| By Father Kevin Bazzel

Did you know Catholic schools can help remedy Original Sin?

Whom are you looking for? This was one of the questions posed by our Risen Lord to Mary Magdalene as she stood outside His empty tomb. Once the Lord spoke her name, she immediately recognized Him, and she returned to the Apostles to share the Good News.

All people are searching for something that gives them hope, fulfillment, and stability. However, they are attempting to find that something in places that will never suffice. The good news is that people of faith know what they are looking for, or, better, Who. Unfortunately, recognizing the Lord as the source of hope, fulfillment, and stability has become difficult as a result of that ancient sin which has affected all humanity since its commission. This is why Catholic schools are of the utmost importance to our world.

To understand the importance of Catholic schools, we have to go back to the beginning. The accounts of the creation from the book of Genesis offer a display of beauty, goodness, and order.  We call this time the state of Original Justice. Justice is the virtue by which one gives to the other what is due to them, and man received all that was needed to live in perfect relationship with God, with each other, with creation, and with himself.

Regretfully, sin entered into the world, and those necessary gifts were lost, among which were: sanctifying grace, by which man had a relationship with God; and infused knowledge, by which man understood things pertaining to God, morality, and creation. Additionally, suffering and death entered into the world. This new reality we call the state of Original Sin.

This is why it was necessary for us to have a savior, and why, out of His immense love for us, God sent us His Son to restore what we had forfeited by sin. We pray a beautiful account of this in the 7th Preface for Sundays in Ordinary Time: “For You so loved the world that in Your mercy You sent us the Redeemer, to live like us in all things but sin, so that You might love in us what You loved in Your Son, by whose obedience we have been restored to those gifts of Yours that, by sinning, we had lost in disobedience.”

This restoration of those gifts, lost in disobedience, is the great work of redemption — to restore the beauty, goodness, and order of the state of Original Justice and to offer us a previously unattainable destiny: union with God in Heaven. It is the reason why God sent His Son; it is the reason why His Son established the Church; and it is the purpose behind everything the Church seeks to do until the Lord comes again in glory.

In 1977, the then-Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education published a profound treatise entitled “The Catholic School.” In this document, the congregation makes a connection between the saving work of the Church and the intrinsic value of Catholic schools:

To carry out her saving mission, the Church uses, above all, the means which Jesus Christ has given her. She also uses other means which at different times and in different cultures have proved effective in achieving and promoting the development of the human person … She establishes her own schools because she considers them as a privileged means of promoting the formation of the whole man, since the school is a center in which a specific concept of the world, of man, and of history is developed and conveyed. (The Catholic School, §8)

In summary, the Church fulfills her salvific mission above all by making use of the pre-eminent gifts given to her by the Lord — primarily the sacraments. However, she also employs other means throughout history to achieve and promote the development of the human person. We call these apostolates — those official religious or evangelical works which seek to spread the Gospel in the name of the Church. Finally, to complete the summary of the quote, Catholic schools are established as a privileged means of promoting the formation of the whole man.

Catholic schools are apostolates of the Church, for they provide, in the name of the Church, access to the gifts lost by man’s disobedience and restored by the obedience of Christ.  Therefore, Catholic schools can be seen rightly as part of the remedy for Original Sin. As the quote above tells us, Catholic schools are privileged means for this to take place, for they impart to students, on a daily basis, restoration to soul, mind, and body all of the gifts lost.


Restoration of soul


Reception of grace

On a daily basis, students in Catholic schools may receive an outpouring of grace, by which their relationship with God is nourished and sustained. This occurs through participation in the Mass; the reception of Holy Communion; Eucharistic adoration; regular opportunities for the sacrament of confession; daily prayer; devotion to the Blessed Mother and the saints; and using and being surrounded by sacramentals, like holy water and sacred images. Our faith reminds us that there is nothing more important than growing in our love of, and devotion and service to, our God.


Restoration of mind


Imparting of lost infused knowledge

Certainly religious education is offered at Catholic schools to assist the students in understanding Who God is and how He relates to us. A thorough education and formation in Catholic morality provides a foundation to replace that infused comprehension of what is good which was lost by original sin. Yet every subject, whether religious or secular, is taught from the understanding that all truth has one source — God; and the teaching of any truth whatsoever puts our students in direct contact with God. Here, again, are the words of the congregation:

The Catholic school considers human knowledge as a truth to be discovered … A teacher who is full of Christian wisdom, well prepared in his own subject, does more than convey the sense of what he is teaching to his pupils. Over and above what he says, he guides his pupils beyond his mere words to the heart of total Truth. (§41)


Restoration of body


Mitigating suffering

While our earthly life will one day come to an end, and some forms of suffering are unavoidable, it is possible to do what we can to mitigate the suffering which entered into human existence as a result of original sin. The formation of the whole person would not be complete without care for the body. After the resurrection of the dead, our bodies will be glorified and reunited with our immortal souls. Therefore, everything we do to care for our bodies glorifies God and leads to our sanctification. Whether it is recess, physical education or health classes, or participation in sports, Catholic schools provide ample opportunities for this preservation of the body.

In the end, as the congregation reminds us, “Christ is the foundation of the whole educational enterprise in a Catholic school.” (§34) It is His obedience which gives us access to all that we need for the restoration of what was lost by disobedience. We thank Him for all the many ways He restores us. In a special way, we thank Him for Catholic schools, which offer to our students each and every day the gifts of redemption for soul, mind, and body by helping them to see Christ, the One for Whom they are truly searching.

Father Kevin Bazzel currently serves the Diocese of Birmingham as Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia. In 2022, he returned to the diocese after six years of service in the Congregation for the Clergy in the Holy See. During his time in Rome, he also served as an adjunct spiritual director at the Pontifical North American College.