Sometimes Catholic schools get a bad press in Scotland - not from educationalists who recognise their academic achievements, nor from people of other religions, many of whom like to send their children to Catholic Schools because of the values they uphold. Rather it comes from the secular lobby who want to see religion taken out of the public sphere. They claim catholic schools are divisive, about indoctrination, inward looking etc. Well. I think they might change their minds if they could meet some of the students I met this week. Catholic schools, on the whole, are not monolithic establishments. They are multicultural and multifaith communities, particularly in urban areas. One of them had 40 + languages. And all the schools that participated in our programme wanted to celebrate this and extend it by embracing Interfaith Week at the end of November. This was a different kind of Catholic school from the one I was brought up in. Then my horizons didn't much extend beyond the Christian community but that's just not possible for students today. And since interreligious dialogue is now so much part of Church teaching, it's not possible to teach Catholicism or Christianity without mentioning this or other issues of justice and peace.
I felt very enthused by meeting these wonderful young people and satisfied that they would become champions of interfaith within their schools. They were a great example of the 'zest for life', an approach to life that the Jesuit paleontologist, Teilhard de Chardin tried to encourage among his friends. I've been reading about it recently. Teilhard believes It was the zest for life that would take the human family and indeed the whole of creation further on its evolutionary journey. And what is this zest for life? Ursula King describes it as " a drive that keeps us alive, engaged, committed to be involved in what is going on around us. It relates to an awakening to the fullness of life with all its joys and pains, its growth and diminishments and sufferings" It is to live and love life to the full and to encourage its flourishing in others, in communities, in the environment. It would seem to me that this is what religion should be all about. There's no doubt there's good religion and bad religion and how do we judge between them? The zest for life must surely come into it - a zest for life that encourages diversity. A diversity that brings colour into our lives must surely be a criteria for good religion. It's interesting that totalitarian ideologies do away with colour and encourage drabness in life and dress. - more at home with death and conformity than with life and creativity. Any of these ideologies that associate themselves with religion are for me an example of bad religion and not to be encouraged.
Not so the young people I met this week. They were surely examples of good religion.