Friday, January 25, 2013

Why aren't our plans working? -- part 7

(Letter to Frieda Begue continued interminably)

The question at hand is why bother to have Catholic schools, if not to live the Catholic life? And  why bother to live the Catholic life? The first good answer is that Christ offers real hope in the face of death. It is fascinating to think that the hope Christ offers is so great that practically all those who knew Him fearlessly died violent deaths simply for insisting that Jesus was who he claimed to be, when simply by renouncing Him they could have lived to a peaceful old age. It is yet more amazing that this willingness to die rather that to deny Christ has persisted throughout the history of Christianity. Untold thousands, even millions, have found the Catholic way of life, the Gospel way of life preferable to life itself. I told you the story of the first person I met who claimed to have had the experience of clinical death. He was only the first person I met to claim such things. I have told that story repeatedly and often people tell me about their own similar experience. I have to admit that not all of these experiences are pleasant. There is a second reason to follow Christ by living the Catholic way of life. It seems there really is a hell.

Years back, a couple of kids asked about heaven. I told them the story that I told you just last week, the light and the tunnel and all that. Their uncle, and old friend of mine was listening. He said that it was all a load of .....! 

He said, “When you die, you’re dead. I know. I died.” Later he told me, “What I said a while ago isn’t true. I was in hell.” 

I had known him since he was a child, and believe me, he was a difficult child. He got involved in theft and then selling drugs, and then worse. Finally his liver was almost severed in a knife fight. They lost him on the table, but  they were able to patch him back together and revive him. He didn’t want to go into the particulars of hell, but I have heard a similar from others. I particularly remember a young man who had died of an overdose. He had lived a violent and self absorbed life. He said that when he died, he found himself sinking into a dark alone-ness and he knew he was going to be there for a very long time. He saw Jesus in a distant light, the Christ whom his family loved and served, but who he had rejected. He cried out to the Lord as he fell into the blackness and begged for another chance. He woke up on the an emergency room table of the local hospital. True to his word, he turned his life around and is alive to this day.

If there really is a hell and if God is so good and so loving, how can he send anyone there? The answer is very simple. He doesn’t send us to hell. He finds us there. Think about it. When we are born into this world we are completely self-absorbed. We live in a world of one. If a baby wakes up in the middle of the night and wants a bottle, a change of clothes or mommy’s warm embrace, the whole house is up. It doesn’t matter that you have to be up before the dawn. A baby has a cry that can penetrate brick, and he wants what he wants. I know people who are 60 or 70 years old, who, if they want a bottle, a change of clothes and mommy’s warm embrace.... 

Catch my drift? Many of us never leave the place of fundamental isolation and narcissism into which we are born. We Catholics call this original sin. I suspect that when we die, all that happens is that time stops, and to paraphrase God’s words to Moses, “we are who we are.” And we will be that forever. If we reject God’s offer of grace and refuse to live for anyone but ourselves, then we will live in that absolute alone-ness eternally. Jesus compared heaven to a wedding banquet but He called hell the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

We want God to guarantee the pleasures of heaven, but we fail to understand that heaven is not so much a place as a relationship. If we refuse the relationship, we refuse heaven. More than heaven awaits us. God’s plan is to adopt us, to make us part of that relationship which is God. Remember that God is love, sacrificial love. If I cling to myself, I cannot cling to Him. If God is “agape,” sacrificial love, and I reject sacrifice, I have rejected God. God will not force anyone to go to heaven. He makes us free to reject Him or to accept Him. C.S. Lewis puts it this way: In the end there are only two types of people, those who will say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God will say, “No, thy will be done.” If we want only what we want, than we have made our choice. 

We Americans love to think that we are free. We may once have been, but are no longer. We are a nation of slaves: slaves to our possessions; slaves to our desires; to our sexual needs; to all the things we see on TV. We are enslaved to the cruelest master, our own desires. 

Jesus once said you cannot serve both God and possessions. Things, self-centered passions, an insistence on what we have decided are our “rights” and the inflated sense of our own importance are dragging us down to hell. We talk about freedom of choice. We don’t have and have never had freedom of choice. I may want to be eight feet tall and have a billion dollars. Neither is possible. I may not be able to have them, but I can want them. I can want them with a passion that excludes all other loves. 

