Thursday, January 17, 2019

Transforming our culture from a dream!

For a little over a year now I have not been too consistent with my blogging endeavors. So many times I have a great desire to write but I just cannot seem to carve out the time. I've decided to share with you, dear reader, what is going on in our lives that has caused me to have less time.

Besides welcoming our red-headed princess last spring, we have also decided to open a high school! That's right, you read that correctly. We are trying to open a Classical Catholic high school. But before I can get into the details of that, perhaps I should begin with how this all came about!

I am a Catholic school teacher. I have been involved in education, on and off since I was 19 years old. But it wasn't until right before I earned my second degree in Theology that I decided that teaching was truly my calling. Since 2002 I have been working in some way, shape or form in Catholic education.

I've seen a Catholic school from the inside! I mean, I've really seen it!

It's not pretty!

In fact, it's mostly disappointing!

Since 2002 I worked both at the middle school and high school level. Teaching theology is not for the faint of heart. In the world we are living in today, theology is just completely counter-cultural! I fought against the popular culture every day in my classroom. It was interesting at best, but really it was completely revealing as to what we are up against.

The culture is powerful!

But we are not defeated! Jesus is victorious and I will tell you how we can begin to make headway against the tide of this monstrous, ubiquitous, absolutely seductive culture that has a stranglehold on our young people and even ourselves...


But not just any education.

Real, honest to goodness, old-fashioned Catholic education!

Classical Catholic education.

Classical education is a way of educating young minds through the basics of learning to read, think and speak. Sound simple enough? For centuries this is the way all Catholic schools from the youngest of minds all the way through college taught.

It is called the "Trivium" which is grammar (read), logic (think) and rhetoric (speak).  It allows children to learn according to their developmental stages.

At a young age (elementary or grammar), children are like "sponges" and through repetition and memorization, they soak in everything from phonics, to grammar, to history and poetry and math. The next stage, known as logic (middle school) is when children begin to question everything. As we all very well know, when children become teenagers they begin to rebel and question everything from our authority, faith to why the world works the way it does. This is when we are able to teach them to think deeply and critically. By using the Socratic method, children are not spoon fed their information so that they can then "pass a test". Their questions are answered with more questions and it is the student, not the teacher, that arrives at the truth. Through all the information they have absorbed in the grammar years they are able to access all their learning and come to a conclusion. And this conclusion is always, always hinged on the truth.

But what truth you ask?

Let's get to the third stage first.

Finally, the third stage is rhetoric (high school) and this is where it all comes together and young minds discover ways in which to argue and discuss subjects eloquently. They essentially learn to speak with logic and truth as opposed to emotion. All this is done through the Catholic lens and is centered on the One truth which is Jesus Christ. All truth, goodness, and beauty are acquired throughout the years because the children understand, on their own, that it all comes from the One source: the Incarnation of God in the world.

This, my dear reader, is what will help to transform our culture! The faith they will receive in schools like this and other authentic Christian schools paired with the faith hopefully imparted at home. Classical education will help to release our young people from the grips of a culture that wants to convince them that emotion is king. "Do what makes you feel good!" Authentic Catholic education will help young people realize that they are not slaves to media or to their peer groups. By teaching them how to think and speak, young people will finally understand that anything that is true, good and beautiful in this world comes from God and God alone.

This is what will help bring about a new revolution of love and life in our world.

I began to search for this in our hometown. I found nothing. Sure, we had the typical menu of Catholic schools: the academically centric ones where the faith was watered down at best and the end goal was getting to the best universities across the country. The sports driven ones where boys or girls with money or talent flocked to in order to get that ever coveted scholarship to top State universities.  The all too familiar elite Catholic schools with the well-known name that has graduated generations of families and has a large and faithful donor base but barely anything to be called Catholic. And then there is your run of the mill Catholic school; Catholic on the outside, public school education with a fat price tag on the inside.

I was not impressed! Nor did I ever imagine sending our children to these.

Yet, the only offering of classical education was homeschool programs or the new programs of hybrid schooling: three days at home, two days at school. The programs were excellent but I did not feel up to it, at least not for now.

I felt called to something more. As if God was nudging me to continue to search.

So, I began to pray.

Then one day, during Mass, it all became clear! We would open a school! The thought was crazy! Even crazier because it had come to me during prayer. But it seemed right. I knew it was going to happen. I didn't know how or when, but I felt it in my gut.

(to be continued...)

Photograph courtesy of Pixabay.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas Traditions

Those little feet that race down the stairs to see what Santa has left under the tree. How blessed we are to have those little feet!

We start our morning by going to Mass and the children are able to "wait" until after we visit baby Jesus to open their presents. A Christmas miracle in and of itself.

