I bought the very last thing on my three kids’ exhaustive list of school supplies. I feel like it should end in a day of feasting and celebration. This year, it just happened to coincide with the Feast of the Assumption, so our parish ice cream social after mass served a dual purpose. “Yay” for Mary’s triumphant heavenly entrance and “yay” (with a little y) for me finishing this seemingly endless task. Each year, the last months of summer become a crazy odyssey through various office supply and big box stores trying to narrow down just the right plastic-covered, teal, college-ruled stenographer-style notebook, with medium grade weight paper, designed by multi-cultural children of Eastern African countries. Huh? Okay at the end I digressed into a bit of hyperbole. But you get the drift here. It got me to thinking about all this effort we expend on this “necessary” list of school “essentials.” As Catholics what’s the real essential list? What do our kids truly need as we send them out into the world, whether the public-school system or parochial? Have we equipped our kids with the real essentials? Here’s my list for my kids. I hope it will be a help to you.
5. A Rosary
A great priest from the Augustine Institute gave a talk that has stuck with me and my kids. Father Riley counseled us to always keep a rosary in our pockets. Not only is it an amazing reminder of our faith and the mysteries of Christ’s life, it has real power to fight evil. It also invites the Blessed Mother more deeply into our lives and hearts. Whether or not your kids say the rosary on their own (my kids don’t, but I can dream, can’t I?) it’s a real tool in spiritual warfare. It’s a reminder throughout the day to stay strong and remain in Him. I took it to heart and remind my kids to have their rosaries in their pockets before they leave. Warning: Don’t make this rookie mistake. Do NOT send them with the expensive, fancy one grandma got them for their first communion. Give them one of the cheap plastic versions. Plastic or glass beads: they both work!
4. St. Michael the Archangel Prayer
This is a strong prayer, folks. Post it in your child’s lunchbox or on the backs of the car seats so they can read it on their commute to and from school. Or might I even suggest they commit it to memory. This is one they can use the rest of their lives. By reciting the prayer, we are calling on St. Michael, special protector of the Church, to defend us against Satan. I think one of the greatest evils our kids face in this world is the belief that evil and the devil do not really exist. This prayer gets it right and arms our kids against the inevitable hoodwink of our times. Here’s a link to the prayer if you need a refresher. http://www.ewtn.com/devotionals/prayers/michael.htm
3. A Pocket Bible or Gospel
Is this even allowed at all in public schools? My kids go to Catholic school, so I’m not sure what religious freedoms have eroded in which school districts. But I’m guessing if the kid doesn’t push it on other students they will be okay. The pocket Bible is definitely for slightly older kids, but an essential nonetheless. I love how Pope Francis reminds us all to be immersed in the Word. He noted that many of us panic if we don’t have our cell phones when we leave home. Do we have the same panic when we are without the Word of God? How many of us would turn around, after we’ve left our house, to make sure our pocket Bible was on our person? It’s such a great tool to keep us on the right track and off of social media. Amazon has a nice, inexpensive one if your middle schooler to college-aged student is interested. Consider rubber-banding it to their I-Phone.
2. A Scapular
If you’re like me and you grew up in the post Vatican II 70’s and 80’s you’re thinking, “What’s that again?” A scapular is a loop of string with two small cloth panels attached, which you wear under your clothes. One of the cloth rectangles goes over your chest, the other over the back. And from personal experience, I can attest that they rarely stay that way. But you should persevere. As Karen Edmisten states in Catholic Digest, “As with any sacramental, a scapular does not offer magical protection. But it can be spiritually powerful, due to the blessings bestowed on it through the Church’s intercession. Sacramentals, which both symbolize holiness and actually become holy through the blessing they receive, dispose us to receive graces.”
She goes on to explain that it is firstly a reminder that we are a disciple of Christ. Here’s the whole article for more info: http://www.catholicdigest.com/articles/faith/heritage/2009/01-01/discover-the-secrets-of-the-scapula
1. A Smile and Good Manners
This a bit of an obvious one, but I think, unfortunately, it is all too often forgotten! Mother Teresa said, “We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.” When you’re armed with a smile and the codes of genuine politeness, you can calm just about any storm. My friend Stephanie recently reminded me of Dale Carnegie’s opus, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” He felt so strongly about smiling, he apparently devoted a whole chapter to it. It may not always work with the playground bully, but there’s a chance. So, go ahead and smile. Isn’t our whole faith about having a contagious joy? Remind your kids to be kind and smile. We can’t expect to pass on what we ourselves don’t have. So smile, mom & dad!
And if none of that works, as parents we must pray for the well-being of our students. Sending them off into the world is a daunting thing, but I try to remember God’s in charge. And it certainly doesn’t matter if they don’t have the new neon, glow-in-the-dark fidget spinner. They’ve got their faith. That’s a big head start.