In a Catholic school, it is accurate to say that the teacher is in loco Jesu — in the place of Jesus!
By Sr. Patricia M. McCormack, IHM, EdD
It is commonly known that while at school the role of a teacher is in loco parentis (“in the place of the parent”). In a Catholic school it is accurate to say that the teacher is also in loco Jesu — in the place of Jesus!
Celebrate your vocation! Though imperfect and always in process yourself, you are called by God to be an agent of God’s mercy and providential care to students, parents, and colleagues. Throughout this school year, ruminate on this song of John Michael Talbot:
Allow the prayer of St. Teresa of Avila to seep into your teacher-heart.
Most times a smile, a high-five, a fist-bump, a wink, a private joke, a thumbs-up, or a thoughtful, patient gesture is all it takes to be Jesus to someone. At other times it takes a moral miracle to deliver Jesus-like attitudes. Sometimes you will encounter student attitudes that practically scream, “I dare you to love me!” Take the dare. Jesus would!
Jesus demonstrated that love and like are not synonyms. You don’t have to like a student or a student’s behavior. Fortunately for us, Jesus did not command us to like each other. His one and only command was: “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (John 13:34). Love is a choice; it’s an act of will. Love decides to initiate conversation, include the marginalized, heal the broken, take advantage of teachable moments, offer do-overs, use humor to diffuse tension, give hope, and seek the welfare of another person even at the sacrificial price of personal convenience and preference.
During this school year, rededicate yourself to adapting Jesus’ manner of interacting with people. In particular, be an agent of mercy during times of correction or misunderstanding. Model forgiveness — the “seventy times seven” kind (see Matthew 18:22).
Jesus was (and remains) the forgiver par excellence! Through parables like that of the Prodigal Son; through Gospel encounters with folks like Zaccheus, Peter, and the woman caught in adultery; by his teachings on the topic of forgiveness; and by the example of his living and dying on Good Friday, Jesus demonstrated that all sin (and all mistakes) can be forgiven and can become stepping stones to holiness. He illustrated that forgiveness includes attitudes of redemption, restitution, and reconciliation. Be an agent of those attitudes.
When we forgive as Jesus did, students begin to name, claim, and tame their choices and behaviors. Then conversion is not far behind!
Take the wisdom of Dr. Seuss to heart: “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” Adopt this perspective and you will be an instrument of grace for your students … in loco Jesu.
Sr. Patricia M. McCormack, IHM, EdD is an international consultant and public speaker on issues of whole-person formation.
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