Teach Me to Teach, Jesus- Establishing Vision

As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Then they abandoned their nets and followed him. He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.

Mark 1: 16-20

Jesus’ words tend to have an unorthodox effect on those to whom He is speaking.  In today’s reading, Jesus tells His first disciples in no extraordinary way that they would be “fishers of men” if they were to follow Him.  Such words must have been somewhat confusing to these first century fishermen, let alone for us in today’s world.

The truth is it isn’t what He said that made them react the way they did, it was how He said it.  The voice of Jesus rang into the ears of Peter, Andrew, James and John, but the vibrations touched their souls when He said, “Come, I will make you fishers of men.”  With such confidence and calmness, Jesus offered to them a way of life that involved not only mystery, but also vision.  In the back of their minds they knew that this loner on the shore knew what He was talking about, and they needed to follow Him.

Our students will recognize very quickly if we, like Jesus, have a vision for them.  It is of great importance that we develop this vision, then speak and act with great confidence in our abilities to teach them this vision.  Like Jesus, we must emit an aura of peaceful confidence that touches the souls of our students to the point that they will know that if they follow us, they will be successful regardless of how mysterious or difficult the path may be.

Today, let’s take a few moments before teaching and decide what our vision is for our students.  By the end of the year, what do we want them to have accomplished?  What expectations will we set to make sure they become successful not only in our classroom, but in their other classrooms after they leave us? What individual goals do they have for themselves?

When we implement our vision into the hearts of our students and unify our efforts with theirs, we too will be a “fishers of men,” just like Jesus in today’s reading.

Like this post?  Want to have one like it every time you get ready to teach? Download 180 of them right now and be set for the rest of the school year, or buy the paperback.

Teach Me to Teach, Jesus- “Jesus with skin on”

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Mark 1: 14-15

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus begins His ministry in Galilee.  Before He starts, however, John the Baptist is arrested for his “outlandish” prophesies and proclamation of repentance.  How very strange that, after John’s arrest, Jesus travels on and continues the same gospel message of repentance.  Where John left off, Jesus continues on.

On our first day of school, we made the connection with John the Baptist in that we were given the task to “make straight Jesus’ paths,” and “prepare the way of the Lord.”  We then retreated to the desert of ourselves and looked deep inside to prepare the way of the Lord into not only our hearts, but the hearts of our students as well.

Today, following the example of John the Baptist, we sacrifice ourselves for the Lord’s sake and allow Him to pick up where we left off.  From this moment on, although we are present in the classroom, it is Jesus who will guide our souls in every decision we make if we allow Him to do so.  We must abandon our own plans and trust in His.

Allow the following story to illustrate.

Once day, a mother took her child by the hand and led her into her room.  The child was both excited and afraid to find that, in the place of her old crib, there was a new bed with covers decorated with beams of sunshine and clouds.  Her mother told her that she was a big girl now and that she would not need a crib.  Tonight, this little girl would sleep in her big-girl bed.

After tucking her daughter in, the mother walked halfway down the hall and waited.  Knowing her daughter, she suspected that she might have difficulty falling asleep in her big-girl bed.  Sure enough, no more than 5 minutes later, her daughter called for her mother.

“Mommy?  I’m scared.”

The mother did not want to intervene.  She wanted to instill on her daughter a great faith in God rather than a great faith in her mother.  So she replied, “It is fine, honey.  Ask Jesus to protect you.  Do not be afraid.”

Her daughter did not speak for a while.  The mother felt that her solution had worked and that her daughter had truly put her faith in Jesus to protect her.  A few minutes later, however, the voice of her daughter came calling out once again.

“Mommy, I’m scared.”

The mother once again replied, “Don’t be afraid, honey.  Ask Jesus to protect you.”

This time, the daughter answered without hesitation, “Mommy, I already did.  But I need Jesus with skin on!”

