We all expect our kids to be changed through a Catholic school education, right?
But who knew I’d be changed, too?
Earlier this week, I shared the biggest Catholic school myths. Trust me, I’ve heard every argument against Catholic school. Seen every statistic. Listened to every story-gone-wrong. I know this much is true: no educational path – home school, public school, charter school or private school – is perfect. They all have their faults. If there was one true educational savior, none of the rest would be needed. The truth is, every family is filled with unique kids who require a uniquely crafted educational model. For our family, the clear winner has been Catholic school.
As our bishop recently remarked, “There are many alternatives to a Catholic education, but there is no substitute.”
There are so many reasons why I think a Catholic education is relevant, needed and vital for my children, but in the process of spending more than a decade sending my children to them, I was changed. I was transformed. To be honest, it took me off guard.
- I learned how to be a Christian. Listen, we all give it lip service. We say we give to the poor, make sacrifices and practice our faith but our reality is that we’re human. We’re fallible. Catholic school taught me to be fully vested not only in my children’s education, but in their eternal salvation. While it would be awesome if one of my kids became a baseball hall-of-famer, I’m much more interested in them becoming a saint. Ten years ago, I was searching for success for my kids. Now, I’m eyeing heaven, for all of us.
- I stopped keeping up with the Jones’. Our school is comprised of varying socioeconomic statuses and I think it was that diversity that caused me to stop wondering how I was going to keep up with everyone. Instead of comparing how we were different, I’ve found great strength in seeing our similarities, primarily, our faith. We all walk into those school doors each morning with different crosses, a different set of car keys and a different family dynamic, but with the same heart. As Blessed Mother Teresa said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”
- I discovered the beauty of suffering. This year, our school community has been overwhelmed with tragedy and suffering. Deaths, divorces, terminal illnesses – all the things that rock you to your core. But, how beautiful it was to sit among friends, as we clutched our rosaries, wiped away our tears and found comfort through prayer. Not the fake kind, but the real, heart-breaking-open kind. I have seen mercy and grace in ways I did not know existed. Humbling is too simple of a word to describe it.
- I learned to forgive. Mostly myself. I have this well-intentioned, but sometimes bad habit, of expressing my opinion. Catholic schools are teaching me to fight for the important things, pray about the small things and to seek forgiveness in the most important moments. True and abiding mercy is a hard thing to possess. If it were easy, we wouldn’t need a year dedicated to practicing it. Thanks, Pope Francis. As I’ve grown in my faith, walked alongside my kids in their educational journey and witnessed suffering among our school community, the bounty of mercy really has been endless. When we study math, we talk about God. When we dive into science and biology, we explore Theology of the Body. When we craft English essays, we admire the works of saints like Thomas Aquinas. There is no subject untouched by God. It’s through that recurring presence I’ve learned to see my fallible self, in all her glory, and ask for forgiveness with a kinder heart than before.
- I found my sacramental groove. If not for Catholic school, my confession habit would be in the toilet. My kids keep me honest. Recently, our school made the move from the school gym to a sacred space at the neighboring parish. That two hours I spend at Daily Mass – one for my elementary/middle school kids and one for my high schooler – has given me the holy hours I didn’t know I needed. More importantly, it’s provided me with a safe space to discover my own spirituality. I’m learning to listen more and talk less when it comes to God’s plans for my life.
- I fell in love with motherhood. In the early days, most of my hours were spent feeling inadequate. Motherhood was hard, I was exhausted and none of my clothes fit. Now, motherhood is still hard, I am still exhausted and none of my clothes fit, but, BUT I have community. Solidarity, sister! I have fellow moms in the trenches who, when I post on Facebook we need to grab a beer at lunch on a school day, show up and toast another school day with me! They’re the ones who grab my shoulder and pray over me at school Mass. They’re the ones who bring me a vanilla Dr Pepper from Sonic while we laugh about the craziness that is our life. They’re the ones who know my innermost fears and love me anyway. Stella found her groove, y’all.
- I uncovered my gifts and learned to appreciate their season. My first back-to-school night, I signed up for at least a dozen things. VD. Volunteer Disease. Then, a loving mom patted me on the shoulder and told me to go erase my name from all the things. She reminded me that to everything there is a season, including volunteering at school. Over the last decade, I’m learning how I can best foster my gifts to benefit my family and my school community. And each one of them has a season. I’ve learned how to make my ‘no’ stick and my ‘hell yes’ count for something.
All this time, I thought Catholic school was just for the kids, when really, it turned out to be for me, too. Happy Catholic Schools week, y’all.
A few more posts from some mamas who love this Catholic school gig, too:
5 Reasons Why I Send my Kids to Catholic School by Parenting with Peer Review
How to Make Catholic School Affordable by Parenting with Peer Review
10 Reasons We’re Choosing Catholic School for our Children by The Catholic Review