In his January 26 Sightings column Martin Marty noted that most of the top 25 religion stories of the year from the Religion Newswriters Association were about conflict. Episcopalians fighting about gay bishops. Southern Baptists firing missionaries who won't sign a statement of faith. Fights over Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, gay marriage, faith based charities, and the Ten Commandments, to name a few more.

Lost in all commotion and conflict are the small stories of faith lived out in the everyday life and death of people.

"we have to hypothesize," writes Marty, "and can also observe, that most people participate in religious gatherings in order to find, among others: salvation, company, transcendence, hope, healing, peace, consolation, and inspiration. Despite this, news about religion paints a different picture"

Meanwhile, some high profile religion, such as TheRevealer.org and the new www.GetReligion.org focus on critiquing the big religion stories but also miss the small ones.

So here's one of the small stories that got lost this week, from the pages of the Chicago Tribune. It's about the death of Jean Flynn, a 58-year-old Catholic school teacher in Wilmette, Illinois, and how her students grabbed hold of her in their prayers and would not let go. And how, she taught them a life lesson even in her death.

Here's a snippet.

"Through nearly constant prayer--furrowed-brow, white- knuckled, tight-chested prayer --they held on to Ms. Flynn. Little fingers clutched wooden rosary beads; the initials "JF" were scrawled in black marker on arms; a football game was played, and won, in her honor.

For a year this went on, the collective, concentrated faith of 46 8th graders taking on the unrelenting disease that was gradually slowing down the tough math and social studies teacher they loved. But, eventually, the cold, clinical reality of life prevailed.

Ms. Flynn, 58, died in her parents' home in Lake Forest late on Jan. 20.

The tears began to dry as days passed, and the students started to realize something: Their teacher had just taught them the toughest lesson they might ever learn. And, as usual, they hadn't seen it coming.

"When she was here, we learned a lot as students; but now that she's gone, we've learned a lot about life," said Hilary Lunkes, 13. "This shows us how life isn't always perfect. You have good in your life, but then the bad comes along also."


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