Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Safe and Sound

Since we have the week off for Thanksgiving break, Emily scheduled Elizabeth's two year doctor's appointment so that I could attend. I appreciated the opportunity to be with my family and to accompany my wife on this necessary check-up. Of course, along with the two year old check-up came another round of immunizations and vaccines. Given her developmental stage, this was the first time that she could actually understand the pain of the needle prior to the sight of it. It was also the first time that we figured that Elizabeth could be upset with Mom and Dad afterward if we didn't supply the appropriate and honest amount of prior warning. So, for the past few days we've been telling her about her pending doctor's visit. We've been talking to her about what is going to happen and what to expect, making no bigger of a deal of the shots than the height and weight measurements. We even had Nana and Papa who had been visiting the past two weeks, buy Elizabeth an Elmo goes to the doctor book. We've read it about 15 times in less than a day (her choice, actually, not her crazy dad's!).

While I would like to think that strong parenting and good proactive prompting had anything to do with the outcome: two shots and zero tears, I know that it is due in large part to Elizabeth's character and temperament. She is very analytic, aware, and determined. In fact, she got more upset when the nurse asked her to step on the scale than she did at the sight of the needle. My heart swelled with pride over my strong, brave, intelligent and tough two year old daughter!

Along the same lines, Catherine has impressed me, in less than a month, with her strength and raw power. From the day that she was born she has been raising her head off of my shoulder, off of the bed - all over the place. I am still unused to this kind of movement from a newborn. I have had to adjust my holding practices and on more than one occasion I have had to resort to two hands so as to keep her bobbing head from jerking her right out of my embrace. Catherine is strong; and her strength has challenged my parenting to be able to keep her safe and sound, even from herself.

Safe and sound. That's what I'd like to ensure that my family is forever. Protection only goes so far. I can't keep my girls from growing up and I can't keep them in a bubble, shielding them from any and all harm. Prevention, too, is only a part of the overall recipe. I can't anticipate every danger. I must prepare my daughters for the various evils that will confront them, so that they may be able to handle problems on their own.

As a Catholic educator, my first mission is to ensure the safety and security of all members of our school community but most importantly our students. This must be the first item crossed off on my to-do list so that I can focus on education and evangelization. Students that are physically, emotionally or spiritually unsafe cannot learn and they cannot grow closer to Christ. But, I mustn't consider this preparatory piece of my principalship to be a pre-requisite for my real work to get done. Ensuring that my students are safe and sound is a part of my real work.

Like my approach to my daughters, I must teach the students in my school to be in the world but not of the world. I must take measures to protect them and to prevent as many dangers as possible from befalling them. But, I must prepare them, too. So that after they leave the safe haven that is hopefully Incarnation that they will be ready to face and tackle challenges of this world.

In St. Peter's first letter to the Christians of Asia Minor, he encourages his fellow believers to hold fast (1 Peter 5: 6 - 10), recognizing and resisting the snares of the enemy:
So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.d7Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you.e8Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour.f9Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings.10The God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory through Christ [Jesus] will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little.g
As Catholic educators, we must come to understand that the first part of our Mission / Ministry must be to maintain the safety and security of our community members. We must put on the full armor of God, which as St. Paul writes to the Ephesians is the spiritual weaponry needed to fight evil (Ephesians 6: 10 - 17):
Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power.11Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil.g12For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.h13Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground.i14So hold fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate,j15and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace.k16In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one.l17And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.m
As ministers of Catholic education we are going into a hostile environment every day; the world is full of trouble. We must be vigilant in our approach to keeping kids safe and sound. We must be prepared to fight for their well-being, for their livelihood, for even their lives. We must be willing to stand up to adults who jeopardize their health. We must be willing to see our non-instructional duties like morning drop-off, lunch, recess or passing time as the times throughout our day most in need of God's armor. These times cannot be considered break time. They cannot be used to consult with colleagues. We cannot have the mindset that it's enough to merely react to problems that arise versus actively trying to prevent them.

Be safe guarded not innocent. Innocence is for children - the very people we are called to protect.

If someone were to entrust to me their most prized possession - their car, their house, their computer, etc. - I would do all in my power to ensure its integrity. I would know its location. I would limit the access that others have to this item. I would keep it in under lock and key. I would take other necessary precautions to guarantee that the item was returned in pristine condition.

If we would do it for a watch or a guitar or a baseball card, why would we not do it for a school filled with God's and parents' most prized possessions: children?

Catholic educators must protect their students, prevent situations that could be harmful, and prepare students for dangers that are unanticipated.

But, Catholic educators must not be foolish, thinking that problems only happen other places, to other schools and to other kids. St. Paul and St. Peter are very clear about the approach necessary to endure the many attacks of our enemy. Even Jesus exhorts us to "Stay awake!" multiple times throughout the Gospel.

Vigilant, watchful, preventative, proactive, prepared, active, and willing to fight are all things we must be so that those to whom we minister will always be safe and sound.

Elizabeth (who had been sleeping while I typed this) just called for me.

When duty calls, I respond.

Safe and sound. Safe and sound.