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!
~TJ

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.

God frustrates the hell out of me… literally.

I find myself in confession from time to time and my Priest has made the same comment to me several times.  He says that the sins I confess are not very grave and they tend to be effects of good actions.  Confusing? A bit.  Let me explain:

You see, my confession tends to look something like this:

Me: Forgive me Father for I have sinned.

Priest: What would you like to confess?

Me: Well, I find it hard to balance my time.  I love studying my faith and writing about it, but because I love it so much, I find myself not giving enough time to my wife and kids.

Priest: Go on.

Me: The same thinghappens with my work.  I find myself dedicating more time than I should to plan my lessons, help my students and get on the same page with their parents.  This doesn’t give me time with my wife or kids and it also doesn’t give me time to study my faith.

Priest: Go on.

Me: I also haven’t been taking good care of myself physically.  I wake up early and stay up late.  My wife cooks great meals, but I only eat as much as I need to remain strong and awake.  I don’t exercise and I watch too much TV and spend too much time on facebook.

That is when my priest stops me and tells me that my sins tend to come from doing good.  He tells me I’m concerned about others and that’s a good thing, but whether or not they are sins, he never knows.  Since they weigh heavily on my heart, they must be, but in light of all that I do, prioritizing everything so that God remains the head of it all frustrates the hell out of me… literally.

I don’t know at what point my service infringes on my other services.  Do my roles as Father, Husband, Learner and Teacher need to be separated  depending on who I am with at a given moment? I can’t count on anything but a mysterious God, which makes my plans and motives void.

Economically, physically, emotionally and spiritually, my soul is tested every day and my unwillingness to let God call the shots is trumped by Someone that is outside of my power.  My relationships and apostolates are bound to this same life-Giver who mandates every minute and waits for my reactions to the curveballs the world throws my way.  Like an Observer watching a mouse running through a maze, He opens doors and closes others to protect me from my own motives, He drops nourishment to give me strength when I am unable to get it on my own, He leaves clues and provides me with accompaniment to make sure that I find my way out so that in the end I can finally see Him and celebrate with Him for eternity.

Now, I am obsessed with this final goal.  My mind has no time to think about anything that would hold me back from achieving it.  My entire being as Father, Husband, Learner and Teacher is set upon Him and as a result, I am existentially anxious for the One who has frustrated the hell out of me.

And so, being frustrated by the world is part of the Christian experience. But not having hell inside of you is it’s greatest benefit.

God is… water?

One of my favorite sayings is when people refer to “grasping water” when the talk about the unimaginable, the passing, and perhaps the unattainable. Just to give you a few examples:

I had an awesome dream last night, but no mater how hard I try, I can’t remember it. It’s like trying to grasp water.

or

I can’t believe the pet fish that I won at the carnival died after two days.  I barely even knew the poor chap.  My time with him was like trying to grasp the water he swam in.  

and

I was so close to being the first man in recorded history to bury my entire house with dirt using only a baby’s starter spoon.  If only the city permit office clerk would have overlooked my apparently “illegal” digging grounds, I would have accomplished my feat.  To get that Guinness World Record is like grasping water when you live by the laws of this land.  

You get my point, right?

Well, it just so happens that grasping water also has a place in Christian theology too.

Think about it, how often do we see water mentioned in the Bible?  The answer, according to the Revised Standard Version of the Bible at logos.com, is 689 times. (That is a close in proximity to fire which banked 626 mentions)

Here are just a few of water’s red carpet appearances in the book of Life:

And God made the firmament and separated the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. And it was so. ~Gen. 7:1

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.” ~Mat. 14: 28

John answered them all, “I baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. ~Luke 3:16

Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house, you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. ~Luke 7:44

Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. ~John 2:7

But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. ~John 19:34

So water is great.  Grasping water, on the other hand, is difficult; Nay, it is an impossible science experiment.  For when we attempt to dominate it by encapsulating it in our clutches, it has no choice but to travel its natural course through the grooves of our fingerprints and onto the floor.  If we are lucky, drops of liquid remain on our skin while the rest dies and comes to life again through the water cycle.

Water, then, has the best physical resemblance to God.  It lives in three forms, travels freely without without human consent, sustains life, cleans and even quenches my thirst when things get hot.  What’s more is that grasping it (or in other words, understanding God) remains a task as difficult as the aforementioned physical science experiment that has a 100% rate of failure.  That is unless…

we drink it.

The human body is more than 60 percent water. We are more like God than we think.

Do you speak in “quotes” from movies or T.V. shows?

If you challenged us, my brother and I could probably go an entire day speaking only in movie quotes.  Scratch that; we could probably go an entire day using quotes from The Simpsons alone, then carry out the rest of the week with movie quotes.  Judging by the amount of facebook status updates I see, I can safely say that my brother and I are not alone in our love for contextual repetition.

So why do we love these zingy one-liners?  What makes us want to use them so often?  Here’s my theory:

Americans have a history of shared culture.  Our culture is young (only a mere 300 years old) and was founded on the mixing of other cultures.  We’ve all been taught that our Nation is a “mixing-pot” or a “salad bowl” of many different races, religions, customs etc.  It is because of this youthful compilation of cultures that we have very few aspects of our culture that are original to America.  Sure, we have jazz music and hip-hop, Apple technology and space innovation, but the majority of what makes us us can be traced back to other countries.

Because of our savvy ability to mix and match social structures and because of our lack of originality, we take one of the few things we have in common, the entertaining media that surrounds us, and insert them into our conversations.  Movie and T.V. lines serve as sparks that hope to ignite a flame of continued small talk.

Like the good Catholics, however, small talk will never suffice.  Our spirituality doesn’t allow us to settle for just a mere flame in our relationships; it seeks the warmth of the eternal bonfire: God.  Since He is the One who set the universe into motion, His is the first Quote that reverberates through us.  Our actions, both big and small, are only echoes of His living Word.

That’s why we love quoting movies and T.V. shows so much, because when we repeat them, we succumb to our lack of originality and our longing to be accepted by that which unites us.  But these common quotes are merely catalysts that ignite a larger, more profound wick that God has embedded into our hearts.

If we allow the fire to travel its proper course, the end result will change from a repeated phrase of no significance to the beautiful poetry of the Creator of the World.  Indeed, being united to God is the only way to be truly original.  How wonderful it is to co-author the greatest story ever told with Him.

God Likes School, My Student’s Don’t

I am a teacher and in my many years of experience I have given thousands of tests.  It might sound a bit simple, but I’ve deduced that the only thing that stands between my students and their success is whether or not they understand what is on the test!
You see, my students look to me to teach them what they need to know.  They do so unwillingly for the most part, seeing school an institutional jail in most cases as opposed to the inspirational springboard to success that I see it as.  But I digress.  The means by which they grow in knowledge is whether I am willing (and capable) to share mine with them.  Then, they are expected to put this knowledge into practice and prove their understanding of it.  The more they practice, the better off they are.  

Interestingly enough, our spirituality is the same.  The only thing that stands between us and Heaven is knowledge.  We are first unwillingly sent to Earth to learn this knowledge (which God sees as a inspirational springboard to success but we tend to see as a jail of sorts).  Then, we look to God to share His knowledge with us (unless we think that by eating His apples we need not consult Him).  Next, we are supposed to put this knowledge into practice and prove our understandings of them.  The more we practice, the better off we are.

Our lives are a constant test that includes the (multiple) choices we make, the recognition of what is true (and false), the (fill in the) blank slates of forgiveness, and the (story) problems that we face every day.  While I am sure that most of us are either barely passing or waiting until the last moment to study, the Teacher is instructing.

Listen to Him, and always be prepared for a (pop) quiz.

The Silent Nights of Advent

One of my favorite parts of the Advent season is the beautiful music we hear.  It is only during this time that we listen to classics like “The Little Drummer Boy”, “Silent Night”, and my personal favorite “O Holy Night”.  Attached to these songs there exists a sentiment  of divine love, perhaps because the composers were inspired by the joy that Christmas brings.

