I recently read a story in a daily newspaper that was heart-warming, sweet, and full of love. However, when I re-thought my initial reaction and looked at it from a different perspective, I realized that my response was an emotional one. Then I became discouraged and somewhat frustrated.
This true story combines an educational assignment with an opportunity for a practical application. It is about a fifth-grade class that had read \”Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes,\” a story of a girl with leukemia whose friend brings her an origami crane and tells her of a Japanese legend that if you receive 1,000 paper cranes you have healing and peace. Soon after finishing the book, the students learned that another teacher at their school was battling a personal crisis as her husband had been diagnosed with cancer.
Naturally, the students immediately “connected the dots” and set out to make and surprise the teacher with 1,000 paper cranes and place them in her room. The main teacher remarked that her students are living out the prayer they\’re learning this month: \”Act of Love.\”
I did not mention that this is a Catholic Grade School, which is where my consternation originates.
Catholic Doctrine vs Japanese Legend
I will admit that I do not know what else has happened in this classroom in regards to this “lesson” in kindness and love. I fear, however, that there was likely a very real and missed opportunity to explain and point out the difference between our Catholic Faith and this Japanese legend.
While not nearly as newsworthy of a newspaper article, complete with a photo that was provided by the students making these paper cranes and placing them all over the room, was a conscious and stern lesson presented in how Catholics should/could deal with a similar situation?
Did the school, teachers, or students discuss dedicating or holding a special Mass for this teacher, her husband and her family?
Was there a discussion of saying a rosary and the Power of this Prayer? And, what should be contained in this prayer? Is a prayer for healing, strength, recovery, mercy, compassion?
What about the potential outcomes of this situation and diagnosis? For instance, this is a great opportunity for a Catholic educational theme like “Lord, we do not understand your plan for (name here), but we trust that ‘Your Will Be Done’ and ask that you help us to accept, trust, understand, and cope with your plan.”
What Happens If…
I personally believe that the outcome of this individual situation is what really calls for the lesson in our faith. Remember, this occurred in a Catholic Grade School full of students roughly between the age of 5-13, and especially the fifth-grade class of impressionable 11- and 12-year olds.
Let’s say that this man goes into remission and “recovers.” (Which is, of course, what I pray for as well.) How many of these young students will attribute his recovery to prayer and God’s will as opposed to their effort and act of love to make 1,000 paper cranes?
If our Catholic doctrine was not presented during this event, I expect that well over 80% of these young students will triumphantly proclaim “our cranes worked!” instead of “our God is merciful” or the Virgin Mary “heard our prayers and interceded for us.” Even if this Japanese legend WAS accompanied by the teaching of Catholic doctrine, I fear that a solid 50% or more would lean toward the “crane miracle” because it is a tangible effort – which is easier for young (and old) to associate and make the connection.
Now, the perception is no less destructive or serious if the poor man succumbs to cancer and passes away. Sure, the students will likely dismiss the crane effect, but if they were not prepared in a Catholic manner for his death, they may not understand how we as Catholics need to look and understand death.
Are my concerns founded? As I stated earlier, I do not know what was taught in this classroom or this school. But, being totally honest, I fear that an opportunity to really educate and teach the faith was missed.
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