Funny thing happened during a local running event recently. During a long run, I fell into sync with a pair of runners and we started casual conversation. One runner holds an interesting position in the community and was gracious as I peppered him with questions. Naturally, he asked what I did, and I was happy to tell him of my involvement with our school.
We meandered, and after we hit the final 10k, he turned to me and said, “Look, in the interest of full disclosure, I resent private schools. They undermine public education. Also, Catholic schools are based on a fairy tale. After all, religion has done much more harm than good.”
I felt a shot of adrenaline in my gut. Keep your mouth shut. Listen and respond, don’t react, I thought.
He went on. Private schools create social stratification. Religion is responsible for wars and intolerance. America should be a place of equality. It’s ridiculous that people do things based on what one guy said. There’s no proof.
This casual, but not-so-casual conversation, forced me to articulate what we do and why we do it outside the friendly confines of mutual understanding. I explained that Catholic education is different ‘in kind’ from public education; Catholic schools recognize and infuse a supernatural vision into what we do. My companion objected that this does not belong in education. But without God, I said, there can be no true education. How can we divorce the reality of the Creator from knowledge of His creation? I don’t want that, he said. Fair enough, but our families choose this for their children and we are all better for it.
As is often the case, forced together as we were by the miles of pavement, we came to understand one another a bit better. We shook hands as we parted. God gave me a gift that day, a Lenten jolt, and I am grateful. I see this because I believe it.
Casual becomes not-so-casual.