A Letter from Fr. Ashmore
What is the point of High School? Or perhaps an even better question is: “What is the purpose of an education?” In our days in which young adults must get degrees, master skills, and enter the workforce to support family life, it can be tempting to say that education is merely about becoming successful and making money. Education certainly helps with this; in fact, a solid education, like the one our students receive from our talented and devoted teachers, will position them uniquely for such success. At the end of the day, though, as anyone with a full bank account or comfortable material life knows, this by itself cannot make one happy or fulfilled. This is why education oriented towards material success is too limited. It addresses one aspect of life and neglects all its other dimensions.
We as Catholics, touched by God’s revelation, know this particularly well and as such we embrace a view of education that is much more broad and intensely more profound. To grasp this vision, though, we have to go to the roots of education. Education comes from the Latin word educo, which means ‘leading out’ or ‘drawing forth.’ Education is not about shoving information down students’ throat or ensuring that they regurgitate it accurately for the test. Education is a process by which students are led out from themselves to encounter something greater.
From what and to where are they led? Students are led from a self-centered and childish worldview in which all people and things exist for their own pursuit of pleasure and glory to an other-centered existence. Education teaches a young man or woman that they cannot fully know who they are unless they give themselves away. It teaches that the childish view of taking and demanding pleasure and happiness cannot give lasting pleasure or true happiness. It teaches that the secret to life is, as the Second Vatican Council says, that “man…cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.”
Education prepares a student to make this transition from an ego-centric to an other-centric worldview. Catholic education takes this one step further and transforms this to a God-centered worldview. Students are ‘drawn out’ of themselves to meet and serve the God who made them.
Every subject in our school is oriented towards this transition. The language and fine arts help our students encounter and put words to its human experience. Science and mathematics teach the glory of God’s wisdom in creation and how to use his laws to assist the flourishing of His people. History and social studies tell humankind’s story and God’s personal relationship with them. Theology centers the focus on God and the revelation of His identity in the person of Jesus Christ. The Mass, Confession, and adoration put the students directly in contact with the God who made and loves them. Finally, service puts that love into practice for the sake of others.
Our teachers, too, have a part to play in this. Through their witness of the Catholic Faith and their loving service, they reveal to students what it means to live a God and other centered life. Through the joy and devotion of their teachers, students discover that a life lived for Christ does not limit their happiness but enables it.
As Chaplain this, too, is my goal. Through encountering students in friendship, teaching, creating opportunities for prayer, and ministering the Sacraments, my goal is to reveal to students a new world, far greater and more joyful than the little world of selfishness and egoism. This, though, comes about through a long process of relationship and service. It demands my daily gift of self. This is what I intend to do and why I am so excited to be here at St. Thomas Aquinas. Through my work, I hope to lead our students to a new life of fulfillment and joy, found as it only can be: in giving themselves to God and to their brothers and sisters.
Fr. Nicholas Ashmore
Fr. Nicholas Ashmore