At the Children’s Mass, the 4th Graders Lead the Prayers
One of the blessings of St. John’s School is the privilege of praying Mass together as a school family. Together with the regular congregants, the children are given all the liturgical responsibilities that are usually carried out by adults. In this case, every 4th grader had a role to play. That included singing in the choir, serving, lectoring, reading of the petitions and offering the gifts at the altar. Not only do 4th graders do this, but also every other grade, including kindergarten, is able to carry out these responsibilities. Today we are featuring the 4th grade and enjoying this prayerful time together as one school family.
The Prayers of Petition at Wednesday’s Children’s Mass
We pray for our Pope, Francis, that in this Year of Mercy, people of the world will continue to look toward his words and actions, and that they will be inspired to shine in the light, and dispel the darkness in their lives. We pray, to the Lord.
We pray for the leaders in our world. We pray that the Word of God touch their lives, and that they promote peace, tolerance, and understanding in their countries. We pray, to the Lord.
We pray for our Bishop Paul, and all priests of the Diocese of Duluth, that the Risen Christ continue to open the minds and hearts of those they teach. That their words inspire the spiritually poor. We pray, to the Lord.
We pray for all around the world who are oppressed because of their Christian faith. May God help them in their struggle to remain faithful to God and His Way. We pray, to the Lord.
We pray for those in the Duluth area that are struggling to make ends meet. That local churches, businesses, and the general public will be inspired to help meet their physical and spiritual needs. We pray, to the Lord.
We pray for our church and school that the Spirit continues to work in the hearts of the faithful. That St. John’s sees an increase of attendance in church, and higher enrollment in the school. We pray, to the Lord.
We pray for all the quiet intentions that we think of now, in our hearts…. We pray, to the Lord.
Our technology expert, Terri, created these beautiful video, which helps to explain why we all love them so!
God Made Us a Family: A Legacy of Love at St. John’s School
On any given weekday when 11:00 approaches, classroom work is suspended. Books are closed, papers and pencils are put away, and lunch and recess are about to begin. Down the halls can be heard the prayer of blessing before meals, and then the clamoring for snow clothes commences. It’s time to play or eat, and everyone is ready. Lunch begins.
Each day the teachers of the little ones escort their classes to lunch and help with trays and silverware. Father Rich reminds them of the “magic words”—please and thank you. The ritual is the same every day as the children find their favorite spots to sit and visit, laugh raucously and sometimes start or settle disagreements with friends. Sometimes they get reprimanded for the noise level breaking our eardrums, or for wasting their food or for refusing to eat ANYTHING. Sometimes it’s a learning experience concerning hurting a classmate. They’ve learned that “tattling” is the least favorite solution to a problem (unless it’s really important), and the threat is always the same: “You handle it, because if we have to, you won’t like it.”
Another instruction is an atmosphere of unity: “In our lunchroom (classroom, school, etc.), WE don’t call each other names; WE help each other, etc.”
The lunch room is a cacophony of voices and stories where food is the least of the things going on. A choreographer could enter and observe the energy and exuberance of our school and create a dance of life spun from the imagination and enthusiasm of our kids.
And something new has occurred this year that hasn’t happened in the past. The 5th and 6th graders, who used to eat during a different time slot, now have the same lunch period as the kindergarten and first grade. They eat in the social hall, separate from the little ones, to give them some privacy. They are, after all, the “big kids”.
One day, one of the big kids stopped by the kindergarten table to say, “Hi”. Instead of joining his classmates, he just hung out with the kindergarten.
A whole new chapter in St. John’s lunch time was born. Shining eyes began to turn to the big kids who one by one started joining their little buddies to share a half hour, show them good manners, pay attention to someone having a bad day and just generally to “hang out” with them.
The kindness and generosity of our 5th and 6th graders to our little ones is truly one of the most beautiful experiences to observe in the lunch room. It is one of our volunteer’s favorite hours of the day. It rivals, she says, working with individual students or groups of students or helping in the office.
Where else does a Pastor take time from his busy schedule to supervise the lunch room? Father Rich appears, and the noise level rises by decibels as all of them clamor for his attention. Soon, at his goading, the food they’re eating takes on a whole new dimension: at his insistence, the spaghetti is angle worms; the chicken fingers become squirrel tails; bacon arrives from his back-yard bacon tree. (We think Father Rich doesn’t have enough to do…!) The kids hoot and holler at his imagination, and the little ones fall for the descriptions, wondering what they’re really eating. Father Rich brings a level of fun to the lunch room the rest of us cannot, and we appreciate this gift that is uniquely his own.