Freedom of choice is a myth. All we really have is freedom of will. I can will my own desires, or I can say to God, “Not my will but Thy will be done. Into your hands I commend my life.” The possibility of hell is also the possibility of freedom. We want a God who gives us our every desire, and if He does not obey us, then He is not a good and loving God. Perhaps He doesn’t even exist. Most people love, not God, but what they think He can give, and when He does not give, He is no God at all. 

Perhaps you’ve heard me tell the story of the young starlet who is about to marry the rich old billionaire who has one foot in the grave and one foot on a banana peel. She is interviewed by the paparazzi and we all get a laugh out of her protestation that she is marrying for love. “I’d marry him if he was the poorest man in the world. I love him,” she protests!  Then, in a few months when he finally dies and leaves his fortune to her and her two chihuahuas, the battle is joined between the lawyers of the first, second and third wives and the lawyers of the starlet, over who gets the money. 

The young beauty wasn’t able to love him. She was so self-absorbed and he was so rich. She knew he was an old fool. We knew he was an old fool. The reporters knew he was an old fool. The only one who didn’t know he was an old fool was the old fool. I assure you that God is not an old fool. He can tell the difference between true love and manipulation.

To love God is not to desire Him for what He can provide, but to desire Him for who He is. He allows suffering and difficulty in order to give us the one prerequisite of love -- freedom. The possibility of eternal damnation is also the opportunity for eternal freedom. 

So why live the Catholic life? To live the Catholic life, with all its self-denial and sacrifice is to live in real freedom and to have the ability to truly love God who is Love itself.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Why aren't our plans working? -- part 6

(Letter to Frieda Begue, continued)

In my last thrilling installment I said that the Catholic life involves 10 commandments, 5 precepts, 14 works of mercy. There are a lot of other things, like the Bible, the Catechism, the Rosary, Sacraments and a lot of other interesting things like  the Communion of Saints and the Queen and Mother of the Saints. Mary the Blessed Mother of our Lord and our Mother.  These are not to be thought of as requirements. They are, in a sense exercise, spiritual exercise that St. Paul talks about in his first letter to St. Timothy, the 4th chapter the 8th verse (1Tim.4:8) He calls it godliness, or piety and contrasts it with bodily exercise. If you want six pack abs you are going to have to do some crunches. (I myself am quite content with the complete keg look) If you want to look like Jesus, it’s going to take 10 commandments, 5 precepts, 14 works of mercy and a few other things. You can’t earn heaven. It’s a gift of grace, but if you refuse to allow grace to conform you to Christ’s image, well good luck!

It all seems quite a lot of restrictive nonsense, this Catholic way of life. If it were just a philosophy, or a club that one could join, fine, but precepts and rosaries and the Sacrifice of the Mass? It seems like quite a commitment. Why should one even bother with it in the first place?  

Simple. You are going to die. There is simply no way around it at the present time. It is inevitable that the body you schlepp to the health club is going to be six feet under sooner than most of us anticipate. All the stuff you have accumulated will end up in a yard sale because your ingrate grandchildren are uninterested in the finer things of life. Then the little philistines will divvy up your stock portfolio and certificates of deposit and spend your hard earned cash on good times with their pierced and painted neo-pagan friends from that horrible biker bar they frequent and that little gold digger your grandson married in a druidic, neo-pagan ceremony on some flea bitten, mosquito infested beach that you attended just to be “supportive.” She will waste your bequest on heaven knows what. You never could stomach her or her low-life relatives. Now they are going to be your heirs and there isn’t a darn thing you can do about it because you are as dead as leftover meatloaf. I suppose you could try to haunt them, but I’m not sure it’s that easy to haunt someone. If it’s possible, I bet it’s unpleasant. You’re going to die. I’m going to die. That is unless Jesus is who He claimed to be......

Death is inevitable, but there may be a loophole. We know more about the experience of death than any other generation of history. I’m talking about those beyond and back things. They’re getting so common they have TV shows about them. I’ve met perhaps a hundred or so people who claim to have had the experience. I remember a priest who I met on retreat. We were talking about the topic. He said, “That happened to me.” 

