by Jamie Myrose
While most Boston College students are just rolling out of bed, I have the great fortune of teaching second graders their catechism at St. Ignatius Parish on Sunday mornings. This is a relatively new experience for me, and I have found that I have just about as much to learn from my students as I have to teach them. This experience has shaped my understanding of who I want to be as a student here at Boston College—and more importantly—who God is calling me to be as a Catholic in conversation with the world.
One thing that I have noticed about this year’s class is that they are militantly excited about things that they do not quiet yet understand. For example, if two of them see a crucifix they will race to see who can make the sign of the cross faster, or another student gets a kick out of inciting the entire class in a rousing chorus of “we love God!’ as they pound their fists against the table. Mind you, on the surface, I have no issue with these actions. It thrills me that they should be so excited about their faith. But I wonder to what extent are their actions intentional?
The Boston College community has had a tough week, especially our students of color, as acts of white supremacy virtually and physically threatened our campus. These acts were met with an outpouring of solidarity and messages of how racism on campus will not be tolerated, culminating in a march for solidarity attended by thousands of community members. But the testimonies of marginalized students and staff once again raised the question: to what extent are our actions intentional? The white supremacists were here before they started tearing down posters. Speaking as a white student, we were fine to continue with our days when the acts of racism were micro-aggressions and confronting our friends would have proven embarrassing; or worse when we completely failed to notice them.
As a friend put it to me this past week, the Church should have it easy when it comes to things like this; racism and Nazis are easy to condemn. What is difficult is calling out friends, family, and at times even one’s own actions that perpetuate an evil system. It requires a deep sense of intentionality. The first step to rectifying injustice is to reject it at every level. St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, RSCJ offered a daily prayer, one line of which asked for, “a pure heart that recoils even at the appearance of evil.” We need not wait for an enemy to materialize that represents the whole of an evil structure—we can start with a change in ourselves that begins with an unbiased and earnest self-evaluation.
The second grade—or generally that age range—is vastly important in the Catholic Church because students typically spend the year preparing for their first reconciliations and first communions. Though barely at the age of reason, my students are about to embark on the next great step of their faith journeys. More than the nuances of doctrine or the logistics of the sacraments, my main responsibility is to teach them intentionality. Only with intentionality will they come to realize the importance of these rites, and I have found that the best way to teach this value is by living as an example. I acknowledge that I too have a fair amount of growing left to do, but each Sunday morning will be a new opportunity for reflection, with the hope that I stood up when it truly mattered.
This month I recommend To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. This novel about an ordinary family is apt reminder that, in our everyday lives, the days are long but the years are short. Let us not miss our chances, lest the years go by and we said nothing.