Honey, I love you, but being married to you is a burden

Honey, I love you, but being married to you is a burden

“Honey, I love you, really, I do.  But being married to you is a burden.”

My students were asked to imagine that a husband came home and said this to his wife.  Already, there was a bit of disdain in their eyes for the husband.

“Oh, I am?  How am I so burdensome?”
“Well, I love you, but sometimes I want to do things and I can’t because of you.”
“Like what?”
“There are a lot of attractive and smart women I run into at work and I can’t date any of them.  Sometimes I want to just catch a plane and fly to Florida for a week, but I would have to tell you first and you might want to come.  You are interesting and wonderful and I love you, but sometimes marriage is restrictive.”

Each time I told this to my students, it worked.  They did not think highly of the husband and were, rightfully so, annoyed with his list of burdens.

Wow, they gasp, he is the worst.

But aren’t these things true?  I asked my students.  He isn’t allowed to date other women, is he?

No, they reply.

Shouldn’t he talk to his wife about flying off to Florida for a week before he does it?

Yes, they say.

So what is wrong about what he is saying?  Why shouldn’t he say these things when they are true?

After very little discussion, because it seems so obvious, they tell me that he has the wrong perspective.  He isn’t focusing on his relationship with his wife, but simply all the things he cannot do because of his relationship with her.

Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.

Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI

You are correct, I tell them, the husband focuses only on the restrictions of this relationship instead of the love he has for her.

But isn’t this sometimes what we do with God? Continue reading “Honey, I love you, but being married to you is a burden”

That Time I Went To A Club

That Time I Went To A Club

They thought it would be funny to go into the club.  It was a Saturday evening and we were walking downtown.  As I fished around in my wallet for my ID, I could hear the strong beat of music that poured out past the bouncer, who waited with a flashlight and outstretched hand.  This was a place very clearly out of my element.

We entered the club and I started taking it all in.  I wasn’t really dressed for the place, but I wasn’t entirely a misfit.  I tried to keep my facial expressions neutral as we climbed the steps to the second level.

One.  I started a mental count of former students.  Luckily, I never moved beyond one.

On the second floor, I saw the long bar, people pressed up alongside it four deep.  I really wanted to not look like a fish out of water, but I must have failed because my friends were amused by my expressions.

“Just dance,” they told me, as the music blared across the sea of people. Continue reading “That Time I Went To A Club”

More Than Rules

More Than Rules

“Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”  (Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est)

Sometimes I struggle to make relevant connections for my students.  Other times, the perfect words come to mind and I am pleased that, despite myself, I was able to connect it to their lives.

I was reviewing the above quote from Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Deus Caritas Est.  Ethics, I told them, are a part of Christian living but they are not the reason we are Christian.  Intellectual Theology, while beautiful and true, is also not the primary focus of Christianity.  Instead, we are Christian because we have encountered the Living God.  I told them that if Christianity was merely a system of rules, then I could not do what I do.  I would never be able to remain passionate, day in and day out, if I simply presented an intricate system of rules.  It would not bring such joy to my life to belong to an institution situated around rules.

In a similar way, I told them that our relationship with God should in some ways mirror our relationships with friends.

“What are some of the ‘unwritten rules’ of friendship?” I asked them.
“Listen to the other person.”
“Don’t tell their secrets.”
“Be nice to them.” Continue reading “More Than Rules”

To Be Known

To Be Known

After a long hiatus, I was out for a run, breathing in the distinct aroma of campfires in the cool spring evening.  The sun was setting and the sidewalks were essentially empty as I plodded along.  My mind sifted through different thoughts and different prayers.  For a while, it focused on my experience of the gaze of Jesus.

