Remembering prayers he offered for students

Petitions offered by a former principal spanned everything from report cards to final exams

By George Valadie

Prayer is easy. That’s what Father said. He was speaking to the third- and fourth-graders at their weekly Wednesday morning Mass.

Admittedly, Nanc and I should attend daily Mass more than we do. But we don’t. And in all honesty, we had decided to attend this particular Wednesday morning Mass simply to hear our granddaughter Emma read the petitions.

Turned out it coincided with the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross that Father was trying explain to the little ones.

“Prayer is easy,” he said. “Exaltation sounds like ‘exhale,’ doesn’t it? And that’s all you have to do. Sit in front of the cross—this one or any one—and just exhale. Just breathe. Be in his presence and let Him be in yours.”

As a former high school principal, I often led our school in prayer. Never the theologian, it was and still is my opinion—and I might go directly to hell for saying this—but if we talked Jesus all the time, we could/would/might/maybe lose our audience. A gamble I never wanted to lose.

Still, and though I never thought about it the way Father does, I tried to model the same. When opportunities arose, I attempted to help our teenagers see that prayer, praise, petition—all are necessary and natural and as easy as texting your best friend.

As does every Catholic school, we opened and closed each day with prayer. Often, we recited those we memorized decades ago.

But on other days, I offered my own on their behalf, hoping one of the messages coming through the intercom would speak to their world and teach them that they, too, can talk to God.

Here are a few I can still recall:

Start of the year

Dear God—We ask your blessings on this year that lies ahead. The days we will celebrate, and those when we’ll commiserate. The hard ones and the easy. The times we’ll love it and the days we’ll hate it.

We’re not sure why you picked us to live here while so many other young people must spend their days quite differently—searching for food or hiding from bombs. May we never live in such a way there is anyone more deserving of this school than we are. Amen.

Before we all went to Mass

Dear God—Your door is always open; the invitation’s always there. But our excuses seem easier to find. Truthfully, we don’t come to visit nearly enough, but we’re coming today. Thank you for being there, thank you for listening, we’ll try to get by more often. Amen.

Report cards

Dear God—How do you think we’re doing? We sure wish we knew. Report cards and test results are good for the school stuff. But then again, do we really need them to tell us if we’ve been studying?

Come to think about it—do we really need to hear from you to know how we’re doing? Deep down, don’t we know?

Deep down—that’s where all the important things happen. Please help us see the truth in there. Amen.

A Tuesday

Dear God—Just checking in; it’s a regular old Tuesday here … five classes, lunch, and the occasional trip to the restroom, nothing special. So we’re asking, what can we do for you today?

Any chance we can turn someone’s “regular old Tuesday” into something special? Though we have to admit, doing favors for God seems intimidating. Shouldn’t those be monumental, challenging, bigger than big? Or is being the reason for someone’s unexpected smile on a Tuesday all you really want? Amen.

Halloween

We ask you to protect the little kids tonight. It can get crazy out there, and all they really want to do is dress up and get candy.

As for us bigger kids—who among us couldn’t use an extra dose of common sense? Please be with us all. Amen.

November

Dear God—The Church uses this month to remember the deceased, though it’s not like we could ever forget them—nor will you. We miss them too much. But we do ask that you welcome them home with you—forever—and help us get there, too. Amen.

Empathy

Dear God—We all have things happen to us away from school that we just don’t want to share. Too private, too personal, too embarrassing.

We owe them the same peace we want from them. It stands to reason then that we don’t and can’t know everything about others. Help us help where we can and where we can’t, we ask you to be who and what they need. Amen.

Kicking off the food drive

Dear God—We give our dollars for people we’ll never know. Sometimes it seems like a lot to part with, especially for folks we don’t know. But isn’t that the kind of giving you need us to do? With no hope of ever getting a thank you.

We give it to them, but we offer it to you. And we thank you for the fact we’re not in need of their dollars. Amen.

Mid-December

Dear God—I’m guessing Joseph and Mary would have been setting out on their trip about now. It takes a while to travel that far on a donkey. Just doing their duty but having no idea it would end the way it did.

We pray for the same—strength to do what we’re supposed to, courage to not know where it goes, faith to believe you’ve got the ending all covered. Please make us more like them. Amen.

International tragedy

Dear God—Could we possibly feel more hopeless? 10,000 dead, $14 billion in damages, survivors with nothing—literally. No homes, no food, no water, no help. Of course, what could we expect! Hit by the worst storm possibly known to mankind. What can we do?

Give a little and pray a lot. So we ask you to do what we cannot. Some days you need us to be someone’s miracle, and some days the task is too big. Please be there for all who need you now. Amen.

Faith

Dear God—We’re not always good with this faith thing. You’d have been a lot easier to follow if we had known you, walked and talked and prayed with you.

But then again, maybe we would have just blown you off as another Messiah wannabe. I suppose the Apostles needed faith, too.

We pray for the gift of a stronger faith and the courage to act with what we have. Amen.

Final exams

Dear God—We do it all the time. When the big tests come and we’re not quite ready, we reach out for a miracle.

But we also know you need to save those for people with true need. But you’ve always said we could ask, and it makes us feel better to do so. Perhaps our best prayer would be to ask you to help us recall what we know, to focus, to concentrate, and to get the most from the effort we have put in. Amen.

Forgiveness

Dear God—We know we do much that needs your forgiveness. But we hesitate to ask because we know when you forgive us, then you’ll expect us to forgive others. And sometimes, we just don’t want to. Please forgive us for not forgiving. Amen.

Prayer is easy. Father said so. I hope our kids got at least that much.

Dear God—Most of our prayers seem to involve words which wouldn’t be that bad if they weren’t all ours. May we learn to simply and quietly breathe in your presence. Amen.

 

George Valadie is a parishioner at St. Stephen Church in Chattanooga.

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