Just two postings ago, I wrote in praise of silence. Quiet spaces? We need more. I now believe making time for silence, in a communal setting, is a necessary good. Hollywood agrees. An ad pronouncing silence as golden reminds patrons to turn off their cell phones and keep conversations to a minimum, proving that silence isn't always a welcome thing.
Every class I teach begins with prayer, which is student led about 75% of the time. 100% of the time our communal prayer begins by remembering "we are in the holy presence of God." We stop for at least 30 seconds of silence and then a read prayer in unison, out loud. The student prayer leader is responsible for sharing special intentions that they have written before class. We pray for those who have been affected by the shooting in Las Vegas and in Texas. That our country can know peace and a better tomorrow. After offering those prayers, the class is free to name people or places for whom they feel called to pray. This isn't easy for a lot of students. Perhaps they do not want to risk feeling vulnerable. Others are shy; offering a prayer for some, feels like a risk. Each day, I sit silently with the hope that someone will pray for someone. There is no shortage of people and places in need of our prayers. I ask myself time and again, How do we not have anything to pray for?
However, today was different. In each of my classes when a student asked if there were any special intentions, a hand was raised. Each petition was for Roy Halladay who died yesterday in a plane crash. "Doc" Halladay, a Major League pitcher with both the Toronto Blue Jays and most notably—the Philadelphia Phillies—was a husband, father and just 40 years old.
I thanked the students who offered prayers. Others nodded in agreement. For those students who might not know the subject of our intentions, I said this loss would be like San Francisco Giants fans losing Tim Lincecum. Halladay was a two-time Cy Young award winner, as well. Halladay's career, however, was decorated by a no-hitter in the post-season and one of the rarest of feats, a true gem: a perfect game.
Lately, I've been hearing too much about the athletes that do wrong or cause division. This viewpoint is so unfair for there are far more men and women—great athletes and outstanding competitors—that honor the game. We are wowed by their physical gifts and talents, their chutzpah, their heart. Some are close to home and others are as far away as the City of Brotherly Love is from the Bay. But their impact is real....memorable...notable and noble...dominant and dramatic...all of that is worth praying for—in thanksgiving and in memory of....
Thank you to my students for having the courage and the heart to offer a prayer worth saying out loud.