The Following is a letter that I wrote to the parents of my parish school during Catholic Schools Week.
Dear Friends in Christ,
One reason that Catholic schools began in this country was so that Catholic parents could be assured that their children were learning the Catholic Faith and were not being subjected to anti-Catholic indoctrination. While our school has many wonderful qualities, the most important thing we can do is to help our students deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ and to become his disciples, not only in name, but also in fact. This is why St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish has and continues to be so generous in its support of St. Mary School.
Like the Culturama projects and the roller rink, success in growing in the Catholic Faith depends not just on the individual, but upon administrators, teachers, parents, and the whole community. The child who falls down in the rink is encouraged by seeing older children whizzing by. It tells him that what he is trying to do is possible. Similarly, all of us can help one another to become better disciples of Christ. When those who are weak in the faith see other families who are living the faith, it encourages them to get back up and start again.
I know that many of you are doing a wonderful job raising your children in the practice of the Catholic Faith. I commend you for that. I know that it is not always easy to get a household up and moving on Sunday morning! But, you are providing to your children the most important thing they will ever possess, a friendship with Jesus Christ. I thank you for your faithful example.
I also know that some of you have disappeared from the rink. At one point along the way, you were out there in the midst of everybody else, but somewhere along the way, you’ve unlaced the skates and have disappeared. I’m sure there are many possible reasons for your being away from the practice of the Faith. For some, perhaps you felt pushed off the rink. Maybe some of you got turned off by the bad example of some of your fellow Catholics (be they priests or lay people). For others, perhaps you felt discouraged by your lack of progress. For some, you just don’t know how it happened and you are uncertain how to get back in the rink.
Whatever the reason, I want to let you know that you and your children are missed and we would like to have you back with us at Mass and in living the Catholic Faith together. I’m not sending you this letter to shame you into coming back or to scold you. I’m writing because Jesus wants you and your children to be close to him and for you to be his disciples. Occasionally, I’ve heard people say that they would have come back to the Church if only somebody had asked them to do so. So, if you have been away, I’m asking you to come back!
The older kids whizzing around the rink the other evening were like the saints who show us that it is possible to live the Catholic life joyfully and with ease. If somebody stands outside the rink and looks in, they will never learn to skate. Even if they were to read a hundred books on skating, the only way to learn is to lace up and get in the rink. Similarly, it is possible for the Catholic life to become second nature to us, but not if we stay on the outside. It has to be lived from the inside. The more we live it, the more joyful and easy of an experience it becomes.
If you’ve left the rink for some reason, I’m inviting you back. It’s better to be in the rink, falling and struggling to get up than it is to be outside alone. If there is any way that I can be of assistance to you, please know that I am willing to do what I can.
Your Brother in Christ,
Fr. David Barnes