Welcome And Hospitality In A Catholic School
The St. Martha Spirit And Why It Matters
St. Martha often gets a bad reputation as the saint who was too busy working to stop and encounter the presence of Jesus. the truth is more complex. St. Martha actually exercised a crucial ministry in the earthly life of Jesus and made a huge contribution to his teaching and ability to reach people. In this episode we explore how Martha’s unique gifts of hospitality and welcome are central to creating a vibrant Catholic school community and culture.
Jonathan Doyle is an international speaker, author, businessman and executive coach who has spoken around the world to more than 400,000 people on topics related to personal development, peak performance, leadership, Catholic school evangelisation, relationships and much more.
His recent keynote addresses include the NCEA National Convention in St. Louis Missouri to 10,000 delegates and he is a frequent keynote speaker in the US, Asia and Europe.
He is also the founder of an influential education and media business that delivers training content to hundreds of organisations and thousands of individuals around the world on a weekly basis.
Jonathan holds an undergraduate degree in education from the University of Canberra, a Masters Degree in Leadership and Management from the University of Newcastle and has also undertaken post-graduate study in philosophical anthropology.
He is the author of numerous books on relationships and peak performance and each day shares these same ideas with a large global audience via The Daily Podcast with Jonathan Doyle.
Finishing Strong is a loud and clear call for every young person to make the very best of their final years of school. Based on hundreds of seminars around the world to a huge number of students Jonathan Doyle offers powerful, practical advice that can make a major difference.
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Welcome and hospitality in a Catholic School.
Well, hey, everybody. Jonathan Doyle with you once again for the Catholic Teacher Daily Podcast. Hope you’re doing well out there in the great wide world adventure of Catholic education. I always say that word, it’s an adventure. You never know what’s going to happen on any given day. I don’t know if this is true for you, but I would say that the vast majority of Catholic teachers all over the world would be able to say that one of the things they rarely experience is boredom. There’s plenty of other emotions that you might experience on any given day as a Catholic educator, but boredom is rarely one of them. I think it’s one of the great things about Catholic education. It’s the variety of personalities and situations, and that beautiful communal spirit that can emerge in a really good Catholic school.
I was blessed, I guess, to be educated by the Marist Brothers and also many years ago to have worked in Marist schools, and I think that’s one thing they do really well, is that they believe in this family spirit. One of the things family does is we have celebrations. In any given year, in all our families, we have these different experiences, and things like birthdays and special events, and our school communities are a bit like that, too, that we have these, there might be athletics carnivals, or special events that happen. I think that’s part of what makes Catholic school so special, is just that spirit that can emerge, and you’re building that. That’s part of what you’re doing every single day. Just your contribution to that.
Now, today, I want to talk to you about something I hope is going to be really useful. Yesterday was the Feast of Saint Martha. Now, I know you could be listening to this later, but I wanted to talk a bit about that. Martha’s one of those saints that gets a little bit of a bad rap. We see her as the busy one in that famous story where Martha and Mary, and Martha’s like, “Jesus, seriously, can you tell Mary to come and help out?” And Jesus famously, of course, says that Mary has chosen the better portion and won’t be taken from her.
That’s the gospel that launched a million homilies, isn’t it? It’s the one that teaches us to be contemplative. That’s important, of course, that’s true, but I want to talk about a couple of things with Martha. The first thing on my heart to share with you in how it relates to Catholic education is that Martha had a beautiful spirit of welcome. Scripture scholars think that Lazarus was the equivalent of a multimillionaire today, he was very wealthy, and they think that Martha and Lazarus helped to fund a fair bit of Jesus’s public ministry in terms of travel, and food, and all that sort of stuff. But Martha has this beautiful spirit of welcome. We find that their home becomes a bit of a hub for Jesus. His journeys follow different routes, but often come back through their house.
So, this spirit of welcome, I want to talk about that for a second, because I want to put this thought on your heart, that through the grace of Saint Martha’s intercession, we can pray for this beautiful grace of welcome and hospitality in our classrooms and our schools. I want you to think about your classroom this way. The gift to welcome, the gift of hospitality within your own classroom. The gift of making students feel welcomed, and important, and valued within your school community, but within your class itself.
One of my children is currently having a bit of a tough time. I’m going to say this really delicately. The relationship that they have, I won’t even reveal which gender, which sex my child is in this particular story, but it’s not a great relationship with their particular teacher, and that’s fine. Every year the teachers are different, and relationships are different, but at dinner last night, she was sharing … Oh, there you go. Well, she’s very young, and she was sharing that she doesn’t feel very seen, or heard, or welcomed in the classroom, and it was quite poignant.
Now, I want to be really fair about this. I’m not blaming anybody, but I’m just making the point that children have sensitive hearts, and that we may not always remember that. My child, at the moment, is not feeling that sense of welcome, and belonging, and being seen and valued. It’s not a big deal. It’s not like it’s a chronic issue, but it’s just obviously something that she’s experienced.
So I want us today to be focused on this Saint Martha spirit, this spirit of welcome, this spirit of hospitality, this spirit of seeing people, of hearing people, of attending to their needs. Again, how do we do this in Catholic education? Well, if it was just up to us and our limited human capacity, then we would, of course … I guess we would have to strive. Some of us would be really good at it, and some of us wouldn’t. But the beauty of our faith, and the graces of prayer, and the graces of the sacraments, are that Christ comes to us and gives us this supernatural capacity to do what we otherwise could not have done.
