By Susan Gately - 25 August, 2013
Although the contribution of the Catholic Church to education is often presented in a negative light, the witness of people of faith remains vital for young people, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin has said.
Speaking at the Chapter of the European Province of the Christian Brothers on Friday, the Archbishop pointed out that even the word “Catholic” with reference to education, “is presented in negative terms, almost as if the Church is at the root of everything that went wrong in Irish society”.
The Church had provided “ample ammunition” for such criticism, he said, but unjust criticism had to be refuted.
Referring to the Gospel of the day, where Jesus laid the great commandment of love before his disciples, Archbishop Martin asked if this was the ‘transparent’ priority in their lives. “Do we really witness in our lives to the commandment of love of God and of our neighbour?”
We can repeat doctrine ad nauseam, the Archbishop of Dublin said, but added that this would be worthless and make Church teaching appear like any other ideology “if we do not reflect in our lives – personal and institutional – the loving embrace of the God revealed in Jesus Christ.”
Archbishop Martin warned of the danger of focusing on and measuring worth by what people did. “What is the difference between the way in which we as a Christian community bring services and the way offered by the State or by other NGOs?” he asked.
“As a Religious Chapter, inevitably, you have been looking at the challenge of what you can effectively achieve with your current resources and human capacity and perhaps you have to recognise, painfully, that you may no longer be able to continue particular services.”
Recalling the Christian Brothers’ founder, Blessed Edmund Rice, Archbishop Martin noted how he had fought with the Archbishop of Dublin at the time.
Dr Martin also underlined that it was important today to have space in the Church “for those who wish in a true ecclesial spirit to challenge me and others in leadership to respond more effectively to the needs of the mission of the Church and indeed for me to challenge them.”
“We do not need a conformist Church. We need a Church of mature and authentic common commitment and concern for the spreading of the Gospel,” he said.
Edmund Rice was totally committed to the religious education of young people and their formation, “convinced that the most important contribution that could be brought to the education of young people was to introduce them to the experience of the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ.”
The Christian Brothers were called to “follow in the footsteps of Edmund Rice” he said, through the witness of their own lives.
“There is no catechetical programme that can replace the authentic witness of someone who really believes in Jesus,” he cotninued.
Ireland is a young society, the Archbishop said, and drew attention to the fact that there are more people under the age of four than there are over seventy in his diocese.
While the Christian Brothers are not as present in schools as they were in the past he said, “the witness of the brother who is a man of God, a man of prayer, a man of wisdom, a man who represents the caring embrace of the Church is vital.”
Young people were searching for the meaning of what is deepest in their lives and they needed anchors, the Archbishop commented.
“They will only find that in a Church which not just talks about the new commandment of love, but a Church, which becomes truly the mirror of God’s love through the way we show our love of God and neighbour.”