+ J.M.J.A.T. +

Thursday, October 28, 2010


How do you live the Gospel with seventh graders?  Well... I have no idea but here I am learning anew each day. First I want to say that I love my kids with all my heart.  I am so grateful to God for each and every one of them.  I'm grateful for the quiet ones, the loud ones, the obnoxious ones, the intelligent ones, the struggling ones... and the ones that drive me insane.

Needless to say.... when you have all those special "ones" in your life, you are in for a surprise around every corner!  I can't believe sometimes how much of my life I spend as a relationship counselor.  Yes, I am a science teacher but the back of my classroom doubles as a romance advice booth.  I don't know what it is about me but something says, tell me your boy and girl troubles!

It is really humbling for me to have my boys and girls confide in me and ask me for advice and acceptance as they try to navigate these difficult years.  Recently there has been an influx of these problems.  It continues to amaze me that they come in and want to talk to me about boyfriends, girlfriends, parent problems, and a whole host of other issues.  One such incident really touched me recently.  One of my boys, who is quite a ladies man, came to talk to me yesterday.  You would think that a seventh grade boy wouldn't want love advice from his nun science teacher but... think again.  The touching thing about it is that as I watch them grow I see all the characteristics of responsible, loving, and holy men and women.  They want to do the right thing, but they don't know what it is.  The boys want to be gentlemen.  The girls want to be beautiful but not in the way the world tells them they should be.

What I have realized is that I'm in a unique position as a religious woman to guide them.  They really see me as their sister and because of that they feel able to interact with me in a way that is different than their parents, other teachers, and other students.  Practically speaking, the boys carry things for me whenever they can, run errands for me, ask me to come to their sports events, and open doors like it's their job.  They actually notice when I get my hair cut out the front of my veil (I know... I can't believe it either).  They feel like they can because I'm their sister.  It's the same reason they feel like they can tell me all their girl, family, relationship, and sports problems.

The girls see how they treat me and they realize that they should always be treated with the same respect and with charity.  They come to me and ask me millions of questions about all the same things because they know I'll hold all their tough tween stuff in my heart.  And they are right... I do!

I'm always tempted (without ever giving in) to pray out loud during lauds and vespers at our intercessions, "for Gina's broken heart," or  "for Tommy's mom and dad," or "for Brandon's breakup."  Instead, I hold them in my heart like God intended me to do and I offer my acts of charity and counseling for them.

Basically... it is tough being in seventh grade.  I love them though... my little brothers and sisters, and I'll do anything to help them and guide them to be their best, holiest, truest selves.  God help me... it certainly gets confusing!

Please pray for all our kids!  

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Expecting More

I haven't written in a while because my life has gone crazy over these past few weeks with progress reports going out and many community events taking place.  All good things but still things that require more energy than any one person can have.

I have found myself these days expecting more; of myself, of my sisters, my students, my fellow teachers, and basically of everyone I meet.  I have this problem of being a perfectionist and I never think I'm being hard on other people, even when I am, because anything I criticize about someone else is just a fraction of the criticism I give myself all the time.  It is definitely a problem and definitely a sin.  I know all of this in my head but my heart gets all caught up with the "should have" statements of my life.  I don't trust God enough to know that He will always take care of me and that my worth is dependent upon Him... not me.

Today I found myself confronted in a big way with this attitude.  In an email from a parent I felt that I was being accused of not doing what I should be doing because her son didn't bring home a certain paper.  It really wasn't a big deal but right away I felt defensive after a long and exhausting week.  I just wanted to say, "Your son is the reason you didn't get the paper... not me."  Now I would never say that but I was still going through this imaginary conversation with myself in my head.  While I was getting all steamed up about it I realized how ridiculous I was being.  I don't serve mom and dad.  I'm a teacher.  I serve children and families.

As I was thinking about how unfair it was that she was blaming me for something her son lost or forgot or blew up like sixth grade boys always do, I realized that there must be a reason God had this plan in store for me.  Because I'm new in this parish, convent, and school I don't get all the background sometimes right away on all the students.

One of the sisters in the house commented, without knowing about the email or anything else, that this student gets hit when he does something wrong.  Well, I felt terrible then that I ever wanted to say it was his fault and I realized how providential it was that God would have mom assume it was my fault and be angry with me.  If I really believe in dedicating myself to God's most abandoned poor it is going to cost me.  For me the hardest cost to pay is that of being insecure and of allowing myself to mean less than someone else.  I wish I were more confident but I'm not.  It bothers me when I think that others think of me as incapable or not good enough.  I care too much about what people think of me.  However, here is an opportunity for me to allow God to love me as I am and allow myself to be hurt instead of one of His little ones.

I still don't know what I'm going to email back, but I know it won't be that her son is the problem.  Because he isn't the problem.  He is a normal, forgetful and irresponsible, sixth grade boy.  I am a sister to all so why shouldn't I share in the sufferings of all?  And that is my answer.  I should.  So, if I say I'm willing to sacrifice, how much better is it for her to be angry with me than for him to get smacked around for forgetting a paper?  I am certain it is the better way.

So now I'm still expecting more from myself but I'm also expecting it all to come from God.  Lord, help me to sacrifice my own self confidence, capability, and reputation for the good of Your little ones and for the coming of Your Kingdom.  Amen.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Science Class

Today, I went to Shop and Save to get some materials for my science class experiment.  I had to get, among other things, some carrots.  While I was waiting in line the woman behind me was talking to me and asked me if I was cooking for the nuns tonight.  When I told her it was for a science experiment she definitely thought I was crazy.  But I explained to her that I teach science and she was thrilled.  

