I remember when Art Linkletter was a popular television host. He is best remembered for interviewing young children. His catchphrase was, “Kids say the darndest things.” So there are times when I run into some of the things that children say, and I refer to those as my “Art Linkletter moments.” Working with the school as closely as I do, I have gotten a number of such moments over the years. In my early days of priesthood, when I was still at St. Francis de Sales, I was teaching a group of first graders that there were two parts to the Bible. I told them that the first one was the Old Testament, and I thought that was enough of a clue that I asked what the second part was called. One girl raised her hand and confidently said, “The Young Testament.”
In a later assignment, I was teaching a class about the Mass and was saying that on special occasions you might see servers in the procession carrying incense. One young boy misheard me. With a disgusted look on his face, he asked, “Father, are the insects alive?”
My third story is much more recent – just a few months ago. Ever since I made my ventriloquism debut at the festival, some of our kindergarten students have tried arguing with me that Ralphie, my dummy, is not real. One day one boy relied upon the argument from authority by claiming that his big brother said that Ralphie is not real. I claimed that my brother agrees with me, and he questioned whether I even have a brother. I told him that I do and that my brother lives in Florida. He responded, “Then he can’t be your brother.” But then again one of our kindergarten students a couple of years ago asked if Fr. Lou at St. John of God was my brother. I can see some confusion from the fact that he and I both have similar facial hair, but I’m better looking. (Fr. Lou, if you’re reading this, I’m just kidding.)
Those Art Linkletter moments are just a small portion of why I love working with Catholic Schools. This week we celebrate Catholic Schools Week, and it is a great opportunity to think of how important Catholic schools are to the Church. Our school offers a great education, but I recognize that our public schools also do a fine job of teaching the basic subjects to our children. Where our school truly excels is in integrating education with faith. Jesus Christ is a key part of everything that our school does, and not just in religion class. We are not simply teaching facts about the Church; we are helping parents to introduce the children to God as a loving Father who will always care for us. We are inviting the children on a great adventure of love that will make their lives richer.
Last year I was at a meeting to discuss our schools, and one priest used a line that I thought was very important. He said, “We are not here to get them into Harvard. We are here to get them into heaven.” I mentioned that at the national workshop I attended last summer of the Catholic Education Foundation, and the leader’s response was, “Why can’t we try to do both?” I thought of that when I saw that the theme for Catholic Schools Week this year is, “Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.” I thank our wonderful faculty and staff at St. Malachy School for helping our children to do just that. And if we get a few Art Linkletter moments along the way, that is just a bonus.