A New School Year

We are officially past the 21st of June, so that means the days are now getting shorter and the nights are getting longer as we move closer into the fall. It used to be that the school year began in September right after Labor Day. That is no longer the case. Gradually over time the start day for a new school has now been pushed up almost to the beginning of August.

“Time keeps on slipping into the future,” as the Steve Miller Band said in the song Fly Like an Eagle. Time is elusive. We want more of it. Sometimes when we are excited about the future we can’t wait for it to pass. Nonetheless, time is constant and relentless in its marching on.

A few things told you that school was almost ready to start like the gathering up of new school supplies for the new year. Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed how many parishioners have been generously dropping off school backpacks and school supplies to share with the children of Morristown. Thank you all!

Starting the year with a new backpack and school supplies sets the tone for the whole year. You feel good about a new year. You feel that the past is behind you and what is ahead has endless possibilities. You are no longer focused on old mistakes. This is a new year and it is filled with the hope of the future.

At the beginning of the school year I always hold what has lovingly become known as the Crayon Mass at the first chapel service. There is also a Blessing of the Backpacks. Each child lines them up their pack on the floor in front of the altar. During the homily I hold up a large Box of 64 Crayons (the one with the built in sharpener), and I remind the children that a new school year is like a new box of crayons.

The point of each crayon is new and unbroken. The protective paper hasn’t yet been peeled back. There is nothing like the feel and smell of a new box of crayons. The kids get it. They are quick to make the connection between a simple box of crayons and a new school year.

I simply place a couple hundred new crayons in a basket. Next I tell each child when they come forward for communion to choose a color crayon of their liking and keep it. I want them to hold on to it as an icon for their future. Not surprisingly, the orange ones go first. This is after all Volunteer country. In Baton Rouge it was the purple colors that went first.

Regardless of what color crayon a child chooses it is theirs. It is a reminder that they have a big say in how successful this new year will be. Anything is possible. It doesn’t matter how broken any of us are. It doesn’t matter if our point is worn down and our paper covering is peeled back or we are broken into two pieces. We can each be made new once again.

It really makes me wonder. If the children can so easily understand this message, then why is it so hard for the adults to do the same?

Peace, Mark+