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Order or Chaos?



A tour of the school


Just before the then brand-new St Paul’s, Dundee, opened its doors to its first students, some of us were given a tour of the building. Walking beside one of the councillors who accompanied the group, I noticed that he had stopped and was peering rather quizzically at the sign on a door. It read ‘Electric Chair Charging Room’, but the word ‘charging’ had become obscured for some reason, so it looked as though it read ‘Electric Chair Room.’ I leaned over and said, “O yes, we take discipline very seriously in Catholic schools.” For a moment, he was flummoxed, until he saw my grin.


A parade or two


With sectarian violence on the streets of Glasgow, and the increasing unrest in Northern Ireland, elements of the press, rather predictably, have focused on Catholic schools as being a main cause of sectarianism and hatred. I won’t bore you with how illogical and unfounded these old arguments are - a ten-year-old could point that out - nor point to the real intention behind them – we know that too. No, I would like to look at how we continue to nurture order in the hearts of our students in the face of the chaos that reigns in our society, caused by so many factors which are economic, social and political (and, frankly, not religious).


Discipline’s not the thing; direction is


I don’t want to talk about discipline as such, or classroom management, which is never far from discussions around education, and has risen again to the surface in recent months. No, I want to talk about order.


Order in the Church means a lot more than keeping people in a controllable space. When we use the word order, we mean that which is visible, verifiable, unified, and directed. In other words, it’s about real and healthy relationships with God and with each other, which are so evident that they encourage others to harmony. Or, more simply put, love of God and love of neighbour, shown in the lives of Christ’s disciples.


In the Church we are ordered to someone or something, more than ordered by someone or something. We are orientated, steered towards the good. When we see the good, we like it, we are naturally attracted to it.


Example


When we are tempted to chaos and hatred, grace overcomes the fractures in our hearts and lifts us above the mess we and others have created. How does this happen? When we see the lives of others. When we have before us an example of someone who is not out to impose an ideology or dominate for the sake of ‘empire building’. A person who clearly shows in their lives how love transforms, and lives that love as authentically as they can.


Saints.


That’s who I’m talking about.


And we are all called to be saints.