Welcome back to school! The new school year brings many changes in the life of a parish, school, and family. I have experienced a change, as well. Previously, I had taught kindergarten at St. Michael for eight years. For the last few years, I felt I was being called to another ministry. After much discernment, I accepted a position with the parish. I began working as the Coordinator of Religious Education in July. I will be working with Brenda Rickert as we work in children’s formation including the school children as well as those enrolled in CCD.
I will have the opportunity to work with groups of students during their library/resource time as well as with their teachers in their classrooms. In addition, there are many additional projects in development which I will share with you at a later date.
During these first two weeks of school, I have met with several fifth and sixth grade classes during resource time. During our time together, we have set a prayer table and discussed the spiritual significance of each item. Some are items which would be very familiar … a crucifix, statue of Mary, picture of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, a candle and a Bible. As I set the prayer table this week, I included two items which immediately might not be understood to have religious significance. These items were a rock and a piece of wood. I challenged the students to reflect a bit why these items might be included. One student suggested they were examples of God’s creation … a wonderful observation!
I provided a hint … they could be viewed as symbols of St. Peter. We discussed the passage where Jesus tells Peter, “… and so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church… (Matthew 16:18). The wood represented Peter’s boat the setting for many significant experiences the disciples witnessed. Further, Peter’s boat, “the bark of Peter” represents the Church. Thus, a simple rock and chunk of wood can be viewed through the lens of our faith.
A fifth grade class had the opportunity to share the daily reading from Mass. This gospel reading focused on Jesus teaching the Two Great Commandments … love of God and love of neighbor. The students discussed how these commandments are similar and different from the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments might be viewed in terms of two categories … those which address God and our response to him and those which address how we engage others. We discovered the Two Great Commandments are connected in a very real way to the Ten Commandments.
The sixth grade classes shared their favorite Bible stories as a way to introduce a guided mediation focusing on one of my favorite stories … the Emmaus story (Luke 12:13-35). You will recall the setting of this story is the evening of the Resurrection. Two disciples are on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They encounter a stranger who asks why they are so dejected. They engage in a conversation where the stranger explains the meaning of all which has occurred and explained the Scriptures. They invite the man to stay with them to share their evening meal. During the blessing of the bread, the two disciples recognize the stranger as Jesus and he vanishes from their sight. The disciples immediately return to Jerusalem to share the good news of their encounter with the risen Lord!
As we engaged in a guided meditation, we imagined ourselves as a character in this story. How would have we felt walking to Emmaus … Would we have recognized Jesus … Imagine running on the path to Jerusalem in the dark … What did these disciples discuss on the way to Jerusalem …
Guided mediations are a prayerful way to encounter Jesus in Scripture. I invite you to use this form of prayer with your family.