“What did you do over the long weekend, Miss M?” asks Sarah, one of my fourth-graders, as she hurries into our classroom on Tuesday, February 21. I smile and pause, struggling to find the words to answer her question. Maybe it’s the lack of coffee in my system, but I find myself truly speechless in this moment. My mind begins to wander, reflecting on the beautiful gift of the weekend and the transformative power of the ACE journey.
On Saturday, February 18th, I willingly woke up at 6 a.m. and traveled about three hours from Dallas to the small city of Nacogdoches, Texas, with some of my ACE roommates to visit the “The Eyes of Father Margil.” This holy site emerged out of the terrible drought of 1717-18, when the Caddo Indian crops had failed and the LaNana and Banita creeks dried up. The people of Nacogdoches were in dire need of some sort of miracle. It is said that, after a night of solemn prayer, Blessed Father Antonio Margil de Jesus had a powerful vision. The following day, he walked to a high bank of LaNana creek, announcing to the people, “Fear not, do not be dismayed. Trust in God, for in a short time you shall have water.” Then, he struck his staff into the clay of the earth and two springs began to bubble and flow with fresh water. Hundreds of years later, the springs still move with the same life-giving force, a powerful symbol of faith, hope, and love.
As I walked in the footsteps of Father Margil, I was overcome by feelings of awe and admiration. This was a man who didn’t just sit around, waiting for some miracle to happen. He put his faith into action and served as a true witness for Christ. Father Margil looked at this barren, earthy clay and saw its true potential, exposing the life-giving force that existed beneath its rough exterior. He saw the world through the eyes of Christ, showering unconditional love and compassion on those around him. His example is an inspiring one and one to emulate in our everyday lives.
Just like Father Margil, I too experienced a call. During my senior year at Boston College, this call led me to the ACE program. Without truly knowing what the experience would bring, I moved to Dallas, Texas, to live in community with nine other people I had just met and to serve the St. Elizabeth of Hungary School community. As I listened to Father Margil’s story, I immediately thought of my 25 fourth-grade students. In many ways, my students are this earthy clay. To some, the clay might seem ordinary or commonplace, not varying much from pile to pile. But, to me, I look at this clay and see possibility. Each of my students possesses his or her own unique gifts and talents, his or her own challenges and struggles. I have been called to transform this “clay,” to form the hearts and minds of my students. As an ACE teacher, I can help them to discover their true potential and to become the people that God wants them to be.
If you told me a year and a half ago that I would spend my Saturday on a mini-pilgrimage in the footsteps of Father Antonio Margil, I would’ve reacted with disbelief. Instead, this is just one of many beautiful moments I have encountered along my ACE journey. These moments make me feel most alive, because I feel God’s presence so fully in my life. These moments have challenged me to see the world in new ways and to give myself more fully to others. Father Margil once said, “Blessed be God, who gives us the time, grace, and health to do something for his glory alone.” My journey, through ACE, has been a true gift of God’s grace.
When my mind finally returns from these morning musings, Sarah is still standing in front of me, anxiously awaiting my response. I thank her for her patience before softly uttering, “This weekend, I learned how to become a better teacher.” She pauses, processing my carefully crafted response, and quickly replies, “Well, that sounds pretty boring.” I laugh for a moment and, think to myself, it’s time to mold some clay.