I teach an 8th grade Confirmation class. This class is comprised of students who typically don't attend Mass, go to public school, and have about as much interest in Catholicism as they do in Algebra.
However, I do everything I can to impart the Faith in an engaging, relatable manner.
Prayer is one of those areas that never quite "took" for them. It pains me that their communication with God is so infrequent that even a simple Our Father is said with no inflection. Student-led prayers are lackluster and careless. It kills me. They are curious about tradition and history, but that is something they see as separate from a personal relationship with Christ. It's as if they want to learn "facts" but don't understand that those facts exist only because of the living Presence of God still active within their lives. Those facts are the small bits of "family history" we share as children of God.
So imagine my surprise tonight when they all prayed. Really, truly prayed. With their hearts... not just with robotic recitation.
You see, at the beginning of class (as I do every week), I asked for their intentions. They ranged for "help on a spelling test" to "my neighbor's cat is missing." Great! We added them to our intentions list.
However, I then offered this intention:
I told them about a little boy named Ben. For those of you unaware, Ben Sauer is a beautiful 4 year old boy with a twin brother named Jack and a little sister named Megan. Up until about a month ago, Ben was a seemingly healthy little boy who enjoyed playing with his siblings and was looking forward to preschool.
A few weeks ago, he was diagnosed with an incredibly rare and terribly aggressive form of cancer. My heart is breaking even as I write this. His parents were told that there is no form of treatment available, and their beautiful, happy, gentle son only has a few weeks to live.
How do you process such a thing? A vibrant little boy - your heart and soul - will likely be taken away to Heaven after only 4 brief years in your arms.
Oh dear Lord... mercy. Please. Mercy!
As I relayed this intention to my students, they all sat - silent. There was no side-chatter, no doodling, no requests for the bathroom. There was only silence and an aching plea for this intention to reach the Ears of God.
And so, with this intention fresh on their hearts, my class made the Sign of the Cross. They said a Memorare with so much tenderness... so much pleading... that I actually stumbled over the words as I fought to contain my own emotions. They followed their Memorares with the Prayer to Saint Michael. This we offered through the intercession of Blessed Chiara Badano at the suggestion of a friend from Theotokos.
As we closed with another Sign of the Cross, I looked out at my class and I thanked them. I knew hearing Ben's story made them feel terribly sad, but in joining their prayers for a miracle, his comfort, and the comfort of his family, I think they understood, for the first time, prayer can be a powerful weapon. Sometimes, it is our only weapon, but that does not lessen its strength.
We prayed again for this intention at the close of class. Instead of chattering busily out the door after the bell, my class silently walked into the hall. I really think they were still contemplating this very special intention. I asked them to hold it in their hearts throughout Lent.
Actually, I'd like to ask that all of you do so. Please keep his family entrenched in prayers. Also, be sure to reach out to those you love. None of us are guaranteed a tomorrow. That is why we must always love in the moment. Always.
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