We all know it, at least from the news, but likely also from our own experience: healthcare and education are very expensive. This constitutes a very grave problem since access to good healthcare and a proper education are important for human flourishing.
Since the solution shouldn’t be to give fewer people healthcare or education, we’re left with questions like: Are we paying teachers and doctors too much? Or not enough? Many point out that it doesn’t seem as though our education system is very effective. Is the problem that we need better teachers? Or smaller classes?
All of these problems can be solved at the same time.
While everyone is looking for new ideas, the real solution is actually one that is very old. We Catholics are sitting on a major resource from our tradition that could make quality healthcare and education very affordable and available to all: monasticism.
Our world is in desperate need for a new army of young people with vows of celibacy, poverty, and stability to band together in communities, founded on prayer and devotion to Christ, for the service of others.
Just think: instead of paying 50 teachers’ salaries, we could reduce salary costs to only what’s needed for 50 people to live communally in voluntary poverty and simplicity. And with all of the savings let’s double the number of teachers to 100 and cut class size in half. And since they are doing their work not for themselves, or even to support a family, but for God (in theory), they should be just as, if not much more, committed to their work. (St Paul points this out in 1 Cor 7.32-34.)
Sounds impossible? We already have the hospitals, schools, and monastic communities in place, along with centuries of experience of how to run monastic communities effectively. We even have a bunch of "super-star" monks and nuns whose lives new religious brothers and sisters can look to for inspiration (think St Francis of Assisi, St Katharine Drexel, Fr St Damien of Molokai, Bl Mother Teresa, etc). We just need the people.
Of course, this idea is nothing new at all: religious brothers and sisters have been serving in hospitals and schools for centuries. And I don’t mean to ignore those religious brothers and sisters who are currently faithfully serving in hospitals and schools. But with the recent decline in the number of people taking monastic vows, religious brothers and sisters have become so scarce in hospitals and schools here in the US as to be virtually absent. And of course, this decline is well known, and many are praying for more religious vocations.
But as we are praying and hopefully trying to raise our children to see the immense value in the monastic life, we should remember how absolutely urgent the need is for more religious brothers and sisters. For we are not only letting the world down temporally but spiritually: we are losing one the biggest means we have to witness to the saving Gospel of Jesus.
And as a great side benefit to all of this, a surge in religious vocations would also offer a much needed celibate witness to a world that is more and more obsessed with sex and convinced of its necessity to any happy, or even just healthy, human life.
The opportunity is right here before us. Healthcare and education are two of the biggest issues in our country today, with everyone groping around for some sort of solution. I pray that a new generation of young people would rise up and seize this enormous opportunity to bring Christ to this broken and needy world.