During my recent silent retreat, I was struck by the intensity and the depth of Jesus gazing at me.  I had entered into the story of the woman using her precious ointment for Jesus, but I felt I needed to go into her past more.  What made her go to Jesus and give Him her most precious possession?  To, in the eyes of the world, waste her fortune and her future?  I was drawn back to woman about to be stoned after being found in the act of adultery.  And I became her. Continue reading “To Be Known”

Loving the Bride of Christ

Prior to Lent I went on a silent retreat.  It was beautiful and a source of growth.  Now, I have the random instances when I am by myself in my classroom or at home and I will whisper something and then I will wonder, slightly panicked, if I was supposed to be silent.  Then I remember that I do not have to be silent.  This must not be a widespread problem I am thinking!

On Tuesday some of my students were still talking about the pope resigning.  There was a comment from one of the girls that said her mom told her the pope probably resigned because priests in Ireland molested little boys.  The comment frustrated me because if Catholics are going to proclaim this as the reason for his resignation, then I am scared to see what the media will do with the situation.  I don’t even need to look at the news to see some of the stones they will be hurling at the papacy, the Church, and anything slightly Catholic.  Anyway, I went on to speak for them a while about how I hoped that someday they would love the Church.  I wanted to say it but at first I just started with, “Someday…”  Then I stopped and turned to my computer, trying to not rant just to rant.  But a couple of the students said, “Someday what?”  I took this as my permission to lecture them a little.  I told them that I hoped someday they would love the Church so much that when someone else criticized her or hurt her, that they would feel the pain, too.  I included that the Church is imperfect in her members but that she is still the Church that Jesus Christ founded.  They didn’t have much to say after that but I wanted to include that I hoped they would feel the pain that I did when they spoke about her like the rest of society does and when they reveal no love in their hearts for the very bride of Christ.

This lack of love for the bride of Christ is something that extends far beyond the youth.  Yesterday I had parent teacher conferences and I had a 10-15 minute conversation with one mother and her daughter.  Essentially the mother was telling me that the school, diocese, and Church speaks way too much about abortion and that they need to move on to other social justice issues.  Like economics and the poor.  I tried to explain to her that if we begin with conception and teach people to understand and respect life in the beginning that the rest will follow but she wasn’t buying that explanation.  There was an interesting moment when she said, “Abortion is killing the Church.”  She went on to explain that people are constantly leaving the Church due to the issue of abortion.  But I agreed with her and said, “Yes, abortion is killing the Church.”  She picked up on my meaning and told me that we meant two different things and I agreed with her.  When I realized I had other parents waiting for me, I knew I had to wrap this conversation up since neither of us was going to convince the other.  I told her if she had ideas of what else to teach she could definitely e-mail me and I would look at them.  I didn’t promise I would teach them but I told her I would be talking about abortion because it would be an injustice not to.  It was easy to not take her criticism too personally because she was being critical of the theology department, the parishes in Sioux Falls, and the entire Catholic Church.  Telling her frustrations to a first year teacher wasn’t going to accomplish anything, especially when I don’t agree with her completely and most of the people in charge would be on my side.

I have realized over the past few months teaching that I have a deep love for the Church.  While it wasn’t as though I thought I didn’t before, a few instances have come up when I realize my love.  When my students are being extremely critical of her and pointing out all of her flaws, it hurts me.  I try to explain it all in ways they will understand but to a certain degree, they will never understand until they experience this same love that I have.  Pope Benedict’s resignation came as a surprise but I came away with gratitude for his humility and his love for the Church.  He never wanted to be in the spotlight but he did so for the good of the Church.  Now he is resigning for the good of the Church.  Not because of scandal or mistakes but because he loves his bride so much that he wants nothing bad to happen to her, he wants someone to adequately defend her.  He is being like Jesus on the cross, surrendering his mother to the hands of the young disciple.  What a gift his papacy has been for the Church.  The media will never admit this but I don’t expect them to.  I do, however, expect Catholics everywhere to stand up and the proclaim this truth and to not simply become one of the crowd, believing everything that the secular media writes or says.

Pray for Pope Benedict XVI!  Pray for the new pope!  Pray for our Church!  Pray for the youth!  Church Militant–let’s get fighting, marching, proclaiming, and defending!  Viva Cristo Rey!