Monday, April 30, 2018

Here's the Whole Collection from the Series on the Rosary

I'm putting together all of the articles on the mysteries of the rosary from this past year, as a gift for John for Confirmation. 
First: Confirmation is Initiation, not Graduation.   Congratualations on getting to celebrate this sacrament, we're proud of you.  However, in addition to celebrating, I should point out, now the real work begins. 

First: The Annuciation
Second: The Visitation
Third: The Incarnation
Fourth: The Presentation at the Temple
Fifth: Finding Jesus in Temple
First: The Agony in the Garden
Second: The Scourging at the Pilar
Third: Crowning with Thorns
Fourth: The Carrying of the Cross
Fifth: The Crucifixion
First: The Baptism at the River Jordan*
Second: The Wedding Feast at Cana
Third: The Sermon on the Mount
Fourth: The Transfiguration
Fifth: The Institution of the Holy Eucharist
First: The Resurrection
Second: The Ascension
Third: The Descent of the Holy Spirit
Fourth: The Assumption of Our Lady
Fifth: Coronation of Our Lady, Queen of Heaven

In a twist of irony, the first luminous mystery, the one which gave John his name, is one I've not yet written about in this series.  I kept thinking I'd missed one and I had.  However, the piece I linked for that mystery, discusses how Confirmation perfects baptism, and so I thought it fit rather well.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Disarming all Chairs, Here's Your Quarter Back!

With the advent of the internet, everyone and their little dog too, has at some point channeled their inner Lucy Van Pelt and offered unasked for expert counsel based purely on spleen. 

We have opinions, we've found facts or something like facts to back them up, and we've learned how to use pathos, ethos and logos to push our opinions forward with such authority, everyone should just aquiese to our brilliance. 

We'd all like to think we're inside the city of Gondor...but very often our arguments are the mental equivalent of GROND. 

It doesn't matter if it's sports, health care, foriegn policy about a country we couldn't locate without google maps, law, education, ecology, Hollywood or cuisine, we have an infaliable opinion we will defend to the death and in the imortal words of Lena Lamont,

Singin’ in the Rain (1952) directed by Stanley Donen
Jean Hagen as Lina Lamont and Douglas Fowley as Roscoe Dexter.

Lina: Gee, this wig weighs a ton. What dope’d wear a thing like this?
Rosco: Everybody used to wear them, Lina.
Lina: Well then, everybody was a dope.

I don't know about you, but since everyone's become an expert, everyone's also become much less willing to hear anyone else's expert advice.  It's in our conversations, it's in our television, it's how we view people in positions of power and influence, regardless of political party.  It's making true friendship, true democracy (not merely the rule and will of the ones in power), and true community, hard to build, much less sustain and grow. 

Pope Benedict the XVI spoke of the tyranny of relativism, I would add to that, the dictatorship of invincible self vetted opinion, which refuses any truth not arrived at by one's self.   If truth is only accessible by an individual for an individual, it is not truth, it is preference, and if preference is elevated to the state of truth, actual truth itself, becomes almost impossible to state, much less endure. 

So what are we supposed to do? 

The opposite of what the world would suggest, which is double down and shout louder.   Surrender the armchair.  Surrender the need to be always the one with the last word, the only word worth listening to, and surrender the demand that others approve, share, like, and pay fealty via their agreement.   The world is aching, bleeding, suffering unbearably from everyone's belief they either have all the answers, or have all the answers at their fingertips. When we have the answers, we don't have to actually walk with, suffer with, or listen to someone else's problems.  We can give the right advice at the right time, check off the box and declare ourselves virtuous for our time. 

Everybody, take whatever the issue is, and hold it like a gem, and see if you can see any validity (absent google) to a position other than your own.   What if we tried seeing through each other's eyes where we could?  And went out to get ice cream together when the problems were bigger. 

Most of life is far more nuanced and complicated than we know, even in our own lives.   Most of our life would not bear the levels of scrutiny and criticism we currently see heaped on anyone who speaks in a way someone else finds disagreeable.   Surrender the need to be anything but kind.  Surrender the need to get in the snark.  Surrender the need to divide the world into the Order of the Phoenix and Death Eaters.   Go out and meet people where they are, and discover that the world is bigger than the internet, brighter too and create fellowship. 


Eat together, walk together, play together, pray together.  Learn together, suffer with, and suffer for, and when possible, create moments of light, humor and joy.  Like this:

See?  Hobbits had it right all along. 