He was visiting his doctor for a routine physical when he had heart attack right on the examining table. The doctor, who was from India, sent the nurse running for the things needed to resuscitate the priest and between resuscitation  attempts, the doctor prayed over the priest. When they got the old priest revived and in the hospital, the doctor went to see him. The priest said that he didn’t know the religion of the man but nonetheless was grateful to him for praying over him while he was dead. The doctor was amazed. 

He said “How did you know I was praying for you? You weren’t unconscious, you were dead!”

The old priest said, “No, I was standing over in the corner waiting to see what would happen.” 

I have heard enough of these kinds of stories to suspect that at the moment of death something really does happen that allows us to see and know things we have no right to see or know. I will never forget the first man I met who had this experience. I’d read a book about these experiences by a sociologist named John Moody. The book was a collection of case studies of people who had been “beyond and back.” I was newly ordained and having read the book I decided I was an expert. I had a talk to give at a women’s group the next day, and desperate for a sermon, I decided to talk about these experiences and what they might mean in relation to our belief in the survival of death. 

After the talk, a tall, thin man came up to me and extended his hand. As he shook my hand he said, “It’s all true. I know because I died.” 

I took a step back. His wife, a woman about half his size looked up at me and said “It’s true, Father. He’s not crazy. He dropped dead of a heart attack at home and they didn’t get him breathing again ‘til they got his body to the hospital.” 

He told me the most amazing story. He said that he found himself floating on the ceiling. His wife was hysterical and his kids were calling the emergency number.  He thought, “why is everyone so upset? I feel fine!” He said that then he felt himself drawn into a long dark tunnel, but it wasn’t frightening. He felt perfectly safe. It reminded him of the 23rd Psalm, “ Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil...” He came out onto a city of light. It was a city, but it wasn’t a city. It was light but it wasn’t light. There was really no way to describe it. There, in front of the city was the Lord, whom he had known and loved for years. It was Jesus, a person of perfect light and love. He said that he could hear all our prayers rise to heaven and become like one prayer before God. He said, “Not only did our prayers rise to heaven but that when we prayed from the heart, “in the Spirit” were his exact words, our very spirits stood before God and became like one spirit.” He said the only thing that bothered him about the whole experience was that there was a kind of judgment in which he knew the answers before he was asked the questions. I wonder if that isn’t what it must be to experience timelessness. Here we live in time. There we have no time. We, like God are eternal, timeless. 

In the midst of all that beauty, he heard one prayer that bothered him. It was his wife praying, “Lord, you have to send him back!” 

He was only in his early fifties, and the Lord turned to him and said, “Your work in the world isn’t done yet. You have to go back.”

He passed back through the same tunnel. He woke up on a gurney in the emergency room of the local hospital; and when he had enough air in his lungs he yelled, “Why didn’t you leave me there?” 

He was so angry about being alive that he wouldn’t talk to his wife for the next three days! There she stood nodding her head as he spoke. After a day or so he got on with the business of living. I’ve told that story innumerable times, and have heard many stories just like it. Some, however are not so pleasant. I’ll get to those later. But there is something beyond this life and, as St. Paul said “If we have believed for this life alone, we are the sorriest of men.” (1 Cor. 15:19) 

To live as if this world were the only reality is a prescription for eternal unhappiness. There is more to live for than what we can get our hands on. There is more to live for than our pleasures and desires. There is more to life than even life.  So, the first reason to live the Catholic life? Hope. Christ offers real hope, hope in the face of inevitable death.    

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Why aren't our plans working? -- part 5

Letter to Frieda Begue continued)

About 30 years ago, I was confronted by a young feminist who had just announced from my pulpit that she was taking a group downtown to march in favor of a woman’s right to abortion. Perhaps I have shared that story with you. I was the new pastor and was not welcome to celebrate the main Sunday Mass. They had their own priest, one who never used the words “father” or “lord” or “pope.”  They were all activists and in the words of my former superior, “Some of them had even been to Nicaragua!” I was very limited in what I could do, but when the call to defend abortion went out from the pulpit for which I was responsible, enough became enough! Go ahead and appoint me chaplain to retired Franciscan nuns in the arctic circle. I couldn’t endure any more! I started saying that Mass despite the intentions of my immediate superior and I alone would make the announcements. No more open microphone at Mass, even for people who had been to Nicaragua.

