Happy New Year! As we begin our new liturgical year and enter into the season of Advent, I am drawn to our call to wait patiently for our Lord. There is grace to be found in waiting and yet, in the busyness of our lives, we tend to hurry to the next task at hand. School life is undoubtedly busy, especially at this time of the year. As I reflect on my years as both teacher and principal, I remember the intense preparation for the school Christmas concert. This annual undertaking was woven into the thread of our school culture and yet, the path to Christmas joy was not always joyful. As a teacher, rehearsal times inevitably cut into important instructional minutes, and student learning seemed secondary to making sure the students knew how to enter and exit the stage. Once I became a principal, the challenge was trying to keep the peace among faculty, staff, students and the music teacher. I will never forget my first principal experience the day of the Christmas concert. The entire student body spent the afternoon in the hall doing a final run through of the show. The first grade teacher did a surprisingly good job at keeping her students on task while the eighth graders were goofing off in the back of the hall. The music teacher was on a rampage about how, after weeks of preparation, no one was ready for the Big Show and teachers all around felt tired and defeated. To my dismay, the dismissal bell rang and students left without finishing the rehearsal. Surely the evening would be a disaster and as the principal, I would have to answer to parents that there was just not enough time to get it right.
In retrospect, this was a perfect opportunity to recognize that in God’s eyes, there is never enough time to “get it right.” That is why we continue the journey. As it turned out, the children showed up in their beautiful Christmas dresses, sweaters, and ties, ready to sing their hearts out for Jesus and, of course, the hundreds of video cameras set up in the aisles. As the lights were turned down and the band started playing, Christmas magic filled the air and the stuffy church hall was transformed into a winter wonderland. When the eighth graders who had been goofing off in the back of the hall earlier that day stood still for the final nativity scene, I experienced a moment of grace as I remembered the reason we work so hard at our Catholic schools—so that our children may know and love Christ and know that they are loved by Him. The night finished with a joyous round of “Feliz Navidad” and happy children went home with happy parents. As I locked up the hall that night, I was filled with God’s peace knowing that despite the overworked teachers, demanding parents, and chaotic Christmas plans, for a moment we “got it right.” We have all heard about and embrace the miracle of Christmas, but as a Catholic school teacher and principal I know that the true miracle of Christmas is that the Christmas concert somehow comes together in the end!
As we journey together this Advent, please know of my prayers for all those involved in the ministry of Catholic education. May we remember to find joy in the blessings we experience every day, even the annual Christmas concert! And in the busyness of our lives, may we recognize God’s presence and the graces that illuminate our work and our world.