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The Twelve Fruits Of Catholic Education

March 17, AD 2012 36 Comments

Please welcome a very special guest post for our Catholic Education symposium by the famous Sister Patricia Owens O’Flannery, from LarryD’s award-winning blog Acts of the Apostasy

The year was 1972. It was my first year teaching elementary school in the Diocese of Walla Walla, and a most exciting time to be involved in Catholic education. We were awash with the effervescence of the Holy Spirit, freshly released by the Second Vatican Council, free to touch the minds and hearts and souls of all Catholics, no longer the exclusive property of the hierarchy. I, along with five other sisters of my order, burned our wimples out behind the monkey bars during lunch while the students watched and cheered. Those were heady days. Our hair’s newfound freedom was reflected in the methods and means by which we instructed and taught – you could say that the seeds of today’s faith were planted in those days, and we are in these very moments experiencing the fruits of our labors.

But much has changed since my teaching days, which ended abruptly in 1983, when the newly-appointed bishop rudely demanded that our order vacate the school. Without dialogue even! Our feelings were truly hurt when we packed up our Resurrection ankhs and the Navaho dream-catchers the Religion class students made. The Spirit was being suppressed again. Sophia was forced to sit at the back of the class, again. It was if Vatican II had never happened.

As I travel around the world (I just returned from the ancient Incan ruins of Peru, where I transcribed temple hieroglyphs into a new interpretive liturgical dance – it’s simply marvelous!), I meet many like-minded Catholics who have had similar experiences, where free expression of the Spirit is reined in with Orthodoxy; where creativity is stifled by Tradition. It doesn’t have to be this way. I believe that if we allow Sophia to grace us with her blessings – The Twelve Fruits – and apply those blessings to Catholic education, we will recapture the excitement and fervor and self-esteem building that our faith so desperately needs.

Now, traditionally, the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit have been recognized as joy, peace, charity, patience, benignity, goodness, long-suffering, mildness, faith, modesty, continency and chastity. Those are all very good, and they have their place in the faith life of every living thing. But when it comes to revitalizing Catholic education, I propose we allow the Holy Spirit to transmogrify those fruits into a new newness of newnessness.

1. Happiness – this is very important. When I taught, I made sure the students were happy all the time. The happier they were, the happier I was. So – everyone’s happy!

2. Peace – it’s crucial that students understand that war is bad. Very bad. Unless the President is someone you support – then it’s tolerable. To keep the students happy, I never spoke about war or combat or battling of any kind.

3. Tolerance – teach the students to respect other beliefs and customs. Never put up with someone who’s intolerant, though. Gently remind them that being intolerant won’t be tolerated.

4. Social Justice – this is also one of the four cardinal virtues – and it is so vital and important, it has to be mentioned twice.

5. Self-esteem – I tried very hard to keep the students’ spirits high. It’s so easy to do, too, when you remember that Jesus wants everyone to feel good about themselves all the time.

6. Dialogue – it is so important to talk things out, to discuss and confer, to really listen, to engage. Even if a decision is never made – just let your students know you value their opinion above all else.

7. Open-mindedness – truth is everywhere in the world, so students must be prepared to recognize it no matter what form it’s in. Focusing on “our truth vs. their truth” impedes open-mindedness.

8. Harmony – this is similar to peace, but focuses more on one’s relationship with ecology and environment.

9. Diversity – this fruit can best be summed up in the great philosophical question: “Can’t we all just get along?”

10. Income redistribution – this is similar to charity. Jesus said that those who have much, much will be required. So it’s only fair that the rich give more to everyone else, because they’ve got more than enough.

11. Equality – the students ought to learn that we are all the same, in terms of gifts, calling, and outcomes. As St Paul wrote, there is no longer male or female, slave or free, Jew or Greek.

12. Conscience – it’s vital that students are told that if they have thought long and hard on something, and struggled to come to a decision, then it’s good and right, because they are following their conscience.

