The most saintly thing you can do on a basketball court

It has been almost a week since “King James” and his Miami Heat won the NBA championship.  Many folks are comparing LeBron to the next Michael, the new Kobe and some even go as far as to compare him to Jesus Christ.

Like Nike:

And again, Nike

But there is one member of the Miami Heat that is more Christlike in his actions, in my opinion.  He doesn’t get many headlines, but Shane Battier’s skills embody Christianity better than anyone else in the game.

Let me explain.

The Gospel of John lays out the basic bulwark that is needed to be like Christ:

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” ~John 15:13

Self sacrifice, then, is the foundation of Christianity.  We must imitate Christ and sacrifice ourselves like He did so that others benefit from our loss.  That is what Jesus wanted us to know when He washed His disciples feet, when He said “The first will be last and the last will be first,” and when He was nailed to the cross.

That is what Shane Battier does every time he takes a charge on defense.  Taking charges is the most saintly thing a basketball player can do on the court because it is the ultimate in self sacrifice.  Sure, LeBron can get assists on the offensive end, but nothing compares to Christ like the sacrifice of the body when taking a charge. The only thing that even comes close is when Spud Webb needs to switch off and guards Manute Bol

or when George Muresan backs down Muggsy Bogues.

Taking charges, like Christianity, has been given an unjust connotation.  People think that it is merely a “flop” or, worse yet, a form of weakness and shouldn’t be allowed in a game that favors intense up-and-down the court movement.  Many feel that any interruption to this flow is contrary to the game’s essence.

Sounds familiar.  A lot of people thought Christ’s teachings went against the flow of the Jewish law.  And look how He ended up:

 

I see little difference…

God bless Shane Battier, one of the more Christ-like players in the NBA. Congrats on your accomplishments.

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 and I Are Dating- Part 3

Time passed.  The monotonous acts of freedom that we had repetitively showcased to one another became shallow traditions.  There was no meaning behind them.  One by one, each of the members of my community lost their passion for the cause and left me.  I was alone within the confines of my own freedom, left with nothing but an abyss much larger than I had ever felt before.

Across the canyon, I saw God.  He had the same inviting and peaceful look on His face as the day we met.  I was enamored by the nostalgia that came after seeing His profile.  Strangely enough, as I lowered my gaze into the great divide, it began to fill itself with letters, trinkets, drawings and every gift we gave each other.  Soon, every word we spoke, even the ones that I thought had merely fell to the floor, began to pour from a rain cloud into the hole like water mixing our material manifestations of love into one mass.

It had filled up to the point that we could easily swim to one another, but just as we were about to jump in, the cloud itself came down and filled the air with its vapor making sure that nothing could be seen.  My God, the abyss, even my own arms were caught in the mist and what surrounded me was the dense smoke of my own thoughts.  Countless memories of my Love seemed to be filling the air, even the flashbacks I had when we were no longer together surfaced into the clouds, blinding me with their intense reality and overbearing joy.

I swore to myself in my joy that I never wanted to change. But it was then that the clouds quickly disappeared. Like pigeons to a juggernauting five year old child, the memories flew back into the sky and I was left at the shore of the water filled canyon, prostrate and teary-eyed for all that I had left.

I felt the wind blow my salty drops of sadness from my cheek and heard them as they fell on the sandals of my Love.  He had crossed the sea, His clothes were dripping wet, as mine were too from my own agony.

We embraced, but the feeling was no longer like that of our teenage obsession.  It was… different.

“Do you see what we made together?” he asked, pointing at the sea.

“Yes,” I replied cheerfully.

“Watch as I make it whole.”

I begged Him not to go.  I pleaded with Him to not leave me.  I swore in my joy that I was sorry for leaving Him and that from now on I would never change.  We needed to be together.  I needed us to be together.  Such a feeling was one that my passionate heart was unable to discard.

To my great dismay, I watched my God walk away from me and into the water.

