Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Deceptive Image of Man in Hate's Clothing: A reflection

Each morning the teacher across the hall and I commit to the same routine of writing our objectives for the day with a click of chalk on the green boards and a shuffle of lesson plans ready to be reviewed by visitors.  Each morning students in the middle school are let in before the bells ring and we can always hear that they are coming from the moment they enter the commons area about two halls away from us.  They are loud. They are untucked. They sometimes smell from not taking care or not having someone to teach them to take care of themselves.

 Sometimes they have already had a fight before 7:30 a.m., sometimes they make it till after lunch before a random fight begins.  They love to fight. They talk about fighting, they plan fighting, they seem to live to get in fights.  There is not a fight every day, but definitely once a week on the middle school side. I am not sure about the high school, but it is definitely more often than middle. Most of them come from a rural environment where the only thing to do is to pit neighborhood against neighborhood.  The instigators are usually the parents of the children who have been known to drag their children outside in the street and ordered to fight other children.

The communities in which some of these children come from are much like the pre-Christian times of Assyrian warriors and the ‘eye for an eye’ mentality.  Only these children have heard of Christ and the young girls are some of the most frequent fighters.  It becomes easy for new teachers to come in and stereotype them. I came in having experienced and broken up fights before, but never to this capacity.  It has taught me something new about humanity.

It has affirmed my belief that every person no matter what has been made in the image of God.  I searched for some good behind the outer clothing of many of the most aggressive fighters.  What I saw is that each person longs for someone to love them, to care for them, to hear them.  Many of these children do not have that and have no idea what positive attention is in their lives. 

Paul says we must “put on the new man who has been created in God’s image – in righteousness and holiness that comes from truth.” Eph 4:24  How hard it must be to put righteousness on when all you know is anger and depravity? As Easter once again draws near, I am looking forward to the Resurrection.  Each year I often work hard contemplating the crucifixion and the lonely Saturday of Our Lady, but these children who are taught dislike and contempt remind me of the beauty inside them in the image of Christ in his Glory.

I admit, this reflection shows that I had to pray hard for understanding in loving these children.  I always try to love the children I teach even if I don’t like them.  It was easy the first two months of school to be bewildered.  It finally hit me that I wasn’t praying enough for them.  I still don’t like their actions, but it is very hard for me to judge them in a harsh way because of where they’re coming from.  But, I hold them to a high standard and they know it. Even the high school students whisper my name or call out when I pass.  We have only about 350 kids, maybe about 80 that I teach in middle school.  My reputation could be good or bad in their eyes, but I am continuously explaining to those who ask, that it is my job to watch them and keep them safe by ratting them out.  They’ll appreciate it one day. 

It is the repetition of what is true that will melt their hearts and allow them to see Christ.  If they were to have fine teachers as we all have in the image of Jesus Christ, then it might be easy for them to see his joy and radiance ready for them.  But they have me, and several other hardworking, caring teachers that go out of their way every day for them. 

“But now, put off all such things as anger, rage, malice, slander, abusive language from your mouth….
As the elect of God, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another…” Colossians 3: 8, 12

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Case for Social Justice because of Global Warming

It is an often unspoken battle field experience that every middle school and up teacher experiences.  It is a case for better food choices for the rich and the poor in urban and rural schools.  It is worse than an entire methane field of cow dung powering a city of 200,000.  

It is the rotten fart of a middle-schooler enclosed in a small space without working central air after a poor lunch room meal of canned chili and nachos with jalapeƱo peppers, Tabasco(of course in Louisiana) and synthetic orange liquid cheese.

I said it. This is the real and scientific reason for global warming.  I tried to write a grant for research purposes in the hopes of studying students around the world who eat nachos, myself having gained even a Rhodes scholarship.  But alas, it did not make it past my principal. 

On a local level, I may propose this as a power source for the small town of 3,000 I work in. I just need the parents signatures.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The New Evangelists

This is the website for the homilies of the parish priests where I attend mass regularly. Both Father Paul and Father Walsh are Awesome!

