Inclusion: The Epiphany for Catholic Schools

Inclusion: The Epiphany for Catholic Schools













One of my favorite gifts of going to mass every week listening over the years to the same holy stories told by different priests – sharing their insights and thoughts – is that very ordinary, common stories are given the gift of sunlight into a shadowy place…more vibrant meaning.

It reminds me of a prism held up to the sunshine…a new band of colors refracts the light differently every time.

Today’s story of the Epiphany is one that most Catholics know well.

We know that the three wise men followed a star.

We know they stopped and spoke to King Herod.

We know that Herod, sensing competition, asked the three wise men to stop over on their way back and let him know if they found the king.

We know they brought with them three gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh.

The Three Kings have songs and stories and fame.

They get to see the king…who is really a newborn baby…and it is in that moment that everything changes.

That wasn’t the king they were expecting…that wasn’t how it was supposed to go…babies aren’t kings…or are they?

Nothing is impossible with God.

Since we know the end of the story, the shock of finding a baby seems obvious to us…but just imagine the surprise.

Imagine the complete confusion.

Imagine how the gifts might feel out of place or silly…what’s a baby going to do with some gold?

Or frankincense?

Or especially myrrh – a holy oil used for funerals?

But, life is exactly like that. We follow a star – the whispers in our heart, God’s grace, a knowing within us – only to be confronted with a shock that makes no sense. How can a baby be a king?

It’s moments like these that require faith.

Notice what the kings do when they meet the babe: they prostrate themselves.

They take a deep breath, pray, pause, and let it sink in.

This is most definitely not what they had planned…but they recognize God’s fingerprint on this moment and follow accordingly.

But here is where it gets beautiful…


“Having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,                                                              they departed for their country by another way.”

I have heard that sentence hundreds of times, but today’s gift from Father Josh was a new way of seeing it. He offered this thought:

“After seeing Christ, how could they ever return back the same way?”

They aren’t the same people.

They are forever changed by that bright light…by the miracle…by God’s grace.

And, in that moment of considering the Three Kings as completely transformed…so different that they could never return the same way…that was when I realized that…

Inclusion IS the Epiphany for Catholic Schools.

Just like the kings, as a teacher, you have expectations…assumptions of your students and what teaching looks like…but when you encounter a student with a significant learning need…that is most definitely not what you signed up for. Teaching “those students” is what other teachers do. It’s what people have special degrees for.

It’s so uncomfortable…so mind-bending, that laying prostrate sounds like a good idea.

Your gifts feel foolish.

You can’t believe what has led you here.

But if you pause and let it sink in, the holy will show itself.

The encounter of full inclusion is transformative.

Like the Three Kings, you can never go back the same way.

Your path is enlightened…faith-filled…unexpected and miraculous.

Teaching in a truly inclusive classroom changes everything.

My prayer is that Catholic schools will follow the bright light of inclusion…will stop in awe at their encounter with the holy…and continue on their new, unexpected path with a newfound divinity and faith…demonstrating a grace that was within them all the time, just waiting to be revealed.

Be the light.