Friday, February 12, 2016


One of our St. Benedict’s seventh graders (I’ll call him Anthony), an only child of two good parents, got a shock several days ago: his dad was killed in an automobile accident.

He actually came to school on Ash Wednesday, and at the all-school mass got up and with great poise read to everyone the funeral arrangements for his father. When I saw him at the funeral parlor that night he was still calm and collected. To me it seemed that he was more “out of it,” not really comprehending this overwhelming new fact in his life.

At the funeral parlor I spoke to his mom and assured her that we would take special care of Anthony, and that she needn’t worry about that. Just after I’d told her that, a gentleman came up to me and said that Anthony absolutely loved school, and that we should keep up the great work. So far so good.

He’s in my homeroom, and part of my job is to talk with kids about their academic evaluations. (Since this is a true story, I can’t share specific information.) This is where it gets interesting. Let’s just say that he needs to be confronted about a couple of his latest grades and one or two written comments from his teachers.

So, when he returns to school on Monday, I’m going to have to just watch and listen and size him up. Certainly if he wasn’t terribly interested in the books two weeks ago, he’s not likely to have changed in the past several days.

I find myself identifying with the parents of all of our students in their constant job of balancing between strictness and gentleness, between listening and offering correction. In thinking about this I realized that lately I’ve been talking a whole lot to individual students instead of listening a whole lot. Sounds like a good Lenten resolution: Listen more to the kids.

So, what did I promise Anthony’s mom, anyway? So as you pray for Anthony’s deceased dad, please pray for his widow, for Anthony, for me and for the rest of our school community as we make our way through this mysterious time of suffering.

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