The Frontline

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I am Catholic.

While I find the “I am Mormon” campaign a little quirky, I also get it. The billboards, the t-shirts, the commercials are all trying to let people know that normal, regular people are also totally serious about their religion.

I am Catholic…to my core, to the innermost part of my being. I am Catholic. I love Jesus, and I love His Church, and I am trying to glorify Him in this life. I fail and fall on my face frequently, but by His grace, I keep trying.

When we first started talking of marriage and family in the early 1990’s, I was very new to this idea of “I am Catholic.” I was more of an “I go to church Catholic.” During our time in college, we started meeting young families who were taking their Catholic identity and applying it to every aspect of their lives. Their fertility, their finances, the education of their children; nothing was off-limits for God. This kind of faith inspired and excited my husband and me!

All of the choices regarding education were intriguing to us. I myself was a product of public school, and while I had a good experience, I also was keenly aware of all the negative aspects that penetrated the corridors and classrooms of public schools in suburban America. My husband was also a product of public school and doesn’t think back fondly on his experience. More positively, we loved the idea of learning with God at the center of all subjects. How gratifying was the idea of our children studying Theology, going to Mass, wearing uniforms, sitting in small classes with teachers who shared our values.

Fast forward 17 years and you will find that all 5 of our kids attend public school. Some of our children attended Catholic school for a few years, and I homeschooled some of them for a few years, but for the last 7 years, all of our kids have been in our neighborhood schools. Why? Truthfully, our kids are in public school because we think that is where God wants them. Homeschooling was not a great fit for our family, and we just plain couldn’t afford Catholic school. For 14 years we felt it was incredibly important for me to be a full-time stay at home mom, and also be open to life. These choices richly blessed us, but didn’t leave us with much extra income.

More importantly, we think God actually wants our kids on the frontline. As a mom, this isn’t where I really wanted my kids to be. Soldiers on the front line get tired, wounded, and sometimes killed. “Yeah, I think I’d rather mine be in the back, if you don’t mind God.” However, every battle needs these front soldiers. He likes to remind me that “my” kids are actually His first. He has a great and mighty plan for their lives, and He loves them more than I do. Almighty God desires for my kids to be Catholic even more that I do. He wants them to be Catholic by allowing them to be tested and molded at very young ages. He also wants to use them to bring more souls to His mercy and to teach them to find beauty where it seems hidden.

Our oldest daughter thrived during her elementary and middle school years. She is very smart and has a bright and amiable personality. She also really loves Jesus and is Catholic…to her core. She loves her faith and loves to study about it. She even loves the idea of helping other Catholics to fall in love with Jesus. She wanted to be like St. Peter who preached to his own. My daughter also sees the world in definite black and white. She doesn’t have the life experience yet to see that while the God’s laws are certainly black and white, God’s mercy is inexhaustible. He understands every shade of grey and has mercy to cover it. Seeing so much grey during her freshman year in a class of 800 began to wear her down a bit, and she was yearning for a change. We told her that we would look into the Catholic High School, and that if God wanted her to go there, He would show us how. By our computations, Catholic High School is completely out of our financial means. So she was accepted and we started the financial aid process. Asking for money isn’t something we had ever done before, so that was quite humbling. We were expecting that we would receive a number that would be lower than what we felt we needed, but we asked God to make it clear for us.

We were offered “ZERO DOLLARS.” I kind of laughed when I read that the board couldn’t recommend us for any financial assistance. I thought maybe they had gotten our papers mixed up with someone else’s? I then started to get kind of mad at this invisible board. Didn’t they know that “I am Catholic?” Didn’t they know that “My Daughter is Catholic?”

The Lord, in His goodness, revealed to me that I wasn’t mad at some arbitrary board. I was mad at Him because He hadn’t given me what I thought we deserved. Ouch. Falling on my face is painful. Thankfully, Jesus is not short on mercy, and He helped me to get a grip before I talked to my daughter.

It just so happened that the next week, my daughter had an early morning doctor’s appointment. She wondered if we could go to Confession and Mass before her appointment. The only Mass time that we could make was at the Parish that neighbors the Catholic High School. As we pulled in, I fessed up and told her that God had made it clear that this would not be her school, and she responded with a disappointed, but understanding attitude. I had underestimated her maturity.

