Working in a difficult catholic school

Yesterday’s podcast Talked about the idea that we often need to go into the desert to experience gods grace and presence. However, I received a great message from a listener that their school feels like a metaphorical desert where faith values are not prominent. In today’s message I want to offer another take on the desert metaphor. What do we do
when it seems Jesus has called us into a place that seems dry and arid?


Well, hey everybody, Jonathan Doyle with you for The Catholic Teacher Daily Podcast. God bless you, wherever you are in the world. Wherever you are in the world within the great adventure of Catholic education, thank you for what you’re doing. A few moments of encouragement here for you. Each day, please make sure you’re sharing this with people. It would be a great blessing for me if you could grab the link wherever you’re hearing it and just let other people know. The numbers are growing every day, and all I want to do is encourage you all, and just let you know you’re doing a great job, and give you a little bit of something each day just to inspire and motivate you on this great journey that you’re on, and the difference that you’re making in the lives of so many young people.

Listen, yesterday’s message, I talked about going into the desert. It was a quote from Blessed Charles de Foucauld, and it was this quote about that we need to go into the desert because it’s in the desert and the silence that the graces of God are made available. And I talked about the Desert Fathers and Desert Mothers of the first centuries in Palestine, who kind of left their community, left their cities and went out, and to found these tiny little hermetical communities, often living for long periods of time on their own. And I guess what I was saying was that we need to get these times of silence and prayer, we need these metaphorical deserts as teachers, where the grace of God can speak to us in the silence.

But listen, I got a beautiful message on Twitter from somebody who had listened to the podcast and said, “Look, I enjoyed it,” but they had a different experience of a desert. They were talking about the school where they work is kind of a bit of a Christian desert, in the sense that it’s a Catholic school, but there… It feels like a real desert. The faith isn’t super strong, there’s not a strong Christian presence.

And look, that’s a reality in many schools. All over the world, I see such difference; I see some schools that are incredibly vibrant, Christ-centered Catholic communities, and then I see other schools, and I don’t mean this unfairly, that have become highly professionalized, and the faith has taken a back seat, and we’re sort of… And just the vision and mission of Catholic education has disappeared. So I think that’s what this friend of mine’s talking about, they feel they’re in a desert, and it’s hard. What do you do when you’re really, you’re a person of strong faith, and you want to see the Holy Spirit move, and you want to see Jesus at the center, but it’s not happening in your school community?

I want to give you another thought on this desert principle. I read a few books years ago on the Desert Fathers and Mothers, and as much as it’s all about the silence and the prayer, the other thing that they were huge on was that the desert was a place of conflict. The desert was a place of battle. What does it mean? It means that they would go into the desert, and they would fight. They would say that they were constantly under demonic attack, that they would fight these demonic presences, and mental battles, and battles against themselves, and all the internal drives, and… And part of this desert experience was triumphing over all these other forces, so as much as the desert was a place of God’s grace and silence and prayer, it was also a place of battle.

So, I just want to say to any of us that are in a school where we feel that it’s a battle, that we feel that it’s a desert, well, I want to say, you know what? You’re right, it probably is. Let’s not minimize it. It’s so hard when people in leadership are not really promoting the faith and are not modeling and leading from that space. I hear you, I really do.

What do we know? Well, we know that if you’re there, and you’re a person of faith, then God has placed you there. You know, He runs the entire cosmos, He holds everything together. He doesn’t forget where you are. He doesn’t sort of run everything else, but then you’re just randomly turned up there by yourself. He’s got you there for a reason, and that reason could simply be that it’s a place of battle, and that your prayer, your witness, your love, your gentleness is going to bring about water in the desert. And it may take a while, but deserts often eventually bloom. It can be a long time, but hang in there if it’s a place of battle. Hang in there and know that Jesus has placed you there, maybe to be like leaven, maybe to be that catalyst, maybe to be that person that other people begin to notice something different.

So, I just want to encourage you, wherever you are today, wherever the battles are, wherever the desert is in your school, you’re not there by accident. You’ve probably been called into it. And as always, you’re not meant to do this alone. Begin each day by asking the Holy Spirit to guide and direct you. We’re not meant to do this heavy lifting on our own, we’re meant to do this under the grace and power of the Holy Spirit. So, I hope that’s a blessing for you, I hope that’s an encouragement, that you’re surrounded, guardian angels, you’re protected, the Holy Spirit’s going to give you the promptings and guidance that you need, and I’m going to be praying for you. So, press in there, friends. Press in there. Be the person that Christ has called you to be in that place today.

All right, that’s it from me. Come and follow me, Twitter, @beingcatholic1 , jump on Twitter and do a search, Jonathan Doyle or @beingcatholic1 . Instagram, I’d love you to come and follow me there. I put a lot of stuff out there that’s just really encouraging, my other podcast stuff’s there, so come and follow me on Instagram at jonathandoyle47. And Facebook, please go right now, Passionate Catholic Teachers on Facebook., just type in Passionate Catholic Teachers, and you’ll find our group. Got over a thousand teachers in there now, so come and join us. And the last thing, as always, is just please make sure you subscribe to the podcast, and please share it with people. It’d be a huge blessing to me.

All right, Father, I just ask you to bless whoever’s listening to this. I ask you to confirm them in faith and courage and hope and charity. Holy Spirit, guide and prompt everybody listening. Give them inspirations, give them ideas, give them consolation when things are hard. God bless you, everybody. My name’s Jonathan Doyle. This has been The Catholic Teacher Daily Podcast, and I’m going to have another message for you tomorrow.

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One Catholic Teacher exists to inspire, encourage and support Catholic teachers around the world. Each day Jonathan Doyle offers a short dose of formation and encouragement via The Catholic Teacher Daily Podcast. Jonathan is also a global speaker and author on all issues related to Catholic Education.