Catholic education’s purpose

Archbishop Chaput writes in his recent column on Catholic education, in light of the start of another academic year:

Over the Labor Day weekend I got a note from a friendly Catholic scholar who’s an expert in the history of religions.  She teaches at one of Europe’s large secular universities. … Speaking of her relations with colleagues and students, and the difficult atmosphere in which she works, she wrote:

“Today’s moral conflicts [in the classroom and beyond it] are fundamentally about the structure of reality.  In other words, is there an objective world with a stable, accessible nature or not?  The two camps seem to be that of disorder (chaos, fluidity, partial relative truths, moral permissiveness, radical equality) and that of order (hierarchical structure, objective natures, clear moral goodness accessible to humans, etc.). To the first camp, the second camp seems rigid and deadening, that is, not in harmony with ‘reality,’ which for the first camp is a great mass of shifting grays, instead of blacks and whites, good and bad. 

“The spirit of the first camp is ultimately self-destructive and cannot last, but in the meantime we need to live and navigate through this cosmic fight. I’m troubled by seeing so many of the students I teach choosing fluid darkness instead of the stable and clear light.” 

Today’s moral conflicts … are fundamentally about the structure of reality.”

The goal of all Catholic education is to form young people in a strong Catholic faith, a faith rooted in the truth about God and humanity, a faith that can guide them to a fruitful life in this world, and home to the joy of eternal life with their Creator.

Catholic education starts with a simple principle:  Facts and achievements are empty, or worse, unless they’re embedded in a pattern of meaning.  The deepest hunger of the human heart isn’t for knowledge but for purpose.  This is why Jesus’s words in the Gospel of John (8:32) have always had such power:  “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”  Truth organizes reality.  It gives meaning and direction to life, and in doing so, it sustains hope.

“The deepest hunger of the human heart isn’t for knowledge but for purpose.”