Gearing up for school

Let's face it. New Year's Eve is not the start of a new year. The year begins the day after Labor Day. This is a certain truth if you have children at home. For we adults, summer means a two-week vacation at the shore or the lake, some gin-and-tonic fortified barbecues and, in general, a slightly relaxed routine. The end of summer is...well... just the end of summer. Not so for children.

For kids, the end of summer is an annual train wreck. It is more than the loss of freedom and no more staying up late and sleeping-in. It is more than the passing of beach-time and the blockbusters at the movieplex. It means the slump-shouldered march off to the educational salt mines and all the uncertainties that holds.

Someone once said that one of the greatest gifts God gives us is our ability to forget. Specifically, to forget all the setbacks, hurts, failures, rejections and smashed dreams we have accumulated in childhood. The scars may still be there, but like seasoned warriors, we can't remember where and by whom they were inflicted. For children, the classroom, lunchroom, playground and school bus are hothouses for all these wounds and their memories are fresh!

There are, of course, those fortunate few, for whom school is one long victory lap. They get the marks, make the teams and later get the top prom dates. But even among these apparent winners, there are deep disappointments. They get wait-listed at one of the Ivies. They didn't make the all-state basketball team. It may be difficult for us lesser mortals to sympathize with them, but their hurt is real.

Wise parents are the ones who are continually redrawing the maps of their children. They quietly and objectively observe their children, noting their current interests, tastes, strengths and weaknesses. They know their friends and how they spend down-time. They have an eye out for what is happening in school. They don't wait for a dinner time breakdown and a tearful "My teacher hates me...and so do all the other kids!" moment.

The end of summer for parents is more than a trip to Wal-Mart with the kids for school supplies. It is a time for a conscious plan to wean children from the relaxed habits of summertime and settling them in the required routines of life in classrooms. It means becoming a "school coach" and giving serious prep talks about "getting a good start." It means grooving them into the study habits they need. It means special monitoring of their study surfing the long chats on the putting off assignments until the last panicky moment.

It, also, means making sure they are making the right friends, friends who share your family's values. A friend and occasional Pilot columnist told us how at 15 her older brother confronted her and told her he didn't like the crowd she was hanging out with and she ought to change her friends. She did and she believes that was an important turning point in her life.

School is the main event in kids' lives. It is their work. School is their all-consuming reality. However, few children or teens see school in its larger context. Few see it for what it is: our society's method of preparing children for adult life and responsibilities. By necessity, this process of changing children into functioning adults involves pain. Since schools inflict pain, but doesn't explain pain, this is where we parents come in.

Parents need to help their children understand and constructively use the academic and social slings and arrows they receive at school. One of the current cliches circulating around is, "Whatever doesn't kill you, makes you stronger." Some more gentle form of that thought needs to be understood by students. Students should understand and internalize that doing their homework carefully is not just pleasing to their teacher, but it is building an important habit. They need to see that by resisting the temptation to repeat a juicy bit of gossip or to try marijuana at a weekend party, they are directly working on constructing the people they will become. They are quite simply forging their characters...or not.

Few schools seriously attend to character formation these days. However, all could follow the example set by the former headmaster of Roxbury Latin, Father F. Washington "Tony" Jarvis. The very first hour of the first day of school, all new students (7th graders and 9th graders) were told to report to the school auditorium. After these nervous newbies were settled into their seats, the headmaster took to the stage and in a most serious tone said, "I am now going to tell you the most important thing you need to know about this school. We...all of us...teachers, administrators, janitors and kitchen more about what kind of character you develop during your years with us than anything else. Academics, sports, which college you eventually attend. All that is important, but secondary. It is character first." With that, he left the stage to let the brief message sink in. Few students forgot it.

But then there is the eternal problem of pain. How does one deal with a best friend who turns her back on you? How do you handle having worked at a sport all summer and then are cut from the team and, thus, also cut off from your friends? Today, many young people have no defense mechanism against life's bruising. Youth suicides are up and the nation is facing an epidemic of serious depression among children.

