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Catholic Schools Week - For Our Parishes

Each day during Catholic Schools Week, we will post a reflection on the focus of the day centered around this year’s theme: Raise the Standards. The following reflection is from Deacon Nick Senger:

An empty Catholic school is a lonely place, and when students go home for the summer the atmosphere changes drastically. It's quieter, of course. There are no screaming kids at recess, no buzz of conversation down the halls, no tramping of feet before the beginning of daily Mass.

And it's cleaner, too. The desks are empty, the lockers are bare. The remnants of the year get swept away into piles and then carried out to the trash--leftover tests, forgotten lunch boxes, old pens and pencils. The floors shine again, white boards sparkle, the bathroom walls glisten.

A parish, too, feels different. There's a certain peace and quiet in a parish when school lets out for the summer. But there's also a certain hollowness. When Catholic school is in session there's an unmistakeable liveliness, an energy, a vibrancy in the parish. It's as unpredictable as the Holy Spirit, this mass of children who descend upon a parish school each autumn. They come like a mighty wind, waking up the community, bringing new life.

Sometimes we like Church to be neat and tidy, but Church is a wonderfully messy reality. Church is the messiness of St. Francis of Assisi walking with the animals; it's the messiness of St. Catherine of Siena wrangling Pope Gregory back to Rome from Avignon; it's the messiness of Mother Teresa on the streets of Calcutta.

It's also the messiness of finger painting, glitter, and spilled milk. It's student lectors who don't read loud enough, and servers who fiddle with their robes, and kids who poke at each other during Mass.

It's the messiness of a young baby lying in a straw-filled manger; it's the messiness of Christ carrying a bloody cross to Calvary.

Amid all the mess, noise, and chaos, the Holy Spirit is at work.

The quiet of summer is all well and good, but there's a deep holiness in the tumult of watching children come alive in faith each day at a Catholic school.

Thank God for children, thank God for our messy Church, and thank God for Catholic schools.

Deacon Nick Senger is the founder and editor of the Catholic School Chronicle (http://www.nicksenger.com/csc/), a blog of news, resources, and community building for all those interested in Catholic education.  He is a teacher at All Saints Catholic School in Spokane, WA, and is in deacon formation for the Diocese of Spokane.