Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Student's Prayer for Jose Fernandez

For the past 14 years, the morning routine at the school where I teach has remain unchanged. After the first bell, a sea of students disperse from their friends, flirting and having fun and frantically head to class before the second bell rings. As they take their seats and unpack their book, a voice fills the airwaves with a rote statement: Good Morning St. Ignatius. Please stand for prayer.
In the following moments, students stand, many with their heads bowed in silence as a member of our school community offers a prayer—one that changes from day to day. Quite often, it is preceded by context. For example, if it is Black History month, a student will offer insight into the life of an African American and the prayer will relate to a message that person wrote, preached, lived by or taught. Many prayers are offered on the anniversary of important events, too many of which are tragic. We pray for places and people in the world in need of God's grace, God's mercy, and God's healing. We pray for the victims of natural disasters and all that ensues. We offer prayers for those affected by violence in our inner cities, in our homes and in war-torn areas of the world. And we pray for the needs of our own community. We pray that we may magnify God's glory in our school work and in our play, our competition and our song. And on Wednesday September 28, a junior student named Liam took it upon himself to pray for Jose Fernandez, the Miami Marlins pitcher who died on Sunday, September 25.

In all fourteen years I have taught at St. Ignatius, I don't know that a student has ever prayed for another person, let alone at athlete in this way. 
Quite often, students are still waking up during that first period of the day. During prayer, they stand in unison, they are respectful of the silence, but I wonder how often they truly listen, let alone internalize the words we share. I have to admit, there are times when I am no different. I am already thinking about the agenda for the day, who is in class and who is not, I ask myself What is that student wearing?! etc. But, Liam offered these words. They caught my attention. They called me to listen and pray. They brought tears to my eyes. I had to regroup and share with my own class how moved I was. He said, 
Let us remember... (pause for response)In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. 
Lord, help us so to love you that we may see your hand working all thingsunto good. Quiet our fears, dispel our doubts, silence our murmurings. Putaway from our minds all sad and gloomy thoughts and inspire us to trustalways in your strength and your love.We ask this through Christ our Lord. 
I would also like to pray for a Latino baseball player, Jose Fernandez. JoséFernández was a very talented pitcher for the Miami Marlins. Starting hisrookie season in 2013, he always brought joy to the dugout and field whenhe played. Sadly, on Sunday, September 25, 2016, Jose Fernandez waskilled in a boating accident near Miami Beach. The Miami Marlins will neverbe the same without him, but he will be remembered as one of the best andmost inspiring players in the baseball world. May he Rest In Peace.St. Ignatius… (pause for response). 
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.Amen.
A sincere prayer, one that comes from the heart, is beautiful to hear. Even though it was shared over the PA, the personal message and offering that Liam, a junior wrote, said what hundreds of reports far beyond the sports media of Sports Center, MLB tonight, have offered.

Liam added, 
I just felt that the SI Community should pray for Jose Fernandez and his family. I cannot imagine what pain his team and family are feeling right now. 
The prayer that I said was actually a prayer by Pope Francis. However, the part about Jose Fernandez was written by me. I've always like this prayer by Pope Francis so I chose to do this one. As mentioned above, I also wanted to pray for Jose Fernandez and his family. I'm a big baseball fan and seeing him go that fast is very heartbreaking. He would always bring a smile to the field no matter what day it was or who they were playing.
And those words are affirmed in the October 3 article in Sports Illustrated entitled "A Beautiful Light." 
The purpose of this blog isn't to report what made Fernandez so beloved by baseball fans far beyond Miami. Nor is it to convince anyone of his talent and the loss of what his 24 year old loss means to the game. But both are noteworthy. Tom Verducci writes, 
The wickedness of his breaking ball was exceeded only by the wattage of his smile. His personalisty, not just his arm, made Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins one of baseball brightest stars in ascension. At 24, Fernandez not only played baseball well, but he also did so with elan. His 29-2 record ranks as the best home mark of any pitcher in baseball history. No pitcher in the game owned a more brilliant future than Fernandez.
No the purpose behind this blog is because I want to know if my students feel the way that I do. Today's journal prompt was "Is it a challenging time to be a hero in our country?" It sure feels like it. And yet, I suppose it's never easy to be a hero...I have a feeling that peril, hardship and strife are a significant part of what makes ordinary people stand out as extraordinary. But so does goodness, living life the right way—living it for others and much more.
This past week has given our country a moment to pause to reflect on two wonderful lives. Two men, both professional athletes. One had a full and long life and the other's ended too soon. Thinking about who they are and how they were with people, the way they chose to live and who they touched along the way has made me ever grateful for heroes like them...and the opportunity to pray in gratitude for what they have left. Grateful to know that the young people I share my days with feel the same way.... 

Photo Credits
In Memory

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