To paraphrase Charles Dickens, youth and young adulthood are the best of times and the worst of times. The best of times because these are the years of exploration and discovery when young minds are like sponges and absorb ideas and values that will shape their future. On the other hand, they are also the worst of times because all of the ideas and values to which they are exposed are not benign or beneficial.
Pope Francis spoke to this danger in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium: “ …We are living in an information-driven society which bombards us indiscriminately with data—all treated as being of equal importance—and which leads to remarkable superficiality in the area of moral discernment. In response, we need to provide an education which teaches critical thinking and encourages the development of mature moral values.” (Par. 64)
Of course the first educators of children are their parents, and educators to whom they entrust their children must build on the foundation provided by the family. That education must do more than instill information and introduce and demonstrate the values of a Christian and civil society.
In the words of the Holy Father it must “provide an education which teaches critical thinking…” In order that they are able to analyze and evaluate concepts and ideas and make sound judgments in light of the teachings of Jesus.
Such is the mission of Catholic education at all levels. Catholic educators, lay, religious and clergy are committed to the formation of Christian women and men prepared to confront and change the society and world we leave to them. This is what motivates parents to make such great sacrifices to provide a Catholic education.
This Catholic Schools week I salute parents and educators who work together to make Catholic education a light in the darkness.