Nativity: Faith & Reason emphasizes religion as ‘the fabric of life’

When Nativity Catholic School in Broomfield changed its name to Nativity: Faith & Reason, some parishioners were concerned it meant a backing away from the Catholicity of the school.

Father Michael Carvill, the parish’s pastor, assured them the opposite was true.

“The title ‘Faith & Reason’ comes from the encyclical letter of John Paul II Fides et Ratio,” said Father Carvill. “It’s something that St. John Paul II saw as a vital part of the way the faith has to present itself in the world.”

Father Carvill hopes the name change will help the students realize something very special.

“The kids need to learn not that religion is something you do at certain moments, but they need to learn that it’s in the very fabric of life,” he said.

“The Catholicity of the school has to be in the DNA of every moment.”

Two pillars inspire ‘dynamic place of dialogue’

Nativity: Faith & Reason has big dreams for students who pass through its doors.

“We’re hoping that slowly, the classroom becomes a more dynamic place of dialogue,” said principal Holly Peterson. “It can’t take place in a traditional education where I speak, you write, you learn, and you test.”

This is Peterson’s first year as active principal, and she brings with her an expansive background in education. Her hope is that Nativity will be a place where children are encouraged to ask questions, so they don’t simply learn about the faith and the subjects they study, but they actually own and carry them throughout their lives.

Holly Peterson is the new principal at Nativity: Faith and Reason. (Photo by Moira Cullings)

Peterson is joined by seven new teachers and an all-new office staff. But the foundation laid by Kathy Shadel, who served at the school for 44 years as a teacher and eventually the principal, has helped the school transition smoothly into these changes, said Peterson.

The desire to focus on faith and reason came out of the archdiocesan symposium on education held a few years ago that encouraged school leaders to implement a value proposition, said Father Carvill.

Rather than choose a classical or STEM approach, Nativity wanted to offer something different.

The Catholicity of the school has to be in the DNA of every moment.”

“We want to give [the students] a critical ability to question, verify and discover the truth for themselves of the proposals that we make to them,” he said.

“It’s only verified conviction that will carry the kids in a world in which everything is saying the opposite to the faith.”

The school also wanted to fulfill needs families have today. Two important new offerings are before and after school care and a preschool, which were both created to alleviate families particularly where both parents work.

Nativity: Faith & Reason has a new preschool, as well as before and after school care, to better accommodate its families.

“In the 21st century, you’re speaking to a different audience than when I began teaching 30 plus years ago,” said Peterson. “We saw [those features] as necessary to meet the needs of our new families coming in.”

The school is also accommodating students with a new look both outside and inside the building — fresh paint, logos and modern updates — that serve to create a sleek, welcoming environment.

Katie Mikesell, Nativity’s Director of Marketing, is most excited about those updates, which she hopes will inspire the students to strive for excellence.

“It looks bright, and I’m excited to get kids in here and have that energy fill the hallways,” she said.

Mikesell hopes Nativity will continue to be a home away from home for its students.

“It should feel that inviting,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to getting them in here and showing off all the changes that have been made to make their educational experience better.”

Nativity: Faith & Reason has a new preschool and overall look. Faculty and staff hope the fresh paint and accommodating updates will make students feel right at home.

Aside from the positive environment, Peterson wants the students to feel cared for in an even more important way.

“We don’t want the kids to be measured here according to what they’re able to do,” she said. “You’re measured by the one who made you. You are a piece of the glory of God; you’re a masterpiece of the glory of God, as John Paul would say.

It looks bright, and I’m excited to get kids in here and have that energy fill the hallways.”

“So, how can we help kids grow and learn in an environment where they feel safe, they feel loved, and they learn the skills they’re going to need for their lives?”

Those are challenges Nativity: Faith & Reason hopes to meet head on in the next few years as new changes and features are implemented.

Father Carvill hopes for a smooth transition so the school “can really roll up our sleeves and begin to do the work of bringing this faith and reason into the very core of everything that we’re doing.”

COMING UP: Did Christians ban the Games? Tales, myths and other fun facts about the ancient Olympics

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The 2020 Summer Olympics began less than a week ago, and as is usually the case, there’s been enough stunning athleticism, shocking upsets and yes, even a little bit of drama on display to keep the water cooler chatter abuzz until at least the 2022 games.

At their best, the Olympic games bridge cultural divides and unite countries around the world as the greatest living athletes around the globe compete for the coveted gold medal in their respective events. There’s a spirit of global camaraderie that welcomely comes about during every Olympiad; whether watching the Games at home with the family or going to a local bar to cheer on your favorite country, the Olympics bring people together in a way that most other sporting events do not.

