Thursday, November 1, 2007

All Saints' Day

Eighteen years ago, Sarah had just started kindergarten at St. Ambrose School. One morning, as Maggie and I stood in the school lobby waiting to pick her up, the new principal, Sister Josita, pointed her finger at me. "Hey, you," she said. "I want to have a festival on All Saints' Day. You be in charge."

Despite the fact that I had no idea what she was talking about, I said yes. (Sister was a tall, imposing woman who didn't take any crap from anyone. She probably had me pegged as her anxious-to-please, new-kindergarten-parent lapdog from Day 1. Of course, she was right.)

So, with a lot of other moms, I spent the next few weeks planning games, buying prizes and laminating saint holy cards for the 100 or so kids in the school.

After Mass (where every student dressed as a saint), the fun began. We had a fishing game, a duck pond, an obstacle course, a football toss, and face painting; the lunch ladies, who I had recently met, ran the cupcake walk.

It was a great success, and I ran the festival for three more years -- more games, more fun, and the lunch ladies became two of my best friends (not just because of their cupcake skills).

A few years later, a new principal (not a Sister) did away with the festival in favor of a more educational afternoon -- movies, quizzes and art projects. And no dressing up as your favorite saint. Now, I am all in favor of education, but where's the fun in that? What better way to celebrate saintly lives and martyrdom than getting all jazzed up on the cupcake you won at the cake walk washed down with the soda you won at the ring toss? Or seeing if you can wing the superball you just acquired all the way across the gym? Or watching the 1st grade teacher take on the 6th grade teacher on the obstacle course?

Maybe the good old days are on the way back. This year, another new principal, Sister Anna Rose, produced quite a spectacle for the Mass, complete with 18 children dressed as saints, from St. Gabriel with enormous cotton ball-encrusted wings to Mother Theresa in a very realistic-looking sari. Here is one of my favorites (saint and child):
Abby as St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
I hear the entire school played a rousing game of Saints Bingo in the afternoon. No duck pond, but it is a good start.

Speaking of St. Elizabeth, she was a wife, mother and convert to Roman Catholicism, just like me. And her passion was Catholic education. Unlike me, she was raised in New York City high society, married a wealthy man, and died at age 46, after founding a religious order, opening many Catholic schools and founding two orphanages.
I need to get busy.

And in yet another stroke of saintly coincidence, St. Elizabeth's spiritual advisor was Father Simon Brute, who became the first Bishop of Indiana, and who asked St. Theodora Guerin to leave France for the wilds of Terre Haute. Small world, great God.


1 comment:

  1. Did you also know that Saint Elizabeth Ann had two Bibles... they are BOTH in Indiana - one at Notre Dame and one at the Old Cathedral in Vincennes, with Bishop Brute's "stuff". Also, Bishop Brute's "cause" has now begun and he is (rightfully) called, "Servant of God".

    Thanks for your reflection.