Thursday, October 21, 2010

Choose Laughter


Today I learned a valuable lesson from my sophomore boys; when presented with a situation that offers only laughter or tears, choose laughter. Well, maybe I'm posing it a bit dramatically, but you get the point.

The 7th period sophomores offer me a challenge in learning and teaching most afternoons, and I believe I'm becoming a better teacher because of it. Today they tromped into class as they always do, a mix of goofy gentlemen. However, today I heard whisper as they milled around before the second bell rang; "1:05?" "Yeah, 1-0-5." and then they would giggle (yes, sophomore boys giggle). I filed this information in my head and jumped into class as the second bell rang.

There were a few notes I wanted to give to the class as a whole, and then the class would present the notes they created in different small groups. The first group went fairly well; I did pause the note givers for a moment to inform the rest of the class that respect meant listening and thus silence on their part. About 2 minutes before the second group came up, the clock showed 1:05PM...and most of the boys stuck fake mustaches and beards to their clean-shaven faces.

Camouflage, duct tape beards and you laugh or do you cry? I choose to smile and help the boys giving notes wrap up their presentation. The next duo had a beard and mustache covering their grins as they came up to the board. I didn't say anything, but I kept using my friendly teacher voice and continued to redirect note givers and note takers to particular ideas that connected. Finally, one brave soul asked, "Sister, did we make you laugh?" I thought again for a moment, smiled, and said, "Gentlemen you are so odd today; laugh at what?" And they all giggled.

We finished class without any great incident, but just before the bell I gave a few recommendations myself. I suggested they use a little of their mom's cold cream to soothe the duct tape irritation, and reminded them to take the fake facial hair off before going to their next class.

So...was I right or wrong in my approach? I don't know, but I found more life in choosing to laugh with my students today than in choosing to be angry at their laughter.

Blessings of Laughter,

Say a prayer for the Apostolic Oblates of Nebraska. They run a retreat as a part of their Pro Sanctity ministry. The barn where many of these retreats were held burnt to the ground on Tuesday night.
Photo by: Chris Machian/Omaha World Herald

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Prayer for the Pray-ers


The community ring is my symbol of perpetual profession, the commitment of my life to our Benedictine community. The ring has only left my finger at the command of doctors. It is the constant reminder of my three-fold vows that sustain and guide my life in community. It is marked with the Greek initials of Christ which is surrounded by the palm fronds which mark the beginning of His Passion and the cross and nails which are the climax of His Passion. So the ring also reminds me of Him to whom I am committed in my vows. But what if those vows were dispensed? What if I became a general member of the Church again?

There has been much interest and speculation over the recent suppression of a religious group in the diocese. They were pray-ers for the world, and my heart goes out to them. Their public association of the faithful was ended which means that those who had been vowed are no longer bound to their sacred promises...their habits, rings, and other signs of professed life as a consecrated religious are no longer valid and should not be worn. Thankfully, the Shepherd who discerned the need to first guide and then suppress the association is continuing to guide and support the earnest search of the members to serve God.

My heart and prayer keeps returning to the professed and newly joined members of the association. The difficulties and challenges in their faith and commitment must be immense. The question of the unknown is daunting and their community is in the midst of it all. I can't imagine it...truly, I don't know what I would be if not a member of my Benedictine community; and I don't know how I would live if not as a vowed religious. Please pray for those vowed members of this former public association and for their continued discernment with the Shepherd of the diocese.


Monday, October 11, 2010

A Flat Blessing


One more reason to be thankful for my school experience. At 11:57 Fr. John came into the teacher's lunch room with bad news; I had a flat tire on the car. I took a breath to breathe in some calm before I started making calls to local shops; but before I could say anything, the small school support system kicked-in. At 11:58 Matt, the freshman dean, volunteered to lend a helping hand, drafted another dean to assist him, and had the keys from my car in his hand. There was no question in their minds that they should help out another teacher at the school.

By 1:15 Matt stopped by my classroom, hands marred with the thick, black dust from my tires but a smile on his face. They not only took my tire off (with the help of a hammer and chisel); they also had the spare set up and the tube from the flat patched with a kit. "Well, I had to go to town anyhow, and the kit was cheap so..." So, they went out of their way to help me today.

I've been checking with the boys, and apparently the two deans have a bit of a sweet tooth for chocolate. I'm going to bake up a batch cupcakes using my mom's awesome chocolate cake recipe and also try for a couple dozen of homemade chocolate chip cookies too. A small price to pay for their generous help and good will.


Finally A Teacher Again


I finally feel like a teacher again. We are just reaching the first quarter mark here at my Benedictine school of boys, and nary a gentlemen has visited the door of my office. It made me wonder what I was doing wrong...too easy? too hard? too unfriendly? hmmm. Actually, there was nothing wrong but my mindset; I was new and unknown.

Today marked a new change in the air. I had three different visitors during their study hall times! The sophomores have a test over confirmation this afternoon and a couple of guys popped in to check their notes with mine, and cheerfully try to talk me into an open book exam (good luck). Later another fellow came by to gather upcoming assignments to cover an absence. All of these quick chats and double-checks make me feel like a teacher again.

