Tim O’Malley, from Notre Dame University, delivered a thoughtful lecture on the future of Catholic education at Newman Church, Dublin on Wednesday 12th February. Mr. O’Malley’s lecture called for the Church to form a new Catholic culture, emphasising the importance of education, as well as art and family life.
“We need to transform the culture around us” he said. “We need to be continually formed in life to understand that God is not abstract, he is close and loving.”
His talk was broken into three parts: what is secularism; what is education; and what comes after secularism.
Mr. O’Malley refuted arguments that scientific and intellectual advances have left us “disenchanted” with religion.
“Ireland has seen an attempt to destroy the roots of its society, he said. “Young people are rootless, which leads to anxiety. They must determine what life means every day, without guidance.”
Mr. O’Malley argued however that secularism has not ‘foreclosed the religious sense’.
“Man has an insatiable desire to know and find meaning,” he said. “Children are born with a religious sense. It’s for that reason a child will ask ‘why’ ad nauseum.”
The role for Catholic education, Mr O’Malley suggested, is to “open up this desire and wonder, to ask the ultimate questions. We must propose the Catholic tradition, show how it holds the full meaning of life,” he said. “If we are to do this, teachers and parents must live what they teach and teach what they live. Equally, students must take up the truth as a life lived.”
Mr. O’Malley stressed the importance of forming educators, be they priests, teachers or parents.
“The baptised faithful have an opportunity to create a culture of faith, hope, and love. We must look to a sense of community to replace rootlessness.”
Finally, Mr. O’Malley recommended that we not bemoan the loss of the Ireland of old, but look to the future.
“People long to answer ultimate questions. We must provoke these questions, and offer answers.”