The young woman in question railed at my intolerance and I explained to her that Catholics believed abortion is a mortal sin and that people who knowingly have one will go to hell unless they repent and confess their sins.  She had a melt down.  She shouted “YOU can’t tell me how to be a Catholic! I was born a Catholic!” I returned, “ You weren’t born a Catholic. You were baptized a Catholic.”

No one is born a Christian or a Catholic. It is a gift conferred by baptism that each of us must accept or reject. The young activists in my former parish could not conceive of being Irish and not Catholic. Or perhaps Grandma would cut them out of the will. They certainly weren’t Catholic in the sense that they accepted what the Church taught and believed.  They didn’t believe in the Trinity, in the divinity of Christ, in the sacrifice of Calvary, in a real Resurrection, in the Real Presence, in papal infallibility or in any of that stuff. They did however believe in folk music, a woman’s right to abortion and coffee and doughnuts in the hall after whatever it was they did up in church.

No matter how hard you try, you can’t dry off the waters of baptism, but you can cut yourself off from membership in the Church. It’s called excommunication. There are other simpler, more practical ways to leave the fellowship of the Church. Many of them involve nothing more complicated than sitting on your couch on Sunday mornings for a few years. This is not exactly excommunication. Let’s call it non-communication. It’s easy to resolve being in a state of non-communication. Just ask the Lord’s forgiveness, make a good confession, and come to Mass and Communion next Sunday, if not sooner. I must admit, there is a little more to it than that. You have to start living the Catholic life.

“The Catholic life?” you ask, “What is the Catholic life?”  Simple, I believe it is the best way to be a Christian, and you may well ask what is a Christian? A Christian is a follower of the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. (Christ is the Greek word for Messiah, the anointed one. Hence the name Christian, by which we have been known for almost 2000 years.) The Christian is one who trusts and obeys Jesus, the Christ. 

Most Christians define their faith by the Apostles Creed or the Nicene Creed, which say that Jesus was the heart, the visible image, of the God who made all things. In other words, if you want to get to know the Creator of the Universe, get to know a Jewish Carpenter who was born in Bethlehem 2000 years ago. He taught that God is a relationship, God is Love itself, and that He, Jesus  is the heart of that relationship come to earth. He invites us to join that divine relationship. He is as a Son to a Father, and He invites us to become what He always has been. God’s Holy Spirit can  remake us in Jesus’ perfect image, just as Jesus is the perfect image of the Father of all things. We do this not by magic or by membership in a club, but by trusting Him. Trusting Him means living the way of life that He teaches. That is the Catholic life.

What is the difference between Catholic and Christian?  None, really. The Christian is the follower of the Christ and “Catholic” is a Greek word that means “universal.” There are lots of varieties of Christianity that have popped up over the ages, but the Universal Faith is the one that the great majority of Christians have always accepted and still do. It is the most ancient and fullest unfolding of what Jesus teaches. Catholicism is a shared way of life. It is to know love and serve God in this world and be happy with Him forever.

So here it is! This is how a Catholic is so supposed to live in the world.

We obey 10 commandments:

  1. Love God above all things and worship only Him. This means you don’t worship yourself. Pretty tough.
  2. Don’t take His name in vain. This isn’t just about swearing. It means don’t call yourself a Christian and act like a pagan. 
  3. Honor the Lord’s Day. Everyday is the Lord’s. You have to have a life of prayer and study and above all you must go to Mass on Sunday. 
  4. Honor your parents. Don’t just obey them. Honor them. This means if you are a parent you must live an honorable life. 
  5. Don’t commit murder. This includes abortion and all abortion causing drugs. 
  6. Don’t commit adultery. This is the tough one for our over-sexed society. This means one man, one woman, one faithful permanent marriage that is open to God’s gift of life. No sleeping around. No recreational sex. No “interesting” alternative life styles. Tough religion, no?
  7. Don’t steal. This is tougher than you think. It means a day’s work for a day’s pay and a day’s pay for a day’s work. It prohibits slavery. Most of the clothes you have on are made by Chinese or Indian slaves. If you are a politician it means you can’t tax the brains out of your constituents making it impossible for them to maintain two-parent homes where children are raised by their mother, if the mother so chooses. (He writes in an act of cowardice.)
  8. You shall not lie.
  9. You shall not envy peoples’ relationships 
  10. or possessions. 

Wait, there’s more.