So that’s the Saint Martha thing, is just to put that on your heart, to pray for the grace of welcome and hospitality, just a smile, just a word of grace. I remember when I was teaching, I had a 7th grade class, and I made a huge effort to make the classroom itself just a great place to be, visually. We had all these little projects, kids would bring in plants and grow plants, and the classroom was just a positive space that they felt they belonged in. So let’s create those spaces and let’s pray for the grace of hospitality and welcome.
The last thing on Saint Martha is, yesterday, praying the divine office on her feast day, the morning office comes from the common of women saints. The reading for the day was from Romans 12 1-2, and I thought of you guys, because part of the reading from her feast day says this, “Adapt yourselves no longer to the pattern of this present world, but let your minds be remade and your whole nature thus transformed. Then you will be able to discern the will of God and to know what is good, acceptable, and perfect.”
Now, I want to wrap the podcast up this morning, but that really spoke to me. The line where it says, “Adapt yourselves no longer to the pattern of this current world,” the world that we’re inhabiting of this present world, it says, “Let your minds be remade, and if you do that, you’ll be able to discern the will of God.” Well, here’s a question. Would you like to be able to discern the will of God over your life, your classroom?
So the scripture is teaching us that there’s a process here. The first thing we want to do is no longer adapt ourselves to the pattern of this present world, and if we do that, we’ll be transformed and we’ll be able to discern the will of God. That’s a promise. Remember, scripture tells us that all God’s promises are yes and amen in Jesus. I love that line. So scripture is telling us here that if we will choose not to adapt ourselves to the pattern of this present world, then we’ll be transformed and we will be able to discern the will of God.
Now, to wrap up, I like to keep these short, what does it mean to not adapt yourself to the pattern of this present world? Here’s what I think, just my 10 cents. I think, often in staff seminars, I talk about what I call the world system. The world system is a, I guess, a philosophical lens that talks about the … If you go back to Saint Augustine’s kingdom of God, the city of God and the city of man, the world system is a system of what I would say is self-aggrandizement. That our current moment in history, driven powerfully now by social media, is all about the maximization of our own individual agency and our wants and desires.
Now, I know you don’t necessarily do that, but I’m just saying that our system is about self-promotion. Look at, we’ve got words now like selfie. We’ve got the whole iPhone, I-everything, right? So the world system is one of power, and it’s one of prestige, and it’s one of beauty, and fame, and being seen. So I think, and this is just my opinion, that our call, the path to not adapt ourselves to this system, is what I call a race to the bottom. That Christianity is a race to the bottom. It’s a race to serve. It’s a race to be hidden.
These are things that I never thought I would say years ago. Many of you know, recently I deleted all my social media accounts, everything. Lots of people are like, “But you do a lot of good and you reach all these people.” I go, “You know what? The world’s going to roll on. It’s going to be just fine.” I’ve often quoted the beautiful quote from Christine Kane, who says, “If God wants you, he knows where to find you,” right. If God wants you, he knows where to find you. My job is just to create the podcast, and put it out there, and pray that God will bless it and it’ll reach people. I gave up on the relentless self-promotion.
So what’s it got to do with Catholic education? I think that we need to seek hiddenness, and the lowest place, and humility, and a child-like trust in God. Why is Saint Therese of Lisieux one of the great giants of the faith? She is a doctor of the Catholic church, friends. That is a big deal. She died in her early twenties and never left her monastery. Why? Because she sought after littleness and smallness. I’ve said in a previous podcast that naked ambition in Catholic schools can be really problematic. A lot of people, they will just drive towards promotion and power in the politics of a school setting, and it’s just toxic. If God wants you to be a principal, he’ll promote you to be a principal. If God wants you to be a teacher for 45 years and just bless the heart of one child after another in hiddenness, then that’s going to be awesome.
So, friends, let’s have the welcome spirit of Saint Martha in our classrooms. Let’s have a spirit of hiddenness and trust in God. Let’s not adapt ourselves to the pattern of this present world, because if we do seek the lowest place, with a trust in our perfect heavenly father, then he will transform our minds and we’ll be able to know his will in all situations. I don’t know about you, but that’s something that I couldn’t really do with.
All right, God bless you. Please make sure you’ve subscribed to the podcast. That’s a huge help. Just hit subscribe wherever you’re listening, Spotify, Stitch, anywhere else. Social media, you won’t find me. So if you do want to find me, onecatholicteacher.com. Please go and check out the resources page. We’ve got a bunch of great stuff there and new stuff coming out. Our amazing teacher resource library, the Going Deeper program, my book. So I’ve got two books there, Finishing Strong, and Tools and Fuels for Catholic Teachers. So go check those out. And the biggest thing you could do to help me would just be to share this with some other teachers.
All right, friends. God bless you. Thanks for the amazing work you’re doing every way and every day, and may the power and the name and the protection of Jesus, his mother, and the Holy angels go with you in your precious vocation. My name is Jonathan Doyle. This has been the Catholic Teacher Daily Podcast, and I’ll have another message for you tomorrow.