As our nation braced itself for the new found reality that is “social distancing”, faith-based schools like St. Agnes found themselves in a rather challenging position. Catholic Schools are grounded by the fundamental belief that we are called to live our lives together as the body of Christ. So with this premise in mind, it can be difficult to keep your distance from others. And as a community who prides itself on sharing God’s love with others, our need to separate from one another is contrary to who we are, and who we espouse to be.
Serving as principal, one of the great moments of my day is welcoming the students into school each morning with a smile and a high-five. Unfortunately, our new found reality made this expression of affection untenable. So I intentionally eliminated the high-five and instead offered a fist bump. And then, I went to an elbow bump and then eventually only waved and smiled. And as the global pandemic reached a point that the Governor of Maryland would close schools for two weeks, I knew we had reached unprecedented times. More to this point, when Archbishop Lori made his decision to cancel masses across the archdiocese, I knew we were truly in uncharted waters.
As a general premise, children have an instinctual desire to hug, tug and touch. And as Christians, we are taught that affection is an extension of God’s love that we share through our human touch. In Mark 10: 13-16 we hear, “And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” Then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them.” Although I don’t believe that this Scripture passage is telling us to dismiss the recommendations from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO), I am suggesting that we draw upon the power of prayer (spiritual touch) to help us through this difficult time.
Although our students may be away from school for two weeks, it is the foundation of prayer that we teach at St. Agnes which will strengthen their souls. And while our children are at home completing packets of instructional material and online academic work, we nonetheless remain united in prayer. Moreover, I know well that the culture of prayer our students experience each day, will not be lost. For you see, each morning our students gather together for our Community Meeting, listen to the Gospel and our offered a daily reflection. They then recite The Direction of Intention prayer: My God, I give you this day. Please give me the grace to conduct myself in a manner most pleasing to you. Amen. Our gathering concludes with the students being invited to share their own prayer and place that intention into our handcrafted prayer cross.
The students of BEAR NATION are nourished by prayer. And regardless of the need to establish social distancing boundaries, our young people will use these weeks to engage their minds with learning experiences and to fill their souls through the power of prayer.