Instructing the uninformed

As we continue to look at the Works of Mercy, this week we consider “instructing the uninformed,” the more polite way of saying “instructing the ignorant” (the latter version is found in older lists of the Spiritual Works of Mercy).

Pope Francis posed a question during daily Mass on March 18, 2014. “What is the sign that we are on the right path?” He then answered: “Scripture tells us: defend the oppressed; take care of your neighbor, the sick, the poor, the needy, the ignorant. When one journeys a little and draws near to the Lord, the light of the Father enables one to see these things and to go out to help one’s brothers and sisters. This is the sign that we are with Jesus: taking care of the brethren, the poorest and the sick, as the Lord teaches us in the Gospel.”

So, we are not instructing the uninformed or the ignorant (which just means that someone is not aware of something — it does not mean that they are stupid) as if we were better than them. We have been given the blessing of having already learned about Christ (by encountering Him), and so Christ wants us to share that blessing with other people.

Pope Leo XIII, the father of Catholic social doctrine, wrote to the bishops in 1878 the encyclical Inscrutabili Dei Consilio, in which he told them, “It is your duty, venerable brothers, to strive that the seed of Heavenly doctrine be sown broadcast [this was before TV and radio] in the field of God, and that the teachings of the Catholic faith may be implanted early in the souls of the faithful, may strike deep root in them, and be kept free from the ruinous blight of error. The more the enemies of religion exert themselves to offer the uninformed, especially the young, such instruction as darkens the mind and corrupts morals, the more actively should we endeavor that not only a suitable and solid method of education may flourish but above all that this education be wholly in harmony with the Catholic faith in its literature and system of training, and chiefly in philosophy.”

Following that papal command, the Catholic school system was developed in what would become the Diocese of Fall River and it continues to sow God’s seeds in the hearts of our children, so that they might bear good fruit for the Lord’s harvest.

On March 28, 2014, the Holy Father said to a group of bishops, “Education also demands considerable effort from you, and I know all the good that Catholic schools do for the young and for their families through its evangelizing action.” As the pope said, our Catholic schools do not influence only the children who are in the classrooms, but they have a ripple effect upon the entire family, as the school helps the parents in their rights and duties (according to Divine Law) as the first teachers of their children. The environment of the Catholic school helps the family to grow in a Christian milieu, in which Christ’s teachings are not seen as some imposition, but as a blessing.

Speaking to another group of bishops on Dec. 2, 2013, the pope said, “By giving youth a sound education, Catholic schools will continue to nourish their human and Spiritual formation, in a spirit of dialogue and fraternity with those who do not share their faith. It is important, then, that young Christians receive a high quality catechesis that supports their faith and leads them to an encounter with Christ. A good formation and a spirit of openness! This is how the Good News continues to be spread.” Here the Holy Father is noting how Catholic education can have a ripple effect with non-Catholics, those who attend our schools and other people in the community who are moved by the good example of our Catholic school students and staff.

Our Catholic schools depend upon the support of the entire community. Since we are called upon by God to carry out the Works of Mercy, especially in this special Jubilee Year of Mercy, we need to be mindful of how we can help support these schools. Donations are needed directly to the individual schools, as well as to FACE, the Foundation to Advance Catholic Education. FACE continues the work of the St. Mary’s Education Fund, which has provided for decades need-based scholarships to thousands of children in our diocese. FACE also supports the schools directly in their needs. To donate to FACE, you can go online to or you can mail your donation to FACE/Diocese of Fall River, P.O. Box 1470, Fall River, Mass. 02722. 

The Church is called upon by God to be a mother. Pope Francis explained this concept in a Sept. 10, 2014 general audience and he said that “a particular aspect of this educational work of our Mother Church, is how she teaches us Works of Mercy.” You can often see in the pages of The Anchor how the Catholic schools of our diocese do that. 

“Dear brothers and sisters, this is how the Church is mother, by teaching her children Works of Mercy. She learned this manner from Jesus, she learned that this is what’s essential for Salvation. To change the world for the better it is necessary to do good to those who are not able to return the favor, as the Father has done with us, by giving us Jesus. How much have we paid for our redemption? Nothing, totally free! Doing good without expecting anything in return. This is what the Father did with us and we must do the same. Do good and carry on!” Thus the pope ordered us in that audience.

May God help us to learn this lesson and carry it out by helping to instruct the uninformed through our Catholic schools.

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