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.


Money “Inhales Wind Violently”

I just finished writing a prolifically short book review in which I stated that I was going to write something fun as a result of reading the book.  I am a man of my word.

Every time I muster up the gusto to review my online banking and watch as my measly earnings fall like plinko chips into the “bills paid” tab, I get frustrated.  Seriously frustrated.  I often ponder what life would have been like had the industrial revolution not happened.  Would I be living?  If so, would I be a farmer, hunter or cattle driver?  Would I be as worried about being financially stable?

I’m sure you’re in the same ideologic boat. But hold on, without the big buildings, boats, trains, planes and automobiles we wouldn’t have Macbook Pros, so the advantages surely outweigh the disadvantages, right?

I digress.

The point I am (failing while) trying to make is this: money sucks.

Father Robert Barron mentioned in his Catholicism Series that the most arbitrary things in life are the ones that matter most.  These trivial actions serve no particular purpose and are done for the sake of themselves which, in return, makes them more important, more meaningful than “justified” undertakings.  Watching a game thus becomes more important than jaunting to the barbershop for a haircut.  Sitting down for lunch with a friend is more important than cleaning the house.  Writing in your blog is more important than working…

You see the dilemma?  Of course you do, you experience it every day.  We would all much rather participate in those meaningless, yet profoundly satisfying activities that we love so much.  What stops us from doing them 24/7?  Money.

We can’t live without money so, we must work.  I won’t spend much more time on this because it depresses me (and you) but we must take into account the great blessing that work is.  God has given it to us for our survival, so that we can complete the meaningless tasks we love so much.  We should appreciate it as a means to prolong our love until we accomplish our missions and can spend eternity alongside Jesus doing them.

Here’s the kicker: we’re stuck here on earth for a while (especially the safely employed).  As long as your job doesn’t involve exposure to toxic materials or strenuous/demanding physical feats of strength, your time to participate in the pointless joys of life are far greater than many starving people in the world who deserve it more than you.  If you own a computer, for example, that purchase took more money than 80% of the people in the world make in an entire year.

I know, money sucks.  But don’t let that hinder your talents.  In fact, we’d be better off living simply and giving our money to those who need it so that they too can stop worrying about their survival and start thinking about their salvation.

You’ve been blessed with work and time to enjoy the pointless jubilations of life.  Take FULL advantage of it and make it your priority to see that others have the same opportunity as you. Otherwise when we arrive at the pearly gates, St. Peter will be like:

*Note, if your name really is “Outcho Mind”, you’re totally in, so no worries.

Fortnight for Religious Freedom

There has never been a better moment in time to be Catholic in America.  We’re targeted, misunderstood, unjustly accused, ignored and hated by many because we stand up for freedom and life.  In a place like the United States, where people of all cultures and races convene to create a peaceful microcosm of world culture, we play the part of the abused servant, mistreated by the those we serve.

It hasn’t gotten to a boiling point yet.  No martyrs have been slayed and blood has not spilled onto our already struggling countryside.  But the pressure from both sides of the political spectrum is mounting and our God have made it clear that the HSS Mandate “line in the sand” is much more transparent than our opaque rock of salvation.  The Bishops have proclaimed that “We will not comply”, and as a Catholic layman, my family and I will follow them. If we wish to earn freedom, we must first be obedient to the moral law.

Join the fight for religious freedom. Here are some sources to get you started:

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops F4F Information page

The F4F Facebook page

Timothy Cardinal Dolan’s most recent Ebook on Religious liberty 

Effective Teaching Requires Love (and by that I mean God)

The CNN health page recently posted an article on the brain development of children and how it relates to early childhood education.  According to the study, 

“Over the last decade a string of scientific discoveries has shown that the biology driving mental illness has at least as much to do with the environment as with chemicals or genetic inheritance. And it increasingly appears that the single most powerful environmental factor is the love – or its lack – that children receive from their parents.”

If you are Christian, this makes sense.  After all, according to St. John, “God is love.”  So now I’m wondering if our Public schools, which seem to be overwhelmingly obsessed with statistics and studies, will start allowing teachers to talk openly about their faith.  

