| By Emma Jackson

Right Here and Now

Each year, in memory of Diocese of Lansing priest and founding FAITH editor Father Charles Irvin, FAITH Catholic sponsors a writing scholarship for high school seniors. The contest was open to all Catholic seniors within the dioceses of FAITH’s publishing partners.

Emma Jackson, from the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, was chosen as the winner.  The topic this year was: Tell us how you want to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world

When I was in middle school I loved to read about the saints’ lives, miracles and adventures. These holy people inspired me to want to do something great for God.

At the time, I thought this meant I had to become a nun and move far from my home. That’s what my favorite saint did: St. Teresa of Calcutta moved from her home in Skopje to the slums of India to serve the poorest of the poor. In my middle-school brain, I had to leave and seek out the poor elsewhere to be Christ’s hands and feet. However, I could not just quit school and fly far away so I was forced to wait, or so I thought.

During this period of “waiting,” I came across the following quote from St. Teresa of Calcutta, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” Doing something great for God meant that I was going to change the world or rather Christ would change the world through me, but I never thought serving my family had anything to do with it. I did not understand how loving my family could change the world. 

However, being Christ’s hands and feet in the world starts by loving and serving the people in my life right here and now.

Loving my family and the people closest to me can be difficult. With the rise of technology, we have become more disconnected from each other, even members of our family. Oftentimes, we take for granted our family’s love and support. As adolescents, it can be difficult to obey the rules set by our parents. We often want to do what we want rather than please our parents or listen to those who love us. One experience opened my eyes to what can happen when we love and serve those closest to me. My papa, my mother’s father, is one of the best Catholics I know. He prays often, especially the rosary, attends daily Mass or watches it on the television and visits the church with my grandmother. I love him dearly and whenever we visit his farm in upstate New York, he and my grandmother are always generous to us.

Sadly, my papa has gotten older and his health has declined. He has suffered a heart attack and a few other health scares, so now he spends a lot of time sitting in his chair and taking naps. Today, the one who was so incredibly kind and generous to me and my family now needs us to do the same for him, but it isn’t easy.

One time when my family was visiting, my mom told me to read Papa his favorite poems. I did not like poetry nor did I want to read to him, but I knew my papa loves poetry. His mother would read poems to him and his brothers when he was a child. He has often told me the story of how his brother would grab his knee and scare him while his mother was reading the poem The Owl and the Fox. This particular time, he would repeat the line aloud and gesture dramatically when I read his favorite lines. As I read the poems, he laughed and smiled; he loved it. I was happy that this made him happy. After that, every time my family visited my grandparents’ house I would read his favorite poems to him.

This experience helped me to see the wisdom of St. Teresa of Calcutta’s advice that in order to change the world, I must “go home and love [my] family.” Reading my papa poetry was a sacrificial and selfless act that began as a chore, a sheer act of will, which God’s grace has transformed into something that connects my grandfather and me, and because of that it has turned it into something I even enjoy. Although it was a small act, it taught me what God can do when we love others more than we love ourselves, even when we do not feel like it. As a teenager, I can easily see my needs, wants and worries as the most important problems in the world. By bringing these concerns to God and putting another person’s needs ahead of my own, I am serving God as his hands and feet in the world.

Finally, most importantly, it impressed on me that I do not have to travel far away to be a saint. I do not have to wait to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world. Today, those with whom I live and attend school need my help or rather need Christ’s love through me. Loving people begins with real deeds done for those closest to you who are your family. In the “Domestic Church,” we first learn about and experience Christ’s love and how to serve as his hands and feet. Sanctity begins with showing Christ’s love to my family, my friends, my teachers and anyone else the Lord puts in my life. I am still inspired by the saints’ lives to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world. 

Now, I realize that greatness begins at home, right now, to those who are closest to me.

About this year’s winner:

Emma Jackson graduated in the spring from Holy Family Academy in Manchester, N.H. In the fall Emma will attend the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, N.H.