School of Holiness
August 14, 2023
Starting a brand-new school year with a new class of students is similar to opening a gift. It is exciting to see what’s inside, you know that the present was selected especially for you, and it may contain some surprises! As much as we prepare our classrooms for our new students’ arrival on day one, it is as important to prepare ourselves with prayer. In his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Nuntiandi (“Evangelization in the New World”), Pope St. Paul VI stated that, “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.” He continues by saying that it is by our conduct and life that those of the Catholic Church will evangelize the world. At Ruah Woods Institute we have focused on the support, formation, and accompaniment we can provide to all dioceses, teachers, and parish staff through our trainings. It gives us an opportunity to meet wonderful educators from all over the world and help them to understand and grow in knowledge of Theology of the Body, in order to live these beautiful teachings in their own lives, and in turn become authentic witnesses to the faith for their students. Unfortunately, students have an innate sense if their teacher (or parent) is being inauthentic or hypocritical when imparting the beautiful Catholic faith without the personal fortitude to strive to live it out.
I recently had the blessing of training the new teachers in the Diocese of Phoenix, Arizona. It was a joy to see over 100 new educators from multiple states and countries come together on one day to strengthen the foundation of their faith with these foundational truths on the human person through God’s lens, as articulated by Pope St. John Paul II! Many were unfamiliar with the Theology of the Body and were unsure of how it would impact their lives, let alone be valuable to their students. Throughout the day they were encouraged, inspired, challenged, and supported to reflect on the beauty of the dignity of their own lives, their vocation as an educator, and the opportunity they have to impact the faith of the amazing students in their classrooms! One educator stated, “The reinforcement of TOB terms, activities that activated the intellect and the body, and the presentation of the Catholic faith at the forefront were so helpful in aiding in my understanding and implementation of TOB!”
The flagship trainings that we provide are retreat-like in that they include Holy Mass, time for reflection with questions and prayer, and contain tenets of the Theology of the Body, that speak to the teacher’s lives. These learning opportunities are not just on our K-12 curriculum and creative ways to teach and implement it. In his apostolic letter, Novo Millennio Ineunte, Pope St. John Paul II encouraged those in leadership positions in the Church by writing, “Our Christian communities must become genuine schools of prayer, where meeting with Christ is expressed not just in imploring help, but also in thanksgiving, praise, adoration, contemplation, listening, and ardent devotion until the heart truly falls in love….Opening our heart to the love of God also opens it to the love of our brothers and sisters, and makes us capable of shaping history according to God’s plan”. Within the framework of TOB we support teachers to allow themselves to be open to the gifts that God has given them as educators.
In the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin one administrator noted that she was “closed-minded” about TOB prior to our training. She had seen a few videos that were geared towards high school teens and teaching them prudence with sexuality and thought that’s what TOB essentially encompassed as a whole. She did not want to teach it at her school and really did not think it was important for her. After mass and two hours into our Flagship TOB training, she exclaimed, “We are all saints in the making! TOB has helped me to realize that we must start with recognizing we are all made in God’s image and likeness, and then turn to Him in our search for happiness. I am grateful for the opportunity to have my teachers share this knowledge with their students this year!”
As you dive headfirst into the school year, please remember that all that you do is important, but being a witness to the Faith is the most valuable example you can set! In a recent article called, Catholic School Teachers: Missionaries of Evangelization the author stated that, “Catholic schools are special not simply because of their curriculum — even the best curriculum is inert in the hands of faithless teachers. Rather these schools thrive because of the faithful teachers who passionately bring the curriculum to life for their students.” Thank you for your devout witness to our beautiful Catholic faith and your vocation in striving to create a “school of holiness,” not merely an institution for rigorous academics.
May God bless you with the wisdom, understanding, and courage to accept God’s invitation to become a faithful servant to His plan and purpose, and through your persevering witness, extend this life-changing vision to all of your students and family!
Written by, Dena Reany,
Curriculum Consultant, West-Southwest for Ruah Woods Institute