Slowly, His body sunk into the waves.  The water surrounded his ankles, then rose up to his knees, waist, chest, and finally to His shoulders.  When He was neck deep, He turned his head back to me, looked me straight in the eye, smiled at my once again tear-covered face, and the water completely engulfed His body.

Just then, the waters themselves exploded with immense force.  The waves blocked the sun from view and the drops jumped off of each other to scratch the surface of the sky.  Like an atomic bomb, the mist clouds gathered together then imploded across the great divide sparing nothing from getting wet.  The sound resonated across the entire earth and when the swish swash of the millions of waves finally ceased, the chasm was completely filled with a firm foundation of unmovable, indestructible matter.

What had happened?  Where was my Love?  Why did He abandon me?

Worried as to whether or not I should, I poked my foot around the spot where the shore had been moments ago.  I took one step.  Solid.  I took another.  I continued along until I heard a voice.  No, there were several voices.

“Where did He go?” one said.

“Why am I here?” spoke another.

“Can anyone hear me?” questioned a small girl.

“Help me, please…” squealed weak, distraught voice.

The mist gave way to the light, and as I walked upon the now solid foundation of the chasm that once was, I saw the people whose voices I had heard.

I quickly ran to the weakest voice, the one that was begging for help.  I found a young boy who couldn’t have been much older than eight years old, dying on the side of a road.  His body was thin and there was no food for miles.

I leaned over to pick him up in hopes of taking him to find shelter, food… something!

“I thirst…” he whispered.

Without hesitation, I brought him to the nearest puddle.  He didn’t have the energy to move, so I cupped the water into my hands and scooped it into his open mouth.

“It is finished…” he gasped.  Then, with the same peaceful look of confidence, He looked me straight in the eye, smiled, and breathed His last.

“Where did He go?” one said.

“Why am I here?” spoke another.

“Help me, please.” whispered a small girl.

I swore in my joy that I was sorry for leaving Him and that from now on, I would never change.  For it was then that I realized that my feelings have little, if nothing, to do with love.  Indeed, it is only in sacrifice that I am united with my God upon the foundation of His love.  It just so happens that the result of this sacrifice is an inexplicable joy that was unknown to the restlessness of my youth.

God and I are no longer dating, we are one.

God and I Are Dating- Part 2

Time passed.  The monotonous acts of kindness that we had repetitively showcased to one another became shallow traditions.  There was no meaning behind the 104th love poem He wrote to me, nor the 75th piece of jewelry I bought for Him.  We merely went through the motions, repeating the words “I love you” to the point that our words would come out of our mouths and fall to the floor.  Without the feeling to accompany my desire, a subtle crack split between us and we felt a longing for that void to be filled.

It was then that the sensations I had previously ignored all of a sudden became quite visible me.  Other people, other ways of life, other beliefs quickly became interesting because of the fact that they were different.  I allowed my curiosity to roam free, without God knowing, of course because I thought that was possible).  I was sure to never act on my impulses because I respected my Love to at least that extent, but I longed to experience them, to explore what they had to offer me.  I knew that they could satisfy my longings much more than my God.

So, we broke up.

My feelings then took free reign of my life.  They told me that my opinions were all that mattered, that my freedom should be the guiding force of my decisions.   They said that whatever kept me away from my personal happiness, namely my Ex, was counter productive to my deepest desires.  This unique and inviting philosophy of self journeyed to the core of my being and exploded with a myriad of creative talents that I had no idea even existed.

What was more is that people were responding to these talents with applause.  I was once again loved because I could delve deeper into myself than others!  Surrounded my a multitude of colleagues and accomplices, I invited them to share with me in the glory of our self realization.  We were free from the bindings, free from the slavery, free from the cage of our Ex- relationships.  We could finally bask in the glory of our freedoms and lift our hands high to snatch the wind, heal our world, and create a utopia based on this liberating sensation.

We swore to each other in our joy that we would never change.  Such a feeling was one that our passionate hearts were unable to discard.  We were free to do whatever we pleased.

Part three, the final installation of my testimonial saga “God and I Are Dating”, culminates on Wednesday.  Stay tuned.