To be honest, much of what I’ve described is not new – many of these ideas were expounded upon without fail when I was involved with Catholic education. I daresay that such practices left a lasting impact upon the Church. We didn’t focus on doctrine, or dogma, or explaining the truths of the faith – those things were fine in the abstract, but we felt the students would be unprepared for a pluralistic and ever-changing world. We helped the students explore their feelings; we invited them to draw pictures of God; we encouraged them to spread their wings and fly among the clouds of inter-faith interaction and ecumenism. You can see where that has gotten us – we live in a world where Catholics think for themselves, determine their own faith paths, and live according to the dictates of their consciences. Turning our backs on the fields we ploughed generations ago would mean that what was done then was somehow wrong, or insufficient, or lacking.

Such an attitude is not open-minded. So let me ask a question: can’t we all just get along?

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Sister Patricia Owens-O’Flannery, OP, is a post-modern pre-traditional omni-spiritual Dominican sister who periodically contributes to LarryD’s award-winning blog Acts of the Apostasy. Any resemblance to a real person is strictly coincidental…[/author_info] [/author]


About the Author:

  • “Gently remind them that being intolerant won’t be tolerated.”


  • Martial

    sister Patricia said:

    1. Happiness – this is very important. When I taught, I made sure the students were happy all the time. The happier they were, the happier I was. So – everyone’s happy!

    I can’t tell you how HAPPY it made me to read this. Thank you sister it was liberating to read this piece.

  • cminca


    As much as I enjoyed your piece i have to tell you that as a gay man I’ve seen precious little of #3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9 or 11 from the organization of the cc. (By organization I mean, specifically, the heirarchy which claims to represent catholics in the US, and more specifically cardinal dolan. I have catholic friends who have exhibited all of these virtues to gays, and do not include them in my statement.)

    Instead of proclaiming that they “love the sinner but hate the sin” while, at the same time, pushing to legislate codified discrimination, perhaps the cc could just try practicing a little bit of #4?

  • Edward Radler Rice

    Transmogrify! Disturbingly hilarious!

    Commie-in-Chief, Barack H. Obama = Sr. POOOP?

    The happiness is so deep, gluey, and stinky…

    More satire, CMINCA? If not, reorient your lenses…

  • Bob

    Great parody!!!! Had me going and I can see that by some it’s viewed not as parody, but as the new gospel. Apparently Sister patty has quite the following—after all self esteem is free.

  • This is either the most well-written satire I’ve read all month, or the most disturbing opinion piece. 😀 For the sake of my sanity I’m assuming the former.
    So, thank you. That was brilliant. And still disturbing all the same, perhaps just because it’s so accurate a portrayal.

  • John H.


    I am sorry for any unjust behavior that was perpetrated against you by Catholics. Please forgive us. But also, I think you are not being fair to the Church. The Church’s charity for you does not cease when you declare you are a gay man. We will clothe, feed, shelter, and love you just as much as we would anyone else. We in fact, are the largest and most effective charitable organization on the planet. There is not a single government or organization that practices #4 more than we do. We RARELY get public recognition for it, probably because we don’t seek it. But it’s the reality. On the flip-side, we do get recognition for our faults. We own them, and we deserve the blame for them. But it would be nice to hear about the good we do once in a while as well.

    As for you CMINCA, we love you. We know that God loves you. And we know that it is up to him to judge you. So we leave that to him. We don’t approve of a gay lifestyle, and we sincerely believe in our hearts that redefining marriage in this image is detrimental to society. That is not hatred, or intolerance, that is love. And it is not being judgmental of you either. It is judging actions, not a person.

    On the other hand, I have not met many gay outreaches that have showed ANY tolerance for Catholics and our beliefs. From disrupting our Liturgies to performing sexual acts in front of our children, tolerance from the Gay community is virtually non-existent for Catholics. You preach it and call us hypocrites for not having it, but you don’t practice it. When did Cardinal Donal interrupt a gay pride parade with similar actions? I’m afraid it is the gay community that needs to learn to tolerate.

