Grace and Senioritis

February 27, 2013 § 1 Comment

Call the CDC. It has arrived.

Every high school across the country confronts this crisis, the point in the year when seniors check out. It’s apparently a rite of passage. Senioritis, as we call it, signals the shutting down, the letting go, the descent into the sweet landing spot of graduation. It’s accompanied by exasperation with responsibilities once seized excitedly. It’s also a time of unease: Seniors are waiting to hear from colleges, and for the fist time, their future lingers in mystery. Where will I be? For the first time, they are preparing to leave their homes and the entire set of comforting associations — the walk from the garage, the arrangement of the kitchen, the smell of the rooms, the routine of Saturday morning. Thoughts of dorm rooms and parties and frisbees and large quads distract from class. High school just isn’t cool anymore.

I remember this time, and I sympathize with the anxiety of looking forward. However, I worry about a side effect: the loss of intentionality. Many seniors think that these last few months have little to offer, either academically or otherwise. It quickly becomes a “dead period,” a waiting room for the next best thing.

This attitude is very human, and teachers are tempted to do the same. But however human this may be, it says something unsettling about our appreciation of time. Are we not offending existence by declaring a future state more worthy than the now? Can anything beyond the present be guaranteed?

What graces, what insights, might be right below our eyes if only we looked?

Jesuit schools (like all Catholic schools, for that matter) believe that God is active in our lives, that at every moment we are relating, even imperceptibly, with our Creator. The so-called dead time, then, should be different in our schools (or for Catholic students anywhere) because of our belief in a ceaselessly graced and gifted existence. What is labeled “dead time” in fact might be the time that is most alive, the time most charged with possibility. My own experience may bear this out.

When I was a senior in high school, I had stopped playing golf and most of my afternoons were free. I ended up hanging out after school with a good friend of mine, occasionally visiting teachers. These afternoons changed my life. My friend and I had conversations that I had never had, probably because for the first three years I was too busy with school or sports. We talked about God, life, college, and the temptations of high school. One teacher in particular gave me insights into prayer and spirituality. I began to contemplate, to reflect upon who I was becoming and my relationships with others. I had the chance to survey the prior few years and ask, “What is this all for? Where am I going? What is important?” The time of “senioritis,” then, became the most influential months of high school, perhaps when the most learning took place.

I’m not saying I remained intentional all the time. I, too, battled recurrent senioritis. But I offer my experience to show what might happen if we invite seniors to invert their assumptions about these final months, if we encourage them to believe that every class, every walk down the hall, every silent moment might be the occasion where the Holy Spirit comes to say hello. It might be the exact time where students make the breakthrough they’ve been waiting for or receive the insight they most need.

In short, it might be a moment of kairos. And for senioritis, there may be no better cure.

Posted by Matt Emerson.

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