What Does It Mean to be a Catholic School Student?

Thomas wished for “Nothing but You, Lord:” Father Chris shared this homily today with Fenwick students at an all-school Mass.

By Fr. Christopher Johnson, O.P., Fenwick High School

Let’s pretend for a moment that you stumbled across a magic lamp in the attic of your grandmother’s house.  A magic lamp seems like a probable thing to find among other mementos and items from yesterday.  After finding this lamp, you rub it, a genie pops out and offers you one wish.  What will you ask for? All “A’s” for this semester and every semester to come? Admission into your dream college? Fame? Wealth? The opportunity to play or perform your favorite activity at the professional level? A successful marriage with perfect children?

What about a relationship with God?  

There is a story about St. Thomas Aquinas that describes him as fervently praying in the chapel of his priory one evening, in front of the crucifix. The crucifix suddenly began to speak, and Jesus tells Thomas that he has written well of Jesus and the faith. Jesus then asks what Thomas would like as a reward.  Thomas responds, “Non nisi te domine.” “Nothing but You, Lord.” 

Think about that. St. Thomas could have asked for anything he desired — a long life, good health, to be well known and well liked by people, to become the smartest person in all of human history, you name it.  Yet he says that he simply wants to be known and loved by God.  

Isn’t that amazing?

Can we honestly answer that God is the number one priority in our lives? 

Does he rank ahead of our desires for success — be it academic, extracurricular, familial, career?

Does God rank ahead of all our relationships? Whether they be romantic, familial or friendship?

Does he rank ahead of our desire for fame, wealth and esteem? 

Nothing but You, Lord. 

It’s Catholic Schools Week

This week the U.S. Catholic Church celebrates Catholic Schools Week. It is fitting that we celebrate our brother, Thomas, today since he is the patron saint of students.

What does it mean to be a Catholic school student? What does it mean to be a Catholic school? It means more than just wearing uniforms, or celebrating Catholic Schools Week each year with pajama day, field trips and class parties, as you may have done at your Catholic grade school.

St. Thomas Aquinas: the patron saint of students.

Catholic education is more than that. As Carl mentioned, St. Thomas was known for both his deep intellectual knowledge, but also his spiritual wisdom. We are called to pursue the same thing as Fenwick Friars. May you not only learn about math, science, writing, reading, history, economics and so forth during your time as a Friar. I pray that you also learn what it means to love God and to be loved by Him.  

Any student at any school can learn to add, subtract, read, write and memorize. That should be a given for anyone who has the opportunity to attend school. But most students do not have the opportunity to learn as Carl did — to ask the big questions — “What is the meaning of life?” “Who am I?” “What is my place in the world?”  The questions that reason and intellect alone cannot answer.

I pray that you have the opportunity at Fenwick to not only learn math, business, economics, science and the like, but to consider how people are to be treated. After you graduate from college and begin to work in business or any other industry, may you view the world through a Catholic lens. Consider the questions of:

I hope that you do not leave Fenwick simply glad that you got into a good college; won a state championship in your activity; were involved with some successful organizations; and proud of all you learned. 

Success inside the classroom and in the community is a good thing. Likewise with setting oneself up for good opportunities in the future. But that cannot be it. 

Keep God in your life

I hope you leave Fenwick with an understanding of who you are in light of your relationship with your Creator. God loves you and has given you an immortal soul. He has formed you in His image and likeness, and nothing can change that.

He has also made all your classmates and loves them more than you can imagine. They too share in God’s image and likeness.

Look to your left … to your right ….

All the people you see are God’s beloved children and deserve respect, compassion and love. The same goes for all those you encounter throughout the rest of your life. Treat them as such.

To listen to Father Chris’s homily, please click or tap the above video link, then fast-forward to the 15:40 time stamp.

Catholic education is more than just being challenged by rigorous classes, participating in successful extracurricular activities, and preparing oneself to study at an elite university. Again, all these things are good but must come second to our relationship with God. If we put God first in our lives, everything else will be properly prioritized and given due attention.

Your Catholic education must form you to bear witness to God’s love in your words and actions. It must change you — how you see the world, how you see yourself, how you behave and speak. Being formed in the teachings of the Catholic Church must truly transform you to be God’s servant in the world. It may mean that you seemingly stand alone at times — for you will not go along with the ways of the world. But remember that this witness is seen by others and your Heavenly Father. 

Regardless of which grade you are in, I pray that you are able to discover God’s great love and grow in relationship with Him during your time in this building. I pray that your teachers, coaches, classmates and all those you interact with on a daily basis lead you in the following of Christ and allow you to truly learn to prioritize your relationship with God. May you seek to imitate St. Thomas Aquinas in your relentless pursuit of knowledge, but also in the search for the deep meaning found in a relationship with your Savior.

Remember, God has molded you out of great love and has adopted you at your baptism and planted the seed of faith in your heart. May this seed grow like the mustard seed and become something that is greater than itself. Just like the mustard tree provides shade and a home for animals, may your faith grow and impact the world.

I pray that at the end of time, you may be able to sincerely say that the thing you have valued most in your life is your relationship with God. Not weath. Not success. Not fame and esteem. Not your job or even your family. May the thing you have sought after most is a fulfilling relationship with God. May you echo St Thomas Aquinas as you answer the question of “what do you love the most?” Or “What did you seek in life?”

Nothing but You, Lord. 

If this truly has been your life’s pursuit, may you hear the wonderful words, “My good and faithful servant, come into my abode.” 

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