Looks can deceive — appearances can fool you. I learned that anew yesterday during a liturgy with the students at St. Michael School in Penn Yan.
In an effort to engage the children during the homily, I asked a question of Brennan Prather, a second-grade student with a wonderful head of curly blond hair and a smile that makes the noonday sun seem dim: "Brennan, do you like the second grade? Given his demeanor and disposition I was slam-dunk sure that his answer would be a resounding, "Yes." Wrong! He said, "No." When I told him I was surprised and asked him why, he responded, "Because I’d rather be at the University of West Virginia." I could not help laughing nor could any of the other adults who could hear his response. I found out later that a relative of Brennan’s, whom he admires very much, is or was at the university and Brennan wants to be very much like him.
At a lunch at the school following the liturgy, I had a chance to speak with Principal David Paddock and several supporters of the school. We had a good time chatting about the experience of liturgy with the children — their joy, prayerfulness, music, proclamation of the Word and service at the altar. It was most impressive to me and a reminder of how enriching and formative the environment of a Catholic school is for our young people. It is not hard to relate to the children’s awareness of what was going on around them and their participation in it with what they experience every day at St. Michael School. I can only express my thanks to David and his faculty, Pastor Bob Ring and all of the supporters of the school for their generous efforts to make it the place of growth that it is.
Back to the children for a moment. I have always believed deeply that the Holy Spirit touches the souls of the very young, awakens in them a spirit of prayer and a sense of belonging to God, and gives birth in them a sense of purpose in life. Of course the children receive, appreciate and express all of this in ways consistent with and appropriate for their age. Brennan’s response reminded me of this. He has a dream and the dream sparks his enthusiasm. This dream may cede to others as time goes by but I am sure that he will always have a dream.
One last thought: Brennan’s dream was born — in God’s providence — in the example of an adult whom Brennan admires very much. What an important reminder that is to all of us to live in a manner that supports and encourages young people and perhaps stimulates dreams that will lead them in life-giving paths.
As you look back over your life, can you name people who inspired you, helped you to dream and encouraged you along the way?
And, can you name others for whom you would like to do the same?
Peace to all.