If you want to know what is important to a child, just listen to his or her prayers. At least that is the case during our weekly community Eucharist shared by students and faculty in Grades 2–8.

“We are thankful for” begin the petitions: “summer weather, kind teachers, good friends, caring parents, and Justin Bieber.” “Now wait just a minute,” I thought to myself in a most uncharitable moment, “I will be thankful for many things, but I will not be thankful for Justin Bieber!”

“We ask help for” they continue: “The people whose livelihoods are threatened by the oil spill, people living with AIDS, the people of Thailand during their protest.” I reflected on how well read and aware our students are about current events.

“Please protect and care for: the poor and homeless, Brett Michaels, Ms. Rosado and her new baby, our classmate’s grandfather, all the seahorses in the science lab.” It seems that Grade 5 had been studying how seahorses tolerate changes to their environment, such as various types of pollution and acid rain. The answer, it turns out, is not very well, and the class was worried about their scientific seahorse warriors. “When the students extrapolate the data,” their teacher explained later, “they will realize that we each have to take responsibility for our environment. I was glad to hear the prayer.” (Grade 7 had just completed a frog dissection unit and not a word of reptile concern made it onto the petition list. I guess by the time you reach Grade 7 you are much more jaded about these things.)

“We pray for our animals with God: Chestnut the horse, Rex the dog, Spaghettioes the hamster, Bamster the hamster, and Squeaky the hamster.” I thought about the short, beloved lives of St. Luke’s families’ rodents.

As I watched each reader finish his or her grade’s petition and place it in the basket which, in turn, was presented to Mother Foulke prior to her leading the community prayer, I suddenly realized how beneficial it is for students to prepare and share petitions. Each week we ask students to spend some time reflecting upon that for which they are thankful, those who are more vulnerable than they, family and friends who might benefit from a kind thought, and those who have passed away. And then we ask that the students share those thoughts with others and, as a community, offer up prayers of thanksgiving and support.

As I often do, I left chapel energized and prepared because I, too, had spent time thinking about those in need of help, those in need of comfort, and those for whom I was thankful. Except for Justin Bieber. I just couldn’t go there.

St. Luke’s School is a coeducational, parish day school of 206 students in grades P–8.