A thought for the 19th week in Ordinary Time

From yesterday’s second reading: “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; he went out, not knowing where he was to go.  By faith he sojourned in the promised land as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs of the same promise; for he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and maker is God.”

From De La Salle’s Memoir on the Beginnings: “Indeed, if I had ever thought that the care I was taking of the schoolmasters out of pure charity would ever have made it my duty to live with them, I would have dropped the whole project. . . It was undoubtedly for this reason that God, who guides all things with wisdom and serenity, whose way it is not to force the inclinations of persons, willed to commit me entirely to the development of the schools. God did this in an imperceptible way and over a long period of time, so that one commitment led to another in a way that I did not foresee in the beginning.”

We have arrived at San Miguel from many places and starting points.  But we have been called to be here, no matter how we arrived.   The author of the letter to the Hebrews and De La Salle, taken together, help us to realize that God has been walking with all of us on our journeys here.  Perhaps in hindsight, we can see the little pushes or nudges that moved us, even if we felt lost or thought we were headed in a different direction.  But why here?  Because we continually move to that place where we see “the city with foundations, whose architect and maker is God.”  In some way that has been “imperceptible” and “not [forseen]” for us, we have been moving to that place where “God wills not only that all come to the knowledge of truth but also that all be saved . . . giving children the teachers who will assist them in the fulfillment of his plan.  This . . . is the building that he is raising. . . . .”  (Med. 193.3)  So as we consider our paths here and our journey forward, let us remember that we have been called for the benefit of the children entrusted to our care.  Which child in particular are we called to be here for this week?

Live, Jesus, in our hearts!

A thought for the 19th week in Ordinary Time

A thought for the 18th week in Ordinary Time (first full week of school)

From today’s responsorial psalm: “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.  Return, O LORD!  How long?  Have pity on your servants!  Fill us at daybreak with your kindness, that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days.  And may the gracious care of the LORD our God be ours; prosper the work of our hands for us!  Prosper the work of our hands!”

From De La Salle: “All your care for the children entrusted to you would be useless if Jesus Christ did not give the quality, the power, and the efficacy needed to make your care useful. . . So when it happens that you encounter some difficulty in guidance of your disciples, . . . turn to God with confidence.”  (Meds. 195.3 and 196.1)

The students have returned!  “[S]hout for joy and gladness”!

But soon enough, there will be a time when each of us has some difficulty with a student or that 4th hour section, ask “why did I give them that assignment?”, or just be so frustrated that we want to scream or cry and cannot decide on either one.  At those times, the same God whom we praised for bringing us and our students together in this place will be our only recourse.  The psalmist and De La Salle want us to know that it is God in Christ who gives us all that is necessary for us to prosper the work of providing a human and a Christian education for students, no matter what obstacles we may perceive.  May we remember this week to be more aware of the “gracious care of the Lord” so that when problems arise, we are ready to “turn to God with confidence.”

Live, Jesus, in our hearts!

A thought for the 18th week in Ordinary Time (first full week of school)

A thought for 17th week in Ordinary Time (Orientation week)

From today’s gospel: “And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

From De La Salle: “You must do the same thing for the children entrusted to your care. It is your duty to go up to God every day in prayer to learn from him all that you must teach the children and then to come down to them by accommodating them at their level in order to instruct them about what God has communicated for them to you in your prayer, as well as in Holy Scripture . . . .” (Med. 198.1)

One of our former colleagues once said, “What we do here is hard.”  Being educators at San Miguel brings many joys and blessings, as well as advances in our own education and salvation.  But it is not always easy.  In addition, the lives and circumstances of our students can be fraught with difficulty.  Yet we have recourse to God’s holy presence in all things, and especially in prayer.  So as we begin to be present again to our students during this week, may we never cease bringing our students, their needs, and our own concerns about educating them to God in our prayer.  For “[y]ou must constantly represent the needs of your disciples to Jesus Christ, [and] Jesus Christ, seeing that you regard him as the one who can do everything in your work, whereas you are an instrument that must be moved only by him, will not fail to grant you what you ask of him.”  (De La Salle, Med. 196.1)

Live, Jesus, in our hearts!

A thought for 17th week in Ordinary Time (Orientation week)

A thought for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (San Miguel Institute week)

From today’s gospel: “Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.  She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.  Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?  Tell her to help me.’  The Lord said to her in reply, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.'”

