The Beginning of All Wisdom
by Dr. Joseph D. Hollowell, 12 mos ago
"My kingdom is not of this world”, a beaten Jesus told Pontius Pilate. I find myself frequently feeling like I more clearly see the reality of Jesus’ words with each passing day.
A while back I was sitting in an airport waiting for my flight to board and a young man who looked to be in his late twenties sat down near me and proceeded to immediately engross himself in a book. While I recognize that it was absolutely no business of mine, I could not overcome the deep urge to try to determine the title of the book he was so intently reading. With a few maneuvers I was able to position myself to get a look and to my dismay I got the information I was looking for – “I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell”. It is hard for me to explain how discouraging I found this to be as I imagined what sort of ideas were presented in this book. I was even more discouraged as I did a little research once I got home. The book is filled with tales of shameless abuse of women and unapologetic debauchery. The news gets worse. It has made its way to the New York Times Bestseller list! The author has a huge following of young men. Of course a quick reading of any of the Gospels could have helped the author determine that his hope is unfounded but, based on his writing, I’m guessing the author has little use for the Gospels at this point in his life. I will be praying for him.
The newspapers that day served as a further reminder that Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world. Coming on the heels of the eBay auction of a consecrated host and the youtube videos of host desecration prepared as a homework assignment for a college professor, the papers told stories of gay rights activists storming Catholic churches throughout California disrupting services and desecrating consecrated hosts in protest over California’s recent vote to affirm a constitutional amendment to define marriage as an act reserved to one man and one woman. Civil disobedience has a long and sometimes respected tradition in this country. On the other hand, sacrilegious desecration of religious ceremonies tolerated by law enforcement and public officials seem to put us into altogether new territory in this land founded on the principle of religious freedom.
These events and many others have really given me pause to reflect on the type of world our children are growing up in. In the book of Proverbs we read, “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom.” (Pr 1:7) The same phrase is echoed by David in Psalm 111:10. The same words are again found in Sirach 1:14. I believe God was trying to make a point. But we have become a people who, on the whole, seem to have lost our healthy fear of the Lord. St. Paul writes to the Galatians, “Be not deceived; for God is not mocked. You will reap whatever you sow.” There are so many signs today of God’s love for us being mocked. Can the reaping be too far away? As a parent, I sometimes feel overwhelmed with all that our culture throws at our youth who are so vulnerable. How can we possibly prepare their hearts, minds, and souls for being the instruments of love that God has created them to be when they are surrounded by so many examples of people who flaunt their disdain for God’s goodness – seemingly without suffering the first consequence?
Yet, in spite of all of the challenges presented by our culture this is a remarkable time to be in Catholic schools. It is a time of hopeful expression for the future of our young people. At board meetings I find that I am not alone in wanting to see my children to be educated with a focus on truth, goodness, virtue, and an appreciation for all that is beautiful in the world. As I speak with faculty I find that I am not the only one who feels we must work even harder to let the light and love of Christ shine clearly through our daily work with students. As I speak with benefactors I am delighted to find that I am not alone in feeling that our Catholic schools are worth the enormous sacrifice and financial commitment needed to make them truly beacons of hope in our communities.
And so with a humble heart I want to say thanks to all of you out there for bringing hope to this world so badly in need of it. In the past year we have received unprecedented support from our parents, alumni, friends, parishes, and benefactors. Thousands of people, businesses, and civic organizations have stepped forward to support the work of our students and teachers in countless ways - serving on planning committees, purchasing ads, working concession stands, giving money, forming prayer groups, selling raffle tickets, donating prizes, working on retreats, preparing meals, working career fairs, setting up tailgates, sewing costumes for plays - the list could fill several pages.
Please know that these gifts of sacrifice and love are deeply appreciated and they are making an immeasurable impact on the quality of life for our students. And it is giving the world and our students a sign of the Kingdom that is to come. A Kingdom where Christ truly reigns and where we will see him face to face.