One of the things Fr. Paul suggested when the earthquake happened was to pray for a prayer partner in Haiti. I am still praying for my prayer partner whom I know is generously helping people to persevere while she herself does the same.

I will miss these priests when I move and I hope I find another great church to attend, but I know I will, we have a lot of good ones in Louisiana.  New Orleans or Bust!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Wonderful Wonder of Sacred Statuary

Just got in today a somewhat large order of little and big statues from   I usually give away most of them, but I am a little obsessed with religious statues.  It's funny because I don't like a bunch of clutter on my shelves and around, but I just love these statues and I think they can draw people to Christ.  The big Sacred Heart is for me!!

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Best Answers to Prayer

Harriet finally understood why everyone was talking about the great new light fixture in the Church's tabernacle.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Forgiving Father Figure

When I was growing up I had many conversations with God.  I saw Him as one who was in charge of everything and generally made things happen.  I did not, however, know who Jesus was that well. I knew Jesus was the Son of God and had died on the cross, but I felt I could not relate to Him because He was too important.  I used to love when it rained though, because I always felt the Holy Spirit covered everything like the rain and made it fresh.  My images of the Trinity developed actively and subconsciously as I encountered life.

In my conversations with God, I would pray about and for the people I saw hurting on the news. Earthquakes, the Berlin wall, the Persian Gulf War all were subjects of my cries to God to show mercy.  I prayed for children who were abused, because for some reason I knew I had it good, even though my brothers never gave me a moment of peace.

During this time the Holy Spirit endeared my heart to God and allowed me the grace to come back to God over and over.  Still, I felt Jesus was the holder of the key to Heaven and thus too important for me to speak with. I only started speaking to Jesus Christ when I became older and started sinning a whole lot more often, unfortunately.  My relationship was defined in my mind as Jesus Christ the Savior whom I must ask forgiveness from.  But I had a good grasp of the Mother of God and the Holy Spirit.  Thus my faith developed and brought me to this point.

Yesterday, in my regular blog reading, I came across an article on the Prodigal Son.  One piece struck out at me about the relationship perceived. “relate to him as a son” is in reference to both of the sons and how they actively and subconsciously perceive how they relate to the father.  I have described my active perception of the Father God above, but this got me thinking as how I perceived Father God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost subconsciously.  How has the effect of my perception or environment affected my active and subconscious relationship with the Trinity?

Active perception of the Trinity has a foundation built in daily prayer.  By active, I generally mean waking and thinking about the Trinity.  Today, I would say I have a good awareness of all three with Jesus Christ as my go-to-guy for advice. In the parable, the prodigal son is received back in the arms of his father before he has said a word of explanation.  I can say confidently that I perceive Jesus Christ as a friend and mentor in this way that is ready to be just with me.

I do not know about my subconscious perceptions though and that is the reason for this post.  As I embark on a desire to understand scripture and liturgy better, I want to eradicate the areas that would hold the Holy Spirit back from understanding that the Trinity needs me to have to spread the message of Christ.  I have a long, long, long ways to go, but we know identification of a problem is the first step, as the Prodigal Son took his first steps home.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The APOD and the Spirit of Truth

All of the students at my school have some form of electronic music device or phone.  I have tried to avoid the hype because we know how fast things change and develop in the techno world.  But the bug bit me and I purchased a touch screen ipod.  My favorite application is the APOD or Astronomy Picture of the Day.  It is amazing, amazing to see God's creations in the Heavens.

 That said, it is also amazing to find there is so much within Scripture.  I decided to get back in to meditating on scripture using the Ignatian prayer method.  Somehow I ended up on the Samaritan woman.  It was great because I love this whole scene.  Also, I am using my huge Jerusalem Bible that puts everything in this great context and the language is so beautiful I almost wish I could study and read Greek! (I heard it's really hard)

Passage: "But the hour will come -- in fact it is here already -- when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth: that is the kind of worshipper the Father wants. God is spirit, and those who worship must worship in spirit and truth." John 4: 23-24

Endnote: The Spirit, who makes a new creature of man, is also the inspiring principle of the new worship of God. This worship is 'in truth' because it is the only worship that meets the conditions revealed by God through Jesus. The Jerusalem Bible Doubleday and Company New York 

I admit I think there is more for me to understand here.  But like the vast expression of God's creation in the sky, there are great and numerous understandings to receive from the Holy Ghost and the salvation that Christ has provided for us all through His sacrifice.

I will pray for more understanding while I contemplate the beautiful sky.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Parable of Mercy

7 And he said to the vinedresser, `Lo, these three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down; why should it use up the ground?'
8 And he answered him, `Let it alone, sir, this year also, till I dig about it and put on manure.
9 And if it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'"

 Two things strike me this Sunday, one is the mercy God shows and the second is the mercy man must show to other men.
 The first act of the mercy of God is woven through the Old and New Testament in beggars and kings.  The ongoing love affair that God has with his people is a story of forgiveness seventy times seventy.  God’s love seems to be in the scriptures, the very act of disciplined forgiveness and welcoming back of his people.

 The second act of mercy which we are called too has always been much harder for me to grasp.  The idea of others not knowing right from wrong, took a long time for me to understand. The first time this lack was glaring at me in my life was when a young man who I worked with stole money from the business.  When the manager came back, he gave him a second chance.

For years, off and on, I wondered why he gave him that chance when it was obvious to me that ‘to steal is wrong’ and you must face the consequence, ‘to be fired.’  I gained understanding when in the second year of teaching a young man in 7th and then 8th grade an accident occurred.

The young man had done many things to warrant putting him out of this Catholic school.  I forgot now the problems he may have caused me, but I liked him because he reminded me of my brother.  Between shouting at teachers and breaking windows, he might be calm for the period of time he had my class. Then he would only tear up the textbook like a superhero showing his strength.  I couldn't understand why meeting after meeting and the principal allowed this child to stay at our school.

In the beginning of the eighth grade year a car hit him on a four wheel bike.  I received a message from a student that night to pray for him, but I didn’t know what for.

After three months of healing and rehabilitation he came back with his legs still broken in a wheel chair.  After more time he was able to walk again.  He was a different person, happy and grateful for his life.  I was grateful too and he didn’t look back at his problems before because he knew he had to do his best from then on in his gratitude.

Once I had processed this two year relationship with the child, parent and principal, I finally understood true mercy.

Today as I pray for God’s mercy on my own soul, I ponder the great graces that HE had prepared and waiting, ready for me to ask and receive.  Man has such a capacity for love of others, but it is so stilted by the selfish desires of the mind and heart.

Another great blog, The Sacred Page points to the message of the woman at the well and the forgiveness she can receive from Christ as he speaks with her.  The author points to the spouses that Israel had also, straying away from the one true God.   But he explains the great mercy that God shows in calling us back to Him no matter the cause or digression from His love.

In the reading today at my church, the parable of the barren fig tree in Luke 13 suggests the tilling of the soul that may lead to fruit.  This tilling and fertilization may or may not lead to fruit, as in the way in which we try to love others in our lives who throw it back in our face, but who is willing to say that they did not try to show mercy as God shows mercy and expect the same for themselves?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Decay of Self

Recently, I took a small excursion to the wooded area called Bluebonnet Swamp located in Baton Rouge.  The fungus was incredible.  It made me think of the parable of the sown seeds and where they fall in comparison to the decay of self in our spiritual lives.  I needed that comparison and the 'back to nature' moment to speak with God and understand the reasons I am experiencing what I am experiencing this year.

"Those in the good ground, these are such as in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, hold it tightly, and bring forth fruit with patience." Matthew 3

What follows is a short photo essay including photos of the Swamp and some of my favorites tagged on the end.  All photos taken by Galactic Catholic.