One of these songs, “Silent Night”, calls to mind the immense seclusion of our Savior’s birth.  In the dark stable, away from the commotion of the busy city of Jerusalem, all was calm and all was bright.  Even when the angels sang “Alleluia” from heavens above, silence remained here on Earth as the blessed Child slept in heavenly peace.  For the beauty of the moment, human words could not suffice, nor were they needed.

Saint John Baptist De La Salle understood the importance of both interior and exterior silence:

“Hold silence in great esteem, and observe it willingly. It is the guardian of all the virtues and an obstacle to all vices, because it prevents detraction and all language contrary to charity, truth, and modesty. We must use language only for necessary things and not distract ourselves with worldly conversation and useless words. Often reflect that a person who is not reserved in speech cannot become spiritual and that a sure means of attaining perfection rapidly is to avoid sins of the tongue…. Strive always to unite interior silence with the exterior silence of the tongue, forgetting created things in order to think only of God and of the holy presence of God, with whom you must always endeavor to converse interiorly.” ~Collection of Various Short Treatises, Means to Perform Their Actions Well, pg 63

As we approach the final week of Advent, take some time to appreciate the beautiful music of the season.  But please, do not forget to appreciate the inexpressible beauty of silence.  

Children

Children


My Master speaks in poetry

through the soundless words of His truth.

He stories of His past unknown

by the open souls of our youth.


He composes light within them

to shine with melodious grace,

so all who look upon their joy

can also gaze upon His face.


The young reveal the mystery

like the daybreak fills the night

without their life, we are darkness

but in them, in Him, we find light.


Live Jesus in our hearts forever!


How to BE a saint

When we think of the word “saint,” we tend to regard it as an overzealous adjective used to describe those who have gone above and beyond the norms of charitable action. In comparison to the rest of the world, we separate the Mother Teresa’s and Mahatma Gandhi’s for their seemingly “impossible” leaps of good faith, then mention the respectful descriptor word of “saint” when they come up in conversation.

The use of this word comes with an automatic reflection within us that forces us to compare our lives to theirs. It is normally at this point that we experience a wave of guilt for filling our hearts with our personal desires as opposed to allowing God to fill us up with His love. This guilt is the first step towards sanctity.

The second step is how we react to this guilt. Some ignore it. Others accept mediocrity. But some people find wisdom in their newly acquired humility and respond to God’s call in fervent prayer, constant reflection, and, if they have the resources to do so, avid research towards understanding the truth. When these people receive enough grace, they become filled with holiness through their faithful action. They become “saints.”

Dr. Scott Hahn, one of the most respected Biblical Scholars of our time, reiterates this idea in his book, Reasons to Believe. He writes:

“Christ is indeed the one mediator; but the saints share His mediation because they share His life. Now, remember what the New Testament authors mean when they speak of “saints.” They mean the “holy ones,” those who have been sanctified by baptism; and that includes the faithful on earth as well as in heaven. All the faithful are “in Christ,” to use Paul’s favorite phrase. Whether in heaven or on earth, the saints can intercede for others precisely because they share the life of this one mediator and He lives in them. Jesus said: ‘If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. By this my Father is glorified.’” (Jn 15: 7-8) (99)

To briefly summarize Dr. Hahn’s words, we are saints because we are baptized. We are saints because we are “in Christ” and He is in us. Finally, we will continue to be Saints even when we die, because “not even death or life… can separate us from Him who loves us.” (Rom. 8: 38-39)

May the following words from our celestial brothers and sisters encourage us to be continually “filled to the brim with Him”:

“Make no distinction at all between the work of your state and the work of your salvation and perfection. You can be sure that you will never achieve your salvation more certainly and acquire greater perfection than by fulfilling well the duties of your state, provided that you do so in view of the will of God.”  ~St. John Baptist De La Salle

“Our Lord has created persons for all states in life, and in all of them we see people who achieved sanctity by fulfilling their obligations well.” –St. Anthony Mary Claret

“What is nobler than to mold the character of the young? I consider that he who knows how to form the youthful mind is truly greater than all painters, sculptors and all others of that sort” ~St. John Chrysostom

