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Christ, the “Catholic” King and Teacher

Is there a connection between Christ the King and Catholic Education? Well, first, let’s remember that the full title of today’s Solemnity is: Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King. The word universal gives us the link to Catholic Education. Catholic means universal.

Turning that around, we could also stretch it and say that today’s Solemnity could be called: Our Lord Jesus Christ, Catholic King. Not sure how well that would go down with our separated brethren! But it’s a legitimate thing to say if we don’t limit Catholicism to being a label or a tribe. Catholic does not just mean universal in the sense of geography or of a social group. A chap called St. Cyril of Jerusalem said that the Church is catholic for a number of reasons: because she teaches the fullness of the truth of Christ; because she possesses by Christ’s gift the fullest form of the worship of God, which is the Mass; because she has in her bosom all races, languages and statuses of people; and because she is present in the whole world.

I would like to dare and add another meaning which follows from these. Catholic also means someone who has blossomed or is blossoming in the whole of their potential as a person. For that to happen, a person has to be led forward and out of themselves in a way that taps all that potential. To be clear: the most potent dimension of anyone’s potential is their openness to Jesus Christ. Everyone is given that openness, though not everyone has discovered it yet or has followed it through.

To lead someone to develop and respond to the rich wealth of possibility within in them, and especially to grow in the knowledge and love of Christ: that is Catholic Education. The Catholic School is a major player in this, but not the only one. The home is the primary and most important one. The parish comes next in importance because the sacraments are our direct encounter with Christ and with his people. The school will be as good as a Catholic school, as the homes which feed it and the parish which supports it, because the school’s role is auxiliary to both.

Catholicism is not a label. In some senses, I would even say that no-one becomes a Catholic. Rather, Catholicism is something we discover as a given already within us, because Jesus, the Catholic King, has created us for himself, has placed the desire for himself deep within us. He desires that every person on earth reach their full, their total, their Catholic potential by choosing him as the meaning and purpose of their lives. There is no other anyway. The Catholic Church herself really means the communion of all who open themselves out completely to Jesus.

The crown jewel of Christ the Catholic King is his agape, his self-sacrificing love. The crown jewel of any Catholic’s existence and therefore of all Catholic Education is to welcome that love into our deepest soul and then to live that love with all the strength of our heart. It is by that love, shown in the simplest and smallest ways, that we can see that our Catholic Education has worked. It is not that feeding the hungry or visiting the sick replaces the worship of God or any of the other rich treasures of our Catholic heritage. It’s not a case of “either-or” but of “both-and.”

Christ’s own agape is revealed on the Cross and put into us through the sacraments, especially the Mass. Our works of charity are only a form of humanitarianism if they don’t flow from the sanctifying grace of the Sacraments. Jesus rewards those who care for the poor because He is in them. It is He who is hungry and in prison. Our charity reaches Him, reaches God, when we feed and visit our brothers and sisters for his sake.

Our loyalty to Christ in this way will end in our full share in the royalty of Christ. The King will say, “come and inherit the Kingdom prepared for you.” Royalty means to live in the image of Christ. Through our families, our parishes and our schools, it is Christ who leads us forward, who “e-ducates” us, to attain our fullest potential as a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people set apart.

So, let us keep our homes fully Catholic (or as Catholic as possible), proudly Catholic and truly Catholic. Let us drink the Catholic faith and the grace of her Sacraments fully and faithfully in our parishes. Let us treasure and support and defend our Catholic schools 100%, not from sectarianism or snobbery, but as providential instruments to help form Catholic hearts and minds to bring the agape of Christ to society. True Catholicism grows loving and serving hearts in the image of Christ our Catholic King. It therefore opens us out to others. When a Catholic school is fulfilling its vocation it contributes enormously, because of Christ’s love, to the healing of society, and draw hearts back to him. Perhaps Christ might even say, “when you educate a child in a Catholic school, you are educating me.”