I know that I have been serving in the classroom for the last 8 weeks, but this interaction begins building connections with the students that I missed while I was going to school. The ministry of teaching's best moments (in my book) are the little ones that happen in those seconds between class periods. I'm glad to have them back.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Day to Celebrate Women Religious


The Serra Club in my area of Omaha invited all the women religious in the area to celebrate our vocation and to thank us for all we do. It was a great morning...we started the day by celebrating Mass with Archbishop Lucas at one of the city parishes. I enjoyed his take on the reading of the day.

"While Jesus was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out...and Jesus replied, "Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it." Luke 11:27-28

He pointed out the energy and exuberance of the woman who called out from the crowd, and asked us if it reminded us of our beginnings in religious life: full of energy and idealistic passion. Then he smiled and added...but it was the daily commitment to observing the word of God that held us to the call. All the little choices each day that add up to the lifetime of a vocation. Later on I told the Archbishop that I appreciated his point of view in the homily.

After Mass, we met up for a lovely brunch with all the sisters, Serra members, and the Archbishop. It was nice to meet more of the sisters from the city area. I had no idea there were so many different kinds of sisters and nuns in my own backyard! I had lunch with two sisters from Nigeria and a Servant of Mary from the city. However, others came up to greet me and show connections between my community or new work and themselves. The networking was wonderful. There was also a lot of laughter and catching up among those who see each other around the city during their ministries.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Our Lady of the Rosary


Today the Church celebrates Our Lady of the Rosary in honor of some long ago battle that was won after much 'spinning of the beads'. No matter why the feast began, I like the idea of celebrating this prayer within the Church. In my own family, the rosary was a regular part of our prayer with both my parents and grandparents.

I remember visiting my maternal grandparents and the evening always ended with a rosary. They would sit in their recliners, but we kiddos knelt with the support of our own comfy chair as we prayed. Grandpa & Grandma are still one of the fastest rosary pray-ers that I have experienced; however, I can look back now and see that it was the absolute familiarity and surety of the prayer that allowed for the speed of the beads. It was with my grandparents that I memorized the little prayers that our family added on to the recitation of the rosary...the Fatima prayer, the act of contrition, a short litany, and a couple extra prayers for Mary's guidance and intercession. I still think of their devotion whenever I pray the rosary and I hope their prayers are still supplementing mine.

The rosary was also a fixture at home. I remember hearing my parents praying, switching off who lead various mysteries, as I fell asleep at night. It was also a handy form of behavior control when we became less than cooperative on longer car rides. Mom & Dad would lead the rosary and we three girls were response from the back seat of the car...until we fell asleep or quieted down. Not a problem, Mom assured us that our guardian angels finished those prayers we didn't complete; I still like to think my angel finishes up those prayers when my Lectio Laxios after a long day.

Today, I shared this devotion with my freshmen boys. Each of my classes met by the chapel to deposit the overloaded book bags and armfuls before going to the back of the chapel where the monks have a side shrine to Mary. I even made a little 'liturgy aid' for the Catholics and Protestants alike...a reminder of the prayers and a short scripture reading to connect to the mysteries of light that we prayed today. Things went fairly well, as freshmen go. Only one or two fell asleep (sitting on a tile floor!) and needed to be poked by a helpful neighbor. All joined in on the prayers, but the volume did fluctuate as they quieted down and grew used to the rhythm of the prayer. There were also a few eager folk who seemed happy to join with a prayer that was familar to them. Overall...a successful day of prayer with the boys.


PS...The image is a painting at Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome. There a many side chapels and one of them is dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary. It was a wonderful place to stop and pray.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus


The longer I live in community, the better I understand St. Theresa's vocation to Love. Her heart longed to do all things in the Church while living within the enclosure of her monastic home surrounded by her sisters. Even though I live with a freedom to teach and do that she did not have, there are times when my heart calls out to serve in new ways away from my own monastery home. However, the vocation of Love that the Little Flower taught brings all the other ways of serving to me. To do all things with love becomes prayer and doing all things for your sisters with love changes you day by day.

Benedict said that God loves a cheerful giver; Theresa might say the same thing about those who live with love for all they do. With this attitude in mind, the smallest chores or assignments become a new way to show me care and love for the sisters I live with and the students, teachers, and staff that I serve with...Love changes everything...myself included.


"I feel in me the vocation of the priest. I have the vocation of the Apostle. Martyrdom was the dream of my youth and this dream has grown with me. Considering the mystical body of the Church, I desired to see myself in all of them. Charity gave me the key to my vocation. I understood that the Church had a Heart and that this Heart was burning with love. I understood that Love comprised all vocations, that Love was everything, that it embraced all times and a word, that it was eternal! Then in the excess of my delirious joy, I cried out: O Jesus, my vocation, at last I have found it...My vocation is Love!" ~ Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus, Story of a Soul