Saturday, April 21, 2018

What We Wish for Them

Most days, I spend much of the time in the classroom trying to convince students they should read the meager 4, 7 or 11 such pages assigned.  Several do not read except under duress.  They know I love words, so they often ask me to read to them.

Sometimes I do.  Sometimes, I do not.

Today, was one of those "not" days.
"Why?" one asked.
"Because you need to train your brain just like you train your muscles, and that won't happen without practice."
"But it's hard!!!!!"
"It's two pages. You're in 10th grade. It shouldn't be."

They sort of read the two pages, and asked for help with the questions.

I sat wondering, should I have read aloud, if only to give them two more pages of material to draw from later.  There isn't enough time left in the school year to introduce them to all the stories out there that might chill their spines, thrill their hearts and challenge their brains.

One student lamented that we don't live in a Utopia, and I pined to hand her some of Plato's Republic and Animal Farm, and Hunger Games, Blithesdale's Romance and 1984 and the Giver, to illustrate to her the countless attempts to create a perfect society, and all the human moving parts which make it impossible.  However, she'd chaffed at two pages, and we'd even offered her some of those as choices and she'd refused because they were too long.  I'd love to somehow convince her to discover these books.  There's so much more than they imagine, so much more they could be exploring if only somehow today, something lit the spark. 

That's the real art of teaching, preparing each day in hope that this will be the day.  It will be a luminous moment, and all we who work with them are, is flint, striking at the tinder with steel, we are not the spark, and we are not the fire, only the instruments trying again and again and again and again, to create a flame. Today, someone will discover something more than they imagined, and it will be almost too much to bear.  It will act like a bubble of light almost lifting them through the rest of the day, even if it is filled with hard work outs or hard words. 

The whole goal of teaching is to help the students engage in the art of wonder, and revel in the world of ideas great and small, subtle and overt, beautiful and terrible, joyous and otherwise.  It's also to hope if today wasn't the day, that the kids went away fed, and chewing on some of what you presented, preparing for tomorrow, which who knows, might be the day. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Small Success Thursday Take Two...

If you want the official Small Success Thursday post, it's up and it's here.
However, this afternoon, I spent time talking with my children, and one of them talked about encouraging a friend they had in Florida.  She counseled, "Don't let yourself get overwhelmed by the fact you aren't doing some big earth shattering thing.  Look at today.  You talked to a friend.  I made a cake and cleaned a room."  She didn't think about it, but she'd created a superior Small Success Thursday.  Celebrating the little things of each day, is a way of keeping one's self from becoming discouraged at all the minutia which can clutter up one's heart any given week.   So I'm thinking about the little victories of the past week and giving thanks, most especially for the example of a Small Success Thursday from my own home.   