We obey  5 precepts of the Church (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2041)
  1. You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and rest from work.
  2. You shall confess your sins at least once a year.
  3. You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season.
  4. You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church.
  5. You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church each according to his own ability.  ( This last one doesn’t just refer to organizations and buildings. It implies service in the family of the Church and service to the family of the Church. That means you have to help the poor and get involved in the ministry of the Church.) 
Hold on! there’s still more!We practice 14 works of mercy, 

7 corporal (physical):
  1. Feed the hungry.               
  2. Give drink to the thirsty.   
  3. Clothe the naked
  4. Shelter the homeless.      
  5. Care for the sick.                             
  6. Ransom the captive.                        
  7. Bury the dead.                                

and 7 spiritual:
  1. Instruct the ignorant.
  2. Counsel the doubtful.
  3. Admonish sinners.
  4. Bear wrongs patiently.
  5. Forgive offenses willingly.
  6. Comfort the afflicted.
  7. Pray for the living and the dead.

So, we  live to know, love and serve the Lord. We pray. We study. We obey. We serve. We have 10 Commandments, 5 precepts, 14 works of mercy. That should keep us busy! It’s a full and rewarding way of life. If you want your kids to go to a Catholic school, you want them to value their relationship with Jesus Christ more than they value money or sex or even sports! You want them believe and do these things. Are you doing them yourself?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Why aren't our plans working out? -- part 4

Continued from last week…...

I ended my last harangue talking about the episcopacy. I have always thought it a singular sign of God’s mercy and favor that I am not a bishop. It is a rather thankless task. Ill-tempered pundits like myself can tell everyone what’s wrong and how to fix it. It is left to the bishops to actually do things. They must shepherd  the sheep which in our times more closely resembles the herding of cats. That said, I continue my harangue.

You may think that I want to see the end of Catholic schools. On the contrary! I believe in Catholic schools and Catholic education. For twenty years, I worked very hard to maintain a Catholic school that educated young refugees at reduced rates. I would do just about anything to keep it all going. Once I spent a holiday cleaning up mouse droppings so the health inspectors would not close the lunchroom and with it the school. If cleaning up after rodents is not supporting Catholic education, I don’t know what is. I am simply trying to say that pouring money into a sinking ship without trying to fix the leaks is foolish. I don’t want the ship to sink. I want to fix the leaks. 

If you think it is inflammatory or irresponsible to question the morals of Catholic school graduates, you are fooling yourself. I am reminded of my bright college days and the happy afternoon hours when my friends and I were still sober enough to enjoy the happy afternoons. At one particular gathering, when we were trying to medicate away the day’s difficulties, one of my classmates started mercilessly beating a classmate of whom he was not particularly fond with a broom. Most of us thought, considering the political tensions of the sixties, and our state of inebriation, that it was bound to come to this. What we had not noticed was that the victim’s hair had somehow caught fire. He had a foot thick Afro hair style. Even he didn’t know that he had ignited, and probably thought he was one more victim of racism. With our classmate successfully extinguished, we resumed our pursuit of higher learning, and I do mean higher. Once again, it was the sixties.  Civility and discretion are of limited value on a sinking ship or in a burning building, or a burning hairdo for that matter.

Before we rescue Catholic schools one more time, let us ask what we are rescuing. What is the goal of Catholic education? I would venture that the goal of Catholic education is Catholic Education. I can hear bemused silence. Catholic schools are, at least in my neck of the woods, a very fine education, much better than government education. The teachers are fine teachers. The parents are generally very committed to the well being of their children. The “education” part of the equation is fine. It is the “Catholic” part that is the problem.

I have tried to point out that, though we do produce some Catholics, we still produce quite a few sex-crazed, sports-addicted pagans.  I have heard colleagues say that “They come back when they get married and start having kids of their own.” I read a recent article titled “A Nation of Singles” by Jonathan Last.  It seems that 23.8 percent of men, and 19 percent of women, between the ages of 35 and 44 have never been married. Add to that the people between 20 and 34, the years when people generally start families, and the percentage of never married reaches a whopping 67 percent of men and 57 percent of women. That means a huge number of Americans no longer marry. Marriages are way down. Ask any priest in any parish. People don’t get married much anymore. So if they come back when they get married and have kids of their own, they’re not coming back. Not now, not never, no how.