With great humility, the mother walked back into her daughter’s room and sat next to her daughter.  She then hugged her until she fell asleep in her arms.  While she lay there, she reflected on how honored she was to be “Jesus with skin on” for her daughter.    

In our classrooms today, let’s imitate the example of Jesus.  Let’s be “Jesus with skin on” for our students.  Let’s lead by example, with integrity, justice and most importantly with great love.  There is no better way to teach the Gospel.


Like this post?  Want to have one like it every time you get ready to teach? Download 180 of them right now and be set for the rest of the school year, or buy the paperback.

New duds (I’m moving my blog)

Hey all,

Just FYI, if you are a follower of my blog, I will no longer be posting through this wordpress.com site. My new duds can be found at the new and improved tjburdick.com (powered by wordpress.ORG).  It has been a lot of work, but so worthwhile.  Please, if you like what i do, head over there and subscribe.  I’d love the company.


I can’t afford to be a “good Catholic parent”

My two year old is getting more precious (and vocal) by the millisecond.  Her sponge-like ability to retain information for longer periods of time and then have that information explode at the most inopportune (and hilarious) moments is uncanny.  And as we giggle our hineys off at her innocence and pure joy, the vibration that resonates in the back of our minds while we enjoy this time in her life to the fullest is- what we are going to do to educate her and her sister in the most Christian (Ok, Catholic) way possible?

Here’s what my Catholic prejudice tells me:

TJ, you have two options- either send them to Catholic school or school em’ yourself.  

And then, my economic stinginess pipes in,

Ha!  Silly Catholic boy, don’t you know that costs money?  You are a Teacher.  So is your wife.  If the pay freeze continues in your district, you’ll just barely be able to send them to public school!  And you want to pay Catholic school tuition or, perish the thought, ask your wife to stay home with the kiddos and teach them yourselves?  That means you’d have to survive with just your tiny, insignificant, public servant’s wages.  Then it will be ‘good luck if you want to follow God’s order to be fruitful and multiply’.  You can’t be serious!

Dang money.  Dang it all to heck.

Please pray that my kiddos can be taught by the most capable teachers in their lives during their school years and beyond: their parents.  I don’t want to miss a single inopportune (or hilarious) moment with them.  I also want them to know, love and serve God in the most profound way possible.  My wife and I can make that happen if my pay-scale will play nice.

Image Credit:the-friat.blogspot.com

Help a poor Catholic school for immigrant children at no cost to you

Our parish school can receive $45,000 in repairs if we get enough people to vote. Your votes can put us on top. All we need you to do is two things:

1. Go to http://www.sanjuandiegoacademy.com/ and vote
2. Spread the word on facebook, twitter and Email.

Ready. Set. Go!

The invisible decade on my rosary

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the different types of religious congregations that help make up the Catholic Church. Writing it was like spiritual therapy because for years I have been discerning where my spiritual talents could be most useful, which Saint could mentor me towards earning my heavenly crown and those of my family.  St. Francis? Our lady of Mount Carmel?  St. Dominic? St. Ignatius?

Today, I am pleased to announce that the Big Therapist in the sky has astounded me once again with His wisdom.  Upon praying the rosary, a sense of belongingness that was silently coaxing me towards a particular religious charism shone through… and it came in the most peculiar way:

This is my rosary.  It was a birthday gift from my wife that I received back in 2010.

Did you notice something different about my rosary?  It has six decades.

Why? Wouldn’t that anti-liturgical?  Truthfully, I don’t know.  I’ll let you battle that out in the combox.

I learned how to pray this sixth decade from a very lesser-known religious congregation called the Christian Brothers.  They are consecrated laymen who vow poverty, chastity and obedience to the superior Brother (not a Bishop) who then answers to the Pope.  They are teachers and dedicate their bodies and souls to the ongoing construction of the God’s Kingdom as teachers.  Since I am a teacher, I gravitated to their founder’s spirituality.  St. John the Baptist De La Salle, while not very well known in the U.S. is worldwide thanks to his Brethren.