Similarly, what principal serves students their lunches every day, and then stays to supervise them, because, like the pastor, she, too, wants to be with them?
Before you know it, the half hour ends and grace after meals is recited together. Even the kindergartners have it memorized. Lunch is over. Trays are emptied and stacked; words of thanks to Mrs. Curtis, our exceptional cook, are heard, and the afternoon begins at St. John’s school.
Lunch is the one place that on a daily basis the students come together every day. It is such a beautiful slice of life, a place different from their classrooms, where their own gifts are given and received in special ways, where they can witness the love and support of Father Rich and Mrs. Frederickson, and partake of Mrs. Curtis’ tasty lunches. It truly is a special part of the day! After all, God made us a family:
We need one another.
We love one another.
We forgive one another.
We work together
We play together.
We worship together.
Together we use God’s word.
Together we grow in Christ.
Together we love all people.
Together we serve our God.
Together we hope for heaven.
These are our hopes and ideals.
Help us to attain them, O God.
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
And a Similar Situation Happens at the Children’s Mass Each Week:
It’s ten to eight on any weekday morning when students from St. John’s school rush into the sanctuary and disappear into the sacristy to prepare to serve Mass. One of the priests is always there, and a quiet, joyful interchange can be heard as priest and servers prepare for the Eucharistic celebration.
Soon, the servers bring cruets containing water and wine to the side table. They will be used, first at the Offertory of the Mass, and then, of course, at the Consecration when they will become the Body and Blood of our Lord.
After the cruets, the servers bring the lavabo towel and bowl to be used by the celebrant at the Offertory in the symbolic cleansing of his hands. This ritual represents his role as mediator between the people and God.
Finally, the servers bring the Missal. Candles have been lit. Mass is ready to begin.
This year is special, as 4th graders have been accepted as servers for the second time. So, on any given day, a 5th or 6th grader acts as a mentor to the younger student who is learning the ropes of this service to St. John’s parish.
And this year is different because of the disparity in their sizes. 4th graders have told me they tremble in fear they’ll make a mistake at the altar. They are so sincere and so aware of the importance of their roles, and they don’t want to make a single mistake. It is with tenderness that those of us who attend daily Mass observe their earnestness as they each receive instructions on the many duties they are expected to perform in that short half hour. Here are just a few details they have to learn: when to stand and when to kneel, when and how to hold the missal for Father, and when to bring the Offertory cruets, the lavabo towel and water bowl to the celebrant. Ask yourselves if you could do this without instruction. Then imagine being nine years old, and you can understand their trepidation.
And then the biggest duty of all: when and how long and how many times do you ring the bell at the Consecration?
They want so much to do a perfect job!
While they hold a special place in our hearts as we witness their instruction and observe their serious efforts to perform these sacred tasks, the other half of the story, and the real story, is the responsibility and compassion that 5th and 6th grade ‘teachers’ exhibit in their roles. As the school year progresses and their younger charges continue to shift from one anxious 4th grader to the next, it is remarkable to observe the kindness and patience with which the older students treat the new recruits. I am reminded in this daily, concrete way of the values St. John’s school instills in our students. They are reflected in this one area of service that holds such a place in the memory of any adult who was ever a server. Because of the sacredness of this responsibility it is an extra special area in which to observe the quality of our students.
Not only do the older students help in this way, but also, some of them sing in the choir, and some sit with kindergartners at the children’s Mass, helping the little ones to sit, stand and kneel at the appropriate times. The little kids love the attention they receive from the older students, and both boys and girls display such a gentle and kindly demeanor in their interactions with the little ones.
They also lead the way in September as lectors and readers at the children’s Masses. By the time they’re 6th graders, St. John’s students often lector and read petitions as well as any adult in the parish, exuding the confidence and ability gleaned by having done these services since they were in kindergarten.
St. John’s students are given myriad opportunities on their journeys to grow in service to their church and community. Every effort is made to reach them academically. That is a given. And within that framework is this beautiful legacy of spiritual growth that entrusts our youth with the gift of service to others. Clearly, that legacy is that God made us a family, and, together, we strive to operate as one. We emphasize that reality every chance we have.
And with the quality of our older students, it is a given that legacy will continue.
Our technology expert, Terri Jones, created this very beautiful video. It features the joy of our children and is an indication of why we all love them so much!