On Sunday morning I was delighted to celebrate Catholic Schools Week at Saint Joseph's Basilica in Webster. Here's the homily I gave at the Solemn Mass:
Today we stand with our Blessed Lord at the beginning of his ministry as he went about preaching a Gospel of repentance and joy: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
But though he was the Son of the Living God, he was also Jesus of Nazareth. Full God and fully man…a man like us in all things but sin: like us in our limitations, as well.
And so he needed helpers to carry out his ministry to the ends of the earth, disciples who would carry his Gospel to distant lands…to Cappadocia, and Thessalonica and even Webster.
Every baptized person is called to be such a disciple…to witness to the good news that God is love, and out of love has been born as a man, opened his arms on a cross and died and rose for us, defeating death and selfishness and sin. In others, that Jesus is in our midst and we need never be afraid of anything ever again.
But true love, gratuitously given and generously bestowed, is a hard lesson to preach to a culture so obsessed by consumerism and narcissistic self-interest where children go hungry for anyone to love them.
This is not your great grandmother’s culture or your great-grandfather’s world. The problems your children will face and incredibly different from the ones which you remember in fourth grade. Along with a technologically advancing world is a set of moral challenges which changes more quickly than we can often appreciate.
Our Holy Father indicated this recently when recalling “a very sad little girl who finally confessed to her teacher the reason she felt that way: 'my mom's girlfriend doesn't like me.”
Should it shock us that the Pope would acknowledge the struggles of the child of a same sex couple? No more than it should shock us that more than half of the students of Catholic schools today will experience the searing fracture of a divorce, or that….
All of which is why the Holy Father asks the question:“How do we talk about Christ to these boys and girls?” “How do we talk about Christ to a generation that is changing?”
And the answer to his question is sitting right in front of me: the inheritors of the vision of Father Chalupka and those first Felician Sisters…an answer which was different in the time of Monsignor Cyran and the days of Msgr. Lekarczyk and the years of Monsignor Kubik and the time of Father Stachura, as it is unique today, when Monsignor Czynezski and you, the parishioners of Saint Joseph’s spread the Gospel of Joy in Webster in the first decades of the twenty first century.
For each of these generations have had to discover what Pope Francis has called “a new language, a new way of saying things.” The message remains the same: Christ Jesus, our Lord. But the ways in which we proclaim him changed and evolves in each generation.
For example, an essential part of the teaching of Jesus, a necessary consequence of repenting and embracing the Kingdom of God, is working for that unity in peace which comes only from God’s love.
But our culture seems driven sometimes by a lust for dystrophy promoting a loud cacophony of dissonant voices all yelling at each other. The Holy Father offers a solution:
“We need to resolve our differences through forms of dialogue which help us grow in understanding and mutual respect. A culture of encounter demands that we be ready not only to give, but also to receive. Media can help us greatly in this, especially nowadays, when the networks of human communication have made unprecedented advances. The internet, in particular, offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity. This is something truly good, a gift from God.”
I think the Holy Father must have counted how many computers there are in Saint Joseph’s School when he suggested that the internet and modern forms of technological communication provide great opportunities for Catholic Schools and catholic students in learning the Gospel of Joy.
For the Catholic School to which this parish is dedicated seeks to speak in today’s language to today’s children. With nearly 170 students led by three Felician sisters and eleven teachers, a guidance counselor and reading specialist and three teachers’ aides. Here children learn about civics, history, science and literature. They learn not only English and Polish, but Spanish and French.
And most of all they learn about Jesus, who is the way, the truth, and the life.
And it is this living out of the Gospel of Joy that we will celebrate this week. With the presentation of the Partners in Education Award, today’s open house and Book Fair, the service projects and puppet shows, alumni day and parent teach appreciation day. Even Buddy Bingo and Basketball, both of which might well soon take place in your new gymnasium.
Its a story that started when the first Polish residents of Webster arrived a century and a half ago, starting with Herman Pawlowski and his wife and children. Joseph and Frances Reglinski were the first to be married here, and to them you could add the Sikorskis, Kruewskas, Janakowskis, Krefts and Reminski. And the families callled Pokraka, Paradowski, Reglinski, Santor, Buembrenek and Sielinski.
And all of them heard the Lord’s call, to come and follow him…to lead their children to him and to teach them to share with their lives the Gospel of Joy, the Catholic Faith which has come down to us from the Apostles.
May God bless you for being a part of that wonderful story and give you the grace to continue to make Saint Joseph’s School the shining examine it has been and will be for many decades, pray God, many centuries to come.