From John Martens, “One Necessary Thing”, America magazine, July 4-11, 2016: “With Jesus we are not judged by how much we can accomplish, but we are accepted for who we are.  Jesus asks us to spend time with him.  Our worth is not dependent upon what we can do but upon who we are: beloved friends of Jesus, who calls us to be with him and love him.”

Teachers, who spend a fair amount of time planning lessons and grading their outcomes, and students, who want to do well, especially on assessments and assignments, may well find this gospel passage challenging.  We have all heard the cries; perhaps we have made them ourselves: “Who will help me with this Spanish translation?  Who will help me so that I can grade all these essays?  Who knows how to do this Boyle’s Law problem?”  But there it is: “Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

Professor Martens makes it a little clearer: “Jesus asks us to spend time with him.”  It is clear that De La Salle wanted his teachers to live this as well.  He wrote in the Rule of 1718 that in living the essential spirit of faith, the New Testament should be carried and read daily: spending time with God in the Word.  In the Rule of 1708, he refers to interior prayer as the “first and principal of their [Brother teachers’] daily exercises”: spending time with God in prayer.  How else could De La Salle instruct the teachers to “recognize Jesus beneath the poor rags of the children you have to instruct; adore him in them” (Med. 96.3) if they did not spend time with Christ, so as to know him when they saw him?

The San Miguel student handbook has said, for as long as I can remember, that students are expected to do two to three hours of home study each night (p. 13 of 2016-2017 handbook).  This is important, and we must encourage it.  But as our incoming freshmen report tomorrow, perhaps we should consider how we encourage our students, especially by our example, to spend time with Jesus – “the better part” who accepts us “for who we are.”

Live, Jesus, in our hearts!

A thought for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (San Miguel Institute week)

A thought for Teacher Appreciation Week

From today’s first reading: “I am reminding you, brothers and sisters, of the Gospel I preached to you, which you indeed received and in which you also stand.  Through it you are also being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.  For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures; that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. . . .”

From De La Salle’s First Meditation for the Time of Retreat: “This is what God does by diffusing the fragrance of his teaching throughout the whole world by human ministers.  Just as he commanded light to shine out of darkness, so he kindles a light in the hearts of those destined to announce his word to children, so that they may be able to enlighten those children by unveiling for them the glory of God.”

I wish it were called Educator Appreciation Week.  “To educate” comes from the Latin for “led out” or “lead out.”  “To teach” is from the Old English “show, present, point out.”  I can show or point out something to my students, but unless I lead them there, they will not, in Paul’s phrases, stand within it or hold fast to it.  Unless I lead them there, they will not truly understand that what I am trying to hand on is the most important, or that it was handed on to me.  To simply show or point out something will not enlighten my students’ hearts.  Education demands a level of engagement or personal interaction with a student that will allow the teacher to touch the heart, to move the mind, to bring the student to an understanding of the glory of God in all the forms in which it can be found in every academic discipline.  Unless we lead students in this way, we cannot be sure that they will continue to hand on to and lead others as we hope we have done for them.

What I have always treasured most about being a part of the San Miguel community is that you are the best educator models around.  During this Educator Appreciation Week, please accept my thanks, for myself and for the students who might not always articulate it, for being the older sister, the older brother, the one who cares for and educates every one of the young people entrusted to your care.

Live, Jesus, in our hearts!

A thought for Teacher Appreciation Week

A thought for the fourth week of Easter

From today’s gospel: “Jesus said: ‘My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.'”

From De La Salle’s Meditation for the Second Sunday of Easter: “The members of the flock of Jesus Christ are also obliged to hear their shepherd’s voice.  It is, then, your duty to teach the children entrusted to you; this is your duty every day. Because they must understand what you say, you must give them instructions that are adapted to their capacity; otherwise, what you say will be of little use.”

The daily challenge of the good shepherd metaphor, as illustrated by the Gospels and De La Salle, is the deep connection between the student and the teacher.  Have I built relationships with my students so that the flock will stand together, or even help, while I try to rescue the one lost sheep?  Do we know each other well enough that I know how to convey information to them in ways that will stick, or use instructional strategies that touch their hearts as well their minds?  When we are stuck in class, is my relationship with my students good enough that I can ask for their help in moving forward?  Can they do the same when they are lost, personally or academically?

