In Year of Mercy, ‘Hardly Anything More Merciful Than Teaching the Truth’
by Kimberly Scharfenberger
Catholic schools and colleges follow in the footsteps of the Apostles in teaching the truth of the faith that “prepares us to live with Jesus forever,” and especially during this Jubilee Year of Mercy, “there is hardly anything more merciful than teaching the Truth to others,” Father Andrew Apostoli, C.F.R., founding member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, told The Cardinal Newman Society in an interview.
“Our Catholic schools and colleges continue this great service of teaching the Truth that the Lord first taught us,” said Fr. Apostoli. “From the very beginning of Christianity, the faith and doctrine Jesus taught, primarily to His Apostles, had in turn to be taught to others.”
This tradition of educating the faithful has particular significance during the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Catholic educators carry out an important Spiritual Work of Mercy, “instructing the ignorant.”
Instructing others in the truth is “the foundation for a well-ordered life,” said Fr. Apostoli. “The Truth leads us to peace of mind and heart, and a good conscience which allows us to live our lives as we should in this world,” leading to eternity in heaven.
The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, founded in 1987, have a particular devotion to carrying out the works of mercy to the needy through multiple avenues, including homeless shelters, food pantries, medical clinics and youth centers. Fr. Apostoli is the author of several books, including one focused on the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy, What to Do When Jesus is Hungry: A Practical Guide to the Works of Mercy. He explained to the Newman Society that Catholic education’s focus on conveying truth makes it an essential act of mercy.
“There is hardly anything more merciful than teaching the Truth to others,” said Fr. Apostoli. “There is great mercy in setting people free to be what God wants them to be. Freedom of the spirit can be even more important than freedom of the body.”
However, the gravity of this act of mercy demands “certain qualities that must be present in those who teach the faith to others,” Fr. Apostoli continued, noting that teachers should be aware of this responsibility.
He outlined four qualities that those who teach the faith must strive towards:
-They should have good training in the faith themselves so that they can at least adequately communicate it with their students, and answer basic questions.
-They should be living a good Christian life so they can be a model for their students.
-They should have a sincere love and loyalty for the Church.
-They should introduce their students to the Person of Christ, Our Lady and the Saints. As Pope Francis has said, following Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II before him, Christianity is not just a list of dogmatic truths, but an encounter with a Person, the God-made-Man, Jesus Christ.
The Cardinal Newman Society has consistently stressed the important responsibility that teachers have to their students. Understanding teachers as “ministers” of the faith is wholly in keeping with the Church’s vision of education, and teachers should be encouraged to abide by moral guidelines in their lives in order to provide the best possible instruction and moral example to their students.
Fr. Apostoli also provided suggestions for how Catholic schools and colleges can make the most of the Year of Mercy. Students can be encouraged to “come to know Christ more personally” through small discussion groups under good guidance, opportunities for prayer, and ministry to the poor and needy, which can have “a profound effect” on young people.
Students should also be introduced to and become familiar with both the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy to truly understand ministry and social justice.
“If a person does not know what Christian social justice demands in order to do good, or what offends that social justice and how to resist it or correct it, there will be no proper Christian social justice,” Fr. Apostoli said, noting that this is precisely why faithful Catholic education must be cherished and properly inculcated at Catholic schools and colleges.