Information without formation is useless

“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matt 28:20

I love it when a plan comes together.  I’m not talking about a plan of my creation, mind you.  This is Our Lord’s plan, and as one would expect, it is sublime.

Next Sunday we celebrate Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the infant Church. In fact, Pentecost is known as the birthday of the Church.  The Holy Spirit descended as tongues of fire on each of the disciples, filling them with zeal, wisdom, and the courage to leave the upper room where they had been hiding since Jesus’ Ascension, and begin to preach. Three thousand people were baptized into the Church that day!  The Holy Spirit was manifested in a powerful and palpable way on that first Pentecost.

We once had a visiting priest come to our parish to preach at Pentecost.  He said to us, “Jesus went up (at his Ascension), so the Holy Spirit could come down, and we could go out.”  It was a pithy reminder to us that Jesus is depending on us to spread the gospel message. He spent three years preparing his disciples, and then sent the Holy Spirit, so that his teaching could spread farther and wider than it ever could have done if he had remained here with us.  

In reality, though, he has stayed here with us.  We are nourished and strengthened with his own Body and Blood every time we receive Him in the Eucharist. We have his teachings in Scripture and Tradition.  We have the Holy Spirit and the gifts He brings.  We have Jesus himself in the Eucharist.  He thought of everything!  He has given us all we need to fulfill His plan! 

As the school year winds down (or ramps up, for the seniors!) I am struck with the parallels between the liturgical celebrations and the scholastic celebrations we are preparing for.  

When this newsletter goes out, we will have finished the Senior Thesis Presentations.  Each year, I am newly awestruck to hear the scholarly defenses the seniors have prepared, and the poised confidence with which they present them to their peers and teachers. It is the culmination of their formation here at Mount Royal Academy, and it is an impressive event to witness. 

Because they have been grounded in Truth, Beauty, and Goodness, these seniors have the ability to “sift the wheat from the chaff” when encountering falsehood.  They have the fortitude to stand for what is right, even in the face of opposition, and they have the mental acuity to defend their position with logic and reason.  They have grown in virtue, grace, confidence, and maturity.  They have not just been educated; they have been formed.

As author and philosopher Alice von Hildebrand once said, “Information without formation is useless.”  Our students are taught how to think, not what to think. This is not a small distinction.  It is enormous. 

Just as Jesus took his time preparing his disciples, so our students have spent not just three years, but twelve or more equipping themselves for this moment. Their minds have been expanded and cultivated by educators who recognize and value the “whole person” before them; educators who accompany them in the path of knowledge and virtue. Their souls have been nourished with consistent access to prayer and the sacraments. And they have been valued as unique and unrepeatable individuals by their peers, teachers, and administrators.

At Sunday’s liturgy we will celebrate Pentecost, itself a type of commencement for the Church.  Six days later, our students will celebrate their own commencement from high school.  In each case,  there is a call to “go out and make disciples of all nations.”  Our seniors have been prepared, nourished, and strengthened, and now it is time for them to travel the path that is theirs alone to travel. God’s plan is unfolding for them. There is no need to fear; they have been given all they need!   - Mrs. Lisa Sweet, Academic Dean