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Encountering Children, Encountering Christ

Thursday, July 03, 2014


Written by: Eric Prister

The connection is simple enough—reflect on a 30,000-mile bus tour with the most famous "on the road" story in the gospels, the Road to Emmaus. But how can the story of two disciples encountering Jesus help describe the experience of the Fighting for Our Children's Future National Bus Tour?

When Jesus first appears to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, the evangelist Luke tells us that "their eyes were kept from recognizing him," and "they stood still, looking sad." The disciples were experiencing an encounter with the risen Christ, but they had no idea it was him. In fact, they were sad and motionless in his presence. 

Jesus begins to walk and speak with them, interpreting the prophets for them, and their "hearts [were] burning within [them]" as he spoke to them. They have heard Jesus' call to action, but have not yet truly acted—they still continue along their way down the road. 

When they decide to stop for the night, they invite Jesus to stay with them. Then, "when he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him." Finally, the disciples know their encounter with Christ. They come to this realization—they truly see Jesus—when he is in his true element. Jesus came to die for the sins of all, to sacrifice his own body so that all may have life, and so in the breaking of the bread, the perfect symbol of his sacrifice, the disciples truly come to know him for who he really is. 

This realization doesn't just spur the disciples to awe, doesn't just make their hearts burn within them—it calls them to action. The gospel tells us that, "that same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem," which Luke says was seven miles away from Emmaus. The disciples felt compelled to immediate, drastic action because they truly saw Jesus in his truest and most profound form. 

Traveling on our own road to Emmaus, to more than 65 Catholic schools in 50 cities, we were blessed to encounter Christ is so many ways. We could see Christ in the teachers, who give of themselves every day for their children. We could see Christ in the parents, who sacrifice to provide a Catholic education for their children. We could see Christ in the administrators, the principals and pastors, who lead their community with spiritual guidance. 

The most meaningful encounter with Christ, though, the one that continued to spur us to action, rejuvenated us, and brought us back to life, was provided by the students at each school we visited. Catholic schools provide a place—safe, comfortable, and welcoming—for these children to be their truest selves. They are able to do the things children are supposed to do—learn, experience new things, grow as human beings—in an environment of love, which allows them to be true beacons of Christ. 

As I look back fondly on the past year, the experiences far too numerous to recall, the one thing I'll remember most vividly is the joy of the children we encountered. This memory is what continues to keep my heart burning within me, and will constantly spur me to immediate, drastic action in support of Catholic schools.