Christian families have a crucial advantage in dealing with the problem of pain. In our own youth, Catholic parents regularly repeated "Offer it up for the souls in Purgatory." Our guess is that most kids, if they heard the phrase "souls in purgatory" would think it is the name of a rock band or a new Xbox game.

On the other hand, what greater gift can we give to our children then helping them see that by joining their suffering with those of Christ, they are sharing in his redemptive mission for the world? In this way, life in school is more than a series of meaningless crucifixations, but a road to fulfilling unity with Christ.

Kevin and Marilyn Ryan, editors of "Why I'm Still a Catholic," worship at St. Lawrence Church in Brookline.

Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties ...

Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. ...

Archbishop Lori assures diocese he's with them in journey toward healing

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said ...

Bishop takes a (sky) dive to get pilgrims to Lourdes

HOVE, England (CNS) -- "The Moth has landed," tweeted the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The tweet Sept. 14 and a similar post on the diocesan Facebook ...

Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inviting presidents of the world's bishops' conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that ...

Pope praises Capuchin order's charism of authenticity, simplicity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Capuchins are called to be men of peace, reconciliation and prayer and to be close to all people, Pope Francis told members of the ...

Path to healing starts with seeking forgiveness, Cardinal Wuerl says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A "Season of Healing" for sexual abuse survivors began in the Archdiocese of Washington with a Sept. 14 Mass at the Cathedral of St. ...

Archbishop McCarrick's unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Following reports that the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement ...

Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, ...

Pope Francis warns priests against living a double life

Palermo, Italy, Sep 15, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- During a day trip to Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis told priests and religious to fight their vices and strive ...

What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

Vatican publishes list of synod participants, including papal nominees

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To the list of members of the Synod of Bishops elected by national bishops' conferences, Pope Francis added cardinals from 14 countries, ...

Addicts and their loved ones talk about life with opioid addiction

ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) -- It was a Saturday night, and Billy was eating pizza and watching a sporting event in the basement bedroom of his residence, a ...

Signers of letter hope Vatican meeting will bring needed steps on crisis

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Signers of an open letter from Catholic women to Pope Francis urging "truth" and "transparency" on the growing sex abuse crisis expressed ...

Community 'overwhelmed and shell-shocked' after gas explosions, says pastor

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Down to earth: Vatican brings together world's meteorite curators

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) -- Rocks, mineral debris and even dust from space are kept in special collections, museums and laboratories all over the ...

Algerian martyrs to be beatified in Algeria Dec. 8

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The beatification of 19 martyrs of Algeria, including the seven Trappist monks of Tibhirine, will be celebrated Dec. 8 in Oran, ...

'Anything but a picnic' - Cardinal Dolan on the Church's summer of scandal

New York City, N.Y., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Cardinal Timothy Dolan has spoken about how the extended sexual abuse scandals facing the Church have taken a ...

Restoring and reimagining: Transformation at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross

BOSTON -- Considered by many to be the heart of the Archdiocese of Boston, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross is the largest Catholic church in New England, ...

Archdiocese says Cardinal O'Malley will personally review all abuse letters

BRAINTREE (CAN) -- The Archdiocese of Boston has announced changes to the way it will process and respond to letters addressed to Cardinal Séan P. ...

CM receives $2.5M grant from Yawkey Foundations

West Roxbury -- Catholic Memorial, a college-preparatory school for boys in grades 7 to 12, announced Sept. 5 that they have received a $2.5 million grant ...

Father Christian Ohazulume removed from ministry

BRAINTREE -- The Archdiocese announced on Sept. 11 that it had removed a priest from ministry after receiving an allegation that he sexually abused a ...

From Cardinal Seán's blog

This week I am in transit to Rome in anticipation of the next meeting of the C9 Council of Cardinals. So, I have asked Vivian Soper to share some reflections ...

Kavanaugh's birth control comments spur controversy -- What did he say?

Washington D.C. (CNA) -- Opponents of Judge Brett Kavanaugh have suggested that a reference to birth control pills as "abortion-inducing drugs" during ...

Missouri to enforce abortion regulations in wake of appeals court ruling

Jefferson City, Mo. (CNA) -- Missouri's health department announced Monday that it will immediately being enforcing state laws regulating abortion clinics ...