Sunday, July 25, 2010

ALLRIGHT! OKAY!

…And thus begins the morning; every weekday morning since June 7th. We yell “ALLRIGHT” and the room full of running and yelling 1st through 8th graders responds almost by magic, “OKAY”. Many of them cease their chaos and at least pretend to pay attention while some require a second dose, flipped around, “OKAY” with the more cohesive this time, “ALLRIGHT”. Attention acquired, we then ask them to come sit down in a general front area to begin morning program.

I said that this is the beginning of the day, and in a certain sense that is true because it’s when we begin to interact with the kids. It has a certain inaugural feel to it that makes the previous 2 hours feel like preparations. Our day with the kids as part of the Totus Tuus program begins at 9:00am but to prepare for them we start by getting up at 7.

I usually get out of bed around 7am and jump in the shower. If our host family made breakfast I have some. The trick is to eat enough so that your host’s didn’t waste their time cooking/preparing it but not so much that you just want to go back to bed. Every morning is like grandma’s house. She feeds you well whether you need (or want) it or not. Hopefully we’re out the door early enough to get to the church on time. I always dislike this part of the morning because I like being social and I feel bad leaving in a hurry, but I know if we don’t get to the church by 7:40 it will throw off the whole day.

At 7:40 we start in the church with 15 minutes of quiet reflection/meditation. Some churches have perpetual Eucharistic Adoration. If they do, we go there. This is one of the best, if not the best part of the day. It’s quiet and peaceful so we can relax and open our hearts and minds but because we’re in a church we can open our hearts and minds in the presence of God. It’s like having a divine reset button. After reflection/mediation we start Morning Prayer from the
Liturgy of the Hours and finish with a Rosary. At the beginning of the summer, this seemed like a lot, but after 6 weeks I understand that starting the day with this much prayer is the only way it’s possible to keep up the required intensity and passion all summer.

After prayer, there’s a short break that we use to make final preparations for skit, review the schedule for the day and sort out any other things we won’t have time for before the kids are dismissed at 3pm. With the prayer done, skit refined and silly songs selected we’re ready for the “ALLRIGHT! – OKAY!”. That first attention getting syllable is like the first thump of the charge that launches fireworks from their platform on the ground. It isn’t the show itself but rather the stepping off point for a time of ordered release of enthusiasm. We sing a song, perform a skit, teach about a mystery of the Rosary, explain a covenant, maybe have another song and before we even have time to wonder whether the kids remember anything we said it’s time to dismiss for the first class.

One teacher per class, one or two grades per class. First period. Snack break. Music Prep to learn songs for mass. Second Period. Mass Prep to make sure they know what the holy water is for and which knee to genuflect with. Lunch. Recess. Saint Skit. Second Period. Bathroom Break. Second Period. Closing Program to review what they learned for the day and get them all wound up before sending them home with parents.

Every morning it seems a daunting task and every afternoon it seems a miracle. After the kids leave we have a small break to do evening prayer and prepare for the high school program later in the evening, but we have to be done with both of these before dinner at 5:30 or 6:00. Because it’s different every night, the high school program requires lots of preparation. It can be coordinating with the priest for various liturgical things like Adoration and reconciliation, blocking out windows in rooms for candlelit meditations or setting up hoses and trash cans to fill water balloons for use with the little kids.

Dinner is delicious, filling and nap inducing but we’ve got no time for that. There’s social interaction with the high schoolers to be done, talks to give and then the use of whatever was setup earlier. They do night prayer with us and then are sent home. When they’re gone we plan for the next day and hope to make it back to our host family’s house by 11pm ready to start again the next day. I try to spend some time socializing with our hosts and also do some reading or writing before going to bed so I usually don’t make it under the covers until close to 1am. Normally this schedule wouldn’t work every day for months but all the prayer we get (and mass too!) makes it all possible. God really does provide for those that ask of Him.

Now that you know what I’ve been doing, next time I’ll share what I learned through all this beyond what I said at the end of the last paragraph. I didn’t know what to expect out of this summer but I knew it would be good. I haven’t been disappointed.

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