  • I especially liked the part about the Navajo dream catchers. Almost made up for the missing Enneagrams and labyrinths………..

  • waldo

    I agree with you Irenaeus. For any one whose goal is to be “happy all the time”, I am sorry to disappoint you, that is delussional. For us Catholics, our simbol is the CRUZ. Our obligation is to teach people the Reality. “In this world you will have hardships and persecusions… take you cruz daily and follow me….” As far as tolerance I like what one Christian preacher say “…tolerance is the virtue of the coward”

  • Jennifer

    John H., beautiful response to CMINCA!

    Yes, Sr. Patricia, all we need is love ( and tolerance, of course!)… You don’t have to worry about #10, that’s already in full swing thanks to Obama!

  • comedic genius!!!

  • Chardin

    Ughhhh….first time to this site! DON’T DO THAT!!! Thought you were serious! Think I had sr. patty for 2nd grade.

  • rjfarel

    Gotta agree, was starting to feel a tad nauseous until I got the joke.

  • Sorry for the scare! I invite you to please check out Acts of the Apostasy and Ignitum Today. I think you’ll be please with what you find.

  • TomJ

    Hilarious!!! Sister, your imagination is exceeded only by your sense of humor. One of the best satires of the liberal Church I have read. Keep up the good work.

    @CMINCA, As John H said so eloquently above, the Catholic Church is the institution most accepting of homosexual people. A person’s instincts are mostly innate and not chosen. But the Church is more vitally interested in your eternal salvation, so it has set up organizations like Courage to help homosexuals resist the temptations which occur. The Church asks no more of you than it does of any person not in a legitimate heterosexual marriage. You must try to the best of your ability to live a chaste life. The Church is there to help you,not condemn you.

  • Thrist4Truth

    I will try to make a coherent reply after I get my head back on straight. One must admit that the first time to this blogspot is quite….errrrr….unsettling at first!

  • Thirst4Truth,

    PLEASE, PLEASE go to the homepage and see how you like it! This was a little satire we added to a very serious and informative Catholic Education symposium from our line up of young adult contributors. Check out the “Meet Us” page too.

    Haha! Please do make another reply too. Yes, unsettling for sure. 😀

  • Rene

    Ahhhhh, the wonders that the “Spirit of Vatican II” have given us! Sister, you need to write an article for the National Catholic Reporter. I’m sure they will love it.

  • Clare Krishan

    Which side of the wall of Dis in the Inferno of apostates do you expect to be?
    Your miserliness is not particularly funny, sinful even. No beauty goodness truth here — consider me unimpressed by your site’s ‘edgy’ discourtesy to prior generations of the faithful upon whose sanctity your credentials to pontificate are as yet unproven (trending negative, I would say). Read Ed Peters, canonist “Regarding those errors, I believe that [Fr, Marcel Guarnizo], and those inclined to support or even imitate him, need correction.” and “however, undertaken by ill-informed ministers and touted by grossly ill-formed partisans, only set back the cause of seeing Canon 915 applied correctly today.” at
    and on the spirit of dissent (Protestantism) further reflections here
    and here

    If comparisons to the Gothic imaginings of Dante offend the sensitive, try dipping your creative toes into a little Renaissance humanism. for example Benedictus von Haeften’s illustrated rhyming couplets devotional, “The school of the heart, or, The heart of itself gone away from God, brought back again to Him and instructed by Him” here

    “It is generally agreed, by the learned and the serious, that self-knowledge is the great knowledge: and that an adept in universal science, if he remain a stranger to himself, is only a lump of pride and conceit, and unfit for, not to say an offence to, the society of his fellowmen.” and
    And make more fruitful than it was before,
    Its hardness, darkness, death, uncleanness, loss,
    And barrenness: refine it from the dross,
    And draw out all the dregs, heal ev’ry sore,
    Teach it to know itself, and love thee more.
    Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst impart this skill
    And as for other learning, take’t who will.

