In many of my courses, I assign students a final project instead of a final exam. Students choose a particular ethical issue to apply what they’ve learned from the semester, aiming to raise awareness about the issue and motivate others to care enough to speak and act in the pursuit of justice. When I first started teaching, many of these projects focused on issues like homelessness, hunger, immigration, sweatshop labor, human trafficking, or environmental degradation. In the last few years, the focus has turned in a decidedly different direction; now, most projects focus on self-care, mental health, and suicide prevention. In their reflection papers, students share the heavy burdens they carry, often due to anxiety, depression, exposure to trauma, and sometimes suicide ideation. In these moments, I think about Thomas Merton’s insight that the church is not just the “Body of Christ,” but a “body of broken bones.” He lamented all the ways we are unwilling to take up “the sacrifice and the sorrow that are the price of this resetting of bones … the pain of reunion.” Merton identified a key reason for this body of broken bones as unworthiness (which we assume for ourselves as well as others). So many people are suffering—many who feel invisible and unheard—and I am reminded all the time that this includes my students.
“I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul” Isaiah 61:10 “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for […]