Friday, October 29, 2010

The Religion of OLSWA

(I wrote the following last Sunday, never posted it, thinking I had more to say. I thought I'd just post it and move on.)

I thought I'd address this topic, one, because it's Sunday, two, because we have just ended a survey process at the School on this matter.

The surveys weren't meant to fuel a re-creation of the wheel, but to just check with students about their impressions of the spiritual life of the School.

I've read all the surveys, but won't reflect on them here. I doubt that would be appropriate. I just want to share some of my thoughts.

My first and central point is that the School is awesome just as it is! A school becomes Catholic when run by Catholics, and attended by Catholic students. Regulations are a big part of ensuring these things, but they don't make it a holy and life-giving kind of Catholic place, they just weed out certain abnormalities, which is good.

OLSWA is not a religious institution, but a secular one. According to the traditional sense, that means oriented to lay-formation. How it approaches prayer etc., should then keep that in mind. What is the lay kind of prayer and spirituality? It's hard to say. But the prayer life of the school should not interfere, but rather aid, in the secular goals of the school - education for the world. Now, by this should not be understood some narrower account of the human person, as if he were but matter in a material world. He is not successful outside of the parameters of his own human nature, of course. He is not successful if he has just been turned into a thinking and producing mechanism. He is successful when and only when his whole capacity for happiness and life-giving service have been actualized. So many bad things result when we take the measure of a man to be how much money the economy throws at him. We turn his education into something unnatural and unpleasant when we conceive of his life like this. Such an education does not prepare him for life, but only for the economy in a narrow sense (how can he participate in the economy as a healthy, happy being when he has been formed only for this, since this is not a fulfillment of his nature?) A man will never finally define himself as a business man, but as a father, a son, a friend, a brother. His deathbed may be the first time he allows this realization to bubble up to his consciousness.

All of this is more than enough to justify the place of prayer within the academy. It's hard to think of any philosophically convincing justification for education that excludes it and the values that lay at its heart.

We might quibble over degrees and types of devotion mandated or encouraged by the academy, but we do not quibble over its necessity. I would propose that the way things are at OLSWA right now is pretty close to adequate for our needs. You have to remember that its 'way' is not just a cognitive invention, but because we are in our eleventh year now, the result of experience. This is not to say that things could not be otherwise, but based upon our staff, our parish community, and our type of student, the praxis we have arrived at is pretty decent. Elements will change over time because the staff, student body and parish setting will change over time. I am pretty optimistic about these things: the good things that good people do are the things that they should be doing.

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