By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
PARKVILLE — The job of a school teacher and the job of a bishop are alike in many ways, said a man who has been both.
“When a person becomes a bishop, he is entrusted with a three-fold office — to teach, to lead and to sanctify,” Bishop Robert W. Finn told the diocese’s teachers Aug. 8 at the annual Mass to celebrate the beginning of a new school year.
“That is also at the heart of the work of the church,” he said as hundreds of teachers gathered at St. Therese Parish. “It is your work as well as you take a role in the lives of our young people to teach, to lead, to sanctify.”
Bishop Finn presided as the teachers, as do all diocesan and parish employees, renewed their pledge to model and live Catholic virtues, values and teaching, not only on the job, but in their lives as well.
Noticing at the beginning of the Mass that the front pews in the large church were vacant as teachers sat with their peers from their own schools, Bishop Finn quipped, “Let there be no division among us as we draw closer to Christ.”
But Bishop Finn then told the teachers of the importance of their work, not only in forming children academically, but spiritually.
“You form our children,” he said. “You teach them the basics in terms of faith and hope and love. You pass on those things that will be the pillars of their lives.”
It is sacred work, the bishop told the teachers.
“They need the foundation that rests like rock so they can build their lives upon it,” Bishop Finn said.
Teaching is a calling, he said, but one that must be rooted in discipleship.
“In order to be teachers, you and I must first be disciples,” Bishop Finn said.
“We have to follow Jesus Christ. We can teach children the faith, and we will. But first we must know the author of truth, the person who is the truth,” he said.
“We have to be alive with the Gospel ourselves. We want to be with the church. We want to be faithful to the apostolic ministry of the church, and pass along the magisterium in all its fullness and authority,” he said.
“That requires an encounter with Jesus Christ,” he said.
Bishop Finn said that Catholic schools are noted for “discipline” which must exist for learning to take place.
“I would urge us all to remember that discipline is about discipleship. It is not just the rod, it is the lamb. It is the light,” he said.
“When someone says that the symbol of discipline in Catholic schools is the ruler, I say, ‘No. It is the candle, holding up the light of Christ. That is the discipline — the real fire of love,’” Bishop Finn said.
It is also the cross, he said.
“The message of the cross is not an easy message at all,” Bishop Finn said.
“To be on fire with the love of Christ is to be willing to make sacrifices. This is what we do for the people we love,” he said.
“We don’t think of the sacrifice. We think of the love, the opportunity to do something out of love,” the bishop said.
“When we choose to follow Jesus and the cross, let us not think of the pain of the cross, but of the love and power of the cross,” he said.
Jesus sacrificed unimaginable pain and death for the sake of eternal life, Bishop Finn said.
“Our eternal life is important, and God’s eternal love is important. That’s what makes us disciples,” he said.
“You are called to great work,” Bishop Finn said. “It is the work of the church. It is participating in the work of the parents as we assist them in their principle role of forming their children.
“I thank you for your continuing commitment,” he said. “My prayers are with you.”