Today the Holy Guardian Angels Regional School community celebrated Mass for the opening of the formational year. I say "formational" because it is more than academic, more than artistic, and more than athletic: it is all of these, and...more. Our school strives to be a "community in formation"--by which we mean (in a sense not originally intended but certainly welcomed) a work in progress. New methods and technologies are being employed, and new students are being added to our number. It is like the Gospel reading of this weekday, in which Jesus' apostles lower their fishing nets (a type for the Church) into the sea and receive a large quantity (a school!) of fish. Our catch ought to fill us with astonishment in the power of God; it further fills us with repentance for our weak faith in and cynicism toward the newest generation.
St. Paul's letter to the Colossians offers his prayer for the spiritual welfare of that formational community:
From the day we heard about you, we do not cease praying for you
and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God's will
through all spiritual wisdom and understanding
to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord,
so as to be fully pleasing, in every good work bearing fruit
and growing in the knowledge of God,
strengthened with every power, in accord with his glorious might,
for all endurance and patience,
with joy giving thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to share
in the inheritance of the holy ones in light.
He delivered us from the power of darkness
and transferred us to the Kingdom of his beloved Son,
in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
To most readers of this column it is unnecessary to demonstrate in an itemized fashion how this passage applies to children. Just read it as if you were addressing your own children with those words and realize that this was how St. Paul regarded not only the Colossians, but every Christian community. Perhaps, however, the last few lines of the prayer are worth considering for their universal application. We are encouraged to thank the Father who is mercifully preparing us for an inheritance precisely by aligning us with the mind and will of Christ. I heard somewhere that Aquinas distinguished redemption from salvation: the former being the act already accomplished for us by Christ, the latter being the process by which it is being worked out in our lives. While our school and our families are "communities in formation," we can rejoice in what the Lord already has done for us, which can urge us on to a more mindful and grateful daily appropriation of that gift.