Sunday, April 29, 2012

Second Graders Receive Jesus for First Time

     On Saturday, April 28, 2012, the St. Pius V Catholic School second graders (and several students from other grades) received Jesus for the first time, surrounded by their families and friends. Special congratulations to all who received, and to their families!
      Watching the students approach the altar to receive Jesus, their parents' hands on their shoulders guiding and supporting them, I was filled with a great sense of joy. As an adult, the Eucharist strengthens and sustains me, and so I'm very happy to see these students take another step towards this kind of relationship with Jesus.
     I ask you to join me, this week, in praying for the second graders (and those few others) who made their First Communion on Saturday. Even more, though, I ask you to join me in setting a good example for them. Let's all show them how to be faithful adults by attending Mass at least weekly on Saturday evening or Sunday and receiving Jesus worthily.  Let's show them how to be human and humble by making peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Let's set the tone in our households by praying with our kids, and by providing them with the type of experiences that are the "fertile soil" in which their young faith can grow. 

     May God continue to bless us all!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Struggling to Believe

"The Church truly knows that only God, Whom she serves, meets the deepest longings of the human heart, which is never fully satisfied by what this world has to offer." (Gaudium et Spes, #41)

     Let this quote from Pope Paul VI's Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes ("Joy and Hope"), sink in, and ask yourself the same question with which I struggle-- do I believe this deep in my heart?

The human heart . . . is never fully satisfied by what this world has to offer.

Only God . . . meets the deepest longings of the human heart.

     As faithful as I try to be, I expend a lot of energy chasing things this world has to offer in order to try to satisfy the longing in my heart. As much as I tell God that all I want is Him, the reality of my life doesn't always live up to these words. Anybody out there in the same boat?

     So, if we struggle to believe this or to live it, imagine the confusion and struggle in store for our children (and students), whose eyes are trained on us, absorbing our beliefs, being formed by our guidance, and being shaped by the reflection of our own relationship with the Heavenly Father. Perhaps it's time we throw ourselves completely into our Father's arms, asking Him to take the place of all the things we seek out as we try to meet the longing of our hearts?
     If we are to grow faith-filled kids, can we risk doing any less?

Photo credit: Christopher JL via photo pin cc

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Who Taught You How to Love?

Who taught you how to love? 

Not the feeling of affection.  That's a natural emotion. No one had to teach you that, and it's not love-- agape love. I mean, who taught you how to give selflessly to another person, not counting the cost, day in and day out, without complaint? Loving selflessly does not come naturally to us-- been around a three year old lately?  So, who taught you?

Your mother?  Father?  A grandparent? Your spouse? A close friend?  

In the Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes, the Church teaches that "Parents . . . are, so to speak, the interpreters of . . . [God's] love." When I stop and think about this, I can't help but get a little bit nervous.  After all, "selfless" isn't always the best word to describe me, and yet there it is in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2214: "The divine fatherhood is the source of human fatherhood."  One way to translate this is that I am to reflect God for my children (and my students). I am to "interpret" God's Son-sacrificing, pain-enduring, grave-shattering, unending love in a way that they can come to know God more closely, and (as if that weren't hard enough) desire to love in that same way someday themselves. Thankfully I (and you, too) am not on my own in this. Supporting me in this endeavor are my Savior, my Heavenly Father, the Holy Spirit, the entire communion of saints, and a worldwide (and local) Church. (I'm going to need all the help I can get.)

Like I said, I'm not the poster child for selflessness.  Are you?  Sure, we all have our moments, right? But, a good examination of conscience for both parents and teachers might be to look at our own actions through the eyes of our children/students: Do I work without complaint? Do I set aside my own wants in the service of others? Do I show my children/students "a still more excellent way" (1 Cor. 12:31)-- the way of love?

The divine fatherhood is the source of human fatherhood. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2214)

Parents . . . should realize that they are thereby cooperators with the love of God the Creator, and are, so to speak, the interpreters of that love.  (Gaudium et Spes #50)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Heaven First, Harvard Second

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting a Catholic school in San Diego, California for an accreditation visit as part of a team of educators. ("Accreditation" is education jargon for the process a school undergoes in order to evaluate its programs, plan for future improvement, and then have their work reviewed by an outside committee of educators.) During this process, I was able to meet with members of the school community-- clergy, administrators, teachers, students, parents, alumni-- everyone with whom I spoke enjoyed sharing their experiences with the school.

During one meeting, however, a school parent said something that really impacted me, and I offer it to you for your consideration: "I send my child to this school because it's heaven first, and Harvard second."

Needless to say, I was floored by the simplicity and beauty of this parent's statement. I found this thought to be both an inspiration and a challenge. As both a parent of a Catholic school student and as a Catholic school administrator, these five words-- heaven first, and Harvard second--  will, I hope, keep my priorities straight as I guide my child and my school.  

Yes, the parent in me wants my child to excel academically, and the administrator in me wants to provide the strongest, most challenging academic program we can for our students.

But, eternity edges out academics for me-- both personally and professionally. The faith development of my student/our students has to be number one, with academics being the second highest priority. When we put God first, the rest falls into place:

But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. (Mt. 6:33)

Have a blessed Holy Week and Easter.

photo credit: Daniel Pascoal via photopin cc