Today I chaperoned an eighth-grade trip.
My daughter's class went on a pre-Confirmation retreat. We drove 1 1/2 hours to the retreat house (at the beach), where the students listened to a short talk by the priest who was coordinating the day. After that, they saw a prolife video that showed how babies develop in the womb--and just how soon after conception the heartbeat, brain waves and other functions have already gotten started. Mass was next, followed by lunch, a short activity on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and then cleanup for departure.
The students were lucky to have as their retreat director Monsignor Michael Mannion, who has not only worked with Mother Theresa and been a campus minister at several universities but also has worked with Project Rachel, a group that ministers to post-abortive mothers and fathers. Msgr. Mannion and my daughter's teacher strongly believe that it is never too early to teach children about the sanctity of life and the value of each person.
In his opening remarks to the students and later during his homily, Msgr. Mannion explained the difference between "idols" and "heroes." Idols, he said, are people who may work very hard at what they do--but it is for their own gain. Heroes, on the other hand, work very hard so that others, rather than themselves, will benefit. He challenged this group of 30+ teenagers to strive to be heroes, rather than idols; to use the gifts of the Holy Spirit in ways that will help other people. The day closed with the famous reading about love from St. Paul's letter to the Corinthians.
The day was definitely worth the long ride on an unheated school bus. I hope that the eighth-graders were inspired by Msgr. Mannion's presentation and Mass today.