“True holiness consists in doing God’s will with a smile” ~Blessed Mother Teresa

“Sanctity is easy. God does not scare us away. You do not have to scourge yourself or fast or pray long hours. Just do your duty in school, at home, at work. Take sufferings as they come—bad weather, disappointments, physical illness, sorrow; that will make you saints.” ~St. John Bosco

“Holiness does not demand anything great, beyond the ability of the person. It depends on God’s Love; every daily act can be transformed into an act of love. ” ~ St. Ursula Julia Ledochowska

“If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world on fire.” ~St. Catherine of Sienna

“There is no surer way to know that one is a saint than to see him lead a holy life and yet suffer desolation, trials and tribulations.” –St. Louis Gonzaga

“We must have a real living determination to reach holiness. I will be a saint means I will despoil myself of all that is not God; I will strip my heart of all created things; I will live in poverty and detachment; I will renounce my will, my inclinations, my whims and fancies, and make myself a willing slave to the will of God.” –Blessed Mother Teresa

“Nothing whatever pertaining to godliness and real holiness can be accomplished without grace.” –St. Augustine

“God’s invitation to become saints is for all, not just a few. Sanctity therefore must be accessible to all. In what does it consist? In a lot of activity? No. In doing extraordinary things? No, this could not be for everybody and at all times. Therefore, sanctity consists in doing good, and in doing this good in whatever condition and place God has placed us. Nothing more, nothing outside of this.” -Blessed Louis Tezza

“Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.” –St. Francis of Assisi

“All of us can attain to Christian virtue and holiness, no matter in what condition of life we live and no matter what our life work may be.” –St. Francis de Sales

”The more a person loves God, the more reason he has to hope in Him. This hope produces in the Saints an unutterable peace, which they preserve even in adversity, because as they love God, and know how beautiful He is to those who love Him, they place all their confidence and find all their repose in Him alone.” –St. Alphonsus Liguori

“I will always look upon the work of my salvation, and the foundation and government of our community, as the work of God; hence I will abandon the care of both to him, acting only through his orders;… I will often consider myself as an instrument which is of no use except in the hands of the workman. Hence I must await the orders of Providence before acting, and be careful to accomplish them when known.” ~St. John Baptist De La Salle

Live Jesus in our hearts forever!

Engage Me

Recently, my colleagues and I were invited to participate in a professional development session in which the following video was presented in order to make us question the methods we currently use in our instruction:

The students in the above video show us how technology can play an influential role in the development of their understandings of the world. Their request, however, is epitomized in the final segment of the presentation when they cry out in calligraphic unison: “Engage me!”

So how do we do that? Is technology the key to student engagement and quality instruction? Do I need to be computer literate to be considered an effective Teacher? Are all of the newest devices the next “sure fire” methodology that will finally lead us into the Educational promised land?

Whenever we consider student engagement, effective teaching, and especially the “promised land,” we should always look to the greatest teacher who ever lived for guidance. That Teacher is Jesus, and His pedagogy remains perfect to the present day.

Jesus didn’t have computers. He didn’t have iPods. Very rarely did He even have access to paper and ink. And yet He was constantly engaging thousands upon thousands of interested (and some uninterested) students who fell in love with His creative charisma and held on tight to His meaningful lessons. Although He didn’t have cutting edge technology at His disposal, He had the ability to communicate the truth of the Gospel message by both secular and spiritual means. This truth what made Him an effective Teacher.

This truth just happens to be what makes us effective teachers as well. Through our relationship with God, we have access to the same creativity, charisma, and intellectual communicative skills that Jesus had. In fact, we form part of His celestial body even though we remain on earth. We are like little USB drives that attach to His Heavenly computer tower, expanding our memory at the rate of grace. He takes us out and inserts us into the minds of our students so that they can copy and paste our God-given knowledge into the hard drives of their intellect and remix, remake, and invent new information as the Spirit guides them.

So is Technology the key to good teaching? No, Jesus is. Do we need to be computer literate to be effective? No, we need to be spiritually upgraded whenever possible. Will the next devices lead us into the promised land? No, but if we learn the instructional secrets from the Master, we will surely find the way, the truth, and the life.

Live Jesus in our hearts forever!