Homily for Launch of Catholic Schools Week

Launch of Catholic Schools Week – St. Flannan’s College, Ennis, January 24th, 2018


With my mother, father, sister & brother-in-law all being teachers, it was probably not surprising that I caught the bug also and spent 24 very happy years in the milieu of Catholic Education in a number of schools and aspired to claim the title of being a teacher.


Words of Wisdom to Inspire

One of the features of most staff rooms in schools around the country is that each teacher has his or her own little locker or press to put books and various items.  On the inside door of my press in St. Jarlath’s College for 23 years I had the interesting words of the account of An tAth. Peadar Ó Laoghaire from “Mo Scéal Féin” words that often inspired me as I went to class each day.


Mo Scéal Féin – Peadar Ó Laoghaire

It read…

Bhí an-saol againn, agamsa agus acusan, mise á múineadh agus iadsan ag foghalim uaim, agus aoibhneas aigne orainn ar gach taobh.  Ní dóigh liom go bhfuil aoibhneas le fáil ar an saol seo a d’fhéadfadh bheith níos aoibhne ná an t-aoibhneas aigne sin a bhíonn ar mhúinteoir agus ar lucht foghlama nuair a bhíonn siad ar aon aigne san obair, nuair a thuigeann siad féin a chéile, agus nuair nach mbíonn de bhun ná d’aidhm acu leis an obair ach onóir do Dhia agus tairbhe don chreideamh.  Bhí an t-aoibhneas sin againne an uair sin, agus bhíomar ag dul ar aghaidh leis an obair go buacach.


Education – Lighting a Fire!

What an ideal vision of education, fulfilment and contentment in the enlightenment of mind, the flourishing of relationships and therein the service of the will of God and the care of humankind. Like the apostles on the road to Emmaus – were not our hearts burning within us as Jesus explained the scriptures to us.  The lighting of the fire of education, being the enlightenment of mind, body and spirit.  In the words of W.B. Yeats – “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of fire”.


Theme of Catholic Schools Week

The theme for Catholic Schools Week, the lighting of that fire of God’s love and life within us – in this special year of the coming of World Meeting of Families to Ireland is Catholic Education – A Family of Families,

expressed in a one year programme with specific “moments”:

  • Education through faith,
  • Education through hope,
  • Education through love and
  • Education with joy.

All exploring the link between the Catholic Family at home, at school, in the parish and in the world.


Family Theme

What a great theme for this year. A Family of Families!

Some years ago, in Maynooth College internal soccer leagues were serious business!  Every Friday afternoon, throughout the Winter, league matches were played on the many mucky pitches of the college grounds.  There were 4 divisions and many dioceses and faculties, students and staff had a number of teams, seriously competing to win.  One of the leading teams called “The Mean Machine” lived up to their name and were always serious contenders for top honours! A group of misfits, myself included (!) who didn’t have a huge amount of talent at the finer skills of soccer got together and formed our own team and entered not the top flight but the fourth or lowest grade, the “D” league.  We called ourselves “The Family”.  We became just that, a family.  We may not have won any trophies or many matches, but we had a lot of fun, enjoyment, good laughs and many a great friendship was cemented that have endured to the present day.

The Family!

Catholic Education – A family of families!

What a great heart-warming image for Catholic Schools Week.



A family or tribe.  That is what we are, all 1.2 billion of us that are baptized into the Catholic Church in every corner of the globe. This day, three weeks on St. Valentine’s day which coincides this year with Ash Wednesday, Catholics all over the world will wear Ashes on our foreheads.  The Ashes mark us out as a Tribe, a family of faith, a family of hope, a family of believers in a God who loves us and wishes that we would be saved.


Tribes and Banners

Having lived in Galway for 40 years I’m aware that they are often branded Tribesmen.  Here in Clare we are people of the banner.  We’re all under a banner, part of a tribe, part of a family. Catholic Education.  The family of families!


The Distinctiveness of Catholic Education

So, what is distinctive about Catholic Education?  What gives us that fire that Yeats speaks about along with that rounded contentment so warmly described by Ó Laoghaire inMo Scéal Féin?


The ‘Spirit of Education’

How do you describe that extra substance called ‘ethos’ that appeals to the total person, mind, body and spirit that might not be as complete in other models of Education?   What is within that family spirit?


Ghandi – 7 Social Sins

Mahatma Ghandi once described – 7 social sins of our age as follows:

  • Politics without principle,
  • Wealth, without work.
  • Commerce without morality.
  • Pleasure without conscience.
  • Education without character.
  • Science without humanity.
  • Worship without sacrifice.


These seven items may be helpful in the sphere of education in that occasionally education can be approached as something ‘useful’, as a means to an end, the business or utilitarian model of Education.  However, as in these seven pointers from Ghandi, that approach can risk being devoid of genuine spirit as well.  There is a great image in the Prophet Ezekiel where he talks of giving flesh and spirit to dry bones.  Catholic Education gives us that distinctive spirit, that selfless motivation and drive to go the “extra mile” to educate the total person, to be part of a selfless tribe or family that would do anything for each other.


Newman on Education

Blessed John Henry Newman in The Idea of a Universityput it well as he is wont to do: “There is a knowledge worth possessing for what it is and not merely for what it does”.  Catholic Education gives us that rounded broader approach of being attentive to the whole person, spiritual, moral, intellectual, physical, practical.


A healthy approach to education, a system that is inclusive, open to all and promotes the common good (Catholic Education!) is one that keeps an eye on the practicalities of education that will help one to progress and thrive in the world while also developing the sometimes neglected, important spiritual and aesthetic side of our beings.


Motto of Cistercian College, Roscrea

I love Mottos and the Cistercian College in Roscrea in the diocese has the interesting motto: “Incideat coelis animo sed corpore terries”. The loose translation of this reads “while our minds soar to the heavens, we keep our feet firmly planted on the ground”.


Building Bridges

The tension between religion and matters secular is sometimes described as a choice between Pie in the Skyor Jam where I am!!! Catholic Education allow us bridge this gap (the tension between the vertical and the horizantal that Canon Deenhihan spoke about this morning) and get the broader  picture that educates the total person.


Following Jesus as Teacher and being people of Joy!

Today as we begin this Catholic Schools Week in St. Flannan’s College, we unite as a member of the tribe and banner of Jesus Christ, our inspiration, our leader, our guide, our saviour, our supreme Master and Teacher.  In this Catholic Schools week we celebrate and rejoice as Family of Families, communities of faith, hope, love and profound joy.  Afterall, Pope Francis reminds us that Joy is the self identity Card of any Christian!