Fifth-seeded Saint Paul United faces off against fourth-seeded Alexandria tonight, Wednesday, Feb. 21, at 8 p.m. in the MSHSL hockey tournament. Go United!
The View From Vis Blog
For the past few years, Visitation produced a blog that frequently featured the school’s faculty and staff. For the 2017-2018 school year, the Visitation blog will be authored by Visitation’s faculty and staff, who will share their ideas, advice, memories and musings with our broader community. We hope you enjoy this new blog, which has been dubbed “The View from Vis."
As always, we welcome your comments and feedback.
Every month in our Visitation blog, we invite a faculty or staff member to write a reflection or share a story about something personally meaningful. Upper School social studies teacher Christine Malovrh offered to share a story about a Lenten experience she had during her days teaching middle school -- prior to joining the faculty at Visitation. While the immediate effect of Christine's story may have you looking for a Lenten fish fry to feed and warm your belly, her thoughtful words about how students found growth through this school's fish fry will feed your mind and warm your heart.
Finding Lenten Inspiration at a Fish Fry
A few years ago, my seventh and eighth grade students invited me to come to a Lenten fish fry where they would be helping out that evening. Well, actually, they did not invite; they begged. My first thought was, "What gives? Teenagers excited about abstaining from meat, socializing with their teachers, and doing physical labor?" Indeed, it sounded implausible. Yet this particular fish fry hardly seemed like a penitential meal. Tasty battered fish, coleslaw and all the trimmings rounded out a packed and festive atmosphere. The boys donned aprons, carried pitchers of water, refilled glasses, and exuberantly yelled, "Fish fry!" in a register just a bit lower than their usual manner of speaking.
This episode remains with me as is it reveals both the wisdom of the Catholic Church and the spiritual fruit that comes from inviting the Body of Christ into a communal time of invigorated prayer, fasting and almsgiving – or what we refer to as the season of Lent. St. Jane de Chantal's formula for "living Jesus" is doing little things with great love, creating room in our souls for spiritual growth. So I invite you to peer a bit deeper into the story of this Lenten fish fry to see the personal growth nurtured by the Body of Christ when a joy-filled community paved the way for the next generation to grow in love of service and the Spirit.
Maturity. One of the students in the seventh-grade class was a young man full of intellectual, physical and emotional potential. He was perceptive beyond his years and had influence over his peers. However, in grade seven his goals lacked a nobility of purpose. To the chagrin of the middle school faculty, stashing away arsenals of spit balls with which to ambush his buddies amounted to this child's purpose for living, at least on some days. For him, consequences were a bit of a game, though his endearing quality was that he wanted to grow – he wanted our attention and guidance. This quality was most evident the day he agreed with my suggestion that the best consequence for his mischief would be a tea party with his teachers. The Earl Grey worked its magic as a few weeks later this young man walked with the air of a king in that apron and held his pitcher as if it contained a sacred oil. He did not need more assignments and consequences. He needed a deeper purpose, and, when it was given to him, he rose to the occasion. His "fish fry!" evoked the dignity of a solemn vow. As the remainder of his seventh-grade year unfolded, this boy was given more opportunities to serve. What detentions and tea parties could not produce, service drew out from him the maturity to be his best self: a caring young man, eager and willing to be a servant leader.
Wisdom. The soon-to-be Eagle Scout with more badges than could fit on his sash was also among the ranks of boys filling glasses of water at the fish fry. Now this young man is one with whom I could relate. He loved facts, deep thinking and being in charge. Like many of us who like to be in charge, he had to come to terms with reality: We are not really in control of all that much. Water was spilled that night, and, being the duty-bound lad that he was, he spent more time wiping up spills than engaging in the "fish fry!" exuberance. Seniors asked him to re-fill their plates, and he handed off his pitcher on more than one occasion to honor such requests. Having already achieved a high degree of maturity, he took on the additional duties with grace. Just when he was able to return to the scene, he was again pulled away from "fish fry!" action by his adoring little sister who wanted some attention. For him, the night was blessed with the emerging wisdom that comes when we understand that service really is not crafting one's own plan but rather following the promptings of the Holy Spirit, which are often disguised as the needs of our neighbor.
Healing. Among the cadre of middle school boys sharing in the festivities was a pair of brothers—brothers who knew hardship. That night they were well underway in the long and involved process of adoption. When surveying the scene of the social hall, the two boys with the deepest gratitude for both the community around them and the opportunity to serve that community belonged to these brothers; truly, their smiles could not have widened further. The crowd was aware of their role in the divine drama that night. Adults, from parents to great-grandparents, were drinking copious amounts of water, just so they could ask those brothers to refill their glasses. The small gesture of filling glasses was the healing balm for those who view the world through the eyes of faith. These boys, with lives replete with challenge and acceptance, were advanced in maturity and wisdom; but, healing was ongoing, and that comes with being known and being loved, giving love and receiving expressions of love in return.
I believe spiritual growth often happens just a little bit at a time, requires a bit of sacrifice and occurs within the context of a joy-filled community. The Church has always proclaimed, and Pope Francis has reiterated – with the twinkle of adolescent youth in his own eyes, that to serve, to offer opportunities for service, and to receive small acts of service with open arms is the Joy of the Gospel. The paradox of the cross which we celebrate this Lenten season is that when we embrace little sacrifices to serve others, we grow abundantly in maturity, wisdom, healing and joy.
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