Forty years ago the optimists said, “They’ll all be back when they get married.” Some of them got married. But most didn’t come back. Now they aren’t even coming back for their funerals. Their kids, what few kids they had don’t bother with marriage and tend to keep mom and dad’s ashes on the mantle next to the football trophies. Why should they bother with marriage? For forty years we winked at the promiscuous ways of our children and now what can we expect from our grandchildren? I remember old Father Hertz, one of my Latin teachers at Crayola University here in Frostbite Falls. He was so old that he used to reminisce about the Spanish American War. I am not exaggerating one little bit. Because he had reached an impossibly old age, the University decided to name a shiny new 19-story  residence hall after him. He was as pleased as could be, until he found out what went on in the building. The behavior of the progressive young Catholic residents of the building could have made a sailor blush. Fr. Hertz asked to have his name removed from the building. The University refused. This was in 1972. The rutting adolescents who made Fr. Hertz regret allowing his name to be tacked to that 19-story bordello are now 60 years old. Their grandchildren are approaching their 20's and they are the third generation for whose return we so optimistically wait. Ain’t gonna happen, at least not in the numbers sufficient to recreate the good old church we once knew.

We are at a historic moment. Ethnic Catholicism is dead. One can no longer be Catholic simply because one is Irish or Polish or Mexican. I remember a battle royal I had in a former parish with a young Irish American colleen who stood up at the open microphone during the progressive Mass and invited everyone to join her in a march to protect a woman’s right to abortion. That’s the point at which I folded the progressive Mass down. Enough, at that point was enough. She was furious with me. She said that I had no right to tell her what it meant to be Catholic. She was born Catholic! I reminded her she was not born Catholic. She was baptized Catholic. No one is born Catholic. She hated everything that the Catholic Church stood for, but she could not conceive of being ethnically Irish and not Catholic. She would have no reason to drink green beer on St. Patrick’s day or march in the parade. So the Catholic Church would just have to change to suit her. That was 25 years ago. It is much easier now to be Irish and not Catholic. 

The Americans who think of themselves as Irish have rediscovered pseudo-Druidism which allows them to kill their babies and still be Irish. I imagine that some author will soon make the case that St. Patrick was a Druid anyway who the Catholic church co-opted, just like St. Bridget was actually a Celtic goddess. Neo-paganism is wondrously wacky and flexible. The point is this. One cannot be Catholic because one is Irish, or Polish or Mexican or anything. In the dawning age of neo-paganism, one can be Catholic only because Catholicism is the truth. Catholicism is a coherent way of life. We Catholics believe that the Catholic way of life is the best and surest way to heaven. It is not just an inconvenient organization that my ethnicity or cultural associations force me to be part of. For the first time in a very long time one is completely free to not be Catholic, and the Catholic education system has yet to wake up to that reality.  It is a mistake to take anyone’s Catholic identify for granted and yet we assume that if a child is in a Catholic school, that child is probably Catholic, no questions asked. We’re glad for the tuition and one must keep enrollment up. We need not teach them Catholicism. They are already Catholic.  They should learn their prayers and it would be nice if they went to church and they should get their sacraments, because, well, they are Catholic.

What I am trying to say is that many, perhaps most, aren’t Catholic by any reasonable definition. The Catholic school system should exist to teach Catholicism to a world that is, in fact not Catholic. One goes to medical school to become  a doctor. The reason one goes to dental school is to become a dentist. The reason one goes to a cosmetology school is to become a cosmetician/cosmetologist.... whatever. Perhaps it would make sense for someone to go to a Catholic school to become a Catholic, or perhaps a better Catholic. American Catholic schools were created in the 19th century to protect Catholic children from the Protestant culture and the government schools that taught it. Now there are precious few Catholic children to protect. There are lot of people who have Baptismal certificates and who would like to have a swell Confirmation party, but they aren’t Catholic in any practical sense. Catholic education will succeed only if its clear that it teaches one how to be Catholic, how to live the Catholic life. One should only go to such a school if one want to be a Catholic, or if one wants his children to be Catholic, not because they want their children to have a good education which is currently not available in many urban government schools. So the question to ask before we can even begin to construct a form of Catholic education that deals with the new reality is; what does it mean to be  Catholic?