The Dangerous Prayer for Teachers and For All of Us

//The Dangerous Prayer for Teachers and For All of Us

The Dangerous Prayer for Teachers and For All of Us

On Monday, August 10, I presided and preached at the opening school Mass for our elementary school teachers. Here is my homily: 

This is a special day for all of you, Catholic school teachers, to gather in prayer. Today, you pray for each other and for the students whom parents have wisely entrusted to your care and teaching. We welcome especially those who will be teaching in our Catholic schools for the first time this year.  May your teaching be fruitful and rewarding.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Lawrence, deacon in the early Church, who died a martyr’s death in 258 A.D.   St. Lawrence was well known for his noble task of being a steward of the funds of the Church to be distributed to those who were very poor. He was the alms-giver.  Legend has it that once the Emperor called him and said that he would not persecute the Church if St. Lawrence would share with him the treasures of the Church.  St. Lawrence paused and then asked if he might have two days to gather the treasures. 

After the emperor agreed, the holy deacon returned to the Emperor accompanied by all the poor people of Rome – those with handicaps and deformities, those without work or a home, those with leprosy and all sorts of ailments, the old and the young, the frail and the forgotten.  Pointing to them, St. Lawrence said; “Your highness, here are the treasures of the Church!”  He was echoing the very words of Jesus, who pointing to the forgotten of His day, said, “Blessed are the poor…” and again, “He who would welcome a child in My name, welcomes Me!”

Throughout the Archdiocese, we perk up our ears so that we might hear these words afresh.  In fact, it is the child in need who is the focus of all the planning that has been done over the last year to ensure that our Catholic schools remain accessible and affordable for all.  You recall that all 111 of our parishes, which stretch from the Ohio River to the Tennessee border, came together in support of a special annual assessment to help the families of these children who yearn for a Catholic school education.  I salute the generosity that has been expressed. To date, more than $5 million dollars will be provided from all the sources we could find to assist these families.  Parishes, even those without a Catholic school, agreed that they would help because they saw the child in need and responded generously. (For more on these efforts, go here.) 

Teachers at the Opening School Mass at St. Margaret Parish Parish on Monday, August 10.

Teachers at the Opening School Mass at St. Margaret Parish Parish on Monday, August 10.

Of course, you are the St. Lawrence of this day, seeking to serve those most in need.  It is your noble vocation to teach with zeal and joy, all within our wonderful Catholic teachings.  Some may be inspired this year by what has been called the “dangerous prayer.”  The dangerous prayer has been prayed throughout the history of our Church.  It is a simple prayer to say but one that will change our lives mightily.  Here it is:  “Lord, give to me the person whom no one else loves!” 

The person whom no one else loves is, of course, a person of great dignity – a child created in the image and likeness of God.  However, that dignity can easily be hidden and needs to be drawn forth by the loving and faithful teacher who prays the dangerous prayer.  Take a crisp $50 bill.  Anyone, when asked if this bill is worth something, would quickly reply: “Of course it is.  It is worth $50!”  If I were to crumble it in a ball and throw it in the mud and then pick it back up and ask if it is still worth anything, the quick reply would be: “You bet it is!  It is still worth all $50!”  So it is with a child of God who has lost his or her freshness.  The teacher of the dangerous prayer reaches this child of God and makes her whole again – and brings forth that dignity.

You know that dignity is both a gift and a task.    It is of course a gift:  no matter the condition or circumstances, every student remains a precious child of God.  But the task – a teacher’s task – is to bring forth that dignity.  When I was small and did something wrong, my dear mother always brought me back to my senses with a short but powerful sentence:  “What you just did,” I can still hear her say, “was beneath your dignity!”  A good teacher, armed with the dangerous prayer, can be the channel of a restored dignity to a student with great needs.  What a noble vocation!

St Paul in 2 Corinthians calls us to sow seeds abundantly and reap abundantly. (Of course there is a caution to teachers: Often you will plant seeds for another to see the bloom, but that is your work for the kingdom of God.)   In the Gospel, Jesus shares that lesson from nature of the beauty of sacrificing love that is your vocation as a teacher:  “Unless the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain.  But if it dies, it produces much fruit.”  The sublime vocation of living not for self but for another is to love in truth.

In his newly published book, Road to Character, New York Times columnist David Brooks speaks of what is lacking in today’s youth.  Though not wanting to go back to life 75 years ago, he points to virtues of the recent past that need to be resurrected in our age.  He reflects on the temptation of our modern youth to a new narcissism in which everything is about me, and my esteem is so great and unchallenged that I come to believe that no one is better that I am, and I have little to learn.  Rather than self-esteem on steroids, he calls for a self-respect, which is humble and says, “I am better that I used to be!”

Today’s dangerous prayer will lead teachers who take up this prayer to reach out, as heroic teachers have done in the past, and to move your students, especially that one who seems unloved, toward love and truth in Jesus Christ.   The philosopher and convert to Catholicism, Edith Stein, became a cloistered nun, taking the name Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.  In 1942 she died a martyr’s death, like St. Lawrence centuries before, at the hands of the tyrannical Nazis.  Known as one who sought to harmonize faith and reason (science), she once said: Do not accept anything as the truth if it lacks love and do not accept anything as love which lacks truth!  One without the other becomes a destructive lie.”

Thank you, dear teachers, for bringing zeal and enthusiasm to your students this year.    May you be the one this year to pray the “dangerous prayer:” “Lord, give to me the person whom no one else loves!”    May you gently and lovingly lead your students into the truth of Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

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2017-10-13T15:53:03+00:00 August 18th, 2015|Archbishop's Blog|