Lorenzo’s prayer


26 Mar 2015

As a teacher in an all boys’ boarding school in tropical far north Queensland.

This lent has been somewhat different to all the other Lenten seasons of my adult spiritual life.

Term one always ensures that we are fresh from our lovely summer and probably a little over zealous in new ideas, new ways and great insights into what we can bring to the classroom and more importantly our students.

Often enough, our time during Term One in the classroom coincides with the Lenten season.

No teacher will argue with you that this first term could be considered a real time of penance.

Certainly no student will argue otherwise.

The argument of a penitential season in Cairns is often hard to swallow for many, it is after all an idyllic tourist destination with great weather, beautiful beaches and lovely people.

The juxtaposition from life in Canberra needs no explanation.

The toughest part about life up north is that it is unsafe and too hot to go swimming in the ocean during the wet season.

The boys I look after in a pastoral capacity come from remote towns and countries such as Weipa, Pomparraw, Coen, Kowanyama, Groote Eylandt, Mossman, Port Douglas, Innisfail, Thursday Island, Yarrabah, South Johnstone, New Guinea and Bali.

They are a very diverse and intensely life-changing group of boys to have the privilege to care for.

Their life-changing moments sound dramatic; leaving home when you are eleven and twelve always is, but in fact it has been in the smallest and very discreet ways that caring for them has changed my heart this Lent.
Beginning a new school as a boarder is much like a Lenten journey. As the boys journey into the great unknown and live the sacrifice of not having daily and weekly contact with their families, friends and communities, they start to consider change and the possibility of transforming themselves into someone new.

And they struggle with it too.

Their tears, avoidance techniques, their little arguments, their running away and at times, their determined silence are the best revelation of their fears.

This is their desert of transformation. As they continue to grow and transform it occurs to me to consider how Mary coped with Jesus’ time in the desert? It was her one of those ‘letting go’ moments. How did this maternal heart know to trust God? How did she know that His time away from Nazareth, her loving home and care was necessary and good?

Lent is necessary and good after all.

How are all those Mums of the boys I look after so open hearted to let another woman care for their children?

These parents are dedicated to ensuring that their children don’t waste any opportunity, regardless of where they live and what choices, or lack thereof.

How did their hearts know to trust? How did Mary know Jesus’ forty days would make him the man he was called to be? How does letting go help us grow?

Beginning to grow up and become who we are called to be is a life-long journey, with many a time in the desert (often outside of the Lenten season as well) that teaches us that letting go of the past, tentatively embracing a new outlook or way of life requires trust, hope and prayer in order to let go.

For these little ones I see their daily sacrifice of having no family or community nearby, to mysteriously forming a new group in a loving, sustaining and future-giving school community where they are “all loved equally”.

It’s a sacrifice their parents offer too, though far less dramatic than that of Abraham and Isaac’s pre-covenantal moments.

We often here the phrase ‘let go and let God’. This Lent one of my students taught me a prayer he wanted to write to stop feeling so homesick:

Dear Father, Please help me to become happy and calm. Thankyou for my brothers in boarding, they are good to me. Help me make my Dad and Mum proud and help me through school because a good education is deadly.
Thankyou for my smart brain, my cheeky smile, my good voice. Every time I get homesick just take it away from me. Amen. From Lorenzo.

Lorenzo knew not to expect an immediate cure to his homesickness, he knew it would take time, he knew it was tough and he knew it was a time of tears.

Maybe too he doesn’t know or understand that home will be different for him when he returns at Easter.

But it’s this ‘Lenten experience’ and time of transformation that will hopefully help him see that he has changed, grown and developed a new understanding and appreciation of home life since he has been away.

Our faith and spiritual journeys ought to be challenged by the Lenten season, they hurt, they are tough and the sacrifices are hard at times but the graces that we are given help us so to continue to love and appreciate our home in God.

Natalie Gordon is head of house at a Queensland boarding school
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