  • Jesus = pure joy

    sister, I will see you on judgement day

  • Clare – I survived Catholic elementary education in the US in the 70’s, and while this satire is a bit over the top, it’s not that far from the truth. It wasn’t a universal experience, to be – but many in my generation had to endure dreck and falseness, and many many suffered for it. By God’s grace, I returned to His fold in the Holy Catholic Church.

    So while you may not have found any “beauty goodness truth here, it’s not a terrible thing to point out, satirically even, that Catholic education has come a long way since the implosion of the 70’s, and still has a long way to go. Faithfulness to the Gospels and to the Church is vital, and as long as those are maintained, future generations will be assured of at least learning the faith as it is meant to be handed down.

    I’m sorry you didn’t see any humor in this piece. It’s not the usual style of writing one comes to expect at Ignitum, I grant you that. But it’s not worthy of high dudgeon, either.

  • April

    Truly a parody.
    A parody ( /ˈpærədi/; also called pastiche, spoof, send-up or lampoon), in current use, is an imitative work created to mock, comment on, or trivialise an original work, its subject, author, style, or some other target, by means of humorous, satiric or ironic imitation.

    Love the blogging world, but am deeply saddened by our need to mock. Makes me very uncomfortable, that definition above. It seems to me that mocking was something Christ had to go through, not something Christ would’ve done.

  • X Contra

    Is this article meant to be a joke? It seems strange to be battling against something a bishop did 30 years ago, like someone in the 1980s watching reruns of Leave it to Beaver.

  • Edward Radler Rice

    This great piece of satire is simply that – satire. And yet, it illuminates an ideology which continues to damage the Catholic Church in the United States.

    Recently, I sent the message below to the Catholic High School Honor Roll’s director, Mr. Laird. Subsequently, he expressed his appreciation for the information…

    Please note that the dissertation on which the message focuses is found ONLINE… It is not some private doctoral dissertation that only a select few can access…

    Dear Mr. Laird,

    This email concerns a theology teacher at Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School in Kernersville, NC. Please read the 2010 dissertation of Danita Miskiewicz Ostasiewski before granting the high school honor roll status. In her Prologue, Ostasiewski writes,

    Those of us who teach Theology classes in Catholic school are under ever increasing scrutiny by the hierarchy of the Church. A close friend was interviewed for a position teaching Catholic theology to high school students. The bishop of the diocese, who held an Ed.D., sat on the committee that produced the Framework. Before being offered the position, she was required to go to the chancery, or bishop’s office, and be interviewed by the bishop himself. She referred to it as an “orthodoxy check.” She knew the party line and was able to offer quotations to the bishop that surprised and pleased him and secured the position, though she is a social justice oriented, democratic lesbian. We have all come to be very careful of word choice and find ways to stay consistent with written policy as we express the Church as we know her. Many of us, particularly female and homosexual, are finding that choosing “ecclesiastically politically correct” language is becoming tiresome, and is a challenge to our integrity.

    As I wrote in my communication with Mr. Laird:
    “That is a direct quotation, sir. In the dissertation, you’ll find the ordination of women indirectly supported…”

    Again, here is the link to her dissertation:

    Now, if you took the time to read the dissertation you would be quite startled regarding its subversiveness. This ideology is a threat that I fight as a Catholic educator, a Catholic parent, a Catholic who perceives the great struggle that lies ahead…

  • I do find this piece refreshingly funny and I am reminded of my young days in post V-II CCD. I think the poor souls, who were mainly lay-members of the parish, were very confused by the materials they had to use to teach us…and I remember being a 9, 10-year old thinking that CCD was a joke…but I loved going to church.

    Think about Sr.’s initials: SPOOF, Sr. Patricia Owens O’Flannery…heh!

