Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Use words if necessary

"Preach the Gospel – use words if necessary!" these are words St Francis of Assisi once said to his followers.

This week the schools started a new term.

Who would be a teacher?

I used to be. For six years I taught. When September came, I knew it in the pit of my stomach. The long summer break was over. New classes beckoned, lessons had to be prepared. Suddenly the weather started getting better as I knew that I would have to get up earlier and work late into the evening. Agh!

But then who would be a pupil?

Well, I used to be: for 13 years from infants to sixth form. When September came, I could feel it in the pit of my stomach. The summer holidays were over. Now there would be homework night after night, the constant reminders that exams would soon be upon me, and my Mum knocking on my bedroom door each morning telling me to hurry or I'd miss the bus. Agh!

I'm not a pupil or a teacher any more. It is thirty years since I left school, and six years since I left teaching to become a parish priest. Now September is just another month, Monday just another day.

But just a minute – was it all so bad? Actually, I has a great time at school. Wonderful friendships, many laughs, few of the worries and responsibilities of adult life. And my years at a teacher were at an outstanding school, with great kids and tremendous colleagues. Hard work and responsibility, yes there was that, but also the joy of exam successes, and the rewards of seeing learners learn and I feel that I had a small part of it.

And of course, it is not true that I used to be a pupil, or that I used to be a teacher. I still am. I don't have to turn up at 8.30am every weekday any more, that's true, but I have never stopped learning, and I have never stopped teaching. There is always more to discover, and always more to share.

One of the most amazing things about us human beings is that God made us so dependent on one another. None of us lives for himself or herself only. When we enter this world we are just as dependent as we were in the womb. We need others and others need us. We take many years to learn to speak clearly and fluently, more years to read and write, even more years to learn how to bring up children ourselves. And all this time we influence others, share our knowledge with others, guide and care for others.

We grow. We never stop growing. And we help others to grow. We learn to love and we teach what love is – by example as much as by our words. We preach the Gospel of God's love: even if we don't realise it.

No comments: