June 18, 2023 Essay: Tending to Our Spiritual Self
Our IREP, Interparish Religious Education Program, has wrapped up for the year. The end of a school year is a little bittersweet. We look forward to the summer break to recharge and refresh, but I sure do miss our weekly gatherings, feeling the absence of students and teachers alike. I enjoy the privilege of being part of our students’ faith journey.
As I assess our successful 1st post-pandemic IREP year, one of my greatest hopes is that the students remember they are more than the sum of their accomplishments. We gently remind the students their souls need tending too. Our kids spend lots of time honing their academics, their sports, their extracurricular activities, their fine arts pursuits, and working on the dreaded high school application process. Long gone are the days when the final bell at school meant free time. One parent shared that the organization of their child’s schedule is similar to playing a game of Jenga, a wrong move sends the entire tower, aka schedule, tumbling down.
The youngest of our parish are not alone in this pursuit of accomplishment. We all enjoy success and receiving accolades for a job well done. Yet, this pursuit often keeps us firmly grounded in this world with a tendency to forget our spiritual self and our connection to the Divine.
In IREP, we have a simple meditation we do together. I ask the students to put their hand on their heart and take a deep breath in and out with their eyes closed. I say aloud: I am here, I am safe, I am loved, and the students repeat it. After completing this meditation, we are settled in and a little more aware of our spiritual self. With this simple mediation, a space is created, allowing the students and teachers to plug into the present moment and connect with God. In this space, we can truly feel the connection to the Love that holds us.
The summer is a glorious time for all of us to slow down and connect to our spiritual self. This is simple but not easy. It takes self-discipline to move out of our thinking minds and cultivate the practice of being present. Yet in this precious space, we can allow our souls to lead the way.
Perhaps this summer, while you enjoy a break from your regular routines, you’ll have the time to focus your senses on the world around you. It’s an opportunity to pause your thinking mind and feel your way in the world, taking time to:
Feel the sand on your toes
Feel the water on your body as you swim
Feel the breeze on your skin
Ease into a sleepy afternoon
Smell the air after a rain shower
Listen to a bee buzz
Listen to the bite you take from sweet corn on the cob
Taste the sweetness of a peach
There are a multitude of summer experiences demonstrating the Grace of God. Take the array of summertime encounters as a reminder we are loved by God, and let it feed your soul. Be grateful for all the blessings that come from this glorious world for our enjoyment. St. Irenaeus said the “glory of God is a human being fully alive.” With this thought in mind, focus on really enjoying the world around us, and take it all in. Being present and living in gratitude for the world around us is much more fulfilling than worrying if your Jenga tower may tumble. During this season, let your spiritual self be fed by all the experiences of unmerited Grace, allowing your whole being to recharge and refresh.
— Kate Noonan, Director of the Interparish Religious Education Program