“Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” I just typed that without looking! Do you recognize it? It’s the introductory sentence to the famous Gettysburg Address by President Lincoln. I memorized the whole thing when I was in 5th grade (over 30 years ago, but who’s counting!). Unfortunately, I only remember pieces of the rest of it, but boy, do I remember how proud I was when I could recite the whole thing for my teacher for extra credit!
Among the many educational aspects we value here at St. Peter’s is the ability to memorize and understand worthy poetry and literature. It’s can seem a small component in the big scheme of things, but it helps in the formation of the person by reinforcing the life skills of memorizing, public speaking and the sense of satisfaction from personal accomplishment. In addition, the type of content we encourage is meaningful for future reflection, even if they don’t fully grasp all the nuances at a young age. For example, after the fourth graders enthusiastically recited both “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer and “Walk With Me” by Helen Parker, I asked about the latter, “Do you know what that means?” They replied simply, “It’s a poem!” I anticipate that down the road in life the Lord will inspire them to remember His presence in difficult times due to that very poem.
Fourth Grade: “Walk With Me” by Helen Parker
Some second graders recited their choice of a line from a Psalm.
Others, having recently made their First Communion, eagerly memorized the first stanzas of the poem “A Child’s Wish” by Abram Joseph Ryan.
I wish I were the little key
That locks Love’s Captive in,
And lets Him out to go and free
A sinful heart from sin.
I wish I were the little bell
That tinkles for the Host,
When God comes down each day to dwell
With hearts He loves the most.
I wish I were the chalice fair,
That holds the Blood of Love,
When every flash lights holy prayer
Upon its way above.
I wish I were the little flower
So near the Host’s sweet face,
Or like the light that half an hour
Burns on the shrine of grace.
I wish I were the altar where,
As on His mother’s breast,
Christ nestles, like a child, fore’er
In Eucharistic rest.
But, oh! my God, I wish the most
That my poor heart may be
A home all holy for each Host
That comes in love to me.