Happy Easter! 

I hope that your bellies are full of candy and hearts are full of joy as we enter this season of feasting. This is a time to rest and remember that the new life springing up all around us in nature is an echo of the new life offered to us through the Cross and Resurrection we celebrate this week. 

One of the most humbling parts of my job at St. James is that I get to help host schools from around the country who come to learn about what is happening at our school. Since these visits happen fairly regularly, we decided to go back and count how many we’ve had in recent memory. We found that by the end of this year, we will be just shy of 25 visiting schools from 11 (possibly 12) different states in the last decade. Actually, just this week we had Catholic school personnel visit us from Wichita, Kansas City (Missouri), Peoria (Illinois), and Boise, Idaho!

These visits are a blessing to us for several reasons: first, we always learn from other schools, and these collaborative visits help us grow and get better. But perhaps more importantly, we know that the most important things in life grow when they’re given away.

For those who attended the Easter Vigil last Saturday, you saw this principle in action two times. During the processional, the Easter Candle was undiminished as it passed its flame to those around it, each candle adding new light without losing anything it gave to another. The same principle took place on the altar, as sponsors and godparents stood proudly behind catechumens and candidates ready to join our Church family. Their faith did not weaken by being passed on to someone else in their life; undoubtedly, it grew stronger. 

So it happens when we get visitors to St. James. The more we are asked about what makes this place special, about how we get 200+ students to Mass in the mornings, about how we get teachers to buy into the outside-the-box practices we have here, about how we get parents to care about our mission and invest in it, the more we believe in what we are doing here. 

I would encourage you to reflect on this principle in your own faith life. How strong does it feel? When was the last time you tried to “give it away” to someone else? Is there a relationship between those two answers?

I recently came across this article which was simultaneously deflating and encouraging. The article explores a study looking at the practices linked to children maintaining their Catholic faith into adulthood. 

It was deflating as it recounts the familiar and sobering statistics of how many walk away from their faith. This article included a new one for me: only 15% of children raised in Catholic homes grow up to practice their faith as adults. 

But it was also encouraging, because the practices the article cites as common amongst many of those who maintain their faith are fairly simple and, honestly, unsurprising. While there is no checklist to guarantee your kid won’t leave the faith, the article names a few important elements: families that are warm, affectionate, and fun; families where faith is discussed openly and where doubt or difficulty in faith is not stigmatized; families that go to Mass weekly but also have faith practices (such as family rosaries or meal prayers) within the home; families that serve the poor together; and families that eat dinner together regularly are the families most likely to have children who hold onto their faith into adulthood. 

If you read my last Rapp Up, you know our school is coming to the end of one strategic plan and preparing for another. As we pray and prepare for what our focus should be as a school over the next several years, know that these thoughts echo in our minds: how do we help families serve the poor together? How do we help make it possible for kids to be home for dinner? How do we create opportunities and excuses for families to practice and discuss their faith with each other? 

Our mission is to “pass on the Catholic faith to the next generation.” If this is to happen, it must be us together, parents and families with the support of the school, working to help facilitate the important moments and encounters within our homes and with our families that lead to young people seeing the eternal love and joy our heavenly Father has for us. This is the Easter love we celebrate now, a love that pours itself out, that dies and rises again, that will overcome every boundary, even those of time and space itself, just to draw near to us. 

I encourage you to read the article linked above and take it to prayer, and perhaps see if there is a chance to give your faith away to your family sometime soon. I will do the same. I bet we will find that our faith will be all the stronger for it.

Your brother in Christ, 

Shane