That ‘Catholic Ethos’ thing

Yesterday we had an Inset day, most of which was on the Catholic Ethos of the school. We were led in this by Fr Paul Farrer from Middlesborough who specialises in youth ministry. After the darkness of  last half term, with its tragic deaths of two of our students, the diagnosis with cancer of a year 9 student whose mother is a member of staff, and the death by cancer of a much loved colleague, it seemed fitting to focus on our distinctively Catholic ethos.

Fr Paul emphasised the meaning of Catholic as ‘universal’, and I remember thinking last term that I would like to have been able to take those who see faith schools as necessarily divisive into our community on the morning after our two students died, or on the day we held mass for them, or in the after school liturgy we held for our colleague and friend, Jo.

I understand the objections that some people have to state funding of faith schools. Yet, especially at times of grief, crisis and celebration, but also in both the still small moments of calm, and the daily bustle, the Christian focus of our school offers something of value that I think is perhaps impossible to find outside a faith community, and which I think is worth preserving – and it is not only people of faith who can see that.

At one point during the morning we were asked to consider, among other questions, WHY we do what we do, rather than how we do it which is so often the focus. This links for me with the wider purpos/ed discussion that was kicked off last month, in which I was not the only person to suggest that ‘love’ might have something to do with it.

At the end of the day, the words of St Teresa of Avila were used. Those words had prompted me to write a morning briefing prayer several years ago:

Christ has no body now on earth but ours
No hands but ours, nor feet; no pair of eyes.
Only compassion should we radiate
from eyes that on the world we cast Christ’s gaze;
Only good actions should we ambulate
with feet that tread their footfalls in Christ’s ways;
Only soft blessings should accumulate
from hands that offer Christ’s work in this place.

(If that’s not why we do it, then why are we even here?

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