Vaccine (and the Saints)
Most people don’t realize how much of my day is filled with prayer when I tell them that I am a high school history teacher. Teaching history and world studies at a Catholic high school, however, lends itself to a lot of prayer- especially during a pandemic.
Though interfaith appears in my lessons in world studies and patriotic Americans of all world-views and faiths populate my U.S. History lessons, I know that this calling to open minds and share knowledge goes even further in these difficult times.
When I stepped into the classroom this semester as a long-term substitute, I wanted to make the transition for my students as smooth as possible. Not only were they dealing with a new teacher, but they were coming to school every day in masks, wiping down their desks at the beginning of each class, and eating with clear partitions on each table in the cafeteria. Each day and every class period, I lead my students in prayer and choose a saint to pray for us: Saint Dymphna for mental wellness, Saint Joseph of Cupertino for test-taking, and so on.
As a student-teacher last spring, I watched the headlines with dread in February as the spread of a novel coronavirus was documented on multiple news channels. My sixth-graders did not seem to care as they could not imagine how a virus would change their lives. As their school chose to shut down, my college campus was making the same decision. I was faced with a decision: go home or stay on to support others. With about two dozen international students on campus, my college created socially-distanced housing in a residence hall and accepted my application to stay on as a Resident Advisor.
My mother, worrying as all mothers do, was worried about me being more than two hours away in a residence hall with clear guidelines about socialization and shared spaces. I insisted that in the coming months everyone would have a part to play and staying to support the international exchange students would be mine.
One of the books I kept with me was Story of a Soul by Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, who wrote about how each one of us can do good in our everyday lives in little ways. With plenty of time and craft supplies on hand, I encouraged others in the residence hall to create art and write cards for elderly people in a local nursing home. The time was not without lows and some dark days; however, I tried my best to greet everyone with a smile, to make my neighbors laugh, and to take time to appreciate the sun and the occasional snow showers in the typical though surreal Midwestern spring- as I thought Saint Francis of Assisi would.
After returning home in early summer, I tried sewing masks for friends, family members, or even neighbors who might need one. I slipped a mask or two into the grocery sacks my mother would leave at our parish’s food pantry, thinking of St. Brigid’s generosity and Saint Martin de Porres’ care for the less fortunate. Happy to have me home, my mother reminded me more than once of how my grandparents did their part in WWII. Once, my grandmother told me that she and her classmates prayed the ‘St. Michael the Archangel Prayer’ so the soldiers and nurses might return home safe from their service in the Pacific and in Europe. Protecting our community by wearing a mask and helping in socially distanced ways was how we could be patriotic and protect our fellow Americans. As some of my friends and family members continued to work in Covid units around the country, I prayed that they would be safe and that a vaccine would be available soon.
I was lucky to receive my first vaccine on February 20, 2021. Admittedly, I was incredibly excited as I felt I could better protect everyone around me by taking this step- I was doing my part! After reading about the vaccine, the nurse came to administer it and checked my information.
“Brigid? Like the Irish saint?”
“Yes!” I grinned behind my mask, thinking of my patron known for her courage and generosity, “I’m named after her.”
By making my appointment for the vaccine, I wanted to give what I could to help fight the virus. Leaving the vaccination facility, I took pride in my sense of patriotism and my little ways of doing good, and I realized they were a piece of something much larger.
Besides any role models we find in our beautiful faith traditions, we serve as inspirations to one another. I firmly believe we can support our neighbors by stepping up to do our part in the fight against Covid-19.
If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today.
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The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.