Ignore God’s goodness at your own risk

Archbishop Aquila

In these times of trial, it is easy to forget or overlook the stories of faith, joy and vibrant life that are a part of the fabric of our Church. The Psalms remind us, it is essential to “call to mind the deeds of the Lord” and to “remember his wonders” (Psalm 77:11), since failing to do so can lead to despair and a hardened heart. To help us all celebrate God’s goodness, I would like to recall a few moments where I’ve seen it recently.

As 2019 began, I had the privilege to see and be a part of one of God’s wonders. After spending several days on retreat with my fellow bishops at Mundelein Seminary, I made the short trip from Chicago to Indianapolis, where the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) was holding its biennial SEEK conference for students wanting to encounter Jesus and seek the truth.

It’s hard to describe the energy and enthusiasm that the more than 17,000 students from 626 campuses brought to the event, but a few moments from the gathering might give you a glimpse of the experience.

Saturday night, the vast conference room was filled with young people adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and coming to him for healing in reconciliation. In the words of Amy Gasper, who spoke to The Criterion, “You get to see how hungry people are for the Lord. It makes my heart leap for joy.”

I had the privilege of hearing confessions for over two hours and seeing the healing Jesus brought to young people as they heard the words of absolution pronounced over them. They experienced the mercy and tenderness of Jesus welcoming them home and the great joy in heaven over one repentant sinner.

During the Mass on Sunday morning, the Solemnity of the Epiphany, I encouraged the young people in attendance to allow the grace of their relationship with Christ, the light of Christ in them, to overcome the darkness that the world and the Church are experiencing. What I said in my homily applies to everyone: “Jesus can heal any wound. He can restore any disorder. He can bring light into darkness.”  We must put our faith, our full trust and confidence in Jesus!

A few days later, I spoke from the west steps of the Colorado Capitol to a crowd of energetic, joyful pro-lifers from northern Colorado and beyond who came to stand up for the unborn at the Celebrate Life March. Despite the snow storm just a day before, thousands of people cheered the witness of the McGarrity family, who have eight children, four of them with Down Syndrome. The crowd cheered their generous embrace of life and laughed along with the excited shouts from their kids.

A short while later, downtown Denver witnessed doctors, nurses, moms, dads, children, a mariachi band, Native American dancers and so many others marching through its streets to publicly support life at every stage, from conception to natural death.

Then on Friday, Jan. 18, the nation witnessed what organizers called the largest pro-life March for Life in recent memory. By and large, most of the people marching were from Catholic parishes, schools, universities and apostolates. The march had a strong presence of young people, a palpable atmosphere of love, a sense of unity and hope.

The message of hope was also present in Pope Francis’ words during the Jan. 16 General Audience, in which he reflected on the Lord’s Prayer and the fact that God’s love for us is not impacted by our sins and shortcomings. “God is looking for you, even if you do not seek Him,” he said to the crowd. “God loves you, even if you have forgotten about Him. God sees beauty in you, even if you think you have squandered all your talents in vain.”

We need to adopt God’s view of ourselves and the Church, asking him for the grace to see and love as he does. The Holy Spirit is at work in the Church, bringing healing to those in darkness and encouraging people to shine the light of Christ in the world. The evil one would like us to wallow in despair and convince us that things are hopeless.  Place your hope in Jesus and turn to him for healing. You will not be disappointed, and then you will become the light of the world!

Featured image provided by FOCUS

COMING UP: Denver’s first Catholic classical high school opens under patronage of Our Lady of Victory

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Nearly half a millennium ago, thousands of Catholics heeded Pope Pius V’s call to pray the Rosary requesting Our Lady’s intercession for the deliverance of Europe from Turkish invasion.

In a miraculous triumph, at what came to be known as the “Battle of Lepanto,” the outnumbered Christian “Holy League” overcame the Turkish forces, winning Our Lady of the Rosary a new advocation: Our Lady of Victory.

