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…

“Tortilla?”

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…

“Juice?”

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.

Teach Me to Teach, Jesus- Readying the Soul for Teaching

 It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Mark 1:  9-11

When we are baptized, we are initiated into God’s family.  Through this ceremony, we repent from sin and acknowledge God as our spiritual Father.  As a result, we are considered sons and daughters of God.

Jesus had absolutely no reason to be baptized under the context of repentance by which John the Baptist preached.  What would the Son of God in His perfection need to repent from?  Jesus, in fact, was baptized for other reasons- one of which was to ready His soul for the mission that was ahead of Him.  That’s why it was so important that He be cleansed by the waters of the Jordan.  For it was then that the heavens were “torn open” and “the Spirit descended upon Him like a dove.”  His humanity and the Spirit of God became one thing.  His soul was now ready for His mission.

We too, have been given a mission inside our classrooms.  In fact, we have been given many missions ranging from the different subjects that we teach, committees that we are a part of, after school activities we partake in, etc.  With these among others, we are given the mission of educating souls through the use of textbooks, worksheets, activities, experiments, and management.  Our mission is to teach the Gospel (and our subjects) in the same way Jesus did- by example.

For that reason we too should follow the example of Jesus and ready ourselves in the baptismal waters of our faith.  By recognizing His presence early and often throughout our day, He will respond to us in the same way He responded to Jesus, “You are my beloved son/daughter, with you I am well pleased.”

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.

Book Review- Dear Communion of Saints by The Ironic Catholic

This book was flippin’ hilarious.  I caught wind of it a few weeks ago after discovering the Ironic Catholic (a.k.a. Susan Windley-Daoust) and her blog.  This piece of work is exactly that, a piece of work.  It takes common (and not so common) questions from the Church Militant and taps the shoulder of the Church Triumphant to field them.  For every question, one or two canonized Saints responds with a soft shell taco filled with the guacamole of humor, the lettuce of common sense and the meat of undeniable truth.  The result is a delicious literary snack for Orthodox Catholics to munch on at any moment of the day.

In one of the questions, the Ironic Catholic herself questions why mothers are unable to bilocate.  She argues that such a grace would be very helpful for a mother whose son is dipping his hand in the cookie jar while she bathes her youngest.  She interrogates the Communion of Saints as to why this particular grace has only been given to consecrated religious nuns and priests up until this point.

The responder is none other than famed bilocator, St. Padre Pio.  He tells her in short discourse that she knows not what she asks, that it is greater to seek Christ first and allow the graces to flow from that love, not the other way around.  To keep the mood light, he finishes saying that the mother should put brussel sprouts in the cookie jar.  Problem solved.

This book is a quick read for Orthodox Catholics looking for a lighthearted giggle as well as “casual” Catholics who are looking to awkwardly laugh with everyone else around them even though they don’t quite get the jokes.  In either case, I found myself laughing out loud on many occasions as I read it, mainly because the Communion of Saints were laughing right along with me.

If you like this book, you might want to try Saint Watching by Phyllis McGinley.

Teach Me to Teach, Jesus- The Joyful Beginning

Today begins a new exercise I’d like you to join me in.  I love teaching and I know many of you do too.  Whether you are homeschooling your children, teaching catechism at your parish, or educating the future of the world in your private or public school classrooms, you’ll want to check back here every Thursday.

Each week, to celebrate the Luminous mysteries of the Holy Rosary (which I consider to correlate most with the educator’s vocation.  Think about it… Proclamation of the Kingdom, Transfiguration, light bulbs turning on over the Apostles and our students’ heads…), I will publish one of Jesus’ teaching strategies for us educators to use in our classrooms and homes.  I’m dubbing it “Teach Me to Teach, Jesus”.

Enjoy.

The Joyful Beginning

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ [the Son of God].

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;

he will prepare your way.

A voice of one crying out in the desert:

‘Prepare the way of the Lord,

make straight his paths.'”

John [the] Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins. John was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He fed on locusts and wild honey. And this is what he proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the holy Spirit.”

Mark 1: 1-8

Today is our first day of the school year and we will surely be anxious to meet our students and begin our planning.  Today’s gospel reminds us of two specific things that go hand-in-hand with our excitement:

  1. Teaching can be done effectively just as John was able to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins with some success.
  2. Teaching can be done more effectively with the help of the holy Spirit who uses us as an instrument to “prepare the way of the Lord.”

“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” takes full precedent on this day, which marks the beginning of our vocation as “Teacher.”  Today, we not only are teachers of worldly subject matter, but we also become God’s servants who have been sent to prepare His way, just like John the Baptist, and to preach the Gospel message, just like Jesus Christ.

Our first step is to be joyful for the arrival of our students and even more joyful for the arrival of holy Spirit into our classrooms.  When these are mixed with the willingness of a Christian teacher, miracles are sure to happen.

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.