The wrapping paper wizzes through the air and the stockings come flying off the mantel, the squealing of delight replaces the carols that are now mere background noise. How beautiful and thrilling it is to live Christmas through children's eyes. But how do we keep them focused on the real reason why we wrap these gifts and sing Halleluia chorus?

Lest we forget today is a great birthday party? How could we go without singing happy birthday to our Savior and King?

When our children are little we have the great opportunity to start and continue traditions that have been passed down to us. We started one new tradition this year and have continued another, all to remind us why we are gathering and celebrating. Jesus!

This year, for Christmas dinner (the 24th) we decided to bring in a Polish tradition from David's ancestors. This year we shared Oplatki Christmas wafers before we began our Christmas meal. 

This is a moment when the family can "break bread" together using a wafer similar to the one used to for communion hosts only they are embellished with Christmas scenes. We broke the bread and then asked for forgiveness from one another for things we may have done to hurt each other. It is a beautiful way to welcome the child, Jesus. This allows us to clean out our hearts and homes, so to speak, in order to make room for the child Jesus who is to come later that evening.

Forgiveness is essential so that we can welcome the peace and joy of Christmas. Forgiveness is beautiful when done with humility and on the threshold of Jesus' birth.

The next tradition we have maintained for a few years now is that of making a birthday cake for Jesus and singing happy birthday to Him. This is a very simple way to remind ourselves and especially the children, why it is that we celebrate this joyous occasion. Just like any other birthday, we sit around a table and sing happy birthday, lit candles and all, to the One who has given us life and Salvation.

We also consecrated ourselves to the child Jesus before the image of the baby. What is more, fitting than to give your life to the little tiny baby who has come to give us new life?

May baby Jesus bring you all the tenderness, love and hope that only He can bring this  Christmas season. Happy birthday Jesus!

What traditions do you have to celebrate the birth of Our Lord?

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Reason no. 28, 29 and 30 of why I remain Catholic

I'm back! Reasons no. 28-30 are the clinchers that I just didn't have time to post. Life got crazy as it usually does with family and littles. But here are my last three reasons why I remain Catholic:

Reason no. 28: Sinfulness. Yes, sinfulness. In the world we live today, anything goes and sin is no longer recognized. "Do what you want" says anyone, as long "as you don't hurt others." But doing what we want has a lot of consequences because not everything we want is good for us and really, we've got to call a spade a spade. We are sinful. We are proud. We are imperfect and believe it or not recognizing sin does not stop at guilt, but leads us to repentance (the purpose of guilt) and the action of asking for forgiveness (confession). Now the idea behind all of this is to seek to do better and not go down that path again. Yes, we might fail again. Or maybe not. But the fact of the matter is because we can recognize that sin exists, as Christians, we can recognize that we are in need of grace and in turn in need of a Savior. JESUS!

Reason no. 29: Beauty. Ok, what does beauty have to do with being Catholic? Everything! In short, to seek the One True God is to seek all that is Good, True and Beautiful because He is the source of it all. It is beauty that pulls us towards Him. The issue is, do we recognize that beauty comes from God and do we allow our hearts to be moved by beauty so that we may praise God? The beauty of a sunset. The beauty of a face. The beauty of the first time you hold your child's hand. The beauty of order. All this beauty comes from the God who is the source of Beauty. It is through the beauty of the Church, and in seeing past the grit and grime of the Church, that I am moved to recognize the majesty of God.

Reason no. 30: Joy. Let's face it, life is tough. Yes, we all want to be happy, but happiness is fleeting. Happiness is an emotion that depends upon our circumstances and can be experienced in varying degrees. Joy, on the other hand, is something that can be lived despite our circumstances. The best example of this can be found in the lives of the saints. Even in the most troubling of circumstances, sickness, persecution, and even, dare I say it, unhappiness, they were able to hold on to joy. This is only possible because joy comes from God alone. Our salvation is our hope and this hope, that is our sustenance, gives us a joy that does not depend on anything finite.

I personally have struggled with unhappiness on and off in my life but when it comes down to what I hold most dear, I can recognize that internally I have a joy that cannot be swayed by any emotion or situation, it is a joy in knowing that God is my hope and my salvation.

In this time of Advent, I pray that you can experience the joy that only the child Jesus can bring to each of us. I pray that each of you are able to prepare the manger of your hearts so that Jesus can come and dwell and give you the joy and peace that you each seek.

Photograph courtesy of pixabay

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Reason no. 27 why I remain Catholic: Mission

What is mission? 

