Sr. Sophie had been Claire’s high school literature teacher so it was only logical that she would be one of the first people Claire would call to share the good news when her publisher offered her a book contract. A Shakespeare scholar and poet, the religious sister had worked tirelessly to instill in her students a love for language; and her yearly Christmas poem had been the inspiration for much of Claire’s poetry as well as the tradition of a yearly Christmas poem of her own.
Claire realized how difficult it must have been for Sr. Sophie to stand before students who were often there only because taking English literature was mandatory, trying to help them to understand and appreciate the gift of literature even as she saw their eyes glazing over. Claire wanted her to know that the seed she had scattered had indeed taken root and yielded fruit, and to share with her that she would probably never have aspired to be a writer if it had not been for her teacher’s encouragement.
Jeanette was also a teacher, but her students were much younger. Jeanette taught first grade and her students were like a bunch of little sponges, listening attentively to everything that their teacher said. And because she knew the importance of first teachers, Jeanette worked tirelessly, not only with the children, but also with their parents. Not depending solely on the occasional teacher’s conference, Jeanette made it a practice, as much as possible, to keep the lines of communication open with comments on the children’s papers, notes in their backpacks and even the occasional phone call if something special needed to be discussed. Jeanette believed in scattering seed beyond the classroom, even though she knew that she might never herself see the results of her efforts as the tiny plants grew to maturity.
In Mark’s Gospel we hear Jesus tell the story of a man who scattered seed, even though he had no way of knowing how it would sprout and grow. Come to think of it, he might just as easily have been talking about a teacher.
Van Benthem is a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and a longtime pastoral minister in the diocese.