Probably not, but in any case, we teachers already knew that love was the key to effective teaching, and we didn’t need scientific research to tell us.  

To read the entire article, click here.  

Yeh, I’d vote for Jesus

Sparks are emanating from the political front of American society.  The 2012 election is in its kindling stage and pretty soon, fire will engulf our eyes and ears from every media source possible.  This weekend when we Catholics proclaim “Long live Christ the King,” it would do us well to recognize that our own kindling could use a few more sparks.  

A mulit-tiered conundrum dwells in the hearts of Catholics everywhere when the voting booths are put up.  We question whether we are informed enough on the public issues, which of the names on our ballot is the better of the evils and whether or not our choices will be used against us on judgment day.  It is quite a paradoxical situation for those of Christ’s Church namely because we are citizens of both a spiritual Kingdom and a physical democracy.  
My duty to God tells me that I must protect life, justice, and peace.  My duty to my country just happens to be the same.  So why can’t there be one candidate who can do all three without being steered into political debacle, economic distrust, and/or inconsistency?  The answer is because Jesus can’t be our president, nor could anyone like him.  Archbishop Fulton Sheen said it best when he wrote “The people hate the upright because they challenge their norms.  They also hate the felons because they challenge their safety.  Therefore, the mediocre is only allowed to survive” (paraphrased).  
Democracy and Catholicism differ greatly in their approaches to achieving the protection of life, peace, and justice.  However, the two are conjoined by a common conscience that has its root in God’s will  Perhaps if we can join them together, we might be able to regain the trust of our officials be meeting them eye to eye on the same economic, political and intellectual level- at the foot of the cross.

Until Jesus comes back, we are stuck with two robbers who have been crucified at His side.  My vote is for the good thief.
Long live Christ the King!

Budget Cuts to Education

Realities have a way of humbling us. The reality of today’s educational world is one that has us digging in our sofa cusions for economic resources so that our mission can remain. During the course of what should be a relaing summer, the cold reality is that many of us will wait anxiously to find out whether or not we will be employed in the fall. Then finally, the utlimate reality remains: if we are lucky enough to keep our jobs, what new challenges will we face to ensure the proper education of our students? Will we have the resources we need? Will we have the time we need?

Today’s image of the educational system is not a clear one. Sure, it has never been perfectly drawn out to begin with, but the dimmed hue of the eraser has caused man to question whether or not the masterpiece that is “School” will ever been recognized again. We are being recreated and through this reconstruction process, we are fearfully waiting to see just how much of our structure will be erased.

What we fail to recognize is that this eraser might not be coming from our administration nor our nation or state representatives. It might be from God. In the words of the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen,

“Our declaration of Independence affirms certain basic freedoms, such as the right to life, to liberty, and to the persuit of happiness. But in a previous sentence is ascribes this independence to the fact that all of these are the endowments of a Creator. Because man is dependent on God, he is not dependent on a State. But once dependence on God is lost, then the State takes over the attributes of Divinity and, being material in its structure, crushes the last vestige of the human spirit.” (The World’s First Love).

While we wait anxiously inside our holy communities, God, like a Father disciplining His child, strokes the page of education to fill it with mystery and dependence on Him. In a God-less community, the State takes on this role and slashes funds to services in order to save other material riches. In either case, Teachers are asked to sacrifice so that God can use them to fill in the lines anew.

De La Salle knew this would happen to His community of lay Techers. He knew that progress could not happen without change and great sacrifices. In their vows, his Christian Brothers to this day promise to:

“…unite myself and to remain in Society with the Brothers of the Christian Schools to keep togeth- er and by association gratuitous schools wherever they may be, even if I were obliged to beg for alms and to live on bread alone, and to do any- thing in the said Society at which I will be employed, whether by the body of the Society or by the superiors who will have the government thereof” (Rule and Foundational Doc- uments, 204)

Regardless of how we are being affected by the budget cuts to education, we must remember that God’s plan supersedes the legislature. If we want to make this plan a quicker reality, we must be sure to make it known to our local representatives. Whether we are employed or pink-slipped, remember that there is great joy that comes with sacrifice, both inside and outside of the Christian Teacher community.

Live Jesus in our hearts forever!