I can’t afford to be a “good Catholic parent”

My two year old is getting more precious (and vocal) by the millisecond.  Her sponge-like ability to retain information for longer periods of time and then have that information explode at the most inopportune (and hilarious) moments is uncanny.  And as we giggle our hineys off at her innocence and pure joy, the vibration that resonates in the back of our minds while we enjoy this time in her life to the fullest is- what we are going to do to educate her and her sister in the most Christian (Ok, Catholic) way possible?

Here’s what my Catholic prejudice tells me:

TJ, you have two options- either send them to Catholic school or school em’ yourself.  

And then, my economic stinginess pipes in,

Ha!  Silly Catholic boy, don’t you know that costs money?  You are a Teacher.  So is your wife.  If the pay freeze continues in your district, you’ll just barely be able to send them to public school!  And you want to pay Catholic school tuition or, perish the thought, ask your wife to stay home with the kiddos and teach them yourselves?  That means you’d have to survive with just your tiny, insignificant, public servant’s wages.  Then it will be ‘good luck if you want to follow God’s order to be fruitful and multiply’.  You can’t be serious!

Dang money.  Dang it all to heck.

Please pray that my kiddos can be taught by the most capable teachers in their lives during their school years and beyond: their parents.  I don’t want to miss a single inopportune (or hilarious) moment with them.  I also want them to know, love and serve God in the most profound way possible.  My wife and I can make that happen if my pay-scale will play nice.

Image Credit:the-friat.blogspot.com

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Do you stink?

The other day my daughter was eating dinner on my lap and I caught a whiff of a disturbing stench.  Being the father of two kids below age three, these aromas aren’t normally a surprise, but this one was.  I checked my girl’s diaper, sniffed her sweaty head, and checked her arm pits.  Nothing outside of the norm.

Then I thought, maybe it is me…

When one sweats, it is because their body temperature has risen too high. The body’s natural defense against overheating is to release liquid though the pours of the part of the body that is overheated. This sweat acts as a refresher in that it absorbs the heat and provides the body with a cooler temperature.  I can safely say that the majority of Americans are quite overheated as this heatwave continues to roll on.

So when Jesus was praying in the Garden the night when He was betrayed, His body was overheated. This heat was not caused by an exertion of force. In fact, it was more likely that at the hour of His prayer, the temperature was probably quite cool. I would venture to say that He was not running a marathon inside the Garden. In fact, the Bible tells us He was “prostrate” and very likely immobile on the floor, during the cool nighttime hours. (Matthew 26: 39)

So what caused this immobile man to sweat that night during His prayer? Some say it was the pure stress and they might be correct. But, could it be possible that, like the transfiguration, Jesus, in this intimate conversation with His Father, was transfiguring Himself once again into the blazing fire, the heat that other Biblical authors refer to when they speak of the Cherubim angels (Ezekiel 1:13), or the Holy Spirit (Revelation 4:5) or even God Himself (Exodus 3:2)? Could it be possible that, because He sweat blood instead of regular sweat, He was bathing Himself in the purifying “blood of the lamb” (Revelation 12:11) prior to the ultimate sacrifice on the cross? Could this blood have anything to do with “spiritual overheating of the soul” that came to save the earth? Could this be the spiritual refreshment just as sweat is physical refreshment?

I believe that this “sweating of blood” is the Spiritual defense against the overheating of a perfect soul. I believe that this blood was an effect of the raging fire of burning love that dwelled inside the carnal body of God. I believe that this serene soul lives within those today who are able to hear the sound of His resurrected voice when He says “I came to set the earth on fire. How I wish it were already burning!” (Luke 12:49)

Finally, I believe that when we drink this blood at mass, we too cover ourselves in the sweat of our souls so that they might be cooled down from the temptations of this world. Better yet, this blood transfigures our souls to become more like the raging fire of burning love for others. When we are on fire and actively participating in the Will of God, it is then that we become Jesus for others in the most profound way: by accepting the Eucharist we become the fire!

It turns out, the combination of my daughter and I after a day of playing outside in the humidity was the source of the foul stench.  That just made me think about Jesus’ sweat.

I hope that both my daughter and I can stink like God too.

Hands. Handlebars. Now. Please!

As a precursor to this post, you need to know that my daughter turns 2 on Tuesday , so I’m a bit sentimental.  Also, we are finishing up another school year, so I’m a bit reflective too.  Sentimental and reflective makes for good blogposts for some, but not for others.  If you like this kind of father/teacher stuff, keep reading.

My daughter had the great idea to go searching for rocks in the front of the house and, at the same time, go riding on her scooter (which is more like me pushing her as she holds on to the handlebars).  Like any two year-old, she also wanted to be in the backyard playing on the slide.  So, being the great appreciator of fun that she is, she tried to combine all three.  To do this she put the rocks on the scooter and commanded Papí to guide the sediment on wheels magically across the grass pathway without loosing one of her precious, lifeless spheres.

The rocks, scooter and little girl

The rocks, scooter and little girl

So, I got to thinking, “Why don’t I let her try it out on her own.”

“No!” she screamed after having read my thoughts.  “Hands, Handlebars, Now. Please.” she continued.

“OK, if she won’t do it on her own, let’s see what she does when the rocks fall off,” I said to myself hoping secretly that she would get frustrated with my “maneuvers” and either take control of the situation herself or abandon the rocks altogether so we could have some real fun (and by that I mean more manageable fun for Papí) on the slide.

After she put the rocks on the first time, I “accidentally” took a curve to quickly.

“Uh oh,” she said, and quickly picked them back up and returned them to the flat scooter.

Again we went into motion.  This time, I crashed into a rise in the driveway cement, tossing the rocks again.

“Uh oh,” she said again, this time smiling at my “clumsiness.”  The five rocks were back on the scooter in seconds.

“Oh no!  Grass!” I screamed as the rocks went tumbling again to the turf.

“Uh oh. Rocks fall?” she questioned inquisitively.

“Yes hunny, they keep falling.  Don’t you want to go to the slide?  Let’s leave the rocks and scooter here.  What do you say?”

“Papí! Hands. Handlebars. Now. Please!” she replied.

It was then that I realized that she was not going to relent.  She wanted her rocks, her scooter, her slide AND her Papí in the backyard and she couldn’t make that happen herself; she needed me.

A student of mine popped into my head.  This student has been difficult to motivate all year.  Every time I set him up for success, he, like my daughter and the rocks, preferred to ignore the opportunity to do it on his own and waited for someone like me to step in, take the handlebars and help him maneuver the difficult terrain.

Back at home, once we all (rocks, scooter, Papí, slide and little girl) finally got to the backyard, a Monarch butterfly landed on my white, sunlit T-shirt. I scooped it up, knelt on one knee, and showed it to my bewildered princess.  It was the first butterfly she had ever seen up close.

We watched the reincarnated caterpillar fly away.  My daughter, still amazed by the sight, walked slowly and pensively to the slide and climbed.  I too was in deep thought.  Had I not given in, her first close encounter with the Monarch would have been much later in life.

What a wonderful early birthday present for her.

What a humbling lesson on perseverance for me.

What a tremendous gift of new life for my students these final weeks will be…