Catholic schools and the Sacrament of Reconciliation


It’s possible to see alpha males cry if you work in a deeply Catholic school where the sacrament of reconciliation is taken seriously by Catholic educators.

Crying is not the goal. What is interesting though is what can happen to students on the affective and spiritual plane when they are both suitably prepared and then given an opportunity to encounter the sacrament of reconciliation by staffs that take it seriously themselves.

When you deliver live seminars to over a quarter of a million students, staff and parents you see the best and the worst of what Catholic education can do. You encounter some Catholic schools so compromised by post-modern ideologies that they are simply holding pens for disgruntled and cynical young people who never had a chance to encounter the beauty of faith. You also encounter many fine schools doing great work in gently and faithfully advancing the Church’s mission and once in a while you find a truly great Catholic school doing truly great things.

St Bede’s College in Christchurch is such a place. I have been there now on several occasions and every visit has been memorable. It demonstrates the very best of what a Catholic school can do, for the purposes of this article, in the lives of young men.

What is striking about St Bede’s is that it is one of the few schools that create a culture where young men can play elite rugby but be as equally validated for their openness to God, prayer and sacrament. The emasculation of male spirituality has not happened here and, paradoxically, it has been led in many ways by gifted and committed Catholic woman, Rachel Pitcaithly.

The sacrament of reconciliation has come to be a crucial part of the work that Rachel and her team undertake each year at the retreat for senior students. It is here that many young men have come to experience a genuine encounter with Christ and some have been moved to tears.


Catholic schools and the Sacrament of Reconciliation: A bridge too far? (Jonathan Doyle / Being Catholic)

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