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.

Response to Intervention (RTI)

A very popular method of structural intervention called Response to Intervention (RTI) was introduced by the United States Department of Education in 2009.  According to their website, their goal is “to enhance student achievement and to reduce the prevalence of reading and math disabilities.” Their ideas are great, but they are only giving a name to a practice that good teachers have been doing for centuries.

RTI’s intervention process is three-tiered.  On the first tier, students of all ability levels receive instruction form their instructor.  Those who do not comprehend the lesson are then provided with a more intense, small group instructional setting, which constitutes for the second tier.  If students are still unable to grasp the lesson, they are then placed into the third tier of instruction- one-on-one, highly intensified lessons by the instructor.

Is this not what Jesus did in Matthew 13: 36-43?  He “dismissed the crowd”  (tier 1) then spoke to His disciples who told Him, “Explain to us the parable” (tier 2).  The only tier that is missing is tier 3, which we receive every time we enter into prayer with Him.

Just as our relationship with God is solidified on the tier 3 level, so will our relationships with our students be unified in the same way.  Although a general dynamic will develop between you and your students as a whole, spend as much time as you can with them individually, especially with those who struggle and those who ask for your help.  These are the ones God has sent you to intervene for. 

A Challenge for the Wise

When he formed the Christian Brothers, the first religious congregation of dedicated, Christian Teachers, St. John Baptist De La Salle gave those willing to follow him a challenge. Like Jesus who dared His disciples to be made into “fishers of men,” La Salle defied the laity to become “Fishers of Children” through Education.

Four hundred years later, La Salle’s legacy of faith formation through education remains a pillar dug deep into the foundation of the Church. It has remained sturdy for two solid reasons: faith and zeal.

“The spirit of this Institute is, first, a spirit of faith, which ought to induce those who compose it not to look upon anything but with the eyes of faith, not to do anything but in view of God, and to attribute everything to God, always entering into these sentiments of Job: ‘The Lord gave me everything, and the Lord has taken everything away from me; nothing has happened to me except what pleases him…’”*


“The spirit of this Institute consists, secondly, in an ardent zeal for the instruction of children and for bringing them up in the fear of God, inducing them to preserve their innocence if they have not lost it and inspiring them with a great aversion and a very great horror for sin and for all that could cause them to lose purity.”*

We Teachers are a zealous breed. We have to be if we want our students to get excited about school. Animation (or coffee for some) is a natural grace that effective Teachers receive from God that produces the energy necessary to plan, deliver, reflect and respond to all of the other happenings of the day.

Faith, on the other hand, is a spirit much more difficult to attain. Seldom do we find time to learn our faith or even to pray because we are so zealous in our planning or correcting of student work. In truth, we sometimes leave our faith at Church and forget about it amongst the pressures and expectations that our work presses upon us.

La Salle challenges us today in the same way he did in the early 1700s – he asks us to place our priorities in order. Our faith must come before everything so that every aspect of our lives, especially our instruction, will be animated properly by the Holy Spirit. When He gets into us, our persona will take on a zeal much more potent than our own.

Like Jesus before him, La Salle doesn’t just give us a challenge to grow in faith without a means to do so. In fact, he offers us the same instruction that Jesus offered His disciples (in an accommodated way, of course).

“To enter into this spirit and to live up to it, first, the Brothers of this Society will have a most profound respect for Holy Scripture; in proof of this, they will always carry with them the New Testament and pass no day without reading some of it through a sentiment of faith, respect, and veneration for the divine words contained in it, looking upon it as their first and principal rule.”*

So there you have it, a challenge for the wise- bring your Bibles to school and “pass no day without reading some of it.” You’ll be surprised how much more effective your Teaching will become.

Live Jesus in our hearts forever!

*De La Salle, St. John Baptist Rule and Foundational Documents of 1718 The Spirit of This Institute, Copyright © 2002 by Christian Brothers Conference, Volume 7 of Lasallian Sources: The Complete Works of John Baptist de La Salle Chapter 2,Sections 2, 3 and 9, p 16-19

Spiritual Reading

Ask any elementary teacher what their recommendation would be to any struggling student and 9 times out of 10, their answer will be “Read!” Whether it is through research, extra practice or even for fun, the unanimous advice will remain the same- we must fall in love with reading.

And why do we offer such great advice? Because we know it works. Even those teachers who don’t like reading very much (we know you’re out there) can agree that if a student is a good reader, they are normally more creative, more conceptual, and more likely to succeed in our classrooms.

In the same way reading affects academic performance, it has the possibility of illuminating our spiritual lives as well. We do this by reading Spiritual books that deal specifically with religion, doctrine, and faith. Through these books, we bring to light our intellectual gifts that God has given us through the books He guides us to read.

St. De La Salle understood the importance of this fruitful practice. In his “Collection of Various Short Treatises,” which is a Spiritual reading piece that should be on the top of every Christian teacher’s reading list. In it, he wrote:

Do not begin reading without placing yourself in the presence of God and asking him by a short prayer for the grace and the light to understand and to practice what you will read.

