringing this love with us anywhere we go.

Celebrating and acknowledging a great legacy of education
We are so fortunate to have such a good education system and particularly a Catholic education system in Ireland. Much of that is due to the dedication and hard work of many selfless teachers, lay, clerical and religious along with generous communities who built up the school system to be what it is today. We give thanks to them and rejoice in their great work and the on-going great work undertaken by so many in our schools today.

A Visionary for education
300 years ago this year the Venerable Nano Nagle, the foundress of the Presentation Sisters was born. Many religious congregations from around her time and to the present day have contributed so much to Catholic education in our country. In a recent publication on the life of Nano Nagle, a book called A Dream Unfolds she says, “The only way to improve the people’s lives is to give them an education”. How relevant this is today, albeit 300 years later in 2018, as we celebrate the tri-centenary of her birth.

Why has Catholic education worked?
So why has the Catholic education system been so successful and so good? Partly because it is just that – Catholic. Catholic in the true sense of the word, for everyone, open to all and not just for a select group. Catholic education, being true to itself is inclusive, outward looking, anxious and thoroughly excited to share the Good News with all in sundry!

Job – the search beyond
Catholic education takes the wider picture than just the material world and focusing on personal achievements and goals. It explores the adventurous world of matters eternal and the hope of the afterlife to boot. In the first reading today Job is despondent and downcast because the world does not seem to offer him the necessary hope and joy that he seeks. Education with the enlightenment of faith raises us up and gives us that broader vision, a brighter vista to lengthen our horizons and give extra meaning.

Education in the light of today’s Gospel
Catholic education gives hope to a sometimes searching and confused world, a world struggling to find meaning and sense, like the crowd today in Saint Mark’s Gospel. Like the people searching for wellness and healing and meaning in today’s Gospel – Catholic education offers pathways towards an integration of the whole human flourishing. Other more technocratic paradigms of education might emphasise utility but Catholic education explores wellness of body, soul, mind and spirit. In that rich and reflective Gospel today the restlessness deep within us and will not be satiated except by Jesus Christ.

Jesus – a model of self-care
An interesting and relevant little aside in this text is the fact that Jesus took good care of Himself … going away to a quiet, reflective place to take time out to pray and recreate. A good example perhaps for stressed students staring their mock exams this week! Also for teachers, parents, and anyone who might be under strain and tension of whatever kind!

The challenge of today: for teachers, students, parents and for everyone!
Parents, young people and all of us face such challenges in today’s world, and on many fronts. The intense competition for places and courses, the struggle with online bullying, substance abuse, threat of suicide, the pressure to conform in so many ways, the lure of the many pleasures of the world. As has been so tragically realised earlier this week, we are seeing an ever diminishing value placed on human life itself with the proposal to eliminate the right to life for some.

Saint Paul – the duty to proclaim the Good News
As any good teacher would do – Saint Paul gets straight down to business! As Catholics we have a God-given insight into the dignity and beauty of all Creation and especially of humans. We have an obligation to impart this, Saint Paul reminds us. In a school setting SOME understanding of what it is to be human is always being communicated. If it is not informed by the Christianity, it will be informed by something else … The words, “when you believe in nothing, you’ll fall for anything” come to mind. What is offered in a Catholic school is the Good News of the Gospel! In a Catholic school we have the right AND the responsibility to impart the Gospel vision as gift and invitation, not imposition, of course. We do this with joy and delight and a sense of pride and privilege.

Missionaries of Joy!
We started the week reflecting on the family of Church celebrating the Gospel through faith, hope, love and joy. Pope Francis reminds us that joy should be our identity card. As we conclude Catholic Schools Week for this year let us rejoice in joy at the good news of all that our Catholic education system has given us, and please God will continue to provide for many years to come. Amen!


· Bishop Fintan Monahan is Bishop of Killaloe. This homily will be broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1 Extra at 11.00am.

For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678