I hope to post a series of reflections on the purpose of Catholic Education in the 21st century. The purpose has not really changed over the centuries, but the language used to explain that purpose may differ than in times past. For instance, "A Spirituality of Communion” is a new way to describe an essential feature of Catholic education. Though it comes from the writings of Vatican II, it has its roots in the 2,000 years of Christianity.
My familiarity with the term "spirituality of communion" did not come about in an academic or strictly Catholic Education setting. A few years ago, I had the privilege to serve on the archdiocesan pastoral council. Daniel Cardinal DiNardo focused us on preparing the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston for a diocesan wide pastoral plan that was rooted in the spirituality of communion. It is from working on the pastoral plan, I could see how a spirituality of communion needs to be rooted in ourselves first, then within our small platoons, then flows through our engagements in our parishes, workplaces, and with possibly all we interact.
Below is St. John Paul the Great’s point #43 in the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte. Whether on your phone, tablet or computer, I ask you to take a few moments to read, reflect and contemplate this deeply packed section.
A Spirituality of Communion
To make the Church the home and the school of communion: that is the great challenge facing us in the millennium which is now beginning, if we wish to be faithful to God's plan and respond to the world's deepest yearnings.
But what does this mean in practice? Here too, our thoughts could run immediately to the action to be undertaken, but that would not be the right impulse to follow. Before making practical plans, we need to promote a spirituality of communion, making it the guiding principle of education wherever individuals and Christians are formed, wherever ministers of the altar, consecrated persons, and pastoral workers are trained, wherever families and communities are being built up. A spirituality of communion indicates above all the heart's contemplation of the mystery of the Trinity dwelling in us, and whose light we must also be able to see shining on the face of the brothers and sisters around us. A spirituality of communion also means an ability to think of our brothers and sisters in faith within the profound unity of the Mystical Body, and therefore as "those who are a part of me". This makes us able to share their joys and sufferings, to sense their desires and attend to their needs, to offer them deep and genuine friendship. A spirituality of communion implies also the ability to see what is positive in others, to welcome it and prize it as a gift from God: not only as a gift for the brother or sister who has received it directly, but also as a "gift for me". A spirituality of communion means, finally, to know how to "make room" for our brothers and sisters, bearing "each other's burdens" (Gal 6:2) and resisting the selfish temptations which constantly beset us and provoke competition, careerism, distrust and jealousy. Let us have no illusions: unless we follow this spiritual path, external structures of communion will serve very little purpose. They would become mechanisms without a soul, "masks" of communion rather than its means of expression and growth.
John Paul II, Novo Millennio Ineunte, No. 43, Found on August 8, 2017 at https://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_letters/2001/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_20010106_novo-millennio-ineunte.html