Sunday, December 16, 2012

Why, God?

As I stood outside the gate at dismissal on Friday, many of you asked me one simple question: "Why?"

Events like last Friday's in Newtown, Connecticut break into our daily routines, leaving us in shock. I found out while I was actually on the phone with an I.T. guy, talking about fixing one of our school's computers. He and I both took a moment just to absorb it. Since that time, my prayer intentions have included all of those affected, but especially the parents. As a parent of two young ones, the images of their grief tug so strongly at my heart that I can barely contain the tears.

Here is an excerpt of what we wrote to our school families today: 
. . . When evil so violently and shockingly interrupts our everyday lives, we are reminded that life is fragile, our lives are temporary, and this earth is not our eternal home.  
     When the result of our first parents' sin is an incomprehensible act of evil and the loss of precious innocent life, we are shaken to the depths of our soul. For a time, we see our lives, our families-- indeed, all of the blessings that God has given us-- in a different light. It's almost as if our vision has been refocused, and so much of what seemed important melts away. We find ourselves focusing only on what is enduring: our families, our children, and most importantly, the love of a God who knows the sorrow of seeing His precious child die.
Today, I have a simple prayer, aside from those that will continue for the victims and their families. Today, I ask God to help me keep my vision focused on those things that are truly important: His love, my wife, my children, my family and friends, and each and every one of you who comes in and out of our school each day, seeking the same focus. 

We're all traveling the same road to Heaven together. May God always bless us with His loving care.

Note: If you're struggling with the difficulties of talking with your children about violence and its effects, or if you need spiritual support, you may find these links helpful.

Talking to Children about Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers, National Association of School Psychologists
Talking to Kids about Traumatic Events, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
The Mystery of Pain, The Solace of Faith, An opinion piece by Fr. James Martin, S.J.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraphs 413-421, Read the Catechism in a Year, Day 62 @

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Thank You, Pius Parents

Dear Pius Parents:

This week's Christmas Program was truly an amazing event for all of us. The kids sang beautifully, and they had an amazing mix of reverence and joy that was infectious! We received so many compliments from you all. Some people even stopped in the traffic line the next morning to tell me how much they enjoyed it!

I especially want to thank you for the way you received the program in the true spirit it was intended-- as a tribute to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and as praise to our God, who took on human form in order to save us.

The more we worked with your children on their performance throughout the last few weeks, the more I saw how your children are hungry for meaning that goes beyond just being in the spotlight, and beyond personal attention or praise. As much as they may seem like they want to be on "Glee," they really crave something deeper. Yes (believe it or not!), our school kids have the capacity to see beyond themselves, even though I'm sure it doesn't seem like that sometimes! (Hey, I have a 5-year-old, too!)

This is a great time of year to help them develop their sense of a deeper meaning to life, one that goes beyond the latest gadget, the most popular game, or what's happening with the hottest celebrities. During Advent (which is also the beginning of the church's "New Year"), we prepare our hearts to greet the Christ child by remembering all that He has done for us, by welcoming Him into each moment of our lives, and by resolving to follow Him in the future.

A small group of our students, parents, and alumni did this just this week by visiting the Buena Park Nursing Center and singing Christmas carols for the elderly in residence. (picture above) 

Your kids long for their lives to be meaningful, and the simple truth is that they won't find lasting meaning in "things." They were created to know, love, and serve God, and by learning to do so, they will become the happy, generous, fulfilled people . . . and faithful Catholics . . . We desire them to be. We promise to keep working on this with you as we move ahead, striving to "build God's kingdom" by putting Christ first!

Thanks Everyone. Have a Blessed Advent!

Mr. Ciccoianni

According to Your Faith

The Healing of Two Blind Men
And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed [him], crying out, “Son of David, have pity on us!” When he entered the house, the blind men approached him and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I can do this?” “Yes, Lord,” they said to him. Then he touched their eyes and said, “Let it be done for you according to your faith.” And their eyes were opened. Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.” But they went out and spread word of him through all that land. (Mt. 9:27-31)

This gospel passage from Friday, December 7th has been stuck in my mind since I read it. I keep going back to the words of Jesus: "Let it be done for you according to your faith." Don't get me wrong-- the healing was all Jesus, and I believe He has the power to do it. But, I can't help thinking that if the two blind men had replied, "Well, sure. I guess. Why not?", instead of a firm and confident "Yes, Lord!", that the story would have ended differently.

After all, the Gospels relate several times that Jesus isn't able to provide much needed healing for people, and it doesn't have anything to do with Jesus. It's the lack of faith of those in need that block the healing. (Mk. 6:5, for example)

With that in mind, I can't help but wonder:

  • What healing am I missing out on, or what sin am I stuck under because I think God couldn't possibly provide what I need, helpless and hopeless as I am?
  • What blessings am I missing out on because my all-too-important human mind thinks logically instead of "miraculously," and I'm unable to conceive of the amazing things God could do in my life?

It all boils down to this: How am I limiting God's action in my life through my own unbelief? My lack of confidence?

What Legacy Am I Leaving?
As usual, my thoughts naturally turn to my two kids. I wonder if I am setting an example of audacious, expectant, faith that believes in God's power to do even the impossible in my life. Or worse, am I showing them a false faith that talks a good talk, but, when the chips are down, doesn't truly believe God can provide what I need?

For my own sake and my children's, it's time to look Jesus squarely in the face when He says, "Do you believe that I can do this?" and reply a strong and faithful, "YES, LORD!"

Photo credit: Lawrence OP via photopin cc

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Advent & Christmas Videos for the Whole Family

If you're sick of Christmas by December 25th,

This is a great quote from one in a collection of videos currently on YouTube that can help family members of all ages understand . . .

  • WHAT Advent is.
  • WHY Advent is.
  • WHEN Advent is. And most important . . . 
  • HOW Advent can prepare us for the best Christmas we could possibly have. (HINT- It has nothing to do with gifts.) Most of these videos are no more than a few minutes long, but they each pack a punch. Enjoy.

For the Adults

Advent in 2 Minutes

Advent Conspiracy

For the Kids

Bethlehemian Rhapsody

Special thanks to my Twitter friend @nsenger who curated and posted these and more videos on Advent and Christmas at his Catholic School Chronicle website: