The Gift of Too Many Homes and Good Health

The Gift of Too Many Homes and Good Health

While personal difficulties can be genuine, regardless of their large-scale importance, sometimes it is helpful to put them in perspective. The Lord cares about what I care about and so I try to be careful to not dismiss hurt feelings, stress, or joy simply because it isn’t life altering. Yet when I do feel overwhelmed or a bit shaken, it can help to focus on the aspects for which I can be grateful.

There are two recent examples that come to mind. The first is my living situation. Currently, I am in the process of moving into a new house, but I am not quite moved in yet. Over the past couple weeks, I have stayed mostly at my parents’ house in the country and sometimes with friends who live in town. It isn’t that difficult of a life, but the slight upheaval of transitional homes adds a bit of extra stress to the day-to-day life.

Yet when I was sharing this stress with a few different people over the last couple of days, I was struck by the fact that I am not homeless. In fact, it is the opposite. I have an abundance of homes–there is the home I am working to move into, my parents’ home where I have my own bedroom when I stay there, and friends who generously offer a room to me when needed. The added stress I feel is real, but the things I can be grateful for far surpass the inconvenience.

Continue reading “The Gift of Too Many Homes and Good Health”
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Heart of Jesus, Sanctify my Heart

Can you imagine how large the heart of Jesus must be?  How patient, how loving, how gracious, how kind, how relentlessly unfathomable His mercy?

I wish I had a heart like that.  A heart that could encompass the entire world.  A heart that was large enough to love all I encounter, sincerely, truly, seeking the best in them regardless of how they respond to me.

My heart, tiny, puny, cold thing that it is, is impossibly small.  It is not enough to envelope my students.  It is not enough to embrace my family.  It isn’t even enough to surround myself.

They frustrate me.  I can be lead to feel defeated, disheartened, angry, annoyed, sarcastic, listless, bored, and on the verge of tears.  My life is not based on teenagers, but I don’t think they quite realize how much of my life centers on them.  For hours I am with them.  My offerings are typically rejected because students (surprise!) don’t like homework and seem particularly prone to dislike even more “religion” homework.  Because it is supposed to be easy.  And Jesus is always the answer.

Part of me wants to lecture them for an entire class period–about how I don’t like grading their papers but I do it because it is asked of me.  I don’t like their attitudes but I try to be forgiving without being a push-over.  And I try to remain calm when they so flippantly assume that teachers desire them to fail and want to push them to the limits of sanity.

Why would I want that?  I’m on the limits of sanity myself, how would an entire class of teenagers bordering on madness help me?  One day last year, when the comments were more than I could bear, I asked them to think logically about what they assumed.  Unless a teacher really derives pleasure from their pain, what benefit would we gain by making our students hate school?  We are the ones that have to be with them all day, anyway.  Why would we want to make them miserable and then try to teach them?  The answer that they didn’t give me?  The students feel better when they assume it is simply out of spite that we give them homework.  That we challenge them, not because we desire their growth, but because we desire their tears.  It’s an obnoxious assumption that I am certain I entertained as a high schooler.  Now, on the other side of the desk, I see the ridiculousness of it all.

And this, readers, is why I need His heart.  Mine is clearly too small.  It gets annoyed at many things and subconsciously chooses favorites.  It makes hasty judgments, harbors unforgiveness, settles for mediocrity, and all sorts of other vices.

They deserve so much more.  They deserve a wide-open heart, one that has room for and welcomes all.  They need a heart that is tender yet firm, tangible yet limitless, patient yet demanding, relational yet depths beyond imagining.  They need Jesus.  So until they understand where He is and that He is, I must be a witness of that heart of His.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, sanctify us.


“He has loved us all with a human heart. For this reason, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, pierced by our sins and for our salvation, “is quite rightly considered the chief sign and symbol of that. . . love with which the divine Redeemer continually loves the eternal Father and all human beings” without exception.”  –CCC 478

Surrogacy and Women: A Rant

“Wouldn’t spending the money and going through the extra effort prove they loved the child more?”

“Isn’t is just nice to do for someone?”

In a move that was perhaps questionable from the outset, I decided to open the floor to questions for the entirety of a class period.  After a couple weeks of my classes being off-sync, I wanted to finally draw them together and the rampant questions of one class had provided the perfect opening.  However, that class asked questions that flowed naturally from one to the next and with only thirteen in the class, there was a feeling of closeness and simplicity.  Trying to re-create that atmosphere for a class of twenty-nine was a different story.  I offered to them the chance to simply ask questions that they had about the Church or the faith.  The first class had found questions that flowed from Our Lady to salvation to exorcisms.  The next class found a different route and were spurred on by different questions.  They followed the line of exorcisms with a leap to evolution and surrogacy.  The result was a class that ended with a bit more intensity and moral depth.  Time ran out and they left unsatisfied with some of my answers.

I have never really discussed surrogacy with a class before but I had recently talked about such things with a friend of mine.  One girl originally asked the question and she seemed alright with my answer.  Others were not.

“Wouldn’t spending the money and going through the extra effort prove they loved the child more?”

I tried to explain that spending money doesn’t mean more love.  (Only later did I think of prostitution as a fitting example.)  Can the couple love this child?  Of course.  I’m not denying that a couple can love a child they “paid” for, but I don’t think it means they love him/her more.  A great example came to mind (thanks, Holy Spirit) that the true statement of love would not be that I can afford to create a life in a laboratory but rather that I can let go of my desire to have a biological child and rather adopt.  (They argued that adoption was spending money, too.  A different matter, I believe.)  The love is found not in the willingness to spend a large sum of money so that their desires can be fulfilled but rather that they can accept the disappointment and then love a child that isn’t theirs biologically but is accepted totally into their loving family.  That seems to indicate a great love.  
“Isn’t it just nice to do for someone?”
The heartache of infertility is not one that I have experienced nor one that I hope to experience.  However, lending my womb to a friend doesn’t seem to fall under that category of “nice.”  This world tends to approach situations with an “how can I get what I want?” attitude.  The desire isn’t simply, “I want a child.”  That would be easily remedied.  The desire is, “I want a child that is biologically mine even if I cannot carry that life in my womb.”  Perhaps, even, the “want” is changed to “deserve” or “have a right” to a child.  
It isn’t “nice” to let yourself be a host for a child.  You can love that child, you can love that couple, but you are not permitted to let your womb be used in a paid/unpaid transaction.  The worth of woman is more than just a womb.  I don’t quite understand what people mean when they say the Church suppresses women or has a negative view of women.  They have never read Chesterton.  Chesterton will throw men under the bus and elevate the dignity of women in one fell swoop.  They also have never looked very closely at theology.  The Church says no only so that she may say a greater Yes. 
Woman, you may not engage in sex outside of marriage because you deserve the lasting love and devotion of a man who will offer his very life for you, not just a few moments right now.  

Woman, you may not have an abortion because that little baby in your womb needs you and you will only inflict a great wound on yourself.  You deserve better.  

Woman, you may not use contraception because you are a precious gift in your entirety and when you offer yourself to your husband, you must offer your whole self holding nothing back, masking nothing of your beauty.  Your ability to create life is not something to be disabled but something to be exalted.

Woman, you may not be a surrogate mother because you are far more than a host for the baby of your friends or strangers.  You are not an object to be used but rather you are a person to be loved.  It is beautiful for the gift of life to grow within your womb but it should be planted there by God and your husband, not by the doctor in the laboratory.  You are more than what they would lead you to believe.
How any of this becomes heard as “Women are stepped on by the Church” is beyond me.
This “niceness” is not something that should be encouraged because it is the same “niceness” that will cause me to put you out of your misery if I think your quality of life is not good enough.  “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions” is a cliche because there is truth to it.  It is not enough to just intend to do good things, you must actually do them.  And this good must go beyond my personal understanding of good.  (Cue Hitler and his quest for what he deemed good.)
I was surprised with the direction the class took the Q&A session and how we wandered into the realm of sexual morality.  Again I am convinced that the way to win the next generation is to have holy couples that teach their children the faith in their home and live it out daily.  My rant is finished but I cannot help but wonder what the future holds for this world.  The youth are such an important part of the future and their hearts can be in a world-imposed ignorance.
Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.

Making Excuses with Moses

Moses and I might as well be twins.  Yes, I am aware of the historical, ethnic, and cultural difficulties associated with that type of relation, but it is very true.  Moses and I both balk at what the Lord asks of us and then we make excuses.  Not just one excuse that can be neatly answered, but multiple.  And if we run out of excuses, we start re-using the old ones, just in case they appear any stronger after a period of neglect.  I don’t even need to alter much to make the excuses of Moses my own.

Granted Moses faced a bit more of a challenging task then I do.  He was saved from infanticide, raised in Pharaoh’s house, sent into exile after killing an Egyptian, and called by God from a burning bush to march his people (that he never really lived with) out of slavery and into a Promised Land.  No big deal, right?  I, on the other hand, am simply told to be the best teacher I can be, proclaim the truth without fear of the consequences, and become of a disciple for the Lord.  When placed in that light, Moses had very good reason to throw up excuses while my position has a much weaker foundation for it.

Q: “Who am I that I should…?” (Ex. 3:11)
A: “But I will be with you…”
Q: “If…they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”
A: “I AM who I AM.”

Excuse: “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice…” (Ex. 4: 1)
Reply: “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you you shall go, and whatever I command you you shall speak.  Be not afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.” (Jer. 1: 7-8)
Excuse: “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent…”
Reply: “Who has made man’s mouth?  Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind?  Is it not I, the Lord?  Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”

Final plea: “Oh, my Lord, send, I pray, some other person.” (Ex 4: 13)

This final plea is sometimes what I find myself reduced to.  Just send anyone but me, Lord.  I think of others who are clearly more qualified for the job than me.  I wonder how the Lord could make such a large mistake, could have overlooked their finer qualities and overlooked my giant deficiencies.  This feeling of “Please, Lord, someone else!” isn’t just with large missions, but is with lesser things.  When there is gossip taking place and I feel uncomfortable, but I don’t want to be the one to squelch it.  If I see something that is wrong but wish I hadn’t seen it so that I could simply be naïve. 

When I was offered the teaching job I felt incredibly inadequate.  I had just finished convincing people quite a bit older than me that I was the person they wanted for the job.  Then I was offered the job and I had a more difficult time convincing myself that I was the person for the job.  In fact, I began to compile a mental list of people that would be better at teaching than I would be.  I thought of intelligent priests I knew, passionate young adults filled with both knowledge and fire, and young religious sisters who would be able to articulate the faith in an eloquent manner.  Then I thought of my own abilities and talents.  The list seemed to be woefully short.  I hadn’t lied to the interviewers…I had simply spoken with more confidence than I actually had.  Who would hire someone who said, “I am pretty sure that I can do this job, I think.  _________ and ___________ would be perfect for this job but they aren’t available.  At the very least, I think I could be a decent babysitter for high schoolers.  Hire me.  Please.”  That probably wouldn’t be sufficient.

Instead of relying on my own incredible speaking abilities (which I don’t have) or my limitless intellect (again, fictional), I was forced to rely on the Lord.  Of course, I failed in that but I was forced to try more than if I was gifted with all that was required of me.  I knew that I could not do the task properly on my own.  However, I did know that the Lord could use me to do His will. 

How did I know this?

Past experience, yes.  Bible stories, yes.  Witness of the saints, yes. 

Abraham.
Moses.
David.
Our Lady.
Padre Pio.
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.
St. Faustina.

It is not my job to tell the Lord that He has chosen the wrong person or that I am under-qualified.  He already knows my gifts and He knows my weaknesses.  I am convinced that often the Lord chooses people with major weaknesses so that it may be evident to the world that He is doing the work and it is not his/her own skill.

The requirement is a wholehearted yes.  Or at least an openness to being used for God’s will.  It is saying, “Please, Lord, choose somebody more qualified” and then going to talk to Pharaoh anyway when the Lord tells you to.  You are required to be uncertain of the future yet entirely certain of He who already knows the future.  It is surrendering your weaknesses to the bridegroom on the altar of sacrifice and welcoming into yourself the bread of the angels, the strength from heaven, the necessary graces.  It is allowing His to overflow in you and into those in your life.  It is hands wide open, entrusting everything to Our Lord even when we don’t know what that everything even is.

Moses and I both question the Lord and ask Him to choose someone else to do the hard work.  Yet God is unrelenting. 

He crafts our souls, breathes life into us, nourishes us, and then poses a question to us that is hard to refuse. 

“Trish, I created you to reveal an aspect of Myself that nobody else can reveal.  I have a plan for you, I have graces for you, I have a mission for you.  Will you reveal Me to the world and be a part of salvation history?”

Whoa. 

How can I refuse?

Witnessing to Lived Faith

They were nearly in the palm of my hands.  Not all of them (that would be a miracle) but many of them.  For what seemed like the first time in the entire semester, this class seemed interested in what I had to say.  Gone were the faces etched with boredom.  They were replaced with genuine eye contact and interest.  I hadn’t intended to launch into the discussion for an earlier class, but I had and it had gone well.  Now I was facing a more difficult to please class and the transition I used before wasn’t clear.  I considered not even broaching the subject with them, but just continuing on with the class and ending early.

When I finally began to speak on it, it went better than expected.  I remember thinking at one time, “Lord, this is going great.  They are listening and the story is flowing well.”  This was the best they had listened all year.  I was thrilled.

It struck me later as very interesting that what they listened to the best was what was most personal to me.  I’ve been talking to them about faith and reason for the past few days.  This particular class day I had reviewed the introduction to Lumen Fidei and we had explored what faith is and what faith isn’t according to the encyclical.  I love theology.  But to them it is just another book, at times, that must be read and regurgitated.

I began to tell them that having faith doesn’t mean that it will all be easy.  Yet regardless of the trials, faith is worth it and God desires to be in relationship with us.  Then I told them more in depth about my older sisters who are religious sisters.  I didn’t try to white wash any difficulties or try to evoke pity in them.  Rather, I told them about how it was difficult for me to watch my sisters choose to leave me because they were following God.  My intention wasn’t to highlight any strictness of the orders.  I wanted them to see that I understand sacrifice, being angry with God, and feeling like what is being asked of me is just too much.

This second class seemed to grasp it most fully.  A couple seemed near to tears but just about everyone was alert and listening.  I think it helped them realize my humanity.  Do I love the Lord?  Yes!  But even with this love and this desire to love, I still find myself balking at the sacrifices that are to be made.  While I often paint this as a past sacrifice, it is still an ongoing sacrifice.  I do not always think of the sacrifices but there are moments when the emotions are sharpened, the scab reopened, and the ache felt again.

Perhaps today they forgot everything that I said yesterday.  What I hope remains somewhere within them is the knowledge that life will be filled with sacrifices.  Will I choose to make them with Christ or without Him?  A life of Christian sacrifice is not easy.  Yet I do not think a life running from Him would be easy, either.  Life will arrive and demand things and people of us that we are not prepared to surrender.  Faith is knowing that Someone else cries with you and that Someone desires you infinitely more than you desired your lost love.

That is what makes life bearable.

Another Weary Day in the Battlefield…

It has been a rough day and a long week.  One of those weeks where I look at how many months it is until summer break and I realize that I have only just begun.  My thoughts should still be turned to those of excitement and eager anticipation of the events yet to come.  Maybe I feel so worn down because I’ve been lacking in prayer.  Perhaps I’m simply tired.

At times I feel this weariness deep down in my bones that shouldn’t be found within the person of only 23 years.  I long for Heaven.  At times, I seem to ache for it.  I’m weary of life.  Already this year I’ve had my fill of teenagers and they are the source of my job.  I’m tired of rolling eyes, softly muttered comments, overly talkative classes, looks of pure boredom, and the list continues.

Last week I asked my students if they would rather work a job where they make lots of money but hate it or a job where they make more than enough to survive but have to forgo fancy extras but love their job.  In one class the majority chose to work a job they hate so that they could have all the things they want, take nice vacations, and retire early.  I always figured I would rather work a job I love but this week confirmed it.  Sitting at the dinner table, exhausted and wanting nothing more than to sleep for a week, I thought of what a horrible existence it would be to spend 8 hours at a job I hate, spend the rest of the day tired and dreaming of sleep, only to wake up and do it all over again.  Not for nine months but for the entire year.  Where is life in that?  Where is the time to actually live and be with people?

I do not hate my job.  On some days, I love it.  On days like today, I go to the chapel, beg the Lord for help, and return to the street/battlefield/classroom.  And this idea begins to grow in the back of my mind–what if the Lord desires something else from me?  Maybe He doesn’t want me to teach next year but rather to……  And I draw a blank because there isn’t exactly an application for “wife and mother”.  [And I would cringe at the thought of answering that kind of help wanted ad. “Help wanted: woman to marry and rear children.  Will be paid in a decent house, being woken up in the middle of the night to feed/change/rock child(ren), and beautiful drooling smiles.  Mail application and sample of chocolate chip cookies to…..”]

Lord, I pray, I’m lonely.  I want a “kindred spirit” or a “bosom friend” with whom I may pass through this world.  What a feeling it is to be surrounded by people all day long and yet desire to be alone, but not truly alone, just away from the maddening crowd.  Sometimes I blame God because I feel that He should have made me more adaptable to this world.  My heart shouldn’t get hurt so easily by a few rude looks or a handful of subtle attacks.  I shouldn’t long for solitude so much if I was to have a profession that deals with so many people.  I know God didn’t make me for this world but it seems I could have been made with slightly more skills suited to life on Earth.

Convents sound like beautiful places at this point.  Not because I believe they are easy but because in many ways my heart feels very much aligned with it.  I like to be quiet and by myself.  I enjoy work and prayer.  I would love a community of sisters.  My two older sisters in religious life have made me quite aware that there is more to monastic life than that.  Nevertheless, I desire it.  Yet not the vocation itself.  I desire marriage.  I am a contemplative thrown into the world who seems to not find time to pray.  I am a fish thrown out of the water and I refuse to admit that the water is my source of life.

I’m unsure if any of this makes sense.  All I know is that today I nearly cried during a class and I’ve thought several times over the past couple days, “What if I didn’t come back next year?”  My spiritual director has been helping me find areas of hurt and bring healing to them.  We are trying to make my heart whole again.  Today I began to believe that teaching was simply destroying the whole process.

Maybe I love far too many ideals and not enough realities.  I love my students–as they should be.  Yet when faced with a teenage girl who is subtly mocking me in front of the class, I have to keep myself from crying tears of rage.  I love teaching–on the days when things goes perfectly and my students radiate with kindness and sincerity.

Heaven help me.  So if you are reading this, stop right now and say a prayer for me and my students.  We can definitely use it.  For all of those out there facing far more difficult battles in the streets, know that my little sufferings and prayers are with you.  And let’s all get to Heaven so this can all just look like one inconvenient night in a hotel (thanks St. Teresa of Avila).

Deo Gratias

“We don’t actually think you’re crazy.” 

I smiled at that as the student walked out the door.  While I wasn’t extremely worried that they thought I was, there was a moment today when I wondered if I had pushed them over the edge. 

We were finishing up a PowerPoint from yesterday about Purgatory and someone asked a question that related to saints, although I’m not quite certain what it was at the time.  The saint they used as an example was St. Anthony.  Oftentimes I don’t share personal stories with them for a few reasons but today one instantly came to mind.

“I got in a fight with St. Anthony once.”

They looked up at me, puzzlement chiseled into their features.

“When I was younger my mom always told us to pray to St. Anthony if I lost something.  So I would pray that he would help me find my overdue library book.  And he would.  One month later after I already bought the book.  So I finally got mad at him and told him I wasn’t going to pray to him anymore.  And so we didn’t talk for a while.”

“Wait…you and your mom?  Or you and St. Anthony?”

“St. Anthony.”

I looked at their faces.  They wore a bemused expression but they were all paying attention and seemed interested.

“You guys think I’m crazy.”  The entire class laughed.  I knew that telling them about a close relationship with a saint (i.e. a physically dead person) probably didn’t strike them as the most normal thing.  But the positive thing is that theology teachers can get away with crazy things and the students just chalk it up to their faith.

“Anyway, I started talking to him again and now he helps me find things all of the time.  St. Anthony is great!”

The PowerPoint presentation continued and I put the incident out of my mind.  While they are one of my favorite classes they also are often the least productive.  The interesting story of St. Anthony was replaced with a frustration that they weren’t working on their assignment but seemed to be talking about everything but theological matters.  Yet when that student told me that they didn’t really think I was crazy, the frustration melted away and I had an “I’m glad I’m a teacher” gushing of emotions.  Of course, it isn’t the easiest thing to do and sometimes I want to give up, but it does have moments of joy and gratitude.

Some of my sophomores even claim that they wish they were me.  I was rather shocked by that statement but then I realized it was induced by my close proximity to their conversation and their combined frustrations over school, tests, and homework.  “I wish I was you, Miss ——”  Instantly my weekly life flashed before my eyes and I was firmly convinced that if they knew my life, they would be immediately grateful for their own.  Late nights grading papers, frantic test-writing, suppers with the parents, euphoria over Friday nights that end in an early bedtime…yes, they would sprint back to their current lives if they knew much more.  Their claim that I didn’t have any homework to do was the added cherry to the top.  Despite my vehement internal opposition to their claims, I had to laugh at the naivete of my lovely sophomores.

I like my life.  It may appear boring or mundane to others.  But it has a fair amount of joy and blessings mixed in with the suffering and trials.  Too often we are in a state of discontent.  I want to just thank the Lord right now for this moment of contentment.  For the sunshine outside, the weekend languidly spread before me, the empty classroom that was just occupied by so many beautiful, wandering, searching young souls, the jeans of a dress down day, the love of friends and family, the imminent Sacrifice of the Mass, and the knowledge that someday all of this will end and what will replace it will be infinitely better. 

Deo gratias. 

I’m Worn…

I’m Tired I’m worn
My heart is heavy
From the work it takes
To keep on breathing
I’ve made mistakes
I’ve let my hope fail
My soul feels crushed
By the weight of this world

And I know that you can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left….

My prayers are wearing thin
Yeah, I’m worn
Even before the day begins
Yeah, I’m worn
I’ve lost my will to fight
I’m worn
So, heaven come and flood my eyes

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause all that’s dead inside will be reborn
–“Worn” -Tenth Avenue North

That was how my week ended.  It found me filled with a great sense of tiredness and my inability to be perfect and teach as well as I desire.  I want perfection or at least success.  It is hard to remind myself that God is desiring my faithfulness far more than my success.  My competitive nature wants to win and even though I don’t quite know who I am in competition with, I can feel that I am not winning.  Perhaps part of my mopey feelings stemmed from remembering that I was a natural at school as a student but am not quite a natural as a teacher.  For some reason I assumed that those two went hand-in-hand.  But, alas, they do not.

I received some criticism, some fair and some unwarranted, from a student as the topping to my Friday.  Those words echoed in my mind throughout that evening and into the rest of the weekend.  We are an ungrateful society but it is difficult to find gratitude in the faces of students who don’t even want what you are offering.  So I spent the weekend wondering what God wanted, frustrated with my students and more so myself.  If I was less stubborn and bull-headed I might have considered quitting or finding a different job in the near future.  This sounds dramatic considering the conversation that took place wasn’t earth-shattering.  Primarily what topped the feeling chart was that I was tired of not adequately communicating the love I have for Jesus and the Church and wondering why I was in a position so obviously ill-suited to my temperament.  Yet the weekend continued on and all of this pondering and wondering led to much fruit.  On Sunday I watched “Beyond the Blackboard” and I began to put my situation in perspective.  The movie is about a teacher who faces seemingly insurmountable odds and yet, of course, she manages to come out ahead and be a wonderful inspiration.  I knew the ending would be triumphalistic but it was what I needed to get me back into a “I can make a difference and help people” mindset.

So I decided to pursue a course of change.  For a melancholic, this is a quite a feat in itself.  Monday I started all of my Apologetics classes with my students writing down what they like and dislike about my class.  I encourage charity and criticism with the intention of being constructive.  For the most part, my students were very good.  While my ego was wounded a bit in the reading of them, I found much that encouraged me.  Some students were encouraging since I was a first year teacher and others told me to not take it too personally because religion isn’t well-liked by many people.  It also reconfirmed the realization that no matter what I do, I will never please all of them at the same time.  The weekend gave me time to build things up and feel as though everybody hated me and my class.  Some of the students claimed to have no complaints, others had some reasonable complaints, and others took the opportunity for what it was worth and, hiding behind the anonymity of it, let me have their unadulterated criticism.  I shared with my mother that I was beginning to partially understand how God could be frustrated with us–I have only 115 or so students that I am trying to please while God has 7 billion.  No matter what I due, someone will be displeased.  God does things far better than I and still people are continually unsatisfied with what He is offering.  Too often I am among that number.   

I wonder at times if the Lord has placed me here not because of anything I can teach my students but rather because of something that He desires to do in my own heart.  Perhaps in some way teaching can convert my heart like nothing else could.  Sometimes my stubborn heart is my downfall and at other times it is that which keeps me from giving up and surrendering the battle. 

Lord, I am still in this battle until You take me home.  But I renewed my desire again today that it be Your classroom and not mine.  You are a much better teacher.   

Veni, Sancte Spiritus

There are times when I am teaching and I realize that the different experiences I have had in my life have greatly shaped what and how I teach.  The other day we were talking about the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River and the descent of the Holy Spirit.  This naturally led to thinking about different places in the Bible where the Spirit has descended.  Pentecost was one of the first answers–probably because it is the most used example and because most of my sophomores are going through Confirmation right now.

Whenever I speak about the Holy Spirit I think of one of my friends from college and how they would laugh at me now.  My time in college greatly changed my relationship with the Holy Spirit.  There is still much work to be done but I would never have had the conversation I had with my students if not for different people in my life.  I told one of my classes that what happened at Pentecost still happens today.  That people actually do speak in different languages and that people are still being healed.  My example of people speaking in different languages didn’t seem to impact them but when I told a story of someone I knew who was healed, that was an altogether different story.

“You know her?”
“Yes.”  I went on to tell them that I was pretty good friends with this person.
“Whoa!  Like you really know her?”
“Yes!”

There was more that I wanted to share with them but I didn’t want them to begin to disbelieve.  Even as I was telling them about the power of the Holy Spirit I could feel their disbelief reconfirm my belief.  So often we are willing to chalk up the incredible and miraculous to untrue or mere exaggerations.  It was as I was telling my students that miracles do happen that I began to ponder if I still believed it.  Not that I doubt miracles but I think too often I have the tendency of not giving the chance for the miraculous the credibility it deserves.

I desire to invite the Holy Spirit back into the classroom.  As a Catholic school we have little problem talking about Jesus.  But what if we allowed the Holy Spirit to become more than a little dove that descends upon Old and New Testament figures but rather is living and active in our daily lives?  What if the students could know that the Holy Spirit can radically transform their lives if they are open?  Perhaps for this to happen their teacher needs to reach for an even deeper relationship with the Holy Spirit and allow Him to revolutionize her teaching.

What if we taught in such a way that conversion was the primary goal and that the necessary consequence of that would be learning the material.  I don’t understand how this can happen exactly or what would be necessary for this to take place, but I desire for it to happen.  If I taught English I would still pray for my students, but as a Theology teacher my main prayer is for their conversion and then secondarily for them to learn the material.  The battle is breaking into their world and showing them the importance of their faith now.  That must be a task that only the Holy Spirit can accomplish.

Veni, Sancte Spiritus.

The Quest: To Be a Saint

A new year, some new classes, and nearly 80 new students.  Some interesting things have already transpired, some for which I suppose I asked.  I thought it would be neat if my students took a temperament test and then I could review the results and try to discover some of their characteristics quickly.  So in class I gave them the web address that I wanted them to go to take the test and it just happened to be one for Catholic Match.  I didn’t fully understand what I was setting myself up for until I was preparing to write the address on the board.  When I did, the response was typical–some chuckling, a few muffled remarks, and the overall questioning air that seemed to compel me to confess or deny their silent accusation.  I did neither, for the most part.  Perhaps the next embarrassing thing was telling them that they couldn’t do this assignment at school either, because the school had blocked the address.  At times I forget about the person of the high schooler and fail to remember that many trivial things can be made ridiculous when presented to a group of teenagers.  Another interesting thing occurred when I reviewed the syllabus and mentioned the school policy on cell phones.  In order to make it absolutely clear to them, I added a line that said that failure to comply with the rules would result in harsher penalties.  My seniors primarily glazed over that but my sophomore classes picked up on it and some wanted to know what the penalty was.  I hedged and simply told them that they didn’t really want to find out.

As I was speaking to my seniors today I tried to present the idea of sanctity to them.  I called them to become saints and to not wait for later or to assume that knowing the answers is sufficient.  As I spoke to them I realized how much of this I need to remember.  I cannot simply spend my day talking about Jesus, I must talk to Him.  The more I interact with my students, the more I realize how much further I have to grow in sanctity.  The thought came to me today that God is using this job as a way to draw me closer to Himself, that all of the challenges and problems are His way of perfecting me.  There is a lot of perfecting that needs to take place.  Today I considered my deficiency in love.  I want to love only those who like me.  Praying outside the abortion clinic in college was my initial experience of forcing myself to love in the face of intense adversity.  However, school is different.  It is much more of a marathon.  It isn’t exhilarating or enlightening to love my students in the midst of their utter humanity.  It doesn’t seem heroic, it doesn’t fill me with warm feelings, and I don’t have someone to talk to about how much I feel like I grew in the process.  Instead, it is just hard.  I don’t want to do it and I can feel myself rebel.  Loving to the point of pain.  That is my calling and yet I fail to do it so often.  I was serious when I told them that I would help sanctify them and they will help sanctify me.  Then I realize that if I truly desired to be a saint above all other desires, if my holiness was what I was concerned about more than my physical or mental health, how much more I would do to further that goal.  It is often surprising how lukewarm we can be while mistakenly thinking we are so zealous and hard-core.  How good it is that we have a God who knows the trappings of human nature because He took them on Himself.  But our desire to please Him and live for Him does please Him.  And if we are serious, we will accept the grace He offers to live out His will.

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
                                                                                         –Thomas Merton