I hope and pray that all of you enjoyed your Christmas vacation. Our family took down the Christmas tree on the feast of the Epiphany, but then I was quickly reminded by a faithful student on Monday that the Baptism of the Lord marks the definitive ending of the Christmas season. The dates can vary depending on how the liturgical calendar falls in the monthly calendar, but the wisdom of this intentional celebration by the Church should not be overlooked.
I am always impressed with how our academic calendar fittingly extends from the liturgical calendar. For example, while discussing and deciding the theme for Catholic Schools' Week, it seemed most appropriate that we really unpack the reason for our participation in the diocesan wide consecration of Catholic schools to Mary, the Mother of God. This will be a very public event; it will take place at Fisher Cats stadium on May 16th. More to it, 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the visitation from Our Lady at Fatima, a historical event in which thousands of people (approximately 70,000) descended upon a small hill to observe three children honor the wishes of Mary. Every time I see the actual newspaper photos I think to myself, "This is so real."
Our theme for Catholic Schools' Week therefore will be "Mary, Queen of Peace and Mother of Hope." This theme will be reflected on prior to and during CSW, and it will also serve as the theme of our upcoming academic fair on March 20th. Just like Mary pondered in her heart in every critical moment of her mission, we will do the same.
Now back to how this all connects to the Baptism of the Lord. Jesus didn't need to be baptized since he was without original sin, but he was not unafraid nor unwilling to follow the Father's wishes and make a public act to inaugurate his mission. This suggests a simple truth of our faith: it is not and cannot be reduced to a mere private devotion or pious spirituality. My faith is our faith, for we really don't do anything in isolation; human nature is inherently social. More to it, the mission of a disciple is public, for it is a lifestyle of doing the will of God in all things. Mary herself left a rather secluded setting and entered completely into the public mission of Jesus, going all the way to the cross with Him and encountering his resurrected body in the Upper Room.
Why so public? The answer lies in the need for redemption. This story, this real historical event, is simply too good and too significant not to be openly shared with all people. There is no historical parallel or religious narrative quite like it; our ultimate destiny and lasting happiness depends on it.
Let us pray for the courage to lead with Mary, placing her at the forefront of our effort to teach children about the wonder and beauty of God's creation, and the limitless love of her Son's merciful heart. No soul who ever sought her protection can be left unaided in the effort to do God's will.