Sunday, September 9, 2012

The ruins of Catholic Education

 I was shocked to arrive at the Extraordinary form of the Mass on Sunday to this sight.  Everyone was shocked, nobody knew.  It just happened.  The crew was busy working away (on the Lords Day, I might add) ripping out the last of the "valuable" materials from the building.  The building that had stood since the 1920's, the oldest Rural Catholic School in the state.  

On Monday, we came back for a special Mass and homeschool book blessing.  After the Mass, while the basement was humming with the voices of home educated, TLM attending little ones eating and sharing the morning, I decided to take a walk through the it stood open to the elements.  A cold wind blowing through it's halls and demolished stairways.  

This school had so much history.  You could see it on the stairs.  To the left, the wood was worn away from 70 years of students, sisters and lay teachers feet traveling up and down the levels on the wooden risers. Like someone had taken sandpaper and smoothed a groove in the edge and rounded it all shiny and worn.  I wish now I had gotten a picture of that.

The room that held the consecrated altar, windows that looked out to the convent and the church.  I had to reflect that the Mass that built this school was the Traditional Latin Mass....and it had been demolished 40 years ago with the same strength of a wrecking ball.  I reflected that this is one reason why we let beautiful sturdy old buildings go from this......
 To this.....and why, you might ask?  Why this historical landmark that was still in good shape structurally,  why did they do this?
 So we can replace it with a parking lot for church events.

Anyone else have that Joni Mitchell song running through their heads "don't it always seem to go, you don't know what you got till its gone..They paved paradise and they put up a parking lot" "

So they tear down this monument to our Catholic pioneers firm and sturdy commitment to true Catholic education.  Gone is the testimony (and hope for the future) of a vibrant and living faith that requires a brick and mortar building to educate its growing number of young in.  This community has lost that hope.  The congregation ages, and the young continue to move away to the city, or just leave the faith all together for secular paganism, or some super fun "bible believing" church down the road.  Typical American Catholic story.  Youth never properly catechized to know the fullness of the faith, to love our Blessed Mother and to have a real and lasting relationship with Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.  So this is where we end up.

And, ironically, across the road (in perfect parking lot location, I might add) still stands the asbestos shingled, weed surrounded, tree growing through the roof bar.  Testimony to the generations of drunken fathers and grandfathers who cared more about getting their buzz on than teaching their children the true faith, and living a true Catholic rural life and passing that love and faith and passion on to their children.  How telling.  How fitting to this dying community.

Our community had offered, when they closed the building down years ago, to take it over.  We wanted to restore it and put it to use for homeschooling purposes, for catechism, for the future hope of opening its doors again as a rural Catholic school built on the rock of the Mass of the Ages, the Most Beautiful  Thing this Side of Heaven.  But we were denied that permission.  Parking lots for archery shoots and game feeds are obviously more important.  Go figure.  Thats American Catholicism for you.
But as the dust settles on this unfortunate and tragic event, all hope is not lost.  When they auctioned off all of the schools furnishings in 2006, I was there.  I bought one of the old teacher desks, and some of the student desks for my little homeschool.  I bought the broken handed Sacred Heart statue that once stood in the convent of the sisters, and that now stands on my home altar.  The antique prints of The Blessed Mother and St. Joseph that came from nobody knew where...I bought the ONE box of Catholic books on the trailer full of school books. (things that make you go Hmmmmm........)

So the dream of an authentic Catholic education lives on in my home, with some of the remnants of the school built by those who believed in our duty to educate children in a Catholic manner.  I am no sister, but my life is consecrated to God as a mother of a large family, and I give up many things that I would like to do for His glory and the glory and exaltation of our Holy Mother the church and the restoration of an authentic Catholic culture.  
In our tiny little, totally imperfect homeschool, true Catholic education plods on into the future.  Like the Hedge schools of Irelands past, and the Priest holes of England's persecution, we go on in our home.  Quietly, almost secretly, teaching the faith and living (or at least trying) to live an authentic Catholic life.  With God's help and blessing our numbers are growing, and maybe one day in my children's children's generation, we will see a resurgence of these rural Catholic brick and Mortar schools.  I would not be surprised if they end up around those parishes that have the Traditional Latin Mass.  The Mass that built Catholic education in this country is the Mass that is keeping it real and alive and raising the next generation of Catholics who are passionate and committed to a living and true Catholic faith in the home and in the schools.


1 comment:

  1. I wrote a reply to this last night. Suffice it to say you are right on. And, I'm glad you are back blooging.