It is All Grace, Whether I Know it or Not

We all have prayers we pray, for good things, things we think we want, even know we want, which we don't receive. The job I'd hoped for but didn't get, was going to sting longer than I wanted. My brain worked through the problem. "Maybe it's better." My heart pouted, "At 51, I'm still in a high school and still, despite my best efforts, despite doing everything asked of me, I can't get off the bench of the frigging b-team." Dwelling on it for too long brought tears, so I steeled myself to safely transverse the distance to my car without making a scene. The whole time, my inside screamed. Explaining away my feelings, I told myself and told myself and told myself it's no big deal.
I suppose it's good to know, I'm not as good at lying to myself as I thought. "I wanted that job." I admit. Yes. The reality of the "No," even though I said all the reasonable important correct polite gracious things at the time makes it hard to think, what to do next?
Needing to take my mind off my disappointment and not feeling up to facing people just yet, I took to the gym after work, but even the mindless anonymous nature of the multiple machines with multiple screens didn't feel private enough. Upstairs in the dance room, I put on my favorite music and tried to kickbox until all I'd feel was the soreness of my arms. The room has mirrors everywhere. It's been a while since I saw myself, and as I work out, it's there from every angle, how much I haven't done, and how much of me I have. The music can't quite lift me out of the mood, because there's more of me to lift.
I tell myself, it's not important and it feels like I have to say it about everything. "Progress, not perfection,"and "fake it until you make it" don't seem to hold the charm they once did. They feel like dusty cliches rather than the keys to success. I punch harder but only for a little while. The will to will through things, it's out of practice too.
Tuesdays hold a lot on the schedule, three kids with track at two different fields at two different times, one kid with band, two with CCD and I teach. No one showed for my class, which made sense.  They'd received the sacraments, so the class afterwards felt like an afterthought.  In the hour of waiting, with all that time, I brooded. Not the best way to stay distracted by a long shot. After outlining the lesson on the white board, I grabbed a DVD player and watched a film on the Eucharist, a sharp reminder, mine are little problems, and this while painful, was not horrible, just disappointing.  It's embarrassing to recognize, I'm not good at suffering, not even a little.
Driving home, I kept changing the radio, anything to keep my brain humming along, singing anything, but the DJ's on the air didn't help out. We got home and made boiled hot dogs, brocolli, sliced apples, and chili-cheese onion enchilladas. The clock on the wall needs a new battery, so I belatedly discover, it's 8:30 before I can guarantee more than half have eaten, and 9:30 before everyone is finished.
Those who ran needed showers. "The day just won't end." I thought.  I'd wanted to read to my kids, but one forgot to do her homework, such that every time I tried to do something else, she'd call out for help. By the time she settled, the window for reading to them and my patience, had passed. In the back of my head with each failure, either on the scale or in life, I heard the whisper, "See, you couldn't have." I noted how two daughters took themselves off to bed without me getting to say good night.  Not seeing them feels like a failure. Not wanting to see them because I'd like to not do any more, feels like a bigger one.
"Do the extra." I hear in my heart, and that beaten will wants to crawl into bed. "Do the damn extra." (My concience tends to lightly swear at me when it knows it's right and I'm being stubborn for no good reason).

The smile the non-sleeping older one gave me for just coming up to say, "Good night." is a reminder, love is revealed through being wiling to serve and to suffer for the good of another. Each act of parenting we'd rather not do, is a tiny surrender, a tiny cross, and each smile, each "Thanks Mom," and each little moment we witness of a child's growth in maturity, understanding, kindness and courage, is likewise, a mirror of God's joy at our learning to sublimate ourselves.
The words, "My grace is sufficient," is a promise which I have to will to accept, or not. I know, one offers peace beyond all understanding, and the other, nothing I want. My disappointment still remains, but its effects diminish. I'm not quite at "It's all grace, " but it's getting closer.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Over at the Register

It's been a busy week.  Just today we had a track meet, three birthday parties, one hair cut, music lessons and the ordinary stuff of laundry, grocery shopping and recovering from a week of work.   So I'm vegging watching the Great British Bake Off, and linking you to my piece over at the National Catholic Register.  Today, I'm discussing the question, are we being a feast of Divine Mercy for others? 

Friday, April 13, 2018

Small Success Today

1) for all the prayers of my friends and family, for the graces they receive.  Thank you.
2) for getting out to exercise, and becoming a better steward of time, and all the gifts of our lives.  Thank you.
3) for all the gifts of a community, both at work, online and in the everyday, and at the schools and home.  Thank you.  

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Reflections After the Fact

First, read this piece from the Washington Post. I'll wait.

ow many children have we abandoned?  

In reading Aaron Spark’s piece in the Washington Post, “I Would Have Been a School Shooter,” the unanswered question is, how many have we abandoned?  And how do we create a culture which does not abandon those who smell, those who are overweight, those who are poor, those who struggle in school, those who reveal in little and big ways, how they are so very different?  

Zero tolerance of bullying, like a gun-free zone, is a top down way policy means of addressing what is ultimately, a personal response to others.  What saved Aaron was the actions of two families, in place of the broader community and his own personal family, acting out of kindness, above and beyond the call of duty, even when it seemed hard.   The parents of Mike, might have sensed how dark and dangerous a place Aaron lived in, and felt fearful for their son and family, when asked to house him. The girl Amber’s family, likewise made a sacrificial act that required risk.   

We live in a society that tries to establish a risk free life...with guarantees, with waivers, with padded playgrounds and bike helmets.  However relationships, with real messy human beings, always involves risk. Policy without leadership in the arena of either gun control or anti-bullying, is tokenism at best, and won’t stop the next teen who feels cut off from everything and everyone.  What Aaron’s article reveals, is the necessary response from the community to those who don’t fit the mold, who don’t seem to have their acts together, who are difficult, and in many cases, the most visibly difficult to love.

