Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Vision of JPII

I am fortunate to work for a school whose namesake, Pope John Paul II, is already being tagged “The Great” in many circles because of his prominent role in ridding Eastern Europe of communism and his pastoral leadership of the Church for 27 years, the second longest tenure of any pope. Perhaps his most enduring legacy, however, will be as a theologian. Recognized as a world class theologian even before being chosen to lead the Church, JPII was prolific in his writings as pope and widely acclaimed for his vision of the human person in what is often now referred to as his “theology of the body”.

We get a glimpse into this vision in his opening to a letter written to the bishops (Fides et Ratio, 1998) when he writes:

“Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.”

This vision animates what we're trying to do at Pope John Paul II High School. By coming to know truth, in all of its beauty and ramifications, it is our desire that students will come to know God, and in so doing, will be inspired to become “strong in mind, body, character, and spirit” to lead “lives of learning and service to the Gospel” (our mission statement).

To aim for such lofty goals, we set our sights high. All students are grounded in a rigorous liberal arts course of study, including four years of Math, Science, English, History and Theology and three years of a Foreign Language and Fine Arts. Tutorials are offered for students who need extra help, whereas those who demonstrate aptitude may take honors courses and choose from among 19 A.P. courses for college credit. Our fine arts program, considered one of the state's best, affords them choices in choral and instrumental music, as well as the dramatic and visual arts. Our athletes play at the highest level of competition in Tennessee, led by excellent coaches and supported by dedicated parents. Students are also encouraged to become members of a large variety of clubs and service organizations within the school.

The lens through which do these things is our faith. Through the study of Scripture and Doctrine, students discover the ancient and universal truths that bring synthesis and meaning to their lives. Through the Christian Service Internship, our students give 25,000 hours of service to 35 Nashville charities, and are thus inspired to love God through others. Through prayer, weekly liturgy and worship, students are invited into a deeper relationship with the Lord.

In a recent survey of our school, a parent used a phrase which I believe captures the spirit of this place. She said there is an “optimism for excellence” here. That optimism derives from a belief that when students strive to be their best, they reflect God's aspirations for them and in so doing, become people who are truly happy.

St. Irenaeus once wrote: “The glory of God is the human person, fully alive”.

That's it. Exactly.

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