Back to that sixth mystery. It turns out that the Lasallian rosary is always prayed with a sixth decade which bears no evangelical mystery.  Instead, it is prayed to strengthen the community through consecration to Mary and her Son, Jesus.

“The sixth and final decade is dedicated to the Lasallian community which I love so very much.”

These are the words I’ve recited thousands of times prior to beginning my secret sixth decade.  Now, it is not longer a secret.  I am Lasallian.

Here are a few problems with that:

The closest Lasallian community is located 3 hours away from me so I can’t be considered an “official” part of their community.

The Lasallians have no “Third Order”, so there is no real enrollment into the community besides what we experienced while serving with them as missionaries.

Finally, almost nobody knows who they are in the U.S. which makes it hard to connect with other Lasallians.

And so, I have no real merit in saying I’m lasallian, but I sure as heck hope that merit is earned by living as one.

What about you?  Have you ever had a calling to serve but couldn’t realize it?  Do you have a secret prayer that is hooking you up with some extra graces?

Teach Me to Teach, Jesus- Getting to Know Our Students

At once the Spirit drove him out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.

Mark 1: 12-13

One of the behaviors that God has allowed us to understand through the study of psychology is that, when confronted with something new or dangerous, our animal instincts kick in and the “beast” within us will either “fight or flight.”   Our students will do the same because it is imbedded in their human nature to do so.  This explains why during our first moments together some of our students naturally hide their true selves behind the mask of their own defense systems.  In thinking about how they will survive in their new surroundings, they go into “fight” or “flight” mode.

Jesus was tempted by Satan beyond the norms of all human temptation to choose the worldly promises that Satan offered.  Jesus could have easily “fought” or “flew” away, but He stayed and overcame the temptations of the devil.  Jesus prevailed because He wore no masks.  He had no reason to defend Himself.  He knew He was God’s Son.  The victory was already His.

We too will be tempted to hide our true souls and sacrifice it for the “beastly” qualities of our human nature- anger, disorganization, inconsistency, and self-love.  If we look into our souls and find the qualities that God placed in us when He gave us “dominion over the beasts,” (Genesis 2) we will find faith, intellect, hope and love.   With these gifts, we wear no masks; we have no reason to because we know we are God’s sons and daughters.  We share in the same victory of Jesus.

After watching us demonstrate these virtues, our students begin to do the same.  They lower their natural defenses and begin to open themselves up, some sooner than others.

God has called us to be more than just mere animals, He has called us to be both teachers and students and at the same time His sons and daughters.  How beastly a world it would be if we treated each other otherwise!

Like this post?  Want to have one like it every time you get ready to teach?  Download 180 of them right now and be set for the rest of the school year, or buy the paperback.

Shut up and listen

If you are anything like me (perish the thought!), your prayer time looks something like this:

You’re knelt before your bed, probably tempted to lean over onto your elbows but straighten your lumbar region and flex your core to endure the posture-filled prayer stance that joins you (ever so slightly) with Christ’s cross.  After getting over the minuscule pain, you start off with one spiritual foot into the direction of God’s presence.  You get so giddy that you start showering Him with requests, praise, hymns, maybe even a few curse words if you had a bad day.  In any event, the first part of your prayer is filled with your words… and so is the middle…. and the end….

I got a wonderful idea when I was praying in this way: if I want to be more like God, perhaps I too should shut up and listen.

I took a page out of my Father’s book and, for the past week, have done as little speaking as humanly possible.  While most people looked at me funny because I was abnormally silent in the presence, it turned out to be an epic week.  I learned about their deepest desires, their needs and what makes them genuinely happy.

The best part- I listened as they solved their own problems through their own words.  By talking themselves through it, they became very satisfied with their discoveries and then thanked me (for doing absolutely nothing).

And so it is with prayer.  I think God’s silence speaks more than his words ever could.  That’s why, when I think about the Bible, I think about those written words as great pieces of advice, but there is so much that remains unwritten.  It is like outer space, we know a lot about it, but there is so much more to be discovered.

