A friend, an avid Liverpool Football Club fan, recently sent me a picture message. It was an image of the cup presented to the 2020 Premier League Champions, bedecked with ribbons, and underneath it, the caption read, ‘With God by your side, You’ll Never Walk Alone!’ It made me smile. Having grown up in a house full of boys, it was inevitable that I would have some interest in the ‘beautiful game’. And, of course, I had the very good sense to choose Liverpool as the team to follow!
The Lyrics of You’ll Never Walk Alone are very powerful. They talk of walking through storms, through wind and rain, holding your head high, having your dreams tossed and torn, but walking with ‘hope’ in your heart, knowing that you never walk alone. The world has been navigating a storm this year, a storm that has turned our lives upside down. Dreams have been tossed and torn, at times all of us have felt that the storm would overwhelm us and we know we are far from the end of the storm and the ‘Golden Sky’ of a pandemic free world.
Yet, I think it is fair to say many of us have felt that that we are not in this alone. There has been a real sense of looking out for others, supporting and encouraging each other along the way and a great generosity of understanding, when everything just became too much and we felt the storm had indeed overwhelmed us.
Please God this storm will pass soon, but ‘storms’ are an inevitable part of all of our lives and come in many forms and more often or not without any warning. Broken dreams, sickness, death of loved ones, unemployment, self-doubt. The list is endless, but they are part of living, fully alive, in this world. We may feel like running as far away from them as possible, but we know, eventually the ‘storms’ of life have to be faced, if we are ever to live in peace with ourselves and others.
The next few weeks will see the return of our school communities. Pupils will each have had their own experience of living through the ‘storms’ of lockdown and are facing into a very changed school environment to the one they left in March. How can we help our young people to cope with this new reality and to live their lives ‘with hope in their hearts’, no matter what ‘storms’ they encounter along the way? At a ZOOM meeting in June, Fr Paul Farren, Director of the Derry Diocesan Catechetical Centre, suggested to principals that,’as we move forward, we have an amazing opportunity to proclaim Jesus-our lives, the whole world changed in a matter of days due to the coronavirus-everything we took for granted just changed. If we can help the children to know Jesus, the one who never changes, the one who never lets us down, then no matter what comes at them, they will realise what is important, who is important and that they are never alone. Jesus walks beside them every step of the way- beside all of us.’
Jurgen Klopp, manager of Liverpool, is a man who would second these words. Amidst all the ‘storms’, of being a highly successful manager, in such a competitive world, he is very clear about who it is that enables him to ‘walk with hope’ each day. When asked about his Christian faith, he has spoken openly about the importance of Jesus in his life and how, because of Jesus, he feels that he is, ‘in sensationally good hands”. How can we help the young people in our schools to feel the same, to know, with Jesus as their friend, they will ‘never walk alone’? In a 2013 interview with German Newspaper, Frankfurter Rundschau, Klopp said, “to be a believer, but not want to talk about it-I don’t know how that would work!”
To enable the young people in our schools to confidently feel that Jesus walks with them each day, school communities need to be places where Jesus is talked about openly, where prayer is central to the daily routine and where the gospel is proclaimed and its values are lived in the relationships within. Then, hopefully, our young people will know and really believe that no matter what difficulties they face in life, they will find the strength to ‘walk on with hope in their hearts’ knowing Jesus is their hope, that he walks with them every step of the way and with God by their side, they’ll never walk alone.’
Thérèse Ferry is the Diocesan Advisor for Primary Schools, in the Diocese of Derry
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