 

God and I Are Dating- Part 1

My love affair started when I began to date Christ.  Sounds funny, but in reality, there is no better way to describe it: When I was in my teens, God and I were dating.

The places we went, the talks we had, even the food we ate were magnificent.  Our minds were constantly turning to the point that our obsession for one another resulted in a constant thought on the others happiness.  We didn’t fight, we had no reason to. We were oblivious to the world and thought that if either of us were to cease to exist, the other would follow for there would be no meaning to life without the presence of the other.

We sought out ways to impress each other.  We sacrificed our time, we spent our money on trinkets and commemorated our anniversary each week with song and dance.  We wrote love notes to each other and tucked them away into a shoe box, taking them out before going bed each night to revitalize the concreteness of love’s expression written on anything we could get our hands on to advertise it- a scrap piece of paper, a napkin, even on our very hearts.

We swore to each other in our joy that we would never change.  Such a feeling was one that our passionate hearts were unable to discard.  We were in love.

(Check back on Monday for part two….)

I am a lay Catholic, which means I am very, very dangerous.

I am, in every sense of the celestial Body of Christ, nobody.  I’ve been writing a Christian blog for two years and my only readers are the same 10 people that accidentally click on my facebook links while attempting to play Words with Friends or Farmville.  I published a book on the spirituality of Teaching and it has sold a whopping seven copies since last November (five I bought to give out as gifts and my Aunt bought the other two).  I taught a class on Apologetics in my own parish and only four people showed up to each of the six sessions.

Sure, the reasons for my nothingness are many: I have no formal training in Philosophy or Theology, I’m not a Priest, Deacon, Bishop, Cardinal nor do I belong to any 3rd order religious congregation, I have no marketing expertise and most of the people who I know  that actually have a say in the Catholic blogospere hesitate before sharing my posts because of my aforementioned lack of qualifications (not you, Lisa Hendey, Brandan Vogt and possibly Kevin Knight if this is finally New Advent-worthy).

But it is precisely because of my lack of certification that I am dangerous.  I count myself as part of the majority of Catholics worldwide who, in every aspect of their life, are expected to live perfectly just as Jesus commanded us to (Matthew 5:48).  Who, then, is considered public enemy number one to the relativistic society in which we live?  The practicing Catholic who calls out the errors of the mediocre and shadows their claims with an onslaught of truth.

Oh yeh, I’m dangerous alright.

On the other hand, I am even more dangerous if I do not strive to live perfectly.  If Christ did found a Church and my entire baptized being has its roots in it, then my lack of study and practice of the doctrines of this Church (whether I agree with them or not) crack its foundation and allow the messiness of the world to leak in.  If I am not a perfect example of Christianity, I give Christ’s Bride, the Church, a poor name.

Being unable to give an answer to someone who is curious about Catholicism is one thing, but failing to live up to my Teacher’s expectations in both word and deed is another, more serious issue.  Unfortunately, this is where many of my wayward brothers and sisters find themselves in the Catholic Church- uninformed and thus a danger to their own salvation and to the perception of the fullness of Truth.

Since I am probably too “unqualified” to write this,  I find solace and rationale to my “dangerous side” in two Biblical heroes that prove that degrees and doctorates are trumped by the sheer desire to learn about truth. John the Baptist, the reed that swayed in the wind of the desert that no one came to see (Matthew 11: 7-9), and the surprise intellectual Giant that came from Nazareth (a.k.a. the land of nowhere), Jesus.  Both were given much less education than I have received while on earth and yet, they shaped the world more than any being in the history of the Universe

To the 23 people who will read this post, know that the reason why voices like mine have not been heard is not because of a lack of academic study or determination.  Rather, it is because I have not lived my vocation with sufficient zeal to capture the hearts of readers.  I may have the same mental capacity for Truth as the Pope, but if I don’t live this truth in every one of my actions, I become a danger to God’s salvific plan.

