In our Catholic schools, we help young people to become stronger followers of Jesus, and to find a clear direction in their lives despite all the conflicting and confusing messages that surround them – Archbishop Martin
Apparently Pope Francis has more than ten million followers on Twitter – not bad for a 77 year old! He’s also the most talked about person on Facebook! But there’s still a way to go before he has as many Facebook friends as Rihanna or Cristiano Ronaldo! Of course Pope Francis is not on Twitter because he wants us to follow him. The Holy Father wants us to follow Jesus. Recently someone sent me this text: ‘Jesus doesn’t have a mobile, but I talk to Him every day; Jesus isn’t on Facebook, but I am His friend; Jesus isn’t on Twitter, but I am one of His followers’!
The very first followers of Jesus were simple fishermen: Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, James and John the sons of Zebidee. He called them as they sat in their boats preparing the nets for a catch. Did you notice that at the same moment Jesus called them, He also gave them a mission? Follow me, he said, and I will make you fishers of men and women. You see, you cannot be a follower or friend of Jesus and keep it to yourself. By becoming His follower you accept a call to spread the good news about Him to others.
Two Sundays ago at the Sistine chapel in Rome, Pope Francis baptised 32 little children. He used a lovely image. He described every newly baptised child as being like a link in a chain of faith that goes right back to the time of Jesus. Whenever parents bring their children for baptism, he said, they are adding another link to the chain. And, please, God, when these little ones grow up, they in turn will come back to have their own children baptised. And so the chain of faith goes on and on.
What a wonderful privilege it is for a parent to create a new link in the chain of faith. What an honour and challenge it is to pass on to a child the gift of faith and friendship with Jesus. I want to acknowledge today the vital role of parents in handing on to their children the light of Christ, telling them their first stories about Jesus, teaching them to make the Sign of the Cross and gradually showing them by word and example how they can know and love God and keep His commandments.
Parents are the first teachers of children in the ways of faith. But today, at the beginning of Catholic Schools week, I also want to pay tribute all those who work in, and support our Catholic schools – the teachers and other staff, members of Boards of Management and all who contribute to the life of our schools in any way. Together, in our Catholic schools, we help young people to become stronger followers of Jesus, and to find a clear direction in their lives despite all the conflicting and confusing messages that surround them.
This week we will be celebrating five key characteristics of our Catholic schools – the five W’s: Welcome, Word, Wisdom, Worship and Witness.
Catholic schools are places of where all are WELCOME. In Catholic schools we listen to God’s WORD and try to follow God’s word in our lives. Our children not only learn information and skills, but in our schools they also gain true WISDOM which will last them a lifetime. In Catholic schools our young people, teachers and parents have opportunities to praise god and WORSHIP together. But most importantly, Catholic schools are about WITNESS. Witness means going out to make a real difference in the world by the way we live our lives. After all, that is what being a friend and follower of Jesus is all about.
Think again about those simple fishermen: Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John.
Because of their witness, because they chose to become fishers of men and women, here we are in Drogheda – Ireland – 2000 years later worshiping God together. It all began with twelve followers who went out to create new links in the chain of faith. Today we are among 2.2 billion followers of Christ around the world – 2.2 billion, a third of the world’s population. Now, beat that Rihanna!!!