Another astounding thing about the Olympics is how they’ve endured over the millennia. Indeed, they provide a special glimpse into the history of the world and those common qualities of humanity that will never die; namely, the need for both unitive, universal community and friendly but fierce competition.

The first recorded Olympic games took place in 776 B.C., though some historians speculate that they could have began as early as the 10th century B.C. The games were held every four years in Olympia to honor the greek god Zeus as one of four Panhellenic festivals, this one coinciding with the second full moon following the summer solstice, usually at the end of July or early August. The Olympics became so significant that the term Olympiad was used to mark a year the games took place, and became a common unit of historical time measurement.

Now, the ancient world wasn’t exactly known for its amicability or even peacefulness, as indicated by the countless wars and power usurpations that took place throughout its history. However, Olympic festivals were marked by a truce among the Greeks called ekecheiria, which roughly means “holding of hands.” This ensured safe travels for athletes and spectators as they made their way to the festival and was a common basis for peace among the Greeks. That the Olympic games could get even the constantly feuding Greeks to lay down their arms and come together in a spirit of solidarity speaks to their significance in ancient history.

Early Olympic events included the footrace, wrestling, the long jump, the javelin throw, the discus throw and boxing. Of course, it’s nigh impossible to read about the ancient Olympics and not come across epic tales of chariot racing, an event which was briefly banned early on but was reinstated by the first century B.C. and drew the interest of several key Roman figures (more on that later).

By the fifth century B.C., athletes from all over the Greek-speaking world came to Olympia for the games. The footrace, also called the Stade or Stadion, was considered the most prestigious event, and is where the english word “stadium” is derived from. Stade was a unit of measurement in ancient Greece which modern historians say is the rough equivalent to 600 feet or 200 yards, though the actual length has been a subject of debate for many years. Either way, it represents the length which runners in the Stadion ran to prove themselves as the fastest sprinters in the ancient world.

Interestingly, very little record about the Olympics games during the time of Christ exists. History tells us that the Roman emperor Tiberius, who was emperor during Christ’s life, won the chariot races during the 194th Olympiad in 4 B.C. In 17 A.D., the popular Roman general Germanicus, who was Tiberius’ adopted son and the future father of the third Roman Emperor Caligula, won the chariot races in 17 A.D., presumably around the time Christ was a teenager.

About those chariot races: they were known to attract elite political figures, some of whom won based on true skill, and others who only wanted the appearance of winning to further exert their power and status. During the 211th Olympiad, Emperor Nero, known for his fierce persecution of Christians and rather narcissistic personality, forcibly moved the Olympic games set to take place in 65 A.D. to 67 A.D. so he could compete while on a tour of Greece. He participated in the chariot races (with six more horses than the other competitors), and declared himself the greatest Olympic victor of all time, though historical eyewitness accounts tell a different story. Nero actually nearly died after a severe wreck, but Nero being Nero, he was still declared the winner.

Thankfully, Nero’s title as an Olympic victor and the Olympiad he “won,” which did not adhere to the established chronology of the games, were subsequently stricken from the official Olympic records after his death.

The Olympics grew over the course of 1,200 years until 393 A.D., when Emperor Theodosius I banned all Pagan festivals from the Roman emperor after Christianity became adopted as the state religion. Popular culture and history has long maintained this story of Christianity being to blame for the halt of the Olympic games. However, in recent years, some historians have disputed this account, saying that it was not for religious reasons but rather economic reasons that the games ended when they did. In fact, even after Theodosius’ death, there are still records of Olympic games taking place up until the fifth century. As the administration of Roman Empire evolved, the Olympics could no longer be sponsored by civil funds and instead became sponsored more and more by rich elites of the time. Simply put, the games became too expensive, and no one wanted to pay for them anymore.

The Olympics did not make a return for 1,500 years, until the Athens Olympics in 1896. Over the last 125 years since their reinstatement, the Games have become an integral piece of modern culture and a remnant of ancient history that was revived to great avail. As the Olympics in Tokyo continue over the next week and athletes compete for the gold, the words of St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians serve as a pertinent reminder of how the spirit of an Olympian imitates closely that of a Christian:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor 9:24-27).

So let the Games continue! And may the race be run not for a perishable prize, but an imperishable one.


Featured photo: Met Museum, Terracotta Panathenaic prize amphora (jar), ca. 510 B.C. Attributed to the Leagros Group.