If we want a healthier and safer community, we must create a community which provides the emotional and physical and intellectual support to all.   It isn’t just gun control. It isn’t just mental health. It isn’t just counseling. It isn’t just policies. It isn’t just any one thing. People spout the phrase, “It takes a village.”  We need to recognize, being we are all part of each other’s village, and to the extent we ignore or dismiss or fail to love one, we’ve failed to love all, and when we as a village fail even one, that one could one day, if pushed to the point of feeling, they are nothing to the village, eliminate the village.    If we want justice for all, we must be oceans of mercy. That's the only salve that erodes the desire for revenge, the desire to lash out at the universe, to reveal to the individual, to each individual, that not only does the universe exist because God cares, but there's a whole universe full of people who care, because each of you, is made in God's image, and a beloved son or daughter and our brothers and sisters. Wrote this a while ago, but never found a place it belonged, so it goes here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

My Job is Not What You Think it Is

Last year, my youngest went to school. For the first time in twenty-three years, I beheld an empty house; no toddlers, no babies, no babies being expected. I lasted two days before taking a job at a high school, less time than Jesus spent in the tomb
Swearing, pompous pontificating, sloth, whatever they dish out, it's not personal, they'd do that to anyone sitting behind the desk even if the person offered daily meals, unlimited cell phone usage and free taxi service. It's cold comfort to know while my own teens who receive regular food, access to wi-fi and transporation as needed don't curse, I may have set the bar too low.
However it's easy to deal with these other teens, I haven't gained weight or gray hairs for these people. They don't require four o'clock AM vomit vigils, and unlike my own offspring, these folks don't cost me money. So it's much easier to be sympathetic, prepared, educated and understanding, authoritative but nurturing for them than for those who consider all of that gratis. It also helps that I'm only four hours a day, and rotate through several classes, and that I don't pick up after them. It leaves all the energy for the eye rolls.
Still, what I find works best at home, works best at school too. Not allowing any of that stuff to be shown to bother, and giving more attention, not less to whatever it is that matters. At home, when I say, "Clean your room." I get arguments like, "What difference will it make? The room will just get dirty again and no one will see it but me." to which saying, "Because I said so," will result in nothing happening.
At school I say, "Get on with the assignment." and hear, "What difference will it make? I'm already behind on all the work and my grade won't go up." I said, "It will make a difference to you, and it will make a difference in you." and remembered why I am a mom, and why I teach, because she cleaned the room and he did the assignment. I've been told, the job of teaching is to inform, not convince. My thought is the opposite. My role is to cajole, encourage, beg, and remind, whether Mom or teacher, about one thing: What you do affects who you are. Who you are is revealed to the world, by what you do. It's always a miracle when it happens, except I have to pretend in both circumstances, I'm not surprised.  I also do come away from those situations always thinking, "I can't believe that worked!"  
Next year, I hope to return to the classroom full time. I worry about the subdivision of my life even more. The idea of having to plan all my schedule fills me with dread and makes me wonder if I could lay claim to that third day at the very least.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

What is Our Response

We all shout, "Crucify him!" in the story of the passion because we all know, that's why Christ submitted himself to the crucifixion, because we needed Him (each of us) to save us from our own sinfulness, both past and on-going. 

Pope Francis in his Easter address, talked about how God is always full of surprises for us, because we can never imagine how wonderful our God is.  He even asked the question, "What about you?”
“What about me? Is my heart open to God’s surprises?” as a challenge to the faithful.  What is our response to the Resurrection?  If we believe it is reality, in our bones, everything changes, because death is not the final answer, and all we do is reflective of whether we believe this or not.   If we do not believe Christ died and was resurrected,  all that we do, good, bad or otherwise, is a waste of time, all of it.  We only do because we wish or do not wish, and to make life as we would have it, as much as we can.  If that sounds existential to you, it is.  (We were discussing Camus and Becket yesterday as one of my teens is reading such things). 
There's a common conceit, who we are is revealed by what we do when no one is watching.  The reality is, who we are is revealed by what we do when there's no visible, tangible or emotional benefit to us.  Our character is made manifest in what we do in the face of suffering. 

We watched, we cheered, we jeered, we invented new cruelties, we yelled, "Crucify him."  The saints wept, wiped his face, walked with Him, acknowledged Him, and offered him if nothing else, their presence.   We all say, "Crucify him," to remind us, that's our sinful response to God's love. 

