I am conscious that the last two years battling with Covid-19 have been extremely challenging for our school communities. However, they have valiantly risen to the challenge and have continued, in sometimes terribly difficult circumstances, to impart the gift of education to our children. We owe all those involved an enormous debt of gratitude. Although the recent announcement of a significant lifting of restrictions brings some hope – the struggle goes on and challenges remain.
I recognise that amid it all, it may be difficult to find the space to pause and the energy to reflect. Nonetheless, in the belief that it is indeed important, I invite Catholic Schools throughout the Diocese of Clonfert to devote some time to marking Catholic Schools Week 2022 and to pause to reflect on what it truly means to be a Catholic School.
Recently, I have been reflecting on Catholic Education. My mind has been drawn to the story of the Three Wise Men (Matthew 2). Traditionally they have been named Kasper, Melchior and Balthasar. They were the last to arrive in Bethlehem. Some have called them wise men. By all accounts, they were not content with living life on the surface. They preferred instead to dive deeper and seek out the true meaning of life and the secret to living well. In the process, they turned to their God-given ability to think and reason. They examined the world about them and in particular the movements of the stars and the planets. They also turned to their religious tradition and the wisdom contained therein – pondering over the religious writings of generations before them.
In a sense, the three wise men embody one of the great principles of Catholic Faith – a belief in the ability of reason and faith – science and religion to uncover the path to a life lived to the full (John 10:10). I meet some people who say to me that we should just believe and others who want to abandon belief to trust in science alone. I find myself replying: “why do we have to choose between one and the other?” If science and religion are pursued in honesty –both can truly enlighten each other and lead us on the path to understanding life and our world in its entirety.
It is this belief in the harmony between faith and reason, science and religion that stands at the heart of the Catholic vision of education and at the heart of a Catholic School. The quest for knowledge of all things and the enlightenment brought about by faith in God and in particular by Christian wisdom is what Catholic Education and Catholic Schools are all about. Both go hand in hand equipping future generations, in the words of the theme for this year’s Catholic Schools Week, to “live life to the full”(John 10:10).
I take this opportunity to thank our Boards of Management, Principals, Teachers, School, Staff, Pupils, Parents, Parents Associations, our Priests, the members of our Diocesan Education Secretariat – and all those who are involved in the noble vocation that is Catholic Education throughout our Diocese.
Let me end, with the words of Saint John Paul II: “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.” (Fides et Ratio, 1998) I pray that our Catholic Schools may become places where faith and reason work hand in hand to lead new generations to a life lived to the full (John 10:10) and that all involved may find a renewed confidence in the importance of this unique mission in contemporary Irish life. Amen.
Bishop of Clonfert
Catholic Schools Week runs from 23rd January to 30th January 2022. Further information on Catholic Schools Week and resources for use in your school can be found at www.catholicschools.ie