Before the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and the resulting tidal wave that washed over Indochina and Sri Lanka, I had never heard of the term ‘tsunami.’ Since that devastating event, however, the word has become part of my vocabulary and turns out to be the perfect metaphor for contemporary culture. A tsunami has a momentum of its own, sweeping up nearly everything in its path, no matter how firmly rooted. Contemporary culture does very much the same thing. No matter how tightly you hold on to your values, the culture crashes down on you, weakens your foundation, and carries you along in a tidal wave of crass consumerism, cloying trends, and the next best thing. Harsh but true. It takes a really strong, firmly planted, clear-eyed individual to stand her ground against the onslaught. Who of us hasn’t bent under the pressure of such a force or moved an inch or two from our original foundation?
I’m reminded of this because it’s Catholic Schools Week at Notre Dame. And while I am by no means an expert on the institutional church (nor do I want to be), I have given a lot of thought as to why parents might choose to send their child to a religiously affiliated school. I think the answer is in the daily struggle to hold your ground. Parents have the awesome responsibility of laying the moral groundwork for their kids. But in today’s world, it’s not always enough. There are persuasive influencers vying for your child’s mind, heart and soul every day. I think it must be very reassuring for parents to know there are schools out there that will cultivate the work they began at home. Notre Dame is certainly one of those schools. Although its approach to education is holistic – providing the very best curriculum, instructors, and facilities – it never forgets its true mission, rooted deeply in a spiritual tradition. The girls are not only reminded every day to “act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly with God,” (Micah 6:8) but are given endless opportunities to live the teaching in their relationships with each other, in the community, and in the world at large. In a society where “values” is sometimes considered a dirty word, Notre Dame promotes love, compassion, and social justice not only as concepts worth embracing, but as values worth clinging to. A parent could do a lot worse for their child.