St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral in Freehold
October 12, 2017

Good morning everyone and welcome to our Co-Cathedral. This is the first time we celebrate Catholic schools together in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral. Our beautiful Cathedral is in Trenton but last year the Vatican gave me permission to name a second Cathedral --- a Co-Cathedral --- right here in the middle of our Diocese. 

I am sure that you have many friends who do not go to a Catholic school, right?  Some are home-schooled, some are in private schools and the majority are in public school.  Did you ever wonder WHY you go to Catholic school and not with them in other schools?  Did you ever wonder what the DIFFERENCE IS among schools? 

I mean, everyone goes to school to learn things, to study subjects like math and science and history and literature and all the rest, right?  Math is math, science is science, history is what it is (or what was!) and so on.  Here’s the difference.  Everyone was created by God in his image and likeness, including those in public school.  And the God who created us all, loves us all.

In a Catholic school, however, we add a subject that we don’t find in public schools: religion.  And all the other subjects we study in Catholic school we learn lead us back to God, to our Catholic faith, to our Church, to a “community of faith and knowledge and service” that is open even to those friends and classmates who may not be Catholic: all are welcome!   And while it’s true that math is math, science is science, history is what it is (or what was!), just like in any school, we look at those things differently in Catholic school, because we include God and faith in the picture.  That’s why we like to say “Catholic schools have it all!”

Close your eyes for a minute; go on, close them.  Now think about or imagine the person sitting next to, in front of, behind you.  Keep your eyes closed.  Get a picture of that person in your mind.  Now open your eyes and look at that person.  They look like you imagined them to look.  But if you look real closely, there is almost always something you didn’t see, something you missed.  With your eyes closed, you have to imagine.  With your eyes open, you see what is real, not just some imaginary picture in your mind.  With your eyes closed, you don’t see everything that is there.  With your eyes open, you see it all!

Catholic school is studying with your eyes open.  You don’t just imagine or wonder … you study things with a view toward the God who made them.  You see more than just what’s there.  You see the real thing: God’s creation.  You learn the whole truth, not just part of it.  That’s the part that faith brings.

Can you prove faith like a science experiment? No.  But then that is not what faith offers: it offers more.  Faith is belief without proof. 

Faith is belief that God’s Word, God’s promises are true.  You have perhaps a friend who says to you, “I don’t believe in God!”  That’s sad.  That’s too bad.  He or she is looking at the world, at life with their eyes closed.  “I can’t see God.  I don’t hear God,” they might say.  Open your eyes.  Look around. Listen.  There’s more to this world than what our minds can imagine or science can prove.  There is Someone behind it all, Someone who created it all and keeps it all going.  Think of your parents, your families, your friends.  They might not be right here, right now but they still love you even though you don’t see them right now, you don’t hear them.  You know it.  And when you believe what you don’t always see and hear, you really see and hear more so that the next time you see or hear them, your hearts are happy.  You feel their love.

And that’s why God the Father sent his son Jesus into our world: to give us a glimpse of God and what he asks of us.  And that’s why Jesus established his Church, to remind us that he is always here with us, loving us. Our Church witnesses to that ... and we see that witness with our eyes open!  That’s what the Sacraments do, signs that are deeper and greater than the signs themselves: signs that introduce us to God.  That’s why we pray and keep our conversation and friendship with God alive in our prayers and at Mass.  That’s why we follow what the Church teaches us and what we learn through our faith and religion.  And that’s the difference that a Catholic school makes, that’s why we have Catholic schools.  And no other school will do that for us and with us.  Catholic schools allow us to see life and the world with eyes wide open.  We learn to look at everything the way Jesus did and does: with love!  With joy!  With the belief that we are never alone!  With a desire to care about one another and to do what is good and right --- to really love one another and that’s not always easy; to forgive one another and that’s even harder; to build one another up and not bully or tear each other down, especially because we may be different: to share our faith and show mercy.  Again, that’s the message of our Catholic school, a message that we learn and live every day.

Let’s open our eyes --- wide open --- and our hearts as well and thank God for all he has invited us to be and to believe and to become in our Catholic school.  Let’s show the whole world that Catholic schools have it all --- and have us!