I have this enormous crucifix in my classroom. It is beautiful - dark wood, detailed corpus. I've never seen such a large crucifix in a classroom but it definitely is helpful when I start a spiel to the kids about how Jesus died a terrible horrific death on the Cross and they should be able to give a pencil to the person sitting next to them, help pick up someone's books, do their homework, stop complaining... etc. I get all serious and dramatic and point up at it and give my lecture - and surprisingly they listen in the little things and I know it makes a spiritual impact. If only these little situations were the only ones. Unfortunately, they have crosses that are much bigger.
They have parents who have betrayed them and their families. They are shuffled from house to house according to a legal document. They feel unlovable, unworthy, and unimportant. They have to justify their very existence because most of them never see the love that brought them into the world.
I just read a study about how the brain feels emotional pain in the same way as it feels bodily pain. I can honestly say that I have experienced and felt that abandonment, confusion, frustration, and pain that comes from family strife. I'm sure that that abandonment and pain is united to Jesus on the Cross. I'm sure that my students don't realize it but they are also held closely in the heart of Christ as they suffer that same pain.
The other day one of the teachers at school asked to talk to me after school. We sat in her classroom and talked about our students, our own families, our own trials and sufferings. We had tears in our eyes during most of the conversation. She told me that her sister says she doesn't pray enough and that she should pray the rosary more. Now, I love the Rosary... like super love it, so my comment was NOT about not praying the rosary. It was in recognition of the prayer that was already happening in her.
God's grace really came to me in that moment bringing me to the realization that the carrying of that pain and those crosses each day are absolutely moments of living prayer. It is a true crucifixion. Jesus wasn't sitting in a Chapel. He was carrying a Cross. He was actively involved in the march to His death and the crowd around Him.
Now it is my turn, and that teacher's turn to carry our crosses with Him for the crowd around us - our children, who will unfortunately carry their crosses in turn. I can't quite explain the feeling and "knowing" I have that this is true - that this suffering is important to life, to the Church, to the Body of Christ.
It is a comfort to know that my suffering means something to Him. It is a comfort to know that I can understand and share my suffering with others in love and hope and peace. It is a comfort to know that that same love, peace, and hope are waiting, as gifts of grace, to our children.