I wasn’t a big reader when I was young. I always thought I was a slow reader and that frustrated me a great deal. Over time I realized that it wasn’t my reading speed or skill that was lacking; it was my patience. Even when I was reading for enjoyment, it felt like a bit of a chore, so you can imagine how I was when it came to textbooks. Thank God for pictures and graphs! The truth is, I still have a hard time reading for more than an hour at a time. I envy those who can fall into a book for an entire afternoon.
It’s helpful for me to recall this from time to time because it reminds me just how arduous the path to learning is for many, many people. I was a slightly above average student but I could very easily have been the opposite. When considering the skills AVLI works to develop in students today, I was middling at best. My success was a product of my circumstance. I was blessed with a stable, loving home, reliable role models, and - though never explicitly stated - an expectation that college was the natural “next step” after high school. My family certainly wasn't rich, but my dad always had a job and I don’t ever remember worrying about the basics of food and shelter. I had friends, was involved in numerous activities and sports, and, from the age of 16, I always had a job. In short, the terrain of my life’s path was pretty flat; all I needed to do was follow along.
The path for most teens is much more formidable. Negotiating divorced parents or an acrimonious family life. Managing caretaker responsibilities to support an exhausted single parent. Witnessing addiction. Poverty. Loneliness. Bullying. Abuse. How would I have fared in such circumstances?
Common amongst all teens is an inability to grasp just how long life often is. What I was graced with in my teen years were circumstances that enabled me to anticipate good things. Tomorrow would come, and I assumed it would be filled with possibilities. Thus, where I lacked patience, I still had hope. This enabled me to persevere. In this way, Advent was part of my daily reality.
Advent is the season of waiting. It points us toward Christ and fosters a spirit of anticipation. But what exactly is it we’re waiting for? This reflection [the ideas of which are attributed to Cardinal Dolan] resonates with me, “We’re waiting for Jesus to answer our prayers. We wait for his grace and mercy upon us. We wait for clarity in our lives. We wait for resolution to our problems. We wait for answers to the particular prayers…answers to why our relationships go through struggles…why our loved ones get cancer…why we struggle sustaining our prayers and our faith…why our hopes and dreams still wait to be fulfilled.”
I find this idea of Advent appealing - particularly for young people - because it lacks aspiration, focusing instead on the realities of our present day. Sometimes the concept of salvation can seem out of reach, but finding hope in tomorrow is often enough to sustain us. Christ is with us and we persevere until a time when we might be able to look up and see a horizon further ahead. That’s when the idea of salvation makes sense.
This is the blessing of Catholic high schools where educating for a hope-filled future is central to our mission. Here we accompany each young person through the ups and downs of daily life. Our faith dimension provides a glimpse of the horizon, while our love, care and compassion provides many students a second place to call home. Under such circumstances, it’s Advent everyday. Students can anticipate good things ahead, and, thus, better respond to the challenges of learning and life.
For those involved in Catholic education, we must never forget this awesome privilege. These are difficult times to be in education. Thankless might be the best way to describe some of our current day situations. So many young people are struggling to regain their footing, and progress can seem fleeting. My hope is that this Advent Season graces you with a spirit of anticipation, knowing that your days of patient waiting will be rewarded.
For those parents who entrust Catholic high schools with your children, I hope for similar graces for you. Seattle Prep teacher Deana Duke McNeill recently wrote, “I think one of the hardest things about parenting is acknowledging that we really have little control over who our children become. Our greatest task is to love them into themselves - not what we want them to be or think they should be.” The difficulty of letting go is likely part of the reason you chose a Catholic school because, during this time of transition, you want all the support you can get in keeping your child pointed in the right direction. Still, the imperfect circumstances of the past few years may have you wondering if you’ve done enough. May the family time you spend this Advent Season provide consolation and confirmation that your efforts to love, protect, and gently guide are making a difference in the life of your child. It may, however, take a bit more patience.
Christmas blessings to all.
CONTRIBUTOR: Jeff Hausman is the Founder & President of Arrupe Virtual
vol 4 issue 5