Archive for April, 2005
Jeremy was born with a twisted body and a slow mind. At the age of 12 he was still in second grade, seemingly unable to learn.
His teacher, Doris Miller, often became exasperated with him. He would squirm in his seat, drool, and make grunting noises. At other times, he spoke clearly and distinctly, as if a spot of light had penetrated the darkness of his brain. Most of the time, however, Jeremy just irritated his teacher.
One day she called his parents and asked them to come in for a consultation. As the Forresters entered the empty classroom, Doris said to them, “Jeremy really belongs in a special school. It isn’t fair to him to be with younger children who don’t have learning problems. Why, there is a five year gap between his age and that of the other students.” Mrs. Forrester cried softly into a tissue, while her husband spoke. “Miss Miller,” he said, “there is no school of that kind nearby. It would be a terrible shock for Jeremy if we had to take him out of this school. We know he really likes it here.”
Doris sat for a long time after they had left, staring at the snow outside the window. Its coldness seemed to seep into her soul. She wanted to sympathize with the Forresters. After all, their only child had a terminal illness. But it wasn’t fair to keep him in her class. She had 18 other youngsters to teach, and Jeremy was a distraction.
Furthermore, he would never learn to read and write. Why waste any more time trying? As she pondered the situation, guilt washed over her. Here I am complaining when my problems are nothing compared to that poor family, she thought. Lord, please help me to be more patient with Jeremy.
From that day on, she tried hard to ignore Jeremy’s noises and his blank stares. Then one day, he limped to her desk, dragging his bad leg behind him. “I love you, Miss Miller,” he exclaimed, loud enough for the whole class to hear.
The other students snickered, and Doris’ face turned red. She stammered, “Wh-why that’s very nice, Jeremy. N-now please take your seat.”
Spring came, and the children talked excitedly about the coming of Easter. Doris told them the story of Jesus, and then to emphasize the idea of new life springing forth, she gave each of the children a large plastic egg. “Now,” she said to them, “I want you to take this home and bring it back tomorrow with something inside that shows new life. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Miss Miller,” the children responded enthusiastically– all except for Jeremy. He listened intently; his eyes never left her face.
He did not even make his usual noises. Had he understood what she had said about Jesus’ death and resurrection? Did he understand the assignment? Perhaps she should call his parents and explain the project to them.
That evening, Doris’ kitchen sink stopped up.
She called the landlord and waited an hour for him to come by and unclog it. After that, she still had to shop for groceries, iron a blouse, and prepare a vocabulary test for the next day. She completely forgot about phoning Jeremy’s parents.
The next morning, 19 children came to school, laughing and talking as they placed their eggs in the large wicker basket on Miss Miller’s desk. After they completed their math lesson, it was time to open the eggs.
In the first egg, Doris found a flower.
“Oh yes, a flower is certainly a sign of new life,” she said.
“When plants peek through the ground, we know that spring is here.” A small girl in the first row waved her arm.
“That’s my egg, Miss Miller,” she called out.
The next egg contained a plastic butterfly, which looked very real. Doris held it up. “We all know that a caterpillar changes and grows into a beautiful butterfly. Yes, that’s new life, too.”
Little Judy smiled proudly and said, “Miss Miller, that one is mine.”
Next, Doris found a rock with moss on it.
She explained that moss, too, showed life. Billy spoke up from the back of the classroom, “My daddy helped me,” he beamed.
Then Doris opened the fourth egg. She gasped.
The egg was empty. Surely it must be Jeremy’s she thought, and of course, he did not understand her instructions. If only she had not forgotten to phone his parents. Because she did not want to embarrass him, she quietly set the egg aside and reached for another.
Suddenly, Jeremy spoke up. “Miss Miller, aren’t you going to talk about my egg?”
Flustered, Doris replied, “But Jeremy, your egg is empty” He looked into her eyes and said softly, “Yes, but Jesus’ tomb was empty, too.”
Time stopped. When she could speak again, Doris asked him, “Do you know why the tomb was empty?” “Oh, yes,” Jeremy said, “Jesus was killed and put in there. Then His Father raised Him up.”
The recess bell rang. While the children excitedly ran out to the schoolyard, Doris cried.
The cold inside her melted completely away.
Three months later, Jeremy died. Those who paid there respects at the mortuary were surprised to see 19 eggs on top of his casket, all of them empty.
Dear Brother Knights,
I know that you share with me the mixed feelings over the Holy Father’s passing. We are sad because he did so much good and was a true spiritual father to us all. He will be sorely missed. We are joyful and filled with hope because his suffering has ended and we take great confidence that our Lord will draw this good and faithful servant to himself.
One of the very first things he told us when he assumed the Chair of Peter was, “Be not afraid.” He witnessed this in his own life over and over again. He spent most of his life in a world and society that suffered oppression and fear. He endured the Nazi occupation and counted Jews among his friends, even when such relationships brought recrimination. He mourned for those friends who were murdered and he spoke courageously in our own time for the children suffering under the holocaust of abortion. He helped to maintain the faith and Church under the yoke of communism and as Pope he was instrumental in bringing down the Red Threat in Europe. Even when he was shot in a failed assassination attempt, he was not deterred in proclaiming the truth– about God and the Church, and about the rights of man and the sanctity of life. In a world of cowards and traitors who compromise the truth, he was unswerving.
While he knew reverence or holy fear toward God, he did not fear men, no matter how powerful or wealthy. As with Christ, he became a sign of contradiction, and millions of young people took up his call to renew the Church and to embrace the Good News.
Now we look forward. Along with our new Pope the Church will continue. Christ has promised to abide with us until the consummation of the world. Remain brave and strong. Commit yourselves again to the Church. Pledge a revigorated loyalty to the Successor of St. Peter.
Here is a prayer recommended by the Roman Missal:
“Lord God, you are our eternal shepherd and guide. In your mercy grant your Church a shepherd who will walk in your ways and whose watchful care will bring us your blessing. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
I write these remarks during the interregnum period. It may be that when you read them, we will have a new Pope. Think about what a great miracle it is, this unbroken line that goes back to the days of the apostles. Earthly kingdoms come and go, but the Church survives! Praise God! The Spirit of God is alive and active in his Church!
Blessings and peace,
Father Joe Jenkins
P.S. The Knights of Columbus have put out a great DVD called THE VOCATION OF MARRIAGE. It runs about 29 minutes and is right on target. They are only $5 a piece and I will see about showing it at a meeting. Maybe we could make copies available to members? I think we should at least purchase a copy as a gift for the parishes we serve. They can use it in their marriage preparation programs.