School was called off for today before I even went to bed last night. It meant that my sister and I leisurely watched a movie and then talked for a while before curling up to fall asleep. This morning, the snow hadn’t started yet so I went out of the house for a couple of hours, returning as the snow began to lie thick on the roads. Ideally, though, I would have been still tucked away in my bed or perhaps snuggled on the couch with a cup of coffee as I turned through my latest book.
In high school, I was surprised when I heard that on snow days kids went to go hang out at the mall. For me, it was an unthinkable action. Why would I go out into the blustery weather when that was the exact reason I wasn’t at school? I also was gifted with a father who would have unquestionably smacked me with a hearty dose of common sense if I would have even asked to drive to town despite the weather. Being at home was actually what I wanted to do anyway. While I liked school, I didn’t mind a day of sleeping in and being home. The same still holds true as an adult.
I grew up slow.
By that, I mean, as I grew up, we moved slowly.
I look at the schedules my students have or the schedules of kids and it looks so different from my youth. In elementary school, I usually rode the bus home and I was there until the next day when I left for school. My mom made supper and we all ate together. Sometimes the older siblings were running off to practice or games, but we almost always ate supper around our dining room table.
My summers were quiet, too. Sometimes we explored the farm or watched too much TV or read book after book. But it was slow, with plenty of time and space for us to play in the hay loft or read through book lists with forty to fifty titles. It wasn’t perfection, although my memory tends to cast an overly rosy hue on the days of my childhood. However, it had the great beauty of not being rushed.
Recently, I came into possession of Alanna Boudreau’s “Champion” CD. And I’ve been listening to it on repeat pretty much since then. As with all CDs, there are some songs I like more than others and certain lines in songs that move me more than others.
Her song “Controlled Burn” is one of the songs on repeat a bit more than others and I want to highlight a couple of the lines that stand out to me.
“And I ache, I ache, I ache / When I see all the nothing / That could have been something / That should have been you”
This line is perhaps the most perfect summary of these months of summer and maybe even the past year. From the silent retreat near the beginning of summer to my sister’s home visit to being on the brink of school beginning, I have felt an ache for the nothingness that surrounds me. Sometimes I am a bit fearful about the judgment that will come at the end of my life and how I will need to answer for all of my time. The “nothing” that I did should have been replaced by the Lord, by perfectly following His will in all things. Someday I will regret that wasted time even more than I do now.
I’m not saying that every moment needs to be filled to the brim with productivity. Americans, however, aren’t particularly good at true leisure. We binge watch TV shows, waste time on our phones, and fastidiously document our lives on social media. Obviously, these are all generalizations, but our inability to truly embrace leisure is evident. So when I say I waste time, I don’t mean I neglected to work, work, work. Rather, I was isolated too much, preferring to spend time on my own rather than setting up numerous coffee dates or road trips or nights out with friends. As an introvert, it is an easy hole to fall into and an even easier one to justify. Continue reading “Controlled Burn: A Song of Longing”→
The lesson plan for the day was to discuss the argument from efficient causality. Yet they managed to completely derail that plan. When students ask questions that are about the faith and yet truly interest them, it is nearly impossible for me to continue with class as planned. Interiorly, I am torn between following a schedule or curriculum and the desire to answer questions that organically spring up in their hearts.
Nine times out of ten I go with the questions they present to me. I don’t believe I’ve ever regretted it, I only wish that each class would then magically divert itself in the same way. Genuine curiosity and ponderings aren’t things you can manufacture in other classes.
“So is this argument saying that all things are caused to be by other things? Or it is saying not all things are caused to be by other things?” I asked.
“I have a question that kind of relates but is off topic. If God is caused or even if He isn’t caused, what is the point of life? Like why did God make us? What is our purpose?”
Those questions, dear readers, will definitely sidetrack me. When senior boys are curious about why they were created and the meaning of life, I will dropkick lesson plans to spend time answering some of the biggest questions of life.
This is the class that argued with me about gravity objectively existing. The day before this class, instead of working on an assignment they chose to ask me a thousand inane questions about my car, my hometown, and where my parents live. So hearing one student start a conversation about the purpose of their lives and why God made them, and then hearing several other students jump in with follow-up questions, was a pure delight. The only problem was the lack of time before the bell would ring.
To begin to answer their questions, I went back to the beginning. The Trinity. I spoke of how the Father and Son pour out a love that is so strong that it is another person, the Holy Spirit. Within this communion of love, there is nothing that is lacking. God was perfectly satisfied within this exchange of love. Therefore, we are not needed. God didn’t need us. Continue reading “The Grace of Lesson Plans That Get Overthrown by Questions”→
This is a day that seems filled with disputes, particularly this year, about the Catholicity or Anti-Catholicity of the festivities. I’ve never been a die-hard Halloween person, but growing up, we did the typical trick-or-treating and dressing up in costumes, generally not of a religious nature. Nearly every year I went as something that could be assembled at home. One year I was a clown, another a scarecrow, and another year an old lady. (That last one was last year.) I enjoyed my mom’s creativity and how she pulled together costumes and matched it up with heavy make-up to play the part more authentically.
For a few years in college, though, I spent Halloween on a pro-life retreat in Brooklyn. We stayed in a monastery where Sisters of the Precious Blood lived and didn’t venture outside. In fact, I had to remind myself that it was Halloween when I was there. Immersed in talks about the history of the pro-life movement and the development of the Culture of Death, I wasn’t interested in Halloween or costumes, spooky or humorous.
Then, I graduated college and returned to South Dakota. My hometown had ramped up their celebrations of the day during the years I was away from home. Full-out murder scenes were staged in front yards. Even though they were clearly fake with faces roughly sketched on bedsheet corpses, I found myself oddly sensitive to the horror. It continues to mystify me that awful acts, when experienced in real life, are entertaining and fun when mockingly displayed. Chainsaws, torture devices, and bodies splayed open are “all in good fun” during a few weeks of the year. My heart, though, doesn’t pay attention to the time of the year. It is bothered by these scenes, regardless how fakey they seem or when they are presented. Continue reading “Halloween: A Call to Goodness (Not Another Origins of Halloween Post)”→
As much as our world changes and the values and morals alter concurrently, sometimes it is good to see that embedded deep within us is a natural understanding of how we should respond. Many health situations that create controversy and endless disagreements often start from a good intention that is found within us as human beings. The push for assisted suicide generally comes from seeing someone suffering and acknowledging that things shouldn’t be that way. Our desire to eliminate suffering in others is good, but we don’t always pursue the correct course of action.
What this tends to create in society is the belief that each individual should be able to do what they think is best. As an individualistic society, we are quick to argue that nobody can force their beliefs and opinions on me. I am free to do whatever I want, whenever I want. Sometimes we will add the caveat “as long as I am not hurting anyone,” but often, culturally, we see our freedom as the one objective truth.
Do you remember hearing roughly a month ago about a MLB umpire who saved a woman from jumping off the Roberto Clemente bridge in Pittsburgh? I found the story a beautiful testament of someone caring about a stranger and doing something when others just walked by. What I find particularly interesting about the story is how it was reported. People came together to help a woman who was trying to jump off the bridge and commit suicide. John Tumpane, the man who first started helping the woman, is spoken of as a hero and as someone who saved another person’s life. These weren’t Christian news agencies, but this event was reported very similarly in several mainstream secular articles.
I agree that he was able to help save someone’s life, but I find the cultural inconsistency obvious.
This woman didn’t want to live. She made a plan, she started to carry out that plan, and then she was stopped by someone walking by. Most people will look at this as a positive ending to a story that could have been tragic. We see someone wanting to end it all and we rejoice that someone noticed and she was able to hopefully receive the help she needed.
In a purely individualistic sense, what I see is a woman who was not allowed to make a choice she wanted to make. She wanted to end her life, but other people decided that her life was worth living, worth saving. To us, it is easy to see this as heroism in action.
After finishing a silent retreat, I opened my Bible to where I had some papers sticking out. I had marked this section because of the first three verses of Isaiah 61. They were the Scripture verses my college women’s group considered “our” passage. While they speak beautifully about the Spirit of the Lord and how it works in us, my attention was attracted to the following verse.
“They shall build up the ancient ruins,
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.”
For the first time, I read this verse and realized the great hope attached to it. I look at the world around me and I see a lot of things falling into ruin. This isn’t the result of one generation but of many generations over the years, the buildup of human sin over the course of human history. Yet here in Isaiah, the Lord is promising to re-build that which is ruined. And Isaiah isn’t saying the Lord is going to do this all apart from us, but rather that He will use us to re-build and raise up new things.
I cannot help but think that this new life will come from the way the Spirit of the Lord will move.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn…
When we allow the Spirit of the Lord to work in and through us, He will re-build the broken world in which we live. I see it already happening in small ways. On the silent retreat, I was primarily surrounded by moms, several of them visibly pregnant with another child. It is beautiful to think of how families will be strengthened and renewed simply by their mother’s dedication to her faith. Continue reading “Build Up the Ancient Ruins”→
I am a long way from having a family and kids of my own, but this morning I was led to consider what I would want it to look like. Although I didn’t come up with specifics, I reflected on a few elements that I would like to implement somehow. From my vantage point, I am still able to be filled with high-minded ideals and hopeful expectation of a peaceful family life. In the midst of fighting children, endless laundry, and a whirlwind of activities, I am sure my ideals will be made a bit more practical and a bit less perfected.
While at times difficult to discern, parents have a tremendous impact in shaping their children’s personalities and values. Yesterday, my sister and I took our niece and nephews to a play. Throughout the whole play, my niece would slide over to me and say excitedly, “I can’t wait!” or “I’m so excited!” It never really made sense to me until I re-told the story to her mom later. My sister-in-law said that her daughter was probably saying what she had been saying over the past few days in anticipation of moving to a new home. If this can happen for phrases or actions, then the same would be true for matters of faith.
Parents are the primary educators of their children in the faith. When parents model the faith, the children will seek to do the same thing. It is a monumental task that can seem a bit overwhelming. At their baptism, you promise to instruct them in the faith and lead them to Heaven. So this morning in Mass, I considered: how does one do this? Continue reading “The Evangelized Family”→