Today, Denver’s new and first Catholic classical high school has chosen Our Lady of Victory as its patroness, with the mission of developing the whole person and forming students who are holy, well-educated and prepared to engage the present culture and contribute to society.

Our Lady of Victory High School is part of the Chesterton Schools Network, which encourages parent-led Catholic schools across the nation, inspired by the life and work of G.K. Chesterton, who wrote a poem about the victory at Lepanto.

Although the school is not an archdiocesan high school, it has been officially recognized by Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila as a Catholic school. This fall’s inaugural 9th grade class will launch at the St. Louis Parish School building in Denver with nearly 20 students.

“Chesterton’s model of joyful Catholicism draws upon the classical tradition but is very evangelical: It engages the culture with a joyful approach to being Catholic… rather than a reactionary one,” said Dr. R. Jared Staudt, President of the school, Director of Formation at the Archdiocese of Denver and Visiting Associate Professor at the Augustine Institute. “We want to form saints to go out and do great things for the Lord within our culture.”

The classical education approach highlights the trivium (logic, grammar and rhetoric) and the quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy).

“We emphasize Socratic dialogue as well as the trivium: how to read texts carefully and understand them through grammar, how to think about them in a coherent manner through logic, and then how to express yourself well in writing and speech through rhetoric; but also the quadrivium: How do we understand the logical order and beauty of the universe?” Dr. Staudt explained.

The benefits of this type of education are many, he assured.

“It’s not just a practical output, but about forming strong dispositions of thinking, of being able to evaluate things, being able to form a plan of action for your life that will translate into being successful in the future.

“It’s about becoming the person that God wants us to become… We emphasize the fundamental things that shape who we are, so that, secondarily, we are also good at doing things,” Dr. Staudt said.

Part of what makes this goal possible is the communion between faith and reason. Students begin the school day with daily Mass; read Homer, Plato, St. Thomas Aquinas, Dostoevsky, G.K. Chesterton, etc.; and study the Bible and the Catechism. They participate in a curriculum where history, philosophy, literature and theology are “braided together,” as their website states.

Part of what makes it unique is also its approach to the fine arts and to mathematics and science.

“We emphasize the fine arts because we want the students to be engaged with beauty and wonder… We want to humanize them, to make them more fully alive,” Dr. Staudt said.

“I would say we also approach math and science from that perspective. We take math and science very seriously, but not as something dry and textbook based, but something that is engaging the beauty, the logic, the wonder of the universe, and the fact that we can logically understand [it] because it is itself something that is a creative work of a mind, of God’s mind, and his beauty is impressed within it.”

As part of this approach, the school has implemented in its unique formation a lot of time in the outdoors, beginning the year with a three-day backpacking trip with the students and ending with a whitewater rafting trip.
The school also plans on having retreats throughout the year, attending and hosting fine arts events and providing service opportunities for its students.

“I think that’s truly part of what makes us unique, that we want to develop the whole person: body, mind and soul,” Dr. Staudt explained.

“It’s about becoming the person that God wants us to become… We emphasize the fundamental things that shape who we are, so that, secondarily, we are also good at doing things.”

The seed for the foundations of the school began with the desire of a group of Denver Catholic parents for a holistic, classical formation for their children, also motived by the need for a Catholic high school in the South Denver metro area.

Hoping to open a Catholic classical high school for their children in the future, six dads organized a series of monthly talks titled “The First Educators” at St. Mary Parish in Littleton from September to November 2018 as a first step to help in this direction.

Little did they know that their dream would become reality only a few months later, with the help of Dr. Staudt, the Chesterton Schools Network and the support of other parents around the archdiocese.

With six experienced teachers on board, the mission-driven school is set to begin forming students in the classical tradition.

“We want them to be holy. I would say that is our biggest overarching goal, that we want to form saints in the sense that they are thinking people who are well-educated and well prepared to engage the world and make a contribution in society – but [in a way] that holiness integrates everything else that we do,” Dr. Staudt concluded.

For more information, visit ourladyofvictorydenver.com.