  • Captain America

    I’m a guy who went to CCD in the 1970s. Trust me, I didn’t learn much content in CCD.

    I assume this is not a piece of satire. I would caution the good sister to beware the dangers of personifying wisdom as “Sophia”: it sounds sexist, to boot, and could mislead one into thinking there is a higher wisdom than God’s.

    No, I’m no conservative Catholic crank. I LIKE social justice; we need to be concerned about social justice questions. The difficulties I see with sister’s position here is that she neglects to consider that perhaps the Church DOES have wisdom in its teachings.

    For her, I’d ask: “Is all this post-Vatican 2 stuff just a matter of style; not liking having to deal with snotty priests and brusque bishops?” Stick to reading the Catechism for guidance; it’s a good thing indeed!

  • richT

    this would make the core of an awesome new TV series..any producers interested??

  • Joseph

    ” a new newness of newnessness”
    Love it!
    Thanks for the levity. BTW, if this were not a parody, it would provoke just as much laughter. I laugh at the fact that it’s close enough to some people’s real opinions to be mistaken as serious. But, of course, it would also be unspeakably sad. OK, back to being depressed about the state of the North American Church……

  • Edward Radler Rice

    Here’s a link to a New Oxford Review article detailing the implosion of female religious orders dominated by Sister Pats from the Sixties onward…

  • Gina Nakagawa

    Some of my beloved ancestors would have appropriately commented. “Oiy!!!!!!”

  • Centurion9.4`

    The root of all the the perversion of Vatican II is the treating of the Sacraments as something far less than demanded by Truth.

    In two words, Reverence and Solemnity.

    There’s a corollary to Faith and how one sings/prays. The tone and how one teaches, and how one corrects errors, regarding the Sacraments likewise forever yield fruits.

    Not surprised a sister who does not wear a habit thinks mockery by a nun is helpful or will bear good fruit.

    There’s a reason Christ did not chose any women to be an Apostle, and there’s a reason it was the pre-Vatican II church that affirmed the dogmas of Mary and her being the first and highest Saint.

    It’s also not by accident that so many of the fruits seen rotting today from within are deeply tied to the feminist mind, and not the mind and heart of Mary.


  • Love her pearls! Are they real? Better yet, is she for real?

  • LRoy

    From grades 7-12 I got taught by Sisters of Notre Dame (SND) de Numer. I got way better education. Now the school has mostly lay teachers, but the school now has pre-K so they get girls from age 3 to 18.

  • LRoy

    “Tolerance” is a oxymoron. Is it tolerance to accept a gay lifestyle or to know what is morally right or wrong?
    Is it tolerance to allow the destruction of 54 million unborn children since 1973 or is it morally right or wrong?
    Is it tolerance to accept Fundamentalist evangelistic beliefs such as the “Rapture” and to speak of anti-Catholic rantings or do WE speak up for what we KNOW is is the true Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

  • That Hat Lady

    @Gay man: #4 has faithful Catholics reminding you that you are called to chastity just as all non-married single Catholics are regardless of orientation. If you are already doing this, God bless you. If you are not, it is wrong for your friends to encourage your behavior in the name of “tolerance”, because it puts your soul & theirs in mortal danger. As for your Catholic education not meeting your expectations, well it didn’t meet the rest of us either. I was under-catechized by the 12 rotten fruits of post-Vatican II presented in this article. The remedy is to study & learn the true faith yourself. Holiness starts with my own behavior AND YOURS. The “virtues” listed in this article aren’t Catholic, they’re secular. According to the 1962 Roman missal, the real ones are: faith, hope, charity, prudence, justice, fortitude & temperance. The 7 gifts are: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, fear of the Lord. The 12 fruits are: charity, joy, peace, patience, longanimity, goodness, benignity, mildness, fidelity, modesty, continence, & chastity. Notice that “tolerance” isn’t among them. How many of those do YOU have?

  • Howard

    You had me thinking is she for real until “can’t we all just get along?”.