In the Heart of the Church: Archbishop Raymond Burke

Catholic schools and consecrated life
Archbishop Raymond L. Burke
Written during his time as Archbishop of St. Louis
February 2, 2007

Catholic Schools Week

We have been celebrating Catholic Schools Week, our annual time to reflect on the treasured gift of our Catholic schools and to recommit ourselves to the apostolate of the Catholic school in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. We have special reason to give thanks to God because of the extraordinary number of our Catholic schools, both archdiocesan and parish schools, and schools sponsored by communities of consecrated religious or associations of the faithful. We also have special reason to recommit ourselves to the Catholic schools, which are a treasured inheritance requiring our constant and generous care and support.

Before reflecting briefly about the Catholic schools, I want to say how deeply impressed I have been and continue to be by the strong commitment of parents in the archdiocese to provide a Catholic-school education for their children from preschool through high school, and even at the level of university studies. I know of the tremendous sacrifices parents make over many years so that their children may be enrolled in a Catholic school. As archbishop, I am responsible to see that the name "Catholic" is used only by schools which are, in fact, Catholic in identity. I am deeply conscious of the sacred trust that I have with parents who have the natural right to expect that a school which is called Catholic is truly Catholic in identity.

Catholic or complete education

The special gift of the Catholic school to its students is a complete education. The Catholic school not only imparts knowledge to students and develops their skills, like all good schools do, but it does so in the context of their daily relationship with God. All growth in knowledge and skills in the Catholic school is seen in the context of faith in God who is the source of all that we are and have.

Not only is the faith taught in the Catholic school, but the faith is celebrated by prayers, devotions and, above all, the regular celebration of the Holy Mass and regular opportunities for the students to go to Confession. Prayer and the Sacred Liturgy are at the heart of the life of the Catholic school.

Finally, we look at the faith which is taught is lived in the Catholic school. The teaching of the Catholic faith would be empty if the life of the school did not exemplify and foster the Christian virtues. The Catholic school is a "school of Christ," for the faculty and students, and all who are part of the school are one in Christ and strive to imitate Christ more and more in the daily activities of the school.

Catholic school and the new evangelization

The Catholic school in our time faces a tremendous challenge from the culture that surrounds us. While the Catholic school imparts the knowledge of Godís plan for us and for our world, and inculcates deep respect for Godís law, the culture tells children and young people that everything is relative to what they think and to what pleases them. While the Catholic school teaches selfless love, the culture leads students to be self-centered and to view life from the sole perspective of personal pleasure and gain.

The culture is pervasive. Administration, faculty, students and all who are part of the Catholic school must, therefore, cultivate a disciplined spiritual life, a life of prayer, devotion and spiritual reading and meditation, which finds its culmination in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Regular Confession is also essential if we are to have the wisdom and courage to meet the challenge of Catholic education in our time.

This year, the Office of Catholic Education has been assisting administrators and teachers to be formed in the new evangelization which the situation of our culture demands. What better place than the Catholic school to foster the new enthusiasm and the new energy which are needed to teach, celebrate and live our Catholic faith in our time. The Catholic school seeks to inspire in students the deep appreciation of the Catholic faith, which will lead them to live their faith, as if for the first time, imitating the first disciples of our Lord and the first missionaries to the archdiocese.

Please keep in your prayers our Catholic schools. Please pray that they will be outstanding instruments of the new evangelization.


Feb. 2 is the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord or, as it is popularly called, Candlemas. Forty days after Christmas, the Blessed Virgin Mary, together with her saintly husband Joseph, brought the Child Jesus to the temple, in fulfillment of the Law of Moses. The Presentation, however, was much more than an act of obedience to the Mosaic law; it was the meeting of the Lord with His people, the Church, represented by Simeon and Anna. In the Eastern Church, in fact, the Presentation is called the Feast of the Meeting.

Christ, after His birth, comes to meet us in the Temple which He purifies in preparation for His sacrifice on Calvary and its perpetuation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. When Simeon received the Christ Child into his arms, he declared Him to be the Light of the Nations. The candle is a fundamental symbol of our Lord, who is indeed our light, the light for all mankind, guiding us to eternal life. On the Feast of the Presentation, the candles to be used in the Church for the coming year are blessed. Candles for devotional use in the home also are blessed.

Vocation to the consecrated life

Candlemas is the day on which the Church honors, in a special way, those called to the consecrated life: consecrated virgins, hermits, monks, contemplative religious, apostolic religious and members of secular institutes. The vocation to the consecrated life, which is so rich in its forms, is a wonderful manifestation of the light of Christ in the world for the salvation of all mankind. Those called to the consecrated life strive to follow Christ more closely and are, as a result, a source of inspiration and strength for those called to the married life, the dedicated single life or the priesthood. In consecrated persons, we all see the purity and generosity of Christís love of us and are inspired to be more pure and generous in the love we are called to give to one another in our respective vocations.

In recent decades, there has been a decline in the number of those who have responded to the vocation to the consecrated life. In the present time, however, there is a new flowering of response to the vocation among our young people. Let us pray for all whom God is calling to the consecrated life so that they will respond with an undivided heart, giving themselves totally to Christ for love of Him and all of us in the Church. By their response to the consecrated life, the light of Christ will shine forth in them to guide us all on the way of eternal salvation.

Heart of Jesus, formed by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, have mercy on us.

On December 2, 2003, Bishop Burke was named Archbishop of St. Louis, succeeding Justin Cardinal Rigali. Archbishop Burke was installed in St. Louis on January 26, 2004, the fifth anniversary of Pope John Paul II's historic pastoral visit to the archdiocese. Pope John Paul II invested Archbishop Burke with the pallium on June 29, 2004, at the Basilica of St. Peter, in Rome. On June 27, 2008 Pope Benedict XVI appointed him to Rome where he now serves as Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura and President of the Commission for Advocates.

Link to More Homilies of Archbishop Burke>>>


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