Today concludes Catholic Schools Week, and I welcome parents, children and faculty to our monthly school Mass. In particular I thank the students who are serving the Mass in the sanctuary, the pulpit, and the choir loft. Mr. Gallagher and all the teachers have been working extra hard to develop an Integrated Classical Program in our school. Giving our children a fully-integrated education, leading them to wonder and the capacity for independent, critical thinking through the great works of western culture, gives them the ability to fully develop their God-given potentials in this life and the life of the world to come. Some classical schools say we educate for heaven not for Harvard, but the best education leads to both. If Harvard is where God wants you to glorify His holy name, off to Harvard you go! And He certainly wants all of us to go to heaven.
A well-educated person is prophetic. Two weeks ago our nation celebrated Martin Luther King, a Baptist minister from Atlanta who received his doctorate from Boston College in 1955. In those days all education was “classical.” Primary schools were called “Grammar schools” because in 1st through 3rd grades children studied “grammar,” not only the grammar of languages but the grammar of the entire natural world, memorizing sets of observable facts, something at which children are particularly adept. In 4th through 6th grades they studied logic—putting all these facts in an orderly sequence. In 5th through 8th grades the study of rhetoric gave students the ability to communicate and argue logical points. Dr. King knew the facts of nature, had organized them logically in his mind, and had a gifted ability to speak this logic in winning ways to the public. Fundamentally, however, he was speaking from his Christian faith in God’s good order: that all human beings are created equal, with inalienable rights.
In our first scripture today, the word of the Lord comes to Jeremiah in 680 BC much the way it came to Martin Luther King in 1940 AD. “Before I formed you in the womb…I dedicated you a prophet to the nations.” As with Jeremiah, so God told the young Baptist minister from Atlanta: “stand up and tell them all that I command you.” Realizing this prophetic task took a lot of work for both Jeremiah and Martin Luther King—they had to study hard, denying themselves entertainments and pleasures their peers were enjoying. Having achieved a solid education, they then had to speak truth to a people that did not want to hear the truth. By God’s grace both men stood strong and led great numbers of men and women to freedom, the freedom only God’s natural truths can give.
Last week 60,000 people walked down Market Street in defense of a truth, much like Martin Luther King walked from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. We resolutely and joyfully witnessed that every human life, even those still in their mother’s wombs, must be respected. Or, as Dr. Seuss put it, “a person’s a person no matter how small.” Women have rights, and men have rights, and children have rights, and we can balance those rights. God’s good order, the order of the natural law, has room for every human life. Those who have a solid education in grammar, logic, and rhetoric can understand the interconnections of the natural order. They have the capacity to serve as prophetic leaders of a peaceful and just society. Such integral education is the primary purpose of Catholic schools, from grammar schools to universities.
The world is in dire need, at this time, of such educated people. A few weeks ago New York legalized the killing of unborn children right up to the minute they are born. The following week Virginia proposed allowing newborns to be left to die. Who will be the new Martin Luther Kings of our time? Who we be capable of seeing through the deadly illogic of unjust laws? Who will argue convincingly for justice? I am greatly pleased to announce that three of our Star students, Elise Lau, Kyle Abrego, and Olivia Dziadzia, won the grand prize, first prize, and honorable mention of this year’s respect life essay contest, as you can see in this week’s Catholic newspaper. With much gratitude I can say that Star of the Sea has already been giving our students an integral education that equips them to articulate the natural order with intelligence and love. Let us continue educating for justice and freedom in this life, & eternal happiness in the next.