I've been speaking of late to a close friend, who has a daughter that will soon be in high school. Should she send her daughter to the Catholic high school in town? She's not sure. Her daughter is very smart, and she's not sure the high school will challenge her. She asked me why I believed so strongly in Catholic schools. Here's what I said:
We need Catholic schools as an antidote to our religious amnesia. We need them to remind us about the beauty of God in "dappled things"--namely, our students: rich-poor, black-white-red-yellow-brown, smart and learning-disabled. We need schools to train our children in the practices of our church - its songs, its liturgy, its prayers, its customs - and to prompt them to be open to grace. We need Catholic schools because our children need to be called to serve others. We need them so that our children grow up in a world where the practice of faith is seen as so natural, so routinely a part of their life, that it becomes almost unnoticed.
Our children are growing up in a cynical, jaded world that caricatures belief as childish nonsense. There is a natural idealism in our youth but it is too often extinguished by a pervasive cynicism that tells them that a moral life is impossible and that they are prudes to try. We need Catholic schools because our kids need their nobler instincts to be challenged by the gospel of Jesus Christ and shown that living out the gospel is not only possible, but noble and right, and yes, even "cool".
We need Catholic schools because we as parents need all these things as much if not more than our children. Seeing the world again through the eyes of our children, we can rediscover what many of us have lost as adults: a sense of wonder and a renewed "respect" (literally, a second look) for our faith and all the gifts God has so richly blessed us with.