Those of you that have paid attention to my "quick takes" within the past couple weeks probably already know where this is going: yesterday was my first day substitute teaching at our parish school! :)
As someone who was born and raised Catholic, I've always been aware of Catholic schools and what they entail. It's not a secret that many Catholic schools often provide a more solid education and tougher curriculum than the average public school; nor is it a secret that at Catholic school there is usually an opportunity for prayer and/or Mass during the school day.
However, the closest I've ever come to being in a Catholic school was back when I saw my mom's classroom when she taught for a couple years at a Catholic high school about 45 minutes from my hometown. So yesterday when the morning began with the announcements, an Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, and the pledge of allegiance it finally hit me -- yesterday was literally the first day I can ever recall experiencing an actual school day in a Catholic school...in my entire life.
Interestingly enough, the friends I made in college frequently assumed that I had attended a Catholic high school - whether it was because of my involvement at the Newman Center on campus, the way I spoke about my faith, etc. This always made me chuckle because every bit of formal education I've ever had has been at a public school - from kindergarten all the way through college. Any knowledge I have about my religion or faith practices comes solely from my parents, attending church, friends (both lay people and vowed religious), and a lot of personal research and prayer.
|Photograph of St. Therese of Lisieux|
All I could think to myself over and over throughout the day were these four things:
- These children are incredibly blessed (and they may never have any clue how blessed they are until they get to college and meet people who never had daily prayer, weekly Mass, or religion classes as part of their school curriculum).
- The number of times we had prayed as a class by the end of the day was hands down more frequent than I usually even manage to do in my adult life from 8am-3:15pm.
- This place feels like home....
- If it's possible, I want this for all my future children.
A large part of why my sisters and I never attended Catholic school is because almost everywhere we lived there either a) was no Catholic school, b) were no openings for new students, or c) it wouldn't have made sense financially. Although Michael and I have no idea where we'll be living, we had already decided that if the location and finances allow it, we would definitely opt to send our children to Catholic schools.* And after my experiences yesterday, I feel more convicted about this decision than ever before!
Overall I'd say that I had a wonderful experience substituting in the pre-school yesterday. The teachers were fantastic, the children were fabulous (I got many questions about my baby as well as an enthusiastic recommendation from 4 little girls that I name our son Justin Bieber), but most of all: I constantly felt and saw the love and light of Christ. I felt at peace, rejuvenated, and joyful by finally being surrounded by this kind of atmosphere (while I love my Big Ten, state school university, I can't deny that only a Catholic school provides the kind of environment I often yearned for at my secular campus). Thank you, Lord, for a beautiful day filled with love, prayer, and an inspiring collection of teachers and students!
*Obviously homeschooling is another viable option that would foster a rich spiritual life and education for our children, but considering our firstborn is only 24 weeks in utero I'd say we have ample time to figure out if I feel called to that or not (because at the moment I don't).
"I am and have always been a strong proponent of public education. But by the virtue of its very nature - publicly funded schools cannot offer the type of spiritual education that Catholic schools have long provided."