- Student Life
While I’m tempted to say the best part of March was the fact that there were no snow days, I’m not sure that would be entirely accurate.
This month was full of great moments. Early on, we got to celebrate our boys’ basketball team qualifying for the state tournament for the first time, and it was incredible to see how many students and families came to support them in Emporia. Just a few days later, Melissa Ohden shared with our students her incredible story of surviving an attempted abortion, learning about it at age fourteen, and the winding road that led to her becoming a nationally renowned author and speaker. A few weeks after that, our students had the opportunity to see the incorrupt heart of St. John Vianney here on our campus as it made its way through the US. It was a month full of unique opportunities for our kids!
However, my favorite part of the month was a more familiar event. Last week, Archbishop Naumann came for our annual all-school adoration hour. Though I look forward to this every year, this year’s experience was particularly powerful for me.
The session started with a beautiful witness from senior Kelly Kleekamp on the changing role of adoration in her faith life over the years, which was followed by exposition, a Gospel reading, and a homily from our shepherd on the importance of prayer and the opportunity our schools have to teach students how to have a personal relationship with Jesus. Then the always-great Mikey Needleman started playing to lead us into our prayer experience before the Eucharist.
As I shared with several classes during my “God-Week” witness talk last week, I was truly moved during two of the last songs. The first was “Set a Fire.” I was kneeling with my eyes closed singing, trying to pray the lyrics that ask the Holy Spirit to set a fire in the soul, when the chorus kicked in. I found myself singing, “There’s no place that I’d rather be, no place that I’d rather be, no place that I’d rather be than here in Your love.” As I sang the refrain, I opened my eyes and looked around.
It is hard to explain the combination of peace, pride (the good kind!), and joy that flooded my heart as I scanned the room. We had almost 1,000 people gathered together in the same place, and in front of us was God. And I know in that room there were some who don’t believe, others who aren’t sure, others who are on fire and still more who might be in one place on one day and another the next. But to look forward and see two of our seniors flanking Archbishop, kneeling in prayer, with others surrounding the altar on their knees and gazing at the host, some belting the songs, others with questions in their eyes, some with hands raised, others with them clenched in front of them; and then to look to my right and left, to see how full our school is, just how many people trust us with their children each day and ask us to bring them to the feet of Jesus, and to know that at least for this day, we were doing that directly, as literally as we can, and presenting them before our Eucharistic Lord to do as He sees fit; it was a tremendous grace for me.
Then the song switched to “10,000 Reasons,” which happens to be my daughter Cayleigh’s favorite Church song, and my eyes welled up as I thought of her squeaky little voice shout-singing the lyrics every time it comes on in Church or at home or in her head.
When I shared all this in my witness, I will admit I got pretty emotional (but if you know me, I’m kind of an emotional guy). I tried to explain to the students I spoke to what a gift it is to work here. I tried to explain that I have encountered a God who graces me daily in so many ways, not the least of which is the presence of the students in this school and in my life.
And I tried to explain the depth of the grace of my family life, my three children (with a fourth on the way in July!) and wife, and the way they remind me of the goodness of God and His surprising and frustrating and life-changing love.
I tried to explain that to these students, some of whom have only talked to me after a bad decision or rough patch academically or when I’m telling them to tuck their shirt in, and I’m not sure how much of it got through.
But what that moment in adoration reminded me of most of all was that the love I have for these students, even the love I have for my own biological children, is just a single breath in the eternal psalm of love that God sings for me and you each day, we, His children, His own.
What a gift it is to be loved by this God, and what a gift to be able to tell others of the works He has done in my life.
Thank you for the opportunity to share in this community of faith with you and your children. As we enter the last few weeks of Lent, know that you all are in my prayers as we prepare our hearts for the joy of Easter to come.
Your brother in Christ,