The dual work of mercy and teaching

Sr. Margaret Sue Broker, a School Sister of St. Francis, has taught for 54 years at Sacred Heart School, first in Walls, and now in Southaven, MS. She wrote the following reflection for the January 29th issue of “Dehonian Spirituality.” January 31 – February 6 is Catholic Schools Week in the United States. 

“The act of teaching is an amazing corporal and spiritual work of mercy”

-Sr. Margaret Sue Broker, SSSF

This morning, as I handed the statue of the Infant Jesus to someone to carry up to the manger, I thought to myself, “This is each child I teach.  Jesus is divine and human, body and soul, corporal and spiritual.  So, too, are my students.”

Sr. Margaret Sue
Sr. Margaret Sue

My students don’t learn to love and protect Mother Earth just because I tell them how important that is.  They learn it by putting their hands in the soil, preparing the soil, and planting carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, squash, and flowers. They learn it as they weed, pick, eat, and admire the fruit of their labor.  They internalize it when they eat a salad or strawberry pie they grew.  The story, “From Seed to Zucchini,” has meaning when the children plant and harvest their own zucchini.  Illustrating a story helps children internalize the main idea more than just reading the story.  These are very corporeal actions.

When I console, encourage, or bring a child to an “aha” moment, I nurture the spirit.  When I get and give a hug; when I sit with a child and study flashcards; when I guide the hand in forming a letter; when I write out my lesson plans; when I dictate words or numbers; or when I do the thousands of acts of teaching, I am dealing with the physical or corporal.  If I do it well, in a compassionate, joyful, loving, merciful way, I nurture the spirit.  The act of teaching is an amazing corporal and spiritual work of mercy.

Talking to my sister about this reflection the other day, she pointed out to me that Pierre de Chardin said something to the effect that we are not human beings in search of a spiritual experience, but rather, we are spiritual beings immersed in human experiences. That pretty much sums up this dual work of mercy of teaching.

Teaching is indeed a corporal and spiritual work of mercy made up of thousands of actions immersed in the human experience, and committed to “nurturing a heart of love, a promise of hope, and a mission to service” as stated on a poster sponsored by the SCJ Schools in Collaboration.