When our students hear our voice, do they follow?

Live, Jesus, in our hearts!

A thought for the fourth week of Easter

A thought for the second week of Easter

From today’s gospel: “Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, ‘Peace be with you.’  Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.’  Thomas answered and said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’  Jesus said to him, ‘Have you come to believe because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.’  Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book.  But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.”

From De La Salle’s Meditation on St. Thomas: “Do not be so blinded, for you have the advantage of reading the Gospel and of meditating on the truths found in it every day, and you are responsible to teach these truths to others. Show by the way your actions conform to these holy maxims that, in fact, you do believe them by putting them into practice.”

The gospel of John reminds us that not every encounter with Christ is recorded in the gospels.  We surely know this to be true, as we think of our encounters with the risen Lord through others, especially our students.  And De La Salle encourages us to live and teach in such a way that not only shows the reality of our encounter, but brings our students to belief that Jesus is the Son of God, in whom we have life.

What is your unwritten encounter?  How do you share what Christ has given you?

Live, Jesus, in our hearts!

A thought for the second week of Easter

A thought for Palm Sunday and Holy Week

From today’s second reading: “Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.  Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

From the gospel for Holy Thursday: “If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.  I have given you a model to follow. . . .”

From the second reading for the liturgy of Good Friday: “For we do not have a high priest
who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.”

From De La Salle’s Meditation for Palm Sunday: “Be disposed today, then, to receive Jesus Christ fully by abandoning yourself entirely to his guidance and by letting him reign over your whole interior life, so absolutely on his part and so dependently on yours that you may in truth say that it is no longer you who live but Jesus Christ who lives in you.”

Every day, our weaknesses are on display for a large number of students to see, and we share them with each other.  As educators who are self-reflective and desirous of improvement for ourselves and our students, we work hard at eliminating these weaknesses, or turning them into strengths.  Yet in this Holy Week, we are reminded by the scriptures and the Founder that it is humility (one of Brother Agathon’s Twelve Virtues of a Good Teacher) which allows us to take on the mind and attitude of Jesus Christ, the one for whom we are ambassadors and ministers.  As we continue our mission of education during this most holy of weeks, may we reflect and humbly learn from our own weaknesses.

* Am I humble enough to work with those who are not as talented as the students I might prefer to teach?  Do I welcome such students?

* Do students find me easy to approach?  What attitudes might I improve that would make it easier for students to talk with me, especially students who might be shy?  

* Do I learn from and honor the gifts and talents of others, especially of my students?

Live, Jesus, in our hearts!

A thought for Palm Sunday and Holy Week

A thought for the fifth week of Lent

From today’s gospel:  “Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle.  They said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery.  Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women.  So what do you say?’  They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him.  Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.  But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’  Again he bent down and wrote on the ground.  And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him.  Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?’  She replied, ‘No one, sir.’  Then Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you.  Go, and from now on do not sin any more.’

“Then a group of seniors brought one of their classmates to a teacher and made him stand in front of the teacher’s desk.  They said to the teacher, ‘Miss, we caught our classmate copying from one of us and putting some of what he copied in his essay.  In the handbook, it says that he has to get a zero on his essay.  What are you going to do ro him?’  They said this to test the teacher, to have a complaint to take to the administrators.  But the teacher simply looked at the assignment she was writing.  When the students continued to ask her . . . .”

How does this story end if you are the teacher?

“The treatment the pupil received from the teacher was permeated with respect and love … As a result of such treatment, the artisans and the poor could be led to believe in a God of love and hope.”  (Bruno Alpago, FSC, The Institute in the Educational Service of the Poor)

“Jesus’ attitude is striking: we do not hear words of scorn, we do not hear words of condemnation, but only words of love, of mercy, which are an invitation to conversion. ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.’  Ah! Brothers and sisters, God’s face is the face of a merciful father who is always patient.  Have you thought about God’s patience, the patience he has with each one of us?  That is his mercy.  He always has patience, patience with us, he understands us, he waits for us, he does not tire of forgiving us if we are able to return to him with a contrite heart.”  (Pope Francis, Angelus address, March 17, 2013)

Live, Jesus, in our hearts!

A thought for the fifth week of Lent