Sunday, January 27, 2013

Community in Our School

Around this time each year, Catholic schools across the country observe "Catholic Schools Week." This is a time for all of us involved in Catholic education-- clergy, administrators, teachers, parents, students-- to celebrate the unique history of Catholic schools, and their importance in today's world.

So . . . what exactly is so important about Catholic schools?  According to the U.S. bishops, "Catholic schools afford the fullest and best opportunity to realize the fourfold purpose of Christian education, namely to provide an atmosphere in which the Gospel message is proclaimed, community in Christ is experienced, service to our sisters and brothers is the norm, and thanksgiving and worship of our God is cultivated" (Renewing Our Commitment to Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools in the Third Millennium, 2005).

Although these are all great reasons for sending a child to Catholic school, I had an experience today that brought to light the "community" that Catholic schools create. 

And, to tell you the truth, it's exactly what I want for my children.

Community in Christ
During my school's Open House today, I met three special people who were visiting the classrooms and chatting with the teachers. At first I thought they were aunts and an uncle of one of our students, since I didn't recognize them.  As it turns out, all three were alumni of St. Pius V Catholic School from the late 60's and early 70's who had stopped by to visit during Open House.

Almost immediately upon meeting we began a walk down memory lane that involved fond memories of their time at my school. We talked about former teachers, principals, and friends-- the nuns who thwacked kids on the hands with rulers, the principal who was "so tall you could see his kneecaps through the upper-level windows," or the friends who'd gone on to do great things.

As they paged through books containing old class pictures, I couldn't help but feel such a great connection to them, even though I didn't attend St. Pius myself. The spirit of St. Pius V that they "soaked up" as students was still there, thirty years later when I became a teacher at St. Pius V.

Can any school create a sense of community, private or public? I suppose so. However, knowing what they'd learned at St. Pius V, and that it was the same as what I try to teach every day, means we have a connection through our Lord and Savior that goes beyond school history. It's this sense of community that encourages me and gives strength to my spirit.

I'm grateful for these honored alums who walked the campus of St. Pius V both then and today. I'm grateful for the lesson they taught me about community.  I hope and pray that thirty years from now my son will be able to come back to St. Pius V and feel that same sense of community.

Happy Catholic Schools Week to all!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Resolution to Do "Less"

Many New Year's resolutions tend to be about "more." I will spend more time exercising. I will eat more healthy foods. I will do more reading, more praying, more walking, more . . . The idea seems to be that the way to happiness is by having, doing, or being more.

Perhaps this year it's time to resolve to do less?

Take for instance praying. Like me, on some past New Year's Eve you might have made a resolution to spend more time in prayer in the upcoming year. I remember being very motivated to spend this extra time talking with God, thinking of the spiritual graces that would flow from it, like greater patience or wisdom. Also like me, however, the extra prayer time may not have had the desired effect.

Why? More prayer time is always a good resolution to make. However, in my case I think what I really needed to do during that extra prayer time was less: less talking, less rattling off rote prayers, less focusing on my own needs, wants, and problems. What should I have done instead? Listen. Reflect. As one priest told me-- "sit in Christ's presence, stare into His eyes, and see the love He has for you there."

Less is More 
Often we'll resolve to be more patient with our children or more kind to our co-workers. In this case, why not call out the vice and resolve to commit it less? As I used to tell my 8th graders when preparing for Reconciliation, when it comes to a sin we have to "Name It. Claim It. And Change It." So the resolution for this year could really target the vice, "I resolve to be less nitpicking with my children." Or, "I resolve to gossip less with/about my co-workers."

Last year at this time, I wrote the ultimate "less is more" piece when I advocated leaving one of your New Year's Resolutions blank, allowing that to be God's resolution for you in the new year. (Leave Room for God's Resolutions)

My prayer for everyone who reads this is one of petition-- that God would bless you with less this year: less anger, less strife, less unrest, less doubt, less fear . . .  As you resolve to do less in order to make room for God in your life, may God bless you and your children! Be assured of my prayers for you!

NOTE: I originally intended for this blog to be weekly (mostly Sundays) during the school year. However, in the true spirit of my "less is more" resolutions, after 14 months I am finding that even trying to keep up with that infrequent schedule is putting a strain on me and my commitments to my wife and two young children. Although I'm sure there are those out there who can "do it all," I feel like I'm already doing so even without adding a weekly blog post to the list.

With that in mind, I resolve to write occasionally-- not necessarily weekly-- mainly when inspiration hits, or when the need arises. I look forward to the season of my life when I will again be able to commit to writing regularly, as I greatly enjoy it. In the meantime, I pray that God will direct my use of this small amount of time for the good of my family, my school, and my soul!

Photo credit: Captain Kimo via photopin cc