Never read through curiosity, and do not read hurriedly to get through a book quickly. Stop from time to time to relish your reading. Reflect on and examine yourself about what prevents you from practicing what you read. When it is something you could do, ask yourself why you do not do so. Read your spiritual book as if it were a letter sent by Jesus Christ to make his holy will known to you. Above all, read Holy Scripture with the most profound respect; reverence even the least syllable. Read it with a submissive spirit. Practice what you understand; adore what you do not understand. If you want to know the meaning, ask for an explanation of the passage from those who have the intelligence for it.

Frequently review interiorly and strive to engrave upon your heart what you have most relished in your reading.

At the end of the exercise, do not fail to thank God for the truths you have appreciated and remembered, and beg God to enable you to practice them.

The compete version of “Collection of Various Short Treatises” can be found on the link on the right hand side of this website along with the entire complete works of St. De La Salle.

Like La Salle, we should keep the sacred scriptures of the Bible as our primary source of spiritual truth. Guided by the magisterium, we unite ourselves with Jesus, the word incarnate, through the teachings of His Church.

Let’s make sure to make Spiritual reading, especially of the Holy Bible, a daily practice to help strengthen our faith. Whether it is during the beginning, middle, or end of our day, may we strive to read the letters that God has left us through His most inspired authors of the past.

To steal a quote from Father Larry Richards, “No Bible, no breakfast. No Bible, no bed.”

Live Jesus in our hearts forever!

Key Bible Verses for Teachers

“Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness.” ~2 Timothy 3:16

Since meeting a die-hard Evengelical Christian a few years ago, I was humbled at how little I as a Catholic knew about the Bible. Since our meeting, I have become a Scripture junkie and love how our Catholic traditions go hand-in-hand with the Bible.

In the same way that Catholic tradition needs Scripture, I’m finding out every day how much Education needs it too. We can create our own methodologies, pedagogies and management techniques, but the more I read the Bible, the more I realize that every new and successful Educational trend was already practiced 2,000 years ago or more.

I recommend you grab your Bibles and read it through your teacher’s lens carefully. Here are a few key verses to get us started.

Job 36:22
“Behold, God is exalted in His power; Who is a teacher like Him?

Matthew 8:19
Then a scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.”

Matthew 23:8
“But do not be called Rabbi ; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers

Luke 6:40
“A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.

John 3:2
this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher ; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”

John 13:13
“You call Me Teacher and Lord ; and you are right, for so I am.”

Hebrews 5:12
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.

James 3:1
Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.

Matthew 18: 3-6
“Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

Hope this helps in defining our vocations a bit.  Now, keep reading and discover a multitude of timeless methodologies.

Live Jesus in our hearts forever!

Lost Sheep, Smart Answers and Bad Jokes

I came across a book last year that was filed with knowledge and humor. It is called “Smart Answers and bad jokes, from a priest who proves God has a sense of humor, by Fr. Joe Krupp of the diocese of Lansing, Michigan. The book is a collection of apologetic responses to questions given to Fr. Joe by curious Catholics. They would write in to him and he would respond (with a unique touch of Christian humor, I might add) through his column in FAITH Magazine. This book is a collection of these columns that help explain the misconceptions of the Catholic faith and it is also the inspiration for today’s reflection. Click here to find the purchase details of the publication, I would highly recommend it.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus refers to Himself as “The Good Shepherd” (John 10: 1-21). In making this metaphor, He eludes to the fact that we are His sheep that are more often than not lost. He guides us towards His glorious “pasture,” another metaphor that represents our constant communion with Him and with all of His creation.

In order for us to enter this pasture, however, there is a requirement on our part to be obedient to our Shepherd.

Take the following picture for example.

At first glance, we see Jesus leading His sheep along the pasture. We also notice the lamb that He is carrying on His shoulders. We could infer that this was one of the lost sheep that Jesus found wondering away from the flock (Matthew 18: 10-14). To this we might think “how great is our God to have found us so that we can follow him closer as opposed to being lost and away from Him and His flock.”
Although that might be our first impression, not a bit of it is true to reality. The truth is that the sheep that Jesus carries on His shoulders is wounded with a broken leg.
At this point, I will allow Fr. Joe Krupp to explain why this is so important:

“The lamb’s leg is broken because the shepherd broke it. …[I]f a shepherd has a sheep that will not stay with the group and tends to wonder around, he’ll break its leg and carry it around until the leg heals. This is for two reasons. First, because “a sheep that wanders is a sheep that is dead…” Second, once the lamb’s leg heals, it will not leave the shepherd’s side- ever.” (p.108)

Really makes our interpretation of this picture much different, doesn’t it?

So, how is your obedience to the Good Shepherd?
Live Jesus in our hearts forever!