June 6, 2014

Got milk? Got faith!

Prayer that wins national contest pours from the heart of sixth-grade girl

Drinking a glass of milk inspired Caroline Caito, a sixth-grade student at Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Indianapolis, to write a touching prayer that won a national contest. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

Drinking a glass of milk inspired Caroline Caito, a sixth-grade student at Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Indianapolis, to write a touching prayer that won a national contest. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

By John Shaughnessy

When Caroline Caito opened the refrigerator to pour a glass of milk, the then-11-year-old girl wasn’t immediately thinking she had found the perfect inspiration to write a prayer that would touch people’s hearts and win a national contest.

Yet with each drink she took, the sixth-grade student at Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Indianapolis knew she had suddenly found the image for everything she wanted to say about the power of faith—and even the loss of it.

“I was in my bedroom, on my couch, thinking about looking for God in a time of need when I went down to the kitchen to get a glass of milk, which is my favorite drink,” Caroline recalls. “I thought about the cup and the milk going down and down. I ran up to my room, got my notebook and started writing.”

When she finished, she had penned a prayer called “Full” that won first place among the nearly 3,000 entries from sixth-grade students across the country in a contest called “Try Prayer! It Works!”

Caroline wrote:

“I was full, Lord, when the church bells rung clearly in my ears, like diamonds falling upon the floor, an angel’s song. Pure though strained, Gentle though passionate. That was when I was full …

“I was half full, Lord, when no doctor, no glasses, no one … could make me see my loved one again. For they were gone, headed to your home. I was half full …

“I was a quarter full when I heard the sirens singing and the slam of metal bars separating me from the world’s warmth. Now a quarter full …

“Now I am empty, Lord. Hope gone. The world thrown against me, scowls numerous. I have lost all faith. Deepen my faith and strengthen my beliefs. Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. Make me full of faith again.”

Holding on to faith in God

Putting the parts of the prayer together poured from Caroline, who also writes music.

“I started with the church bells to show they’re going to church every Sunday, and they have plenty of faith,” says Caroline, now 12. “In the second paragraph, it’s almost saying that maybe a relative has passed away, and they’re thinking, ‘How could you do this, God? How could you let this happen?’

“In the third paragraph, they hear sirens. They’ve gotten in some trouble with the law. The metal bars have slammed. The image of God is dwindling away.

“In the final paragraph, the feeling is, ‘I’m empty now. I have nothing to hold onto.’ So it’s asking God to fill me with faith once again. It’s about prayer, and holding on to faith in God and trust in God.”

The images and the themes of Caroline’s prayer didn’t surprise her teacher.

“She has an old soul,” says Teresa Cooper, Caroline’s sixth-grade teacher. “She feels and thinks and knows God on a plane that all of us would like to reach. She has a self-awareness, but nothing that makes others jealous. She is so kind and considerate in everything she does.”

Caroline’s mother, Kerry, also uses the phrase “old soul” to describe the fourth of her seven children with her husband, Matthew.

“She writes numerous things beyond her years,” Kerry says. “She’s someone who definitely walks to her own beat. And she’s such a sweet child.”

A nudge from God

Beyond winning a national contest, Caroline’s prayer has had an impact at home.

“This has been great for our family,” her mother says. “We’ll focus on prayer more now. This is a nudge from God for our family.”

Writing “Full” reflects the importance that prayer and faith have in her own life, Caroline says.

“Prayer is a huge thing in my life. God forgives everything a person could do. Without prayer, I couldn’t relate to God. I continue to pray at school, at home and church to have that special relationship with God. I trust God a lot.”

As part of winning the national contest sponsored by Family Rosary, Caroline received $100. She plans to donate the money to The Thirst Project, an organization that raises funds to build freshwater wells in developing countries.

“It’s so mothers and children don’t have to walk for five miles in the scorching sun to get water,” she says. “I really don’t need anything for myself right now.”

Caroline shared another thought, a prayer in itself.

“God has really blessed me.” †

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