Kids These Days

“Kids these days”, is heard often to describe the youth of today.  It is a pejorative statement uttered generation after generation to imply that our youth are irresponsible.  This phrase is generally uttered by the older generation expressing frustration with what is merely youthful exuberance and frivolity.  However, today I would like to tell you about a group of “kids these days” who have found a path of service to their community and for a moment set aside their youthful exuberance in the performance of the corporal work of mercy of burying the dead.
Many of our local Catholic high school students have accepted the responsibility of being pallbearers for someone who has no one to carry them to their final place of rest.  The students who perform this corporal work of mercy as members of their school’s St. Joseph of Arimathea Society or Tobit Society have shown incredible compassion for the deceased and any family members and friends that may be present at the interment service.  The St. Joseph of Arimathea Society, with its’ inception at St. Ignatius High School and now part of the service ministry of our Catholic high schools, is impacting the lives of the students who serve in ways that no one could have anticipated.
At first glance the program seems like the perfect opportunity for the kids to get away from school for a few hours, and what actually occurs is a transformation in the way these students view life.  While performing this act of corporal mercy, they are given a rare opportunity to experience a reality that is far removed from the flurry of activities that make up the daily routine of our youth.  As they perform this corporal work of mercy, these students unwittingly find themselves contemplating life in ways they never did before.  Standing next to the casket, the students find themselves delving into the reality of life’s end and faith in God comes sharply into focus.
With their participation in the funeral liturgy, carrying of the casket into the church and to the place where the body is to be interred, it is remarkable to witness the reverence shown for the deceased and their compassion for the few family members and friends that may be present.  To witness these kids standing praying reverently next to the casket before it is to be lowered into the ground, dispels any thought that our youth are incapable of thinking beyond the next text.  Walking away, the kids don’t speak but can be seen reflecting on what just took place.  They know that without their merciful act the deceased would have been buried alone, without a prayer or even a moment of silence acknowledging a life lived.  Without their service, only the funeral director, the hearse driver and a few cemetery workers would stand as witnesses to this life once lived.  Knowing that their service provided a poor lonely soul with a dignity that may have been unknown in life, affords the students an opportunity to mature just a bit more as they walk back to the van for their journey back to the world of i-pods and text messaging.
To the parents of the students that serve the St. Joseph of Arimathea Society and Tobit Society, we offer our sincerest gratitude for the job you have done.  If the students sent to serve were not given a foundation upon which to build the thoughtfulness that comes from performing such acts of mercy, than the term “kids these days” would mean what we often believe it to mean.  Their kindness may not gain the recognition and accolades that other activities will gain for them, but it is precisely the silent recognition that allows them to grow with the knowledge that silent service can be the most gratifying.  To the members of the Arimathea and Tobit programs, remember that Christ was indigent when he was carried to His temporary tomb.  The remnants of what he owned were gambled away and it was only through the merciful act of Joseph of Arimathea that our Lord was provided with a dignity that he was not given during the hours that preceded his death.
To stand in the sandals of Joseph of Arimathea and serve these deceased members of our Catholic community is an incredible honor and a true corporal work of mercy.