Even more, I had underestimated God. I sat dumbfounded as the Priest recounted the conversion of Saint Paul. Saint Paul was sent to convert the Gentiles, and my daughter was being sent as well. During the Homily the priest said, “You have been chosen. You want to sit here mesmerized by Jesus in the monstrance, but you have to go out and serve.”

Seriously, these were the readings, this was the message.

Our kids are in public school because God wants them there. My daughter was given a renewed sense of vision and purpose. My husband and I were given hope. God sees us. He knows what we are doing, and He is with us. He loves our kids more than we do, and He has a mighty plan for them. They will be the salt and light. Our job is to train them for the battle, to do everything we can to guard them, to mend their armor, and yes to tend to their wounds when they are hurt along the way.

So… we are Catholic. We trust in Jesus. We seek to serve whomever He wants us to serve, and we seek to find beauty in all things, even in the hallways of the public schools.

14 Replies to “The Frontline”

  1. Thank you, I have done the same thing with my 7…homeschool, Catholic school and homeschool.

  2. What a beautiful reflection, Amy. Thank you so much for sharing part of your journey and giving us all hope and peace that we can trust in the Lord to protect us no matter where life leads.

  3. Great perspective, Amy. It’s hard to see His Will for our lives. Several years ago I was depressed about my job; enough so that I wanted to close my business for good. But God finally made me realize through prayer that to serve Him, I must continue to serve the staff and my customers. It was my ministry…an opportunity every day to help others, and let them know that my business is Christ centered. I found a new joy in each day at work. I start each day by asking myself ‘today, who can I serve and how do I do it?’ I’m so proud of all the kids and their faith. You all are exceptional soldiers for Christ!


  4. Thank you for this wonderful post. I’m Catholic, my daughter is Catholic and lately I’ve felt awful about my inability to home school or send her to Catholic school. In a recent bible study I told a story about something that happened to my daughter at public school, someone said “that is why my kids will NEVER go to public school” someone else told about a Catholic School experience and another mom said “that is why my kids will never go to school, home school only” Needless to say I left with a heavy heart about my choice, even though I had been very happy with it just the week before.

    Thank you for the reminder that perhaps there is a reason we are “publics” and that it’s ok.

  5. Love love love this post!! Our little on is only 2 but we have already begun to discuss schooling options in the area for her and (hopefully) future siblings. My husband and I both had partial Catholic, partial public school upbringings. Our experiences were similar in most ways – pretty mediocre on both fronts.

    As a mom, I want so badly to protect my child’s soul from any negative influences. I want to wrap her in a bubble and keep her from from evil forces! But the reality is, there’s just no way to do that. And there’s no “easy” choice when it comes to choosing a school for our kids. But the important thing we’ve realized is that regardless of our education choice for our kids, WE are and will always be their primary educators.

    It’s parents who throw their kids into whatever school system and assume that the school will “raise” their kids that often find their kids to be weighed down by heavy cultural influences. Whether Catholic OR public school, we simply cannot take the backseat in their lives. I know plenty of devout, Catholic families who have put their kids through public school and their children emerge firmly rooted in their faith – and it’s because all the while, those parents were fully present to their children, always guiding and educating them in the faith.

    Whatever choice we make for our children’s education, I know that we still play the most important role in their lives. I’m so glad to hear from a strong, devout Catholic that yes, public school IS an option, so long as you’re right alongside your child in the trenches every step of the way 🙂

  6. What a beautiful testimony! I especially like how honest you are about when you initially blamed God for not being able to get financial aid. I sometimes find myself feeling put out over blessings I just assumed were coming to me but never did. 🙂

    I attended public school all but one year. In South Carolina in the 80s and 90s, Catholics were in the minority. I think I was most challenged by the fundamentalist Protestants who told me the Pope was the anti-Christ. I wasn’t prepared for that!

    I pray you and your family will be effective and joyful witnesses wherever you go. Thanks for sharing!

  7. I am a new Catholic who just entered the Church this past Easter. Some of the people who helped lead me to the Church were my Catholic friends and teachers that I met at my public high school. I just wanted to let you wonderful ladies know that your children have potential to be a great blessing to others by attending public school.

  8. Amy – Well done you good and faithful servant! So far, God has called all five of ours to public school too. Yes, they had to learn to filter but they did so by God’s grace and who knows how many souls they helped in the process.

    Interestingly, so far He’s also called the first two to Franciscan University and you can’t get any more “passionately Catholic” than that. What are they studying? Theology and catechetics. Jesus, I trust in you! Your plan is better than mine!

