I am here to teach not evangelize

August 28, 2023

It never fails to encounter the dynamics of a group of educators gathered for their annual professional in-service. The premise behind such an event is to allow the Catholic educator to prepare himself for the upcoming school year's spiritual, psychological, and educational rigors. Depending on the nature and theme of the in-service, it can either focus on the academic nature of the Catholic educator’s profession or the spiritual.

I was warned in a passive jest many years ago by someone I consider one of the best Catholic administrators I have ever met to be careful when you gather a group of teachers and try to teach them. Not asking why, he said, “Some teachers rarely want to be taught by someone else, and if you try, they will simply express a defiant attitude similar to some of their students, just more defiant. Though some may consider his position somewhat outlandish, there is truth to his statement because what he was referencing was the disposition of the teacher's soul. He reminded me of the importance of focusing on the human person's dignity and establishing a Catholic worldview amongst Catholic educators. The transition from this example is to move from a secular humanistic view of the world to a Christian humanistic view.

My Teaching is not my own

While teaching at the temple, the Jews were astonished at Jesus’ command of the Torah and his ability to convey it. Noticing the Jew’s amazement, he reminds them, . . . my teaching is not my own but his who sent me.[1] Jesus reminds the Jews and Gentiles that he comes bearing the Word of God as the Incarnate Word. He proclaims that we are called to proclaim the glory of God and not our own; he reminds his Jewish audience that Moses gave them the law and asks, why have you not kept it?[2]

Interestingly, the Jews were angry that Jesus had healed the paralytic on the Sabbath, citing an example of a disregard for the law. Jesus reminds them that his teaching, which includes his acts of healing, comes from God. This entire biblical drama sets the stage for our role as Catholic educators, or, to be more precise, kerygmatic catechetical educators.

The Catechism reminds us that:

In catechesis, Christ, the Incarnate Word and Son of God, is taught-everything else is taught with reference to him; it is Christ alone who teaches-anyone else teaches to the extent that he is Christ’s spokesman, enabling Christ to teach with his lips . . .[3]

The words of the Catechism reveal a unique relationship between a Catholic educator and the proclamation of the kerygma and explanation of the creed; both are meant to be in communion and not opposed to one another. The entire Catholic education endeavor aims to allow the student to encounter the living and true God, Jesus Christ. This is done through a genuine organic and systematic exposition of Christian doctrine to guide the student toward an active relationship with Jesus Christ.[4]

In his letter to the Galatians,[5] St. Paul reminds us of the importance of sharing and re-echoing the word of God. This verse reflects the centrality of the Catholic educator’s mission to proclaim the Gospel regardless of the subject matter taught. This means that the premise and aim of all Catholic educators is to present the salvific message of Jesus Christ across all academic disciplines. St. Paul VI reinforces this position through his well-known quote from Evangelii Nuntiandi, where he describes modern man listening more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if you are a teacher, then you are a witness to the faith.[6]

I am here to teach, not evangelize

It becomes pretty clear that the identity of a Catholic educator is intimately associated with the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ within and outside of the classroom. In addition, this proclamation explains and demonstrates the creed and how the student develops a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through the kerygma of faith-Word of God and the creed of faith-Church doctrine.

Hence, it was somewhat surprising that one of the teachers who attended our annual Diocesan in-service bluntly wrote in her assessment of the conference, “I’m here to teach, not evangelize.” This Catholic educator did not care for the opportunity to receive the sacrament of confession, participate in the mass, or pray to Christ during the Eucharistic Holy Hour offered as part of the diocesan in-service.

Though the words of this particular Catholic educator may upset some, it is important to address the comments in the form of a question: “How did she arrive at this conclusion in her role as a Catholic educator?” From the very beginning, our role as Catholic educators is to transmit the mystery of Jesus Christ through our active witness of faith and our visible expression of love for Jesus Christ. Catholic education aims to reveal God’s redemptive plan for salvation and our place within that plan. No subject should be taught apart from Jesus Christ. As thousands of Catholic educators embark on another school year, let us heed the words from the book of Hebrews:

Though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of God’s word. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a child. But solid food for the mature, for those who have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.

Hebrews 5:12-14

 

[1] John 7:16

[2] John 7: 19

[3] CCC 427

[4] CCC 5

[5] Gal 6:6

[6] Evangelii Nuntiandi, 41

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