Published September 15, 2005
T.S. Eliot begins his poem “The Wasteland” with the proposition that “April is the cruelest month.” Many Americans would have to disagree with the poet and say that September, at least recently, has been the far crueler month. This past Sunday we all paused to remember the fourth anniversary of the terrorist attack on our nation. We did so even as we continued to respond to the needs of those who have suffered in the face of Hurricane Katrina. September has not been a very pleasant month for most of us recently.
September does, however, mark the beginning of the academic year, the start of the fall season, and during the past few weeks I have been visiting a number of our schools to celebrate with our youngsters the start of a new year of learning. The kids are surprisingly ready to get back to the task of learning, and I have found only a few groans and laments that school is back in session—at least from the kids!
There is great wisdom to be discovered with our youngsters as they face the challenges of tomorrow—even in September. Children at St. Peter Claver School were exceptionally welcoming to and caring of the children who have joined them from the Gulf Coast. The kids at Holy Redeemer were very proud to be celebrating the seventh anniversary of the establishment of this regional school. One of the second-graders told me in a question-and-answer session that when I go to Rome at the end of the month for the Synod for Bishops that I should advise Pope Benedict to “get a dog!,” which happened to have been the same wisdom offered to me as the new Archbishop when I made one of my first visits there last spring. It seems that having a dog may be a universal cure for “whatever you might need by way of companionship.” I told the youngster that Pope Benedict is a cat-lover and for all that I might know there may already be a papal feline or two in the Apostolic Household! Who knows?
The high school students at St. Pius X were recently celebrating the academic achievements of a good number of their students, and that of course bodes well for the new year and beyond. Even our Catholic students at the University of Georgia in Athens and at Emory in Atlanta were enthused about the new year as we celebrated Mass to begin the new session. Youth seems to hold great hope for the future—and that should encourage all of us since the future is really in their hands. If they believe that tomorrow has promise, then maybe they are more in tune with the workings of God’s Holy Spirit than we might imagine.
September has become a melancholic time for many Americans as we seem of late to be confronted with so many problems and disasters. At the same time, it is also a new beginning for our young people, and we should hold them up as beacons of assurance that the Lord is still working in our lives even in the midst of the tragedies that we must confront. Like the youthful Jesus, may our youngsters grow in wisdom, age and grace before God and all of us.
The youngsters at Holy Redeemer put a great deal of confidence in having a dog as a sure remedy for loneliness, confusion, anxieties and difficulties of all types. I for one believe that having our young people themselves so filled with faith in tomorrow, brimming with joy and enthusiasm is even more comforting and reassuring, especially in September.