Hurry Up and Wait

Being an expectant church in the time of instant gratification

hurry up and wait

By Julie Penndorf

Today’s world is a very different place for teens than it was for their parents and for many of their teachers (including me).  Our young people are expected to manage increasingly intense school work loads, while excelling in athletics and activities, and upholding an active social media life in addition to their real life. Their social existence hinges on the now; sometimes it seems it has to be even faster than that, or they run the risk of social suicide. And these are the kids who have supportive families and plenty of means.  So many students have to add difficult home lives, health problems or other issues to their already heavy burden.  In the last few years, I’ve dealt with multiple students with severe mental health issues that I did not see to this extent early in my teaching career.  Everything is now, now, now, and it is affecting them in ways that no generation before can give them any guidance because no one before has ever come of age in a time like today.

And yet, I juxtapose this current experience of our young people with our church, – a church which advocates waiting for so much of church life.  Experiences of waiting by far outweigh the experiences of gratification.  Though the liturgical calendar may say differently, most of us experience 6 weeks of Lent and just one day of Easter.  Something innate in our humanity calls us to dive deeply into the waiting – so much more so than the experience of joy.  Perhaps it is out of necessity, that good things come to those who wait, but I think it speaks more of our need to spend time in preparation, preparing our heads and hearts to be ready for the joys.   Joys are great, they are a beautiful blessing, but they can be incredibly draining.  The hype, the excitement, and all the stress around Christmas celebrations jump to mind here.  Most people are just barely hanging on through the month of December, and when Christmas finally comes, young and old alike tend to collapse from exhaustion at the end of it.  I’m grateful for a church that forces us into Advent beforehand, to slow down, to wait, and focus on what is important.

But where do our young people fit in this church of waiting? How do we teach them to wait when everything else in their lives teaches them to hurry forward?  They are moving from/searching for/lusting after one moment of ‘joy’ to another – though those ‘joys’ are false and fleeting (instagram likes, twitter retweets,  etc).  So how do we find a place for this generation in a church that wants us to hurry up and wait, a church that likely won’t give them a place on snapchat to uphold their streaks?

My problem with this question that I’m posing is that I don’t really have an answer. I too, struggle with waiting, and am constantly in prayer for patience (for my students, my own kids, my spouse).  I try to teach my own students the same tricks that work for me to slow down.  But why should we bother to immerse ourselves in the waiting?  Why am I asking my students to slow down and wait instead of asking the church to hurry up?  This goes to the very heart of our faith, that no matter how much we want to hurry things along, we are waiting, waiting for an experience of God, waiting for death to bring us new life, waiting for the second coming.  Waiting has always been, and until the end of time, will always be, central to the Christian experience, because faith cannot be forced, it cannot be hurried. Even though the challenges to waiting faced by our young people are new, the need to allow the space for waiting is not.  “Wait for the Lord, be strong, take heart.” – Psalm 27:14

Julie Penndorf is the Director of Campus Ministry and a Christian Ethics teacher at DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, MD, where she has worked for the past 17 years.

Stressed

by Erin DaCosta

Every Friday, I invite my students to start class by spending ten minutes journaling.  I provide a prompt, and the rest is up to them.  The prompt is rarely related to class topics.  Rather, they are questions that invite them to reflect more deeply on their daily lives.  Several weeks ago, I gave my students the prompt, “What is on your heart and mind?  Share with me.”  The results broke my heart.  One entry in particular has stayed with me, and I want to share it with you today.

One student wrote:  “Many times I have to choose between spending time with my family and homework.  What is the point of all of this?  What is all of this stress for?  We live in a cycle of work, work, work, work, work, work…I feel like there is a problem in America’s schooling system.”

This student’s journal entry put into words what I have been witnessing in my students over the past few years:  they are incredibly, dangerously stressed and overworked.  They feel burdened by homework, quizzes, tests, and projects.  They are drowning in a world that bombards them with Snaps, likes, favorites, notifications, and more.  They are overcommitted, overinvolved, and overstimulated.

Do I add to this burden?  Do I, as their teacher, offer meaningful assignments that will aid their growth and development?  Does their homework supplement their in-class learning?  Should I do away with homework altogether?  How can I help them stop, breathe, and engage with the world around them?

These are the questions I grapple with on a daily basis.  I want to ensure that my students learn, that we cover enough curriculum, and that I offer structure and consistency.  Yet, I do not want my students to suffer.  And what I am seeing now is that they are struggling, immensely.  No student should have to choose between eating dinner with their family and doing homework.  No student should exist in a constant state of stress and anxiety.

My student closed her journal entry with a haiku, and I leave you with her words,

My generation
We need less stress, more support
Can we find a way?

I close by asking you this:  what stress do you see in your students?  How can we, as ministers and educators, appropriately respond?  I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Erin DaCosta teaches theology to sophomores, juniors, and seniors at Mount Alvernia High School in Newton, MA.  Previously, she served as a campus minister in a co-ed environment.

 

 

Now We Begin

“For Your Consideration” is a blog by and for Catholic high school religion teachers and campus ministers. It is coordinated by Boston College School of Theology and Ministry Continuing Education.

The idea for the blog emerged during a consultation with high school teachers and administrators in the Boston area in Spring 2017.  It began to take shape in Summer 2017 as we encountered many students and alumnae/i who were engaged in these high school ministries.

Catholic high school teachers and campus ministers have our admiration.  We hope this blog provides a space for conversation about how to make faith real to high school students and how to grow both as a teacher/minister and as a disciple of Jesus Christ.  We expect our guest bloggers will raise timely, helpful, practical topics that surface issues and propose ideas in support of capable ministry in a high school setting.