What’s in your backpack?

By David Garick

School will soon be back in session. Our Catholic schools are all geared up to receive the influx of students for a new school year. Stores are full of supplies that students will need as they head into a new grade with new teachers, subjects and challenges.

Buying school supplies is always exciting for students. I always enjoyed getting new supplies for the coming year. A lot of that is still the same today, although today’s students have a lot of supplies that we never had, or even dreamed of, back when I was in school.

Pocket calculators? When I was in school, that was called a pencil. And it better have a good eraser. Smart phone? The only phones we had were not smart at all, just big and clunky and only one for the whole family and it was firmly attached to the kitchen wall. Pad computer? Not even Flash Gordon carried something like that. And to carry all of these things that students need, the ubiquitous backpack.

When I was a student, I had a backpack. But that was part of my Boy Scout equipment for camping and hiking. I would never have thought of taking it to school. We carried our books to and from school under our arm. Carrying them in some kind of bag would have been “uncool.” But kids today have a lot more stuff to carry back and forth than we did, so I guess that a backpack makes a lot of sense.

In addition to the brightly colored physical backpacks our students carry, they also have a spiritual backpack. For that matter, all of us have one. It carries the tools we need to cope with the pressures of everyday life. Those tools center on the sacraments of the church.

One of the first things students and the rest of us can do is to lighten our spiritual backpacks of the excess baggage we keep there. Much of what weighs us down is tied to sin. Through confession we lighten the load and can focus on the work that lies ahead.

Of course one of the most important tools in our backpack is the Eucharist. Regular reception of communion unites us with Christ and he strengthens us and leads us forward. It’s great to have the rosary tucked away in your spiritual backpack. Meditating on the holy mysteries with our Blessed Mother brings a sense of peace and order that helps us to keep our life in perspective.

And, of course, prayer is the ultimate utility tool in our spiritual backpack. When King Solomon was feeling overwhelmed with the task of taking over the rule of his father, David, the Lord came to him and said “Ask me for something and I will give it to you.” Solomon asked for wisdom. God was pleased and Solomon became a great ruler. We too can use prayer to ask God for wisdom in dealing with the challenges that face us.

As St. Paul instructs us, “Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks. Do not quench the spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil.”

In school and in life, keep that backpack handy.

David Garick is the editor of the Catholic Times, newspaper of the Diocese of Columbus, Oh. This article originally appeared in the Aug. 14 issue.

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