Friday, September 30, 2011

Celebrating Teachers


It has been a wonderfully exhausting day. The theology department took part in the Archdiocesan wide gathering of Catholic school teachers. We represented pre-school through senior levels from the little towns on the prairie to the metropolitan heart of the Archdiocese. In total, there were between 1,200-1,300 teachers gathered to celebrated our call to serve the students entrusted to our care.

We began with an informative instruction about the deeper meanings of the celebration of the Eucharist and then moved into the Eucharistic celebration itself. The Archbishop presided with many of the priestly principals, presidents, and teachers from the schools in attendance; two of our own monks were among the mix. It was quite a rich service for a gymnasium; incense was wafted about, a student choir of about 20 led the teachers in song, and the Feast of St. Jerome on top of it all! While we processed to receive communion, I was struck at the quiet that 1,300 talking-teachers can achieve! Such a mix of humanity, a wide cross-section of diversity, all gathered to celebrate Christ in our lives and as the center of our service. It was a powerful moment for me.

There were many sessions offered to meet the various needs of the teachers assembled and a whole cafeteria of vendors to peruse! I ended up gathering more catalogs to seek out new textbooks for next years Theology curriculum and nabbing a few pens and freebies in the mix. Both of my session were focused on implementing the curricular framework from the USCCB. Our Archbishop has given us a year-by-year installment process. We will begin with freshmen next fall and then slowly add the various levels of kiddos. I'm very grateful for this slow implementation since there seems to be quite the shakeup for many of the teachers in the diocese with all the change. So far our folk are transitioning okay, there is a lot to consider and classes to shift and decisions to make with teachers teaching backgrounds...ah...change.

The day ended with a powerful yet humorous presentation about passion in our lives. The speaker reminded us that our passion as teachers should come from Christ the teacher and passion of us all. After a few laughs and a call to serve, he bowed out to our Archbishop. The wrap up was a commissioning. Some singing, a reading about wisdom from Sirach, and a blessing from the Archbishop on all the faculty, staff, and students in his care...let's hope it sticks!


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Making Connections


School has moved from 'great to be back' to its standard horarium~regulated schedule. The new has worn off and the boys are a bit ornery, the teachers a bit restless, and we're all a bit distracted...the fall days have been gorgeous here. In fact, I've just felt fragmented from the kids with work demands and demanding their work. There are days I'm pretty sure they are been shipped in from another planet just to test my patience. I've been praying for wisdom and guidance in seeing Christ in them in our midst, but I've needed more of a reminder.

This marble work is on the side of an enclosed 'ambo' where the gathered community used to sit in a venerable old basilica in Rome (whose name escapes me right now). The emphasis of all the panels surrounding the congregation was on the Christian unity and connection to Christ. The Tree of Life symbol was my favorite. Christ is the Vine and we the members are all bound to him through the smaller vines; these vines connect us not only to Christ but to each other.

A reminder from the early centuries of the Church in Rome for me in my classroom in the Plains. We are all connected... I made this my 'desktop' so I would be reminded every day, throughout the day of this connection to my students, co-workers, family, friends, sisters. These visual reminders are important.

Yesterday, one of the sophomores asked what 'that' was as he pointed to the projection from my desktop to the smart board. I explained a bit about the basilica's pew space and the importance of the symbol. I went on to tell him that it was a good symbol for us too, that we also need to remember that connection to each other. We aren't just a classroom, we're a community of believers all linked by those vines to Christ. After my theological treatise, he replied, "Huh," and turned back to his previous conversation with a classmate. And I looked back at the image to remind myself yet again.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Our Lady of Sorrows & A Swiss Pieta


Yesterday, I opened my theology classes with a slide show of many different ways Our Lady of Sorrows has been depicted throughout the centuries. The freshmen and sophomore gentlemen were invited to look for the key symbols that made the various icons an honor to Our Sorrowful Mother. It was amazing what they noticed once they started looking into the slides for special signs or empty spaces.

This particular image of a standing pieta I kept for myself. On the rolling foothills of the Swiss Alps, our sisters of Marienburg honor this statue, which according to tradition, is older than the castle that was their Abbey's first home on the hillside. I was drawn back to her several times during the few days we were there in the summer of 2010.

Her eyes are locked on her son's face. Her hands brace his body against hers. This moment of deep love and sorrow of a mother; it was an invitation to step into that moment myself. I think it was her hand on his shoulder that touched me the most; a simple motherly gesture, a touch I myself have been blessed to feel, a touch I hope to pass on to another in need. Mostly, I love the statue because it reminds me that she understands; all the struggles, prayers, pleas...she understands.


Friday, September 9, 2011

Compline with Community & Creation


A Friday evening to relax and take time with God; it's a quiet night in the city. Sister and I sat in the living room to visit after Vespers. The weather was cool and lovely so we left the door to the porch open for fresh air.

Soon I realized that we really weren't alone. Watching the folk come and go from their homes, walking their dogs, and bringing the children in from play, I listened to the first choir came from the birds in the trees nearby as Sister shared about her day. The cheerful praise of the birds bounced between the trees of the park of apartment complex. They sang through the sunset and then slowly quieted down.

The second choir came in with a slow hum from the now empty park. The moon rose and the crickets and cicadas filled the air outside the balcony. The rhythmic rise and fall of their wings was the perfect accompaniment for our time together this evening. As we started to tell stories of how we came to community and talk of sisters who helped us along the way, the moon was beginning to rise.

This Compline with Community was a very wonderful to wrap up the week. The chiming of the crickets continued after Sister said good night and I turned to compline in our prayer book. I finished this evening of prayer with the Canticle of Simeon. The refrain which introduces the canticle "Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep, that awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep rest in his peace" brings a relief from the day and a trust that God will keep me and all those I love close to his heart.