The only way to discover anything, then, is through silence, His and ours, because seeping through the barrier of words grows the profound roots of Truth.

So shut up every once in a while.  In doing so, you’ll know exactly when you should speak up.

Thinking outside of the prayer box

I have a strange prayer habit that  believe was passed down to me by my parents.  The practice in question is praying for someone at the very moment that they have requested my intercession.  For example, my friend goes into surgery tomorrow to remove a kidney and he asks me to pray for him.

I say, “What time does the operation begin?”

He says, “Around 1 pm.”

I say “You got it!”

The next day comes around and it just so happens that at 1 pm I am in the middle of teaching a rebellious group of 30 7th graders.  There’s no chance, not even in Mecca, that I’m going to be able to stop for a brief moment of prayer at exactly 1 o’clock.

So after school gets out at 5, I remember that my friend was operated on a hours ago.  After kicking myself for loving my job so much, I come to my senses and say a prayer that goes something like this:

Dear Lord,

Thank you for my friend.  May his operation go well and may his guardian angel be close to his side.  Also, if you could send my guardian angel to keep the doctors on task, that’d be great too.  In your name, Amen.

Did you notice that I framed this prayer as if it were being said just prior to the operation even though it was well after the fact?  Why would I do that?  Shouldn’t I have used the past tense saying things like “I hope his kidney was removed safely” or “I pray that he didn’t suffer much”?

The answer is simple. Prayer transcends space and time.  We can pray for someone after the fact in the same way we can pray for someone who is halfway around the world.  When we connect with God, we become part of His spiritual community which knows no limits.  Our prayers are not subject to physical laws, they are only subject to spiritual awesomeness.

The next time you feel like “it’s too late” to pray, think again.  By connecting to God through prayer, you get to step out of the world to enjoy a bird’s eye glimpse of what eternity looks like.

Is laughing with the Eucharist in my mouth sacrilege or God’s way of telling a joke?

After celebrating the 5th anniversary of my matrimony to my wife and my daughter’s baptism, we woke up the next morning and realized that even by our mexican standards we would arrive late to our parish’s 11 o’clock mass.  When this happens, we take the opportunity to travel to our city’s Cathedral to celebrate the noon o’clock mass with the rest of the folks who were a bit hesitant to get out of bed.  This is where the following hilarity took place:

All was fine throughout the mass.  My youngest was chillin’ with her abuelita after being doused with chrism and holy water at her baptism roughly over 24 hours ago.  My wife was still a bit sleepy from a long night of baby watching and my two year old was gazing at the beauty of the Church’s architecture singing her own hymns “Ringo, ringo little star!” (A remix of the original version commonly titled Twinkle, twinkle little star) However, as soon as we went up to receive Communion, God got humorous.

I didn’t even see it coming.  She had been a bit sick the past week and her lack of food and sleep made her laxidasical at best.  But when the Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist placed Christ’s body upon my tongue, my little angel, now clinging to my shoulder, was inspired by the holy Spirit to say the first thing that came to her mind…


Immediately, I almost burst out laughing, but I couldn’t because the host was still in my mouth.

She thought that Jesus was one of the corn tortillas we ate daily in la casa.  I closed my eyes to keep from crying with laughter and as I approached the chalice, I pulled myself together.

I mustered out an “Amen”, grasped the cup and took Christ’s blood into my soul.  He wasn’t halfway down when my daughter struck again…


I. Lost. It.

When I got back to my pew, instead of the silent prayer I usually share with my wife, I attempted to explain to her what had just happened.  We received a couple of stares and shhhhs, but eventually died with that kind of laughter you can only make when you are unable to because of the “serious” environment you are in.

Regardless, I think God had a good chuckle too.

What about you, do you have any “dying of laughter but not culturally appropriate to laugh” church stories?  If not, here’s another one you might like.