Well, Maytember is almost over. That’s what some of the other moms at my children’s school are calling it. I like it in a Bennifer/Brangelina kind of way – of course, without the drama of a breakup or affair splashed across the cover of People magazine.
But, May has become as busy as December just without all the Ho, Ho, Ho’s. There’s Mother’s Day, First Holy Communion, Confirmations, Graduations, Appreciations and parties for all of it.
As I write this, my children’s last day of school is tomorrow. One more party to go and then summer can sprawl out like an oversized beach towel on the sand. My kids have already lugged home their worn out markers, folders and notebooks that, months ago, pristinely held all the promise of a new school year. Gosh, is there anything more exciting than new school supplies?! Well no matter, now they are looking as worn as the rest of us trying to survive the most ceremonial month of the year.
It is nice to celebrate the last day of school though. It has certainly been a long time since I was a student, but I remember how special those days were — filled with giddy laughter, enthusiastic yearbook signings, and warm goodbyes.
Last days are significant because they embody the school year in its entirety. Through prayer, I had a rare glimpse of what this encompassed.
No, the Lord didn’t give me visions of kids in their blue plaid uniforms and backpacks loaded with the weight of the world. Instead, for a Spiritual Work of Mercy, I began attending a new prayer group at my children’s school.
The premise behind it was to pray for all of the school’s children, prekindergarten through eighth grade – by name. The whole school, teachers included – BY NAME. Admittedly this sounded tedious to me. After all that’s a lot of kids.
The group met at 8 am, Wednesday mornings with the thought that it would be easy to meet right after morning drop off. But that didn’t sound easy to me. I don’t do drop off – my husband does. I make the lunches, remind the boys to wipe the table clean, feed the dog and to not touch each other. I find missing keys, shoes, and clean uniforms. I tame bed head with a special elixir of water and gel. I tell them to put their clothes in the hamper and brush their teeth. Then, I stand at the door, with the dog and cat (because for some reason they are always there) and I say, “Bye, I love you, have a good day.”
Anyway, that’s what happens here on school mornings. When they leave, I eat oatmeal, drink coffee and go about my business. I am a routine girl, and that’s my routine. As such, the thought of setting the alarm clock early to pray over a litany of names seemed like a real snooze.
But there’s this whole Works of Mercy thing I committed to, so I thought I would give it a try. I don’t want to ruin the suspense here, but usually when you reluctantly try something new, you end up loving it. It’s kind of just the poetry of life. It’s almost inevitable.
First off, to my relief, we only read the names of one grade per week – not the entire school. Woo hoo! The group always started with praise and I certainly praised that (although not out loud)! I thought it was nice though to take a moment mid-week and reflect on gratitude. Following our praise reports, we began with a theme like faithful, teacher or fortress. Our leader always carefully picked scripture to go with it. I loved the verses she picked and pinned them on my bulletin board in a pile the way a cook at a diner stacks his orders.
Anyway, we would discuss the scripture and how it related to the weekly theme. The discussions started slow like waiting for coffee to percolate, but suddenly it was like we each had 2 shots of espresso and thoughts spilled into profound theological and moral discussions. Sometimes, I left those meetings and felt so privileged that I got to partake in such relevant and significant discussions of faith in a secular world. Part of what struck me, was how thoughtful these conversations were — there was consideration given to other viewpoints, other lifestyles. It wasn’t just, we believe this. Period. Everyone else is a moron.
I don’t really know how to make you excited about that, but I was just so truly impressed by these discussions. They were fair, factual and faith based. That was my favorite part of the meeting.
Sometimes we shared personal things and with that, sometimes there were tears. Always there was empathy and compassion. The prayer group adopted the rules of Vegas policy and remained confidential.
After discussions, we read aloud prayers collected from the students. They were on little slips of paper like the name of a Secret Santa. We distributed them randomly, smoothing the creases as we opened their sacred prayers. We read aloud intentions for everything from the pope, teachers, friends, pets, parents, and siblings. Sometimes there were prayers of gratitude for the blessings in their life.
It was amazing. Both in terms of the insight it gave me into the depth of faith these children have and also the hardships and hurts they carry. They worried about their parents getting divorced, or their grandparents who were in the middle of a divorce, they prayed for family members who had cancer, they prayed for their dad to finally get a job, their mom to be happy, they prayed for guidance in picking a school for the following year and to do well on tests, recitals and games.
It was such a gift to read these prayers and to join the other women in praying for these children. It was enlightening to know how deeply they were impacted by many things that were simply out of their control. It made praying for them all the more meaningful.
Lastly, we prayed for our children by name, the name of whatever class we were on for the week and the special intentions of people in our parish or community that asked us to pray for them.
There are a lot of things I can accomplish in a day or a week, but truly, praying for those children ultimately mattered more than whatever I got checked off my list.
Thinking of those battered slips of paper again and their messages that often brought tears to my eyes makes the end of the school year a little more bittersweet.
So, in keeping with the format of the prayer group, my praise is that I got to partake in discussions that helped me to understand my faith better, and insight into the hearts of children. My prayer is that these children know how much they are loved by God and how He listens to their prayers whether they are on slips of paper, said aloud or remain silent in their heart. May this always fill them with peace and warmth like the sun shining down on a slow, easy summer day.