I love that I'm a sister who teaches science.  I teach my homeroom's religion and I love teaching religion.  I went to school and studied theology but here I am.  What is so awesome about being a sister who teaches science to middle schoolers is that my kids know that when I'm not with them, I actually do something other than pray on my knees for them (although I do that too!)  They realize when I'm excited that I have other interests that don't take away from my vocation in any way but add to my faith and science is one of those things.

When I got changed, I cannot even tell you how excited I was to be teaching science.  It gives me such an opportunity to infuse faith and practical real life situations for students who are at the perfect point for molding into dedicated and faithful Catholic Christians.  These kids are asking all the right questions; "How could the big bang happen if Adam and Eve happened?" "Why is sex before marriage wrong?" "What about stem cell research?" "Why are people poor?" "Why is there war?"  It all goes back to science and ties in with everything that they want to know. They want to know that God created everything, that scripture is telling the truth, just maybe without historical accuracy.  They want to know that God created their body in a good and loving way to mirror how much He loves them.  They want to hear that their life is special and cannot be thrown away and cannot be replicated.  They want to know why there is greed over resources and places that causes the meek and humble to be hurt.  They want to know that death is not the end of everything and that the way we live really matters.

At the same time, aside from all the big questions of life, we have a lot of fun.  They are still kids and they want to know; "Why do people have the hiccups?" "How do the waves get bigger when we are down the shore in the summer?" "Can we blow up a.... (The boys always want to blow something up - the answer is always no.)?"

Basically, I love everything about it.  I feel like I get paid... no wait, that doesn't happen... to laugh all day!  And I love them.  Our kids need to know that we love them, in school, in the parish, at Mass when they are being obnoxious, or when they are serving with reverence, and at home.  God is love.  Let's show them Him.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Daily Vow Renewal

I wrote the other day about renewing my vows each day in my heart at Mass.  Usually I do this after I receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  Someone asked what words we use to renew our vows.  The renewal formula is a shortened version of what we say at first and final profession but it still holds all the meaning of the longer formula.  Here are the words:

Almighty and Eternal God, I, Sister M. ____________, 
renew and confirm with all my heart
 the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience 
which I made at my profession; 
and I implore your grace to accomplish them perfectly.  

Sometimes I forget how touching these words are after saying them each day, however, there is a great and mighty grace and responsibility that comes with those words.  I  renew and confirm with all my heart that I have given my whole self to Him who is the One, the Beginning and the End, the Savior of the World, the Most Powerful, the Creator of the Universe.  And here I am, sinful, small, nothing, and I make a promise, a sacred bond with Him.  My desire to give of myself still isn't enough though.  To fulfill that desire, which He placed in my heart, I need His help.  It really is strange when you think about it, that you want to accomplish this for God but you need His help to accomplish it... for Him!  It's like asking someone to buy their own birthday present and then write "from me" on the card.  

I think it must be very much like the life of the Trinity, the constant flow of love and grace from one to another without end.  You can't even trace it because that grace and love becomes so much a part of each person that there is no beginning or end to it's movement and power.  God is so good to give this gift of vocation.  The vows are such an amazing grace.  Some days I wonder, "who thought I could do this?!, How could I have ever been permitted to take on this responsibility?"  And the truth is that I cannot do it!  Only God can.  Young women tell me all the time that they "could never do that!"  And I always say, you are absolutely right, you can't, but He can if you respond to His call of love.

God, grant us more vocations to love you and witness to your plan of Salvation!  Amen. 

Friday, October 1, 2010


I always have really vivid dreams.  Lots of color, imagery, movement and I almost always remember them.  However, I haven't had many great nights of sleep this week.

It all began on Sunday night with the school alarm going off in the middle of the night.  I had to get dressed and go out there to see what happened before I could go back to bed. I'm also very clumsy and the night ended with an alcoholic beverage spilling all over me... I know, its wild.  I had to take a second shower before I went back to bed because I smelled like this disgusting drink that was left on the school steps by whoever was trying to break in.

Anyway, back to the dream.  This morning we all slept in because we had Mass today with the kids in school so I woke up a little later than I normally do.  In my dream, I was running through a desert and I was afraid.  When I woke up I was all out of sorts.

At school, I wished I was running through a desert... my kids were off the wall, my room was hot, sticky, and wet, it smelled of middle schoolers, and I just felt like I got nothing completed and anything that I did get done was wrong!

Now the nightmare really came to life in religion.  I love teaching religion and I love my students but the questions they asked today and the things they didn't know made me want to... well... run through a desert.

From nuns and priests being married to the Trinity being "impossible" I was left feeling less than confident in the future of my student's religious education.  They, of course, thought my reactions were hilarious.

I just want to know what we are going to do for our children to bring them to God and to teach them to love our Church if they have such a lack of experience.

Now I know it's not all bad... the other day one of my boys who serves at Mass told me how upset he was that people didn't bow before they received the Eucharist... it made my heart melt.  However, some of them really are clueless.

There's really no point to this post except that we need to pray for them and do our best to surround them with what matters.  The problem isn't that they are not being taught.  It is that the second they leave us they are attacked by everything else.

Our Lady of Good Counsel, Pray for Us and Them!