Like the grassroots instigators of John the Baptist and Jesus, I wait in my digital desert contemplating the perfect lifestyle demanded by God so that when the time comes, I will be ready to carry it out with ardent zeal.  Until then, my blog is my camel’s hair cassock, my facebook account is my feast of locusts and my 140 character limit tweets are my wild honey. Through these tools and through my daily routine, I grow in my relationship with Christ by recognizing His presence often.

It is that Power, that Creator of the universe that teaches His people through little ole’ uneducated, unstudied me…

That’s dangerous!

The World’s First Love by Fulton J. Sheen

 

Front CoverVery few books have the ability to envelope one’s mind and soul as much as Fulton J. Sheen’s, The World’s First Love.  I must admit that for the past few months, the majority of my time has not been dedicated to the Guardian Angels of Education.  Rather, it has been dedicated to savoring the spiritual food that this book presents.  On every page it seemed like there is something delectable to chew on, to ponder, and to fall more in love with in regard to Our blessed Mother.  
It has been a month since I finished this book, and as I write this post, I am still enamored with the vibrations of Sheen’s words.  His sheer love for our Spiritual Mother is painted in the eloquence of his words that so beautifully describe her. In this book, he describes Our Lady’s role our tireless spiritual companion and he calls us to recognize her importance amongst the backdrop of modern society.  
One of the arguments he makes is that the roles of both men and women have changed  since the promotion of a equality amongst genders.  He claims that since men and women are becoming more and more “equal” in the economic and social senses, the rearing of “real men” and “real women” has been affected to a point that little honor is given to either of the sexes.  He argues that women and their innate nurturing dispositions are the foundation of functional society.  Like Mary, their ability to foster boys and girls into “real men” and “real women” is pivotal to the survival of our race.  Without strong women, both men and children lack direction and love.
As I stated before, this book is filled with so much spiritual “meat” that every page requires the reader to ponder in their hearts the meaning of Mary’s role in their lives as well as her importance to Christ’s plan of salvation.  It is the best book I have read in many years and I recommend it to anyone who has questions about Mary or the Catholic Church in general.

Live Jesus in our hearts forever!

Rhythm and Rhyme

So many new sights and sounds have returned to us during this springtime. The sun shines brighter and longer. The birds sing earlier and more often. And the sky is a clear blue making the new greens on the earth glow with life. Perhaps that is why April is the official month for poetry?

Winter’s chill has come to a close, Christ’s resurrection is on the horizon, and the earth awaits this glorious rejuvenation. With that, the Guardian Angels of Education will take a page from our inspired Biblical authors and change the writing style to a more creative form. For the month of April, poetry will be the genre by which we will write. Perhaps in doing so, we might challenge our students to write in the same way, using their intellect and creativity to find the deeper meaning within every topic imaginable- especially God.

Adoro Te Devote
Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore,
Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more,
See, Lord, at thy service low lies here a heart Lost,
all lost in wonder at the God thou art.

Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived:
How says trusty hearing? that shall be believed;
What God’s Son has told me, take for truth I do;
Truth himself speaks truly or there’s nothing true.

On the cross thy godhead made no sign to men,
Here thy very manhood steals from human ken:
Both are my confession, both are my belief,
And I pray the prayer of the dying thief.

I am not like Thomas, wounds I cannot see,
But can plainly call thee Lord and God as he;
Let me to a deeper faith daily nearer move,
Daily make me harder hope and dearer love.

O thou our reminder of Christ crucified,
Living Bread, the life of us for whom he died,
Lend this life to me then: feed and feast my mind,
There be thou the sweetness man was meant to find.

Bring the tender tale true of the Pelican;
Bathe me, Jesu Lord, in what thy bosom ran
Blood whereof a single drop has power to win
All the world forgiveness of its world of sin.

Jesu, whom I look at shrouded here below,
I beseech thee send me what I thirst for so,
Some day to gaze on thee face to face in light
And be blest for ever with thy glory’s sight. Amen.

~St. Thomas Aquinas, Translated by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Live Jesus in our hearts forever!

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!