St Charles Borromeo.

Good morning.

Today is the feast of a lesser known saint, St Charles Borromeo. Of interest is that St Charles had little attachment to financial matters, even though he was born as an Italian Count by succession. He was most interested in the workings of the Catholic Church and had attained a doctorate in civil and Canon Law by his early twenties. His uncle, Pope Pius IV, saw his dedication and appointed him as a cardinal – over 4 years before he was ordained as a priest! Subsequently, over the years, he was elevated to the position of Archbishop.

He lived in the time of the post-Reformation, when the protestant churches were growing and much criticism was levelled against the Catholic Church. Charles recognised that some of the criticism was justified, particularly regarding the opulence of some of the church buildings and he made it his life’s work to rectify this. Needless to say, his efforts were not universally supported by the clergy! Rather, his interest was in the poor and uneducated.

St Charles has a personal resonance for me since I attended a Marist school in Pietermaritzburg by that name for 9 years, four of which were in Grade 6. (Just kidding!!!) My parents, who raised five of us in relatively simple conditions, were assisted by a diocesan scheme called the Single Fund Scheme (now defunct) which provided a funding system so that Catholic families could send their children to Catholic schools. The boys went to St Charles and the girls went to the local Holy Family convent school.

It is probably why I am still so passionate about the merits of Catholic schooling. Now, I am the first to admit that not everyone who attends a Catholic school will emerge as an angel – far from it! But what it does offer is the environment in which moral values are prized and taught. Whether the kids embrace those values or not is up to them – this is often linked to domestic influences as well.

Nevertheless, I had the privilege of being able to teach religion in a Marist school for the last 23 years of my professional career. The benefits of being able to attend Mass with my learners; recite the Angelus every day as a school and with the prefects ringing the bell in the quad; being able to confide with kids whose domestic families were falling apart; and being able to give simple moral and religious guidance were just incalculable.

As any parent of young families will tell you, kids will imitate, regardless of what you tell them. A school is the place to which parents surrender their kids for most of their waking hours in the hope that they will be properly prepared for life. The critical factor is whether they prize quantity, which is easy to evaluate, over quality, which is much more complicated. The decider is really what values will stick with them for the rest of their lives – and beyond.

Have an amazing day!

God bless and stay safe.

Dc Mike & the team.

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