However, this young man, Juan Pablo showed us, how we could have responded.  My own reaction was to find my own response to Jesus, meager by comparison, to see him as far more Blessed because he saw Jesus and responded accordingly, like the saints did.  He couldn't stop the crucifixion, but he could walk with Jesus and pat his back and be his friend. 

Blessed are the meek, they shall inherit the Earth.  

Saturday, April 7, 2018

New Piece (Again) at the Register

I admit, I need to get back to work if I want to top this week of three pieces published...especially when I have nothing in the pike waiting.   However, this one was a get up and write type of nag. 

So I hope you like my latest over at the National Catholic Register, discussing how the Mass is always good even if we don't know it, the mass is always "More than our feelings." My apologies if I've started a Boston concert in your brain with those words.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Public Service Announcement: Screen Free Fifty Solutions to Spring Break Boredom!

They all start with...turn off the machines.  (I know, counter-intuitive and ironic given that this is written on a computer, posted on a blog and only accessible via the internet, but hang in there, it's worth it). 

50.  Go outside...stay there even if it's not perfectly comfortable, and just take in what is there.
49.  Draw until you forget about anything but finishing the piece of whatever it is you're drawing.
48.  Read a real book. 
47.  Go for a walk/run (outside, not at the gym). Do not take music or your phone. 
46. Dig up the garden.
45. Take a bath. 
44. Write a letter.
43.  Plan a party.
42.  Make a soup.
41.  Put on a baseball game on the radio. 
40. Play a board game.
39. Play a card game.
38. Paint a room.  (really).
37. Clear out your closet of 20 things to donate.  Donate. 
36. Build a castle out of cards or legos or blocks. Use them all. 
35. Play with clay/playdough. 
34. Practice a musical instrument (put the timer on), for 30 minutes.  Repeat.
33. Pull out your yearbooks and show them to your kids. 
32. Create  a scrapbook with your kids.
31.  Bake a cake. Decorate it. 
30.  Do an inventory of each room for your What do we need to fix list.  Fix one thing. 
29.  Read aloud to your kids.
28.  Paint your nails.
27.  Go for a hike.
26.  Put on a puppet show.
25.  Pray the rosary.
24.  Make a list with your kids of favorite movies, plan Movie night for the next month of Fridays.
23.  Practice cartwheels and rollerskating.
22.  BBQ something that takes time. (Ribs, chicken, brisket).  (I'll be right over). 
21.  Plan a trip for the summer. 
20.  Trace out your family tree.
19.  Speed round clean up.  (30 minutes. Everyone move as fast as possible cleaning everything). 
18.  Go out for ice cream.
17.  Take a nap.
16.  Spa day--facial, foot rubs...
15.  Draw cartoon flip books. 
14.  Come up with a business idea for summer.  Make home made business cards.
13.  Readers Theatre --put on a show. 
12.  Organize a game of whiffle ball or frisbee.
11.  Round up neighbors and get a big game going of hide and seek or freeze tag or capture the flag.
10.  Create an impromptu picnic outside. 
9.  Go to the park and play.
8.  Get out one of those art/craft kits and do it. 
7.  Plant a garden.
6.  Saw off dead branches. 
5.  Fly a kite.
4.  Fix all the bikes/bike ride.
3.  Shoot pool.
2.  Clean your room (Gasp). 
1.  Put on the radio and dance. 

Please note: No where on this very extensive but not exhaustive list, does it say, "Go to Mom and say, "I'm BORRRREEED." with the expecation, Mom will entertain/spend you into happiness.  Not happening.   You have the day off.  Enjoy. If you can't enjoy, not to worry.  School starts back up on Monday...I'm sure there's some homework you need to finish. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

It's the Beginning of Easter Season...

And we're celebrating all the way to Pentecost!  So here's my latest over at the Register, Reflections on the Resurrection, and I'm hoping, you are still enjoying the Easter feast. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Over at the Register today

Hello and welcome to April.  I have a piece over at the National Catholic Register for anyone who felt like somehow, they missed something of what they were supposed to feel or do during Holy Week.   I've found in discussions with family and friends, the experience was almost universal, maybe we need to just relax and allow ourselves to be steeped in Holy Week, rather than thinking we have to somehow ascend into it.  Anyway, enjoy and please share with friends via facebook, twitter, etc:  When a rough Holy Week is the lesson.

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!