9 Jun 2013
“Then [Elijah] stretched himself out upon the child three times and called out to the Lord: ‘O Lord, my God, let the life breath return to the body of this child.’” (1 Kings 17:21)
“[Jesus] stepped forward and touched the coffin … and He said, ‘Young man, I tell you, arise!’” (Luke 17:14) In the name …
On Friday night I was one of the parents of a student in the Junior class who helped to supervise the graduates of the Senior class at their all-night party at the Greenfield YMCA. My shift was from 9PM to 1AM. I understand and appreciate the idea of having the all-night party for the Seniors. We’re trying to avoid the possibility of the kids going off somewhere, maybe drinking, maybe drinking too much, and then, God forbid, getting into an accident or something. But for as commendable as this idea is, we also have to realize that we’re supervising these 18 year olds one last time before setting them free in the world. These 18 year olds can’t be watched every time they go out for the night over the summer. And if these Seniors are going to become college Freshmen in the Fall or leaving home for other reasons, well they’re going to have to start learning how to make behaviour decisions on their own. They’re going to have to face the consequences of their choices. So we can watch them on graduation night, which again I think is a good idea, but we and the kids both have to realize that this model of guarding the door is quickly coming to an end for them – and for us.
Locking the Seniors in the Greenfield Y, however, is hopefully not the first step taken to protect these kids from the danger of bad choices. Hopefully, it’s one of the last. Hopefully all of these 18 year olds from high schools across the land have been blessed with families that have nurtured the making of right choices since these kids were younger than pre-school. Otherwise, locking them up for one night won’t make a real lot of difference. And I hope that church has helped in this process.
Yesterday, after staying up way past my bedtime at the Greenfield Y, I attended the acolyte retreat down in Westfield with nearly 50 others. Wasn’t really thinking about that when I volunteered for my 9 ’til 1 shift though. But I really believe that church opportunities like serving at the altar stay with a person in a good way. It teaches an important lesson about service. These kids at the altar don’t get paid. At Christmas we give them a little something, but I think it adds up to a few cents for each time they’re here to help me. They’re instead learning the lesson of service. From the age of seven and up my acolytes can help in a profound way here at church. They begin taking on responsibilities, and the longer they serve, the more responsibilities they assume. Rather than having things done for them, even at 7 or 8, they begin to learn to do things for others and even for God. In our world, service is a lesson we don’t learn nearly often enough.
Today we also close our School of Christian Living classes for another academic year. I want to again publicly thank Charity Robinson, Barbara Stahelski, Mary Tudryn who is with her daughter at an AAU tournament today, and Chris Piekarski for serving as our teachers. They’re the ones who tie different lessons together, from the Bible, from the seasons of the church, and from life. Like today, we heard the Old Testament story of Elijah raising the widow’s son from the dead, and then we heard of Jesus doing the same thing for the widow of Nain. There’s a continuity of themes that only starts to make sense in context. Our SOCL teachers are the ones who help our youngest members to start creating that context. And I’m not exaggerating. One of our youngest students, I won’t mention her name, but her initials are Allison Kostiuk, gave me a picture after a Lenten Mass. In Crayon it says, “I love God. I love church.” Then there’s a child’s drawing of the two who are crucified on either side of Jesus, but instead of drawing a third cross with Jesus on it, she drew a great big heart. That’s already an extremely important lesson that she has learned. The cross is all about love, and church is all about making that love real. This is just one example of why our Christian education program is so important and why we have to do everything we can as a church and as young families to make sure that it’s the best we can offer.
Now the following aren’t messages shared by our kids, but they were shared with me by Alice Maiewski about other kids writing notes to God. A child named Nan wrote, “Dear God, I bet it is very hard for you to love all of everybody in the whole world. There are only 4 people in our family and I can never do it.” Nan is already learning the magnitude of difference between God’s ability to love and our’s. Mickey wrote to God saying, “Dear God, if you watch in church on Sunday, I’ll show you my new shoes.” Sounds a little silly, but this child is already beginning to understand what it means that God is near and personal. I wish adults would better appreciate this lesson which is already understood by Mickey. And then there was Neil, who wrote to God asking, “Dear God, I went to this wedding and they kissed right in church. Is that O.K.?” Anyone who I have married here has heard me tell them at rehearsal that after the next day’s ceremony when I say to the groom, “You may kiss the bride,” it’s supposed to be a “church kiss.” One that says love, not honeymoom. Neil already appreciated that church is a different place from others. That it’s special. If I could get all my parishioners to learn this lesson we’d have a full house each and every Sunday.
But all of these stories help to get across the message that we can’t forever protect our children, but we can help to prepare them. [Acolyte Retreat, SOCL, Youth Retreat] We can’t keep them locked in the Y, but we can teach them how to make right choices when they’re on their own. And that’s where we need to be thankful for the gifts that church has to offer and for the opportunities she gives us to make use of those gifts so that our young people graduate not only by passing MCAS exams but by knowing the difference between right and wrong. For this work of the church and her families, we give thanks in Jesus’ name. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randolph Calvo