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?

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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.  

The Educator’s Life Journey By: Antonio Botana, fsc

In all of the articles I have read throughout my brief, yet very involved Educational career, none have made more of an impact on my Educational beliefs than “The Educator’s Life Journey” by Brother Antonio Botana. This masterpiece draws out a framework for educational success that combines the logical with the spiritual. Through St. De La Salle’s charism, Botana gets straight to the root of what every Christian Teacher’s motivation should be as they go about their daily vocations.

Whether you are serving the poor, the rich, public schools or private, Brother Antonio outlines your mission and allows the Holy Spirit to fill in the lines with your talents.

Please, take the time to read this invaluable and free Lasallian resource. It will certainly help you understand God’s will for the schools in which you serve.

Click here to view the The Educator’s Life Journey in its PDF entirety.

Live Jesus in our hearts forever!

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!

How a Genderless God Leads “His” Children

Johnny is one of your students. He is a fairly hard worker but a jokester most of the time. He has a smile that can change the classroom environment as quick as lightning and a positive attitude that is infectious among his peers.

At one point, after teaching a lesson on the chemical properties of matter, Johnny is working tirelessly trying to complete a science experiment at his table. You notice a slight bit of confusion on his face as he fumbles through his textbook. You decide to pass by to make sure everything is going well because you know that if Johnny is confused, there is a good chance the rest of the class will follow his lead.

When you are about 2 steps away from his desk, he feels your presence and lifts up his head sharply. With his mind still on the experiment, he throws his hand up and blurts out “Mom? I mean… Mrs. Johnson? I don’t get it.”

The students who are close by begin laughing historically at the idea that Johnny would call you “Mom,” but you get caught up in a moment of silent pride. Johnny has subliminally connected the same sense of comfort that he feels at home with school and, more importantly, he feels towards you a love that is similar to that which he has for his mother. Nothing could be more humbling for you as an educator.

As Christian Teachers, we have been given the responsibility to care for God’s Children as if they were our own. To do so, we take on a parenting role that, in the words of Brother Edward Everett, FSC, “is as gentle as a mother and as firm as a father, so that we can be understood as the visible sacrament of God for each child.”

Teachers, like God, fulfill the roles necessary for their students to progress in knowledge and virtue. Sometimes this means playing “mom” while other times it means playing “dad.”

For pedagogical ways to fulfill these roles in your classroom, consult the genderless creator of all parents by constantly putting yourself in His presence. He too likes it when we call Him “Dad.”

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!

Zeal

Last week, we visited the first part of the Lasallian equation for good teaching- Faith. This week, we complete the equation with that which excites us, wakes up in the morning, and gives us motivation to teach and touch our students intellectually- our ardent “zeal.”

We were called to accept Jesus and bear good fruit through our imitation of Him. As educators, we are given an extra task to not only produce fruit, but to also teach others how to garden their souls so that they may produce fruit “thirty, sixty and a hundredfold.”(Mark 4) To do so, God has given us a great gardening tool in the gift of zeal.

We teachers are a zealous race that combines creativity with action and mystery. To engage our students, we exude a high degree of passion for what we teach so as not to bore or give a conception of disinterest to those who look upon us so highly. The energy and interest that we dedicate to our lessons will set the tone for our students to catch the contagious fire of interest that we emanate. The key to this process is our zeal.

Beyond our academic curriculum, we are compelled as Christians to demonstrate our zealous faith through our teaching. John Baptist De La Salle tells us in his ninth meditation for the time of retreat:

“You must not doubt that it is a great gift of God, this grace he has given you to be entrusted with the instruction of children, to announce the Gospel to them and to bring them up in the spirit of religion. But in calling you to this holy ministry, God demands that you fulfill it with ardent zeal for their salvation, because this is the work of God, and he curses the one who does his work carelessly.”*

We are God’s workers and at the same time we are His work. It would do us well to complete His work with the same enthusiasm, passion, and zeal that He exemplified for us while on Earth, and that He continues to exemplify in heaven through those who call themselves His Children.

Live Jesus and His ardent zeal in our hearts forever!

*De La Salle, St. John Baptist, Meditations for the Time of Retreat, Rouen, France 1730 found online at http://www.lasallian.info/index.cfm/BooksByTheFounder