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

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Back to School

Well, it's that time again... the most wonderful time of the year according to some parents (and TV advertisements).  It's time for children everywhere to come back to school.  On these beautiful end of summer days, teachers are scrambling around with books, papers, computers... and kids are running around like little crazy people!

The other night all the kids came to school to get their new books and to check their class lists to find out which teacher they have and who is in their class.  I was excited to see them with their too long hair and crazy summer outfits.  I could predict who would show up and who wouldn't have any books until they got to school the first day.  However, I was wrong about one student.

I watched him walk into the hall where we were selling the books and he went to see his class list but before he got there he saw me and ran over.  I was so surprised.  He isn't the type who really cares about school or does any extra work or activities or hangs around when he doesn't need to be there.  Without any thought he came over and hugged me and said he was excited to come back.  I never expected that one!  I touched my heart to see him excited to be back at school.

There was one day last year when a few students, himself included, were stranded by their bus in the snow.  We had a pretend snowball fight in the classroom with some foam balls I was using for a class project.  I think that made them all feel special and important - and I think everything else comes easily from their.

So please pray for me as I prepare to continue with these wonderful children through another year of their formation as strong Catholic young men and women.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I got home to my local convent a few days ago after a very long summer.  I had a lot of great experiences and some challenging ones too!  But the best part of summer by far is retreat - a week of vacationing with the Lord.  It was wonderful.  The priest who gave our retreat was so wonderful and we were in a beautiful place.  Our chapel has these enormous windows that look out over beautiful fields and stained glass pieces designed by our sisters hang in the windows.  It is simple and small but a very intimate place to be with the Lord.  It's also private, located in the same area as our bedrooms so it is open to us all night as well as during the day.

One of the things Father asked us to do on retreat was too look over the past year with the Lord - looking through His eyes. That night I tried to think about where God was during my year and I came up with a lot of wonderful places - in my daily prayer, in the Eucharist, in my work, in my community - but I was left feeling anxious and upset.  I kept thinking of all the places where I failed to see or follow Him.  The next day after Mass I made a cup of coffee and went to sit in the community room by myself.  I turned the chair next to me to face me and I closed my eyes and imagined that Jesus was sitting across from me.  Instead of reflecting myself on the year I asked him, "What do you remember about our year together?"  The answer caused me to laugh out loud, to cry, and to smile.  The answer was that He remembered me dancing around my classroom on the weekends changing decorations and grading papers while I listened to music, cleaning out the convent, eating breakfast on the porch with the nuns, being heartbroken about a child's circumstances, hitting the snooze on my alarm, breaking my flashdrive, crying after a bad day in school, shoveling the cars out of the snow with the neighborhood boys, attending basketball and soccer games...

They were the places where I didn't recognize Him immediately but He was with me and in me through them. It amazed me that it was these moments when I was just being myself, just offering myself unconsciously for others, that God was most interested in - not in the times when I was trying very hard.

We have more good in us than we recognize or think sometimes.  I was so touched by His presence in my everyday living that I felt even more compelled to try to give of myself completely but I was motivated by love.  I will try to keep that spirit alive this year.