I heard a sermon once, the gist of which was that whilst the church’s mission is to evangelise the world; the world also seeks to evangelise the church. Whilst there are many examples of where this has taken place, a particularly prominent one I noticed is in the area of Catholic education.
Here in the Philippines there are many religious orders and many of them are involved in education, it’s their particular gift. Arriving centuries ago they set to work starting schools. Their founding fathers focus was generally the poor children, seeking to give them their faith and values and also a way out of poverty through a good education.
If we look at these same schools and colleges now it is a very different picture. Most are for the elite, the richest of the rich and their middle class poorer cousins. Whilst there will certainly be a proportion of scholarships, most are paying top dollar because the schools are the best.
The poor alas will remain barefoot and living under the stars for some time yet. At some point someone was seduced by the dollar or the peso; maybe for the best of reasons, they could expand, have better facilities, all they had to do was play by the world’s rules and become what it wanted them to become. Such is the weakness of man.
Another allied area is where they were nobbled, not by weakness this time but by their strength. Catholic schools have a reputation for being academically brilliant. I think this is true from primary schools to universities. All well and good, nothing wrong with that, until it becomes the primary driving force.
I have noticed that there is a tendency to hire teachers who are well qualified and competent in their chosen field whether it’s ABC or nuclear physics but not necessarily measuring up quite so well (or at all) as men and women of God. If the teachers are atheists or living lifestyles which are incompatible with Christianity can they really pass on the faith and values of the Catholic Church? Can they give what they do not have? The focus on academic excellence at the expense of its other purpose of making saints of the young is the most insidious worldly evangelisation.
They may become the most prestigious institutions and most sought after but fail to fulfil their stated purpose. By not being mindful of this struggle for mastery we risk being in the service of the enemy camp.
Leon Trotsky believed that for socialism to thrive and not become decadent, it needed to be in a constant state of flux or “permanent revolution” as he called it; (we might call it vigilance) he knew that any deviation from the ideal would be its downfall. As Catholics, as we know our enemy is far more powerful than tainted human nature alone, we should be all the more mindful and alert to his tactics.