Walking on Holy Ground
I also listen to the teens I teach and hear them say how boring Mass is. In recent years fewer of them complain about having to go to Mass on Sundays. Many of their parents have simply stopped practicing. Speaking to the kids about traditional religious symbols and rituals is often like speaking a foreign language to them (they react the same way when I speak French to them!) These symbols and rituals simply do not correspond to anything real if they are not "lived" in their families. These same students, however, can be touched by religious experiences. This year I was "homeroom" teacher for a grade 10 group of kids. Most of them did not "practice" their faith in the traditional sense. But they could certainly pray. Our prayer together each morning was very simple. I would ask them if there were people or special things they wanted the class to pray for. They would either make specific requests or say that they had a personal intention. We would either say one of the traditional prayers or I would sum up in a few words what the students had mentioned in an improvised prayer. In a class that was not known for exemplary behavior I seldom had to remind a student to be quiet during that prayer time. They were praying with a group of their peers and it was meaningful to them.
I remember once overhearing a grade 8 student as she was standing in line and being pressed from behind. "Move back" she said, "You are standing on holy ground." She laughed as she said it and did not realize the wisdom contained in her words. My students are standing on holy ground, but it is often difficult for them to become conscious of it because they no longer have the support of traditional rituals and the underlying structures that used to prop them up...