  9. Thank you all for your heart felt comments. You all have encouraged and inspired me!
    Melanie, I always tell people, I have tried everything and nothing is perfect, but each way of educating our kids has pros and cons!
    Suzanne, the way you run your business and your life is such a testament to your amazing faith. Yes, we can serve God and do His will in ALL things!
    Melissa, I am so sorry for the judgment you felt at Bible Study! We don’t realize the impact of our words sometimes. God will give you all you need to raise your daughter where He has planted her.
    CA Rhodes, how blessed you are to be at the start of building a family for Christ! May God continue to guide you and your husband as you raise your daughter to serve Him. YES, we as parents are the primary educators of our children! We have to be the first teachers in all things. Then we must talk to them constantly about what they are learning and teach them the Christian worldview. They will learn MANY things in public school that contradict our understanding of History(i.e. AD is now referred to as the Common Era). They will also learn that everyone is a child of God, not just those who agree with us. We can respect and be in relationships with those who hold very different values. In fact, isn’t that what Jesus did?
    Grace, I think my Protestant friends who were passionate about Christ challenged me the most to learn about my faith. I had to find out the answers to their questions! The Holy Spirit worked in them to show me people who were on fire for Jesus. In High School it was my Protestant brothers and sisters who encouraged me to want to live for Jesus.
    Elizabeth, you touched my heart! God bless you and welcome home!! Thank you for sharing and for encouraging us! We pray that our children may indeed be a vessel for Christ, most especially by their actions. May God bless those faithful souls who were witnesses of His truth to you!
    Peggy, so glad to be on this journey with you! My kids have also been blessed by the public schools! We have such wonderful fine arts programs, and I am grateful that they have been given an outlet for their creativity and that a love for art has been cultivated in them!
    God bless you all!
    In Him,

  10. We are a public school family here, too. We tried the Catholic school for a year when we moved to this town and I found it to be clique-y and very focused on money. There was also a “we’re better than the CCD students” attitude that I found appalling. In fact, when we told my oldest that he would be going to the public school the next year he said, “But then we won’t be REAL Catholics any more!” Yikes! I’ve been very happy with our public school experience. Sure there are issues, but to me they can be identified and discussed. And the range of classes and experiences have been wonderful. We watched our oldest be Confirmed this spring with 99 other young men and women – 2/3 of which attend public schools. It is definitely the right decision for our family.

  11. If you look at the bible in the Old Testament there is this bubble wrap mentality from God about the Jewish people. They needed to exclude others to form themselves. But after the coming of the Holy Spirit the movement is a shooting out into the world because Christians carry within themselves the grace of Christ. I am beginning to believe that we do not understand how strong the grace is that operates within us. Thank you Amy for some testimony and words I needed to hear.

  12. As a parent, I’ve learned that the only mantra other than “Jesus, I trust in you!” is “Never say never.” So much of what I imagined was THE way to go as a parent turned out to be (not surprisingly) different than where God was leading us. I would never have chosen some of the paths He’s led us along, but I also know the growth would not have happened any other way. I think that openness has to be there in your family to do God’s will and that’s what I get from this article.

    I do feel a need to clarify one thing, however. I homeschool and there is a very prevalent impression that most who do so are trying to keep their kids in a “bubble.” When in fact, protecting our kids from negative influences is only part of the reason–and not even in the top 10 for most of us–we teach our kids at home. Some people are philosophically opposed to age-segregated education. Some desire to be their kids’ primary influence. Some (like me) believe that cultivating intimacy among the family members is best served through homeschooling; as one person put it, I want my kids to be “educated by their intimacies.” Just as loving public school parents don’t want to be tarred with the same brush as people who are happy to “just get rid of the kids,” nor should it be assumed that most homeschooling families’ primary motivation is to keep their child in a bubble and away from all harm. I personally have found that no matter where/how your kids are educated, suffering finds you. It’s just a matter of which suffering Our Lord intends for your children and family.

    I’ve met homeschooled children who were poisonous influences and public school kids who are kind, respectful, and in love with Jesus. And vice versa. The first question I ask isn’t, “Where do their kids go to school?” but “Who/what is their priority?” A family’s priority usually becomes obvious after spending a little time with them. 😉 If it’s truly a relationship with God, THOSE are the people I want my children growing up with!

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