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Spiritual Life

Eucharist Centered Schools

A tweet has been shared quite a bit on social media. In short, it tells parents that (paraphrased) “one day our children will stand before Christ; and he’ll care little about their grades, batting averages, field goal percentage, popularity or class rank. But the one thing he will care about is their souls. How are we investing in their souls?”

It’s timely that this comes across feeds during Catholic Schools Week and can help focus our attention on parents being the primary educators of their children. One of my greatest joys as a priest has been five schools I have worked directly with to see the liveliness in faith in young children. However, with great joy also comes the vulnerability of disappointment. And to be perfectly real, one of the greatest disappointments I have experienced is to watch young children’s focus on the Eucharist peak in second grade and shift toward overwhelming sports and activities in the following years.

When I say this, many parishioners are confused, as most parents will see me at almost every home sporting event (except for Saturday evenings and Sundays, of course). Also, I am heartbroken when academics become over-emphasized as well. Our focus should be the same as it was in second grade; completely on the Eucharist.

The Catechism tells us that “the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life.” (CCC 1324) Everything we do as teachers and parents should come from and lead back to the Eucharist. This is how we can judge a successful parish, school, youth group, sports program and, of course, family. Is the highest point of our week the Eucharist, and is the Eucharist the source of the rest of our week?

I have yet to experience a student whose grades suffer because they spent too much time in adoration (and I have had students who spend a lot of time in adoration). On the contrary, often, as their prayer life grows, so does the rest of the person. It shouldn’t surprise us that a person whose life is centered on the very one who created them would not diminish but prosper.

St. Paul tells us: If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.” (Col. 3:1-4).

Here are some practical tips on how to keep our focus and centeredness on the Eucharist, and parents can be the first educators in this:

  • Keep Sundays first! There should never be an exception to miss Sunday Mass (outside of illness). If sporting events are scheduled on Sunday, I’m going to say something BOLD; SKIP IT! That one witness of your son or daughter missing sports on Sunday will benefit them far greater than a tournament victory. And if your child is the star player, that will convince the coaches to push not to schedule on Sunday!
  • Confession: Go as a family. I love when I see teachers go to confession at the same time as their students; it really is a beautiful witness to the kids. Imagine how much stronger the witness when both Mom and Dad show that they, too, fall short and need Jesus.
  • Adoration: I account this to my own vocation. My mother took me to her hour of adoration when I was really little. Usually, I just sat and colored. Yet that witness kept my heart open and aware later in life to being centered on the Eucharist. This is also a good time for our kids to bring worries of the week about school and other activities, or life in general, before God.
  • Family Mealtime: No cell phones. Just family. Start with prayer before meals and (often forgotten) after meals.

To close, I want to make a special note of thanks to all of our Catholic School teachers who do so much to walk with parents in the education and faith of their children.

Father Joseph Sund is associate pastor of St. Boniface Parish in Elgin, St. Bonaventure Parish in Raeville, St. John the Baptist Parish in Petersburg, St. Peter de Alcántara Parish in Ewing, St. Theresa Parish in Clearwater and St. John the Baptist in Deloit Township.

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