Tuesday, July 15, 2008

How Important is it to Hear the Bells Ring?

I have a huge dilemma, where do we send the boy to school?

Home schooling is not an option, I still work and we want the boy to have a wrap around experience of interaction with caring adults.

I thought we were all settled on the local “Catholic” school. It’s a school on the campus of an order of dissenting nuns who entertains speakers like Bishop Gumbleton and Sr. Joan Chittister. Less than ideal, but the only option in our town, and the school admin team was run by laity, until last week that is. There has been a turn over in administration and one of the sisters is taking the helm. Ut Oh.

The campus is beautiful, the school building is beautiful, there are crucifixes in the class rooms, the bells ring for Mass at the Mother House, and right outside one of the windows there is a sign for the Dominican Ashram. How’s that again?

When I go to Mass with the sisters I get a touch uncomfortable with the nuns reading the gospel and preaching the homily, and with the In the Name of the Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier blessing at the end, but I soothed this discomfort with a reminder that the laity ran the school. When I spoke with the religion teacher today about how fidelity to the Magisterium was practiced and taught in the school her only response was that the school uses a curriculum approved by the Diocese. I was hoping for something a bit more enthusiastic.

The other option in my town is a Christian school of indiscriminate Protestant heritage. It has a pretty campus attached to a YMCA type family center with after school activities. The school and family center, like most things Protestant, have been stripped of all of the tactile beauty of the Catholic faith. This school has a high school and athletic programs unavailable with the dissenting nuns and the kids come out of this school with a complete working knowledge of the bible, and none whatsoever of the Magisterium.

As a Catholic revert I can say that the smells and bells, the tactile experience of the Catholic faith, was very important to my ever so limited formation as a child. So much so that as Hubby and I were attending a Retrouvaille weekend right around the time we were coming into the church the little bell they rung between sessions was like a little life line tossed out to my anguished soul. Such a little thing yet it echoed so deeply. Still, I never learned the bible as a child, that I began reading in my time with the evangelicals.

What to do with this school decision, I feel like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, pondering his daughter’s desire to marry someone of her own choosing. I wish we could send him to Spiritus Sanctus, but the gas to get there each day would be about triple the cost of tuition.

Do we stick with a Catholic flavor and hope the dissent doesn’t sink in, or do we go with the evangelical track of intimate bible knowledge and live the liturgical life at home?

How important are the cultural aspects of the faith? How important is it for him to hear the bells and know that it’s time for Mass as he commented recently as we were walking into the school’s day camp?

Lord show us your path for our son’s life, we ask this through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

Update: Retrouvaille correction in place!


Katie said...

Oh my! If it were me (and it isn't, I know!) I would opt for the Protestant school. Much easier to explain than a school that looks Catholic but isn't, you know? I'd run away screaming from the "Catholic" school, what with the outright abuse of the liturgy, oh man!

I'll be praying for you as you make this difficult decision.

(Oh, I think you meant "retrouvaille!")

Jennifer F. said...

What a tough decision. Off the top of my head, I think I would agree with Katie that it would probably be a bad thing to send him to a "Catholic" school that misrepresents Catholicism. My husband is reading a fascinating book right now called God and Man at Georgetown Prep: How I Became a Catholic Despite 20 Years of Catholic Schooling, in which the author talks about how bad Catholic schooling led him away from the Church (though he eventually came back). You may find it interesting reading given the decision you face.

Anyway, I'll pray for your discernment process.

Anne Marie said...

Thank you both for your feedback.

It really is a difficult decision. On the one hand I came into the Church via an evangelical path. I love the evangelical enthusiasm for the Lord, and ease of expression of that enthusiasm, on the other hand the Anti-Catholic jibes get tiresome and old, especially when there is no dialogue simply a, “You are wrong because Rev. Jim Bob said so,” approach to the topic of doctrine.

The Christian school has men teachers for his grade and we really are looking for Godly men for role models for the child so that is a plus. So it’s hissy nuns in street clothes vs. Godly men who don’t recognize Rome’s authority.

The mothers I’ve spoken to who have their kids at the Christian school tell me that there haven’t been any overt attacks on Catholic doctrine and when questions have come up it’s simply opened the door to discuss and explain the faith in greater detail. The mother’s I’ve spoken to with children at Catholic lite (as our pastor calls it) speak of a warm community environment but don’t ever mention anything more than that in terms of practice or training in the faith.

I’m hoping for a neon sign from God in answer to this question, but of course the new principle, Sr. Pat not calling me back to answer any of my questions may be as good as a neon sign.

Katie said...

Re: laundry soap

I forgot to say, use 1/2 cup for each wash!

Thomas said...

"so it's hissy nuns in street clothes vs. Godly men who don’t recognize Rome’s authority."

Sounds like the nuns don't recogmize Rome's authorty either. Given the choice, I agree with the first two people. I think it will be much easier to explain good Evangelical men than bad Catholic nuns.

Anne Marie said...

Hi Thomas. Thanks for stopping by. We are leaning toward the Christian school, but I still wish we were closer to Ann Arbor and the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist