Babies Teach Us How to Love Better

Babies Teach Us How to Love Better

I was recently able to spend a few days with my newest goddaughter who is only a few months old. As I spent time with her and her parents, I was reminded of a realization I had a few years ago. Babies are the easiest to shower in all five “love languages.”

The five love languages are words of affirmation, physical touch, acts of service, gifts, and quality time. Simply by nature, normal parents will be quite generous with each of these toward their children, particularly babies.

My friend Maria was continually cooing over her daughter, affirming how good and beautiful she was. It wasn’t something that she had to earn–her parents were quite taken with her as she did everyday things like eat, sleep, and giggle. And, what is more, they told her how pleased they were.

Babies are often fought over, as people will stand in line to take a turn holding the baby. At times, beyond needing a diaper changed or food given, babies will cry simply because they desire to be held close to someone.

Acts of service are a pure necessity with babies because, unlike most other animals, humans are born in a state of vulnerability that lasts quite a long time. They must be carried for several months, feed, bathed, and attended to in many other ways.

While often of a practical nature, babies have gifts showered upon them in the form of clothes, accessories, almost entirely frivolous shoes, and toys.

Finally, by their very being, babies require quality time. In part, because so many things must be done for them, but also because they need to be held, to hear a loving voice, and to be consoled.

Despite the ease of loving babies well, I find it quite difficult for that to transfer to the rest of humanity. With my students and co-workers, it is far harder to shower such generous love in all five ways. But recalling that this overflowing of love is necessary for the little ones made me wonder: what would happen if it was attempted in small ways for the more mature? What might happen if I daily affirmed my students in small ways, just for being them?

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Holy Homesickness

Holy Homesickness

`My grandmother,’ I said in a low tone, `would have said that we were all in exile, and that no earthly house could cure the holy home-sickness that forbids us rest.’

Manalive, G.K. Chesterton

Sometimes, life feels a bit like a long exile. No place, regardless of how grand or beautiful, seems to work as a perfect home.

When I graduated from college (or maybe it was even before that point), I remember realizing that never again would all the people I love be in the same place. Friends scattered across the country in post-graduation searches for jobs. My heart had experienced profound beauty in multiple places around the world. It produced the aching reality that many places could be home and yet no one place or group of people were entirely home.

Walking the Camino a few years ago, I lived physically what I seem to live internally. I was a wandering pilgrim, looking for the end of the road and a consistent place to rest. So much of me aches and longs for Heaven because I desire a resting place, the place where there are no tears or separations or unfulfilled desires. A place of contentment, communion, and constancy–a home that can never pass away or be divided.

Holy homesickness.

In Chesterton’s Manalive, he speaks about a man who leaves his family in order to re-discover the joy of loving them again. He leaves home to discover home. It does seem to be the case that too often the familiar becomes overly ordinary or commonplace. When I was in Switzerland, I wondered who wouldn’t gape with awe at the majestic mountains that formed the backdrop to the hostel I stayed in for a couple days. Probably the Swiss.

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The Mission of the Classroom: A Desire Renewed

The Mission of the Classroom: A Desire Renewed

I entered the evening with no expectations.  Sometimes that is the best place to be with the Lord.

My sister had an extra ticket and so I figured I could go to the event.  There would be adoration and so it couldn’t be a waste of time.  The Lord, in His mercy, blew me away.

The talk was good, but it wasn’t that.  The music was nice, but it wasn’t that.  In all simplicity, it was the Lord.  He knocked, I opened, and He came in.  There were no specific words that He spoke to me, but He filled my heart with a burning desire to be wholly His.

Over the last few years, I have grown more and more comfortable with my role as a teacher.  This year, I have found comfort in reflecting on how my responses have changed since my first year of teaching.  While grateful for the experience I now have, I realized that I was becoming more of a teacher but less of a missionary.  It is good and necessary to think of new projects or ways to present ideas to the students.  Yet I was feeling less and less of this desire to present the glorious truths to them.  Convicted of my mediocrity, I asked the Lord for renewed zeal.

At the beginning of this year, I wrote that I wanted to enter into spiritual battle for my students.  In that, I have failed miserably.  During adoration, as Jesus was processed around the auditorium, I was convicted of that failure and filled with a desire to go to war for them.  I don’t want to just teach them; I want them to encounter the living reality of Christ. Continue reading “The Mission of the Classroom: A Desire Renewed”

A Challenge? Very well, I accept!

“When the Son of Man comes to earth, do you think he will find faith in men’s hearts?”

This line always evokes conflicting emotions within my heart.  I am filled with the realization that faith seems to be dwindling among people–I see it in the media, my family, my students, and my own heart.  Faith seems to be that elusive thing that people desire yet which we also run from.  However, while my heart is grieving about the loss of faith, it also attunes itself to the implicit challenge that is embodied in that statement.  I am competitive.  You probably wouldn’t discover that from people who only casually know me, but from those who are closer to me, they would probably roll their eyes at my ridiculous, insignificant challenges and competitions that I try to evoke.  I just like to win.  The challenge found in this statement seems obvious–I want to prove them wrong.  Faith will be found within the hearts of mankind.  The Second Coming can be millenia away, but there will be a faithful remnant.  This remnant will be purified by persecution and grounded in sacrificial love, but it will remain.  The gauntlet is thrown down and I accept the challenge.  My life should be spent in the quest to ensure that faith will remain within the hearts of men.

Lord, we will believe.  Come what may, we will still believe.  We need your strength and your grace, but we will remain faithful.  We will fall, but we will still believe.  When I think of the alternative, that Christ will come again and there will be no faith on earth, I stop the image and declare internally with a firmer resolve, that it will never happen.

Maranatha…Come, Lord Jesus! 

"We have to go to Mass twice this weekend??!?"

It was third period when I realized that simply telling my students that tomorrow was a holy day of obligation wasn’t about to penetrate their beloved, thick skulls.  That is when I proceeded to write nearly every church in town on the board, personally look up their special Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception Mass times, and then give a spiel about this feast at the beginning of each class.  It caused me to realize something is very wrong with our list of priorities. 

Well, I more mean “their” priorities about this matter, but rest assured, mine are mixed up in simply a different way.  They told me that they couldn’t go to Mass because they had: a basketball game, play, work, anything and everything proved to be a valid excuse.  Some of their situations did sound like they would be difficult to navigate.  However, it struck me as sadly stereotypical of Americans when they began to ask if there was a specific Mass time as if they were picking which time to go to a movie.  Their schedules didn’t have time for Mass and it didn’t seem to be within the realm of possibilities for them to re-evaluate their schedules or perhaps forgo something.  The look of shock on their faces would have been surprising if I told them to skip their basketball game or miss set-up for play. 

“We have commitments.”  You are absolutely right.  You have a commitment to Christ and to follow His laws.  The Church is asking for you to go and receive Jesus, not give half of your wealth away tonight.  “What if we are going out of town?”  I responded with, “There are also churches out of town.”  After a brief reminder of the beauty of the universality of the Catholic Church we were moving onto other questions.  I told them that failure to attend Mass for both the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and Sunday obligation would be a mortal sin.  I was mildly surprised by the look of shock and surprise on their faces.  Mortal sin?  Mortal sin? “Isn’t that the really bad one?  Like if you kill someone?”  In their minds this sin of missing mass is, well, they might not actually think of it as a sin.  It just doesn’t fit conveniently into their schedules and so they shouldn’t be burdened with trying to find a Mass.  These little incidents convinced me that we do not talk enough about sin.  I’m not evn certain they knew that it is a mortal sin to miss Mass any given Sunday. 

And I think to myself: what is the point of sending your children to Catholic schools if you don’t care to encourage that Catholic identity within them?  My students began to ask, in an almost accusatory fashion, why the school didn’t have Mass for them today to satisfy the obligation.  Code for: “Why must we now go out of our way to go to Mass?  Shouldn’t our Catholic school take care of that for us?”  Yes, I am probably leaning more into a rant now, but I think it is partially justified.  My seniors told me that they don’t think they have a spiritual battle going on right now because they go to Catholic school but later it will be a battle.  Yet when I gave them the hypothetical situation of a student who would go to daily Mass, adoration, and ask people to pray with them, they all agreed that the person should lay off the religion and be normal.  Then I told them that they are the ones who form the Catholic identity of the school.  I think I sounded rather brilliant and filled with passion, how I actually appeared to them, I don’t know.  But I did think it was important to remind them that they help determine how Catholic their school is.  

So, perhaps, I can shakily derive some sort of point from this jumble.  The priorities of our nation, of our world are nearly in shambles and are in dire need of alteration.  We no longer even feel a sense of duty to follow the set rules or requirements (if you want to look at them that way) of our religion.  Not that I endorse living under a feeling of guilt, but the “Catholic guilt” seems to be giving way to the pressures of secularism.  People don’t go to Mass on Sundays simply out of a feeling of duty, rather, they cease to go at all and don’t feel bad about it.  Perhaps this is where the crux of the moral problem is–we are simultaneously a society that is perpetually offended and yet one that doesn’t care at all. 

Hope?  Yes, I know I should end on a note of hope because there are a great number of movements within the Church that are reaching out and transforming society.  Despite the lackadaisical attitudes of many in society, there is good news and there is hope.  The Church is undergoing a purification.  The Spirit is moving and lives are being changed.  While I know my circle of friends and acquaintances might not be the measure of the average young adult, I have been encouraged by the number of religious vocations I know are being sought after and the young couples entering into matrimony.  Particularly the numerous couples I have heard who are now welcoming into their families children, even if they have been married for less than a year when the child is born.  Good things are happening.  I must remind my naturally pessimistic mind that.  Greater things are yet to come, greater things are still to be done in this…world.      

being balanced

As I was going to spend some time with friends from high school that I don’t see often, the Lord seemed to place a prayer on my lips of which I didn’t realize the depth until I had spoken it aloud in the car. 

“Lord, help me not to compromise myself simply to fit in.  Yet help me not emphasize my differences so as to stand out.”

Letting one’s light shine is a balancing act in itself.  I don’t want it to be a mere flicker that will die out soon, yet I don’t want it to be a spotlight that seeks to highlight everyone’s faults.  I’m seeking for balance without falling into mediocrity.