Most people conjure images of people in the jungles of Africa or in the deep rainforests of the Amazon trying to communicate the Word of God to the natives. Yes, that is one form of mission. The Church has gone to the ends of the earth, from the time Jesus ascended into heaven, preaching the Good News.

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you,g and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. Acts 1:8-9

Mission, in its essence, is preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ to everyone we meet in our everyday lives. Not everyone can drop everything and go to the "ends of the earth" so we tell others of Jesus Christ and what he did for us personally in the market, on the street, in our schools and workplace.

This is more doable!

But how do I preach if I do not really know what to say?

This is where prayer and formation come in. You do not have to become a theologian. In fact, the best way to evangelize others and live "the mission" is to simply give witness as to what God has done in our own lives. We do not have to complicate things. In fact, Pope Paul VI said it best when he wrote in his Apostolic Exhortation "Evangelii Nuntiaandi" "Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses."

This is our mission, to give witness and to do it where we are using our gifts and talents.

Yes. You need to know about your faith. Read Scripture. Take a Bible Study course at your parish. Pray. Pray. Pray. Go to Adoration. Watch movies or read books about the Saints. Listen to podcasts. There are numerous ways to acquire knowledge about God, just consider your sources.

But friendship and testimony are probably the most important and the most valuable ways we can go on mission. This only requires our story and our relationship and love for others.

Photo courtesy of RCheaib @pixabay

Reason no. 26 why I remain Catholic: praying for the dead

To pray for the dead is based on Scripture and Tradition. We pray for those who have gone from this world because although they are physically gone, we understand that there is still a communion of souls.

Once a person dies and is in a state of grace, they can go to heaven. If they have rejected God, they go to hell and if they have lived a life of charity and believe in God, but are not in a state of grace when they die, they can enter purgatory.

What is purgatory? 

It is the place people go, who believe in God but need to be purified in order to enter heaven. We are purified in order to prepare ourselves to see God face-to-face but also to undo the damage that we have done through sin. God forgives as soon as we ask Him, with a contrite heart through the Sacrament of Confession, but the consequences of our sinful choices remain. Our fallen state is still there, even if we are forgiven.

Why do we need to be purified? In simple terms, when we are about to "meet the King of Kings" we need to be at our best-perfect. Our sinfulness does not allow us to stand before God so purgatory is the place we go where we can get "cleaned up" and ready for the big event.

How are we purified?

We are purified through Christ's burning and purifying love. We enter into the "anteroom" of heaven and there Jesus Christ purifies us as only the Son of God can. His burning love is like the fire that removes the impurities from gold and silver.

But there is another way we are purified in purgatory that is important to know and a great tradition fo the Catholic Church: praying for the dead. Through our prayers specifically for "the dead" and acts of mercy and charity that we perform for the intention of the "souls in purgatory," we can help to speed up their purification process. No prayer is left unanswered and no act of charity is left unnoticed in the eyes of God.

Through our rosaries, good works, the way of the Cross, pilgrimages, adoration and other devotions we can help a soul or souls be released from purgatory. It is amazing how closely we are connected with those in the next world. We are all in communion as the Church Militant (earth), Church penitent (purgatory) and Church Triumphant (Heaven). We are all in communion through Christ who spans all these places with His love and mercy.

But the greatest thing we can offer up for the holy souls of purgatory is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. If you do not know of this tradition you can simply go to your local parish office and ask that a Mass be said for the soul of a deceased relative/friend. A small donation should be given. No, you are not paying for the Mass, you are simply helping to support the parish who lives off the faithful's donations.

If you want to know more about this beautiful topic of praying for the holy souls in purgatory you can visit 9 truths about purgatory

Photo courtesy of R. Cheaib @pixabay

Friday, November 2, 2018

Reason no. 25 why I remain Catholic: Spiritual Retreats

So I obviously did not make my deadline, however, I had a pretty good reason. My husband and I were on a spiritual retreat this past weekend.

Retreats, spiritual retreats, are a time to get away from the daily grind and literally retreat. In this case, we retreated to a place surrounded by brothers and sisters of our Catholic community to go deeper into the Word of God, prayer and community life. It is really such a blessing to be able to do this from time to time. I would say, in the faith journey, it is practically impossible to survive without a retreat, at least once a year.

This is a gift from our Catholic faith that can be seen even in Scripture when Jesus would take the time to retreat into the desert to pray and be alone: "but he would withdraw to deserted places to pray."  Luke 5:16

If Jesus, who was God made man, had to retreat and take time to pray, how much more do we need to do this, being imperfect and in need of His grace.

Retreats are essential. Now that I have had my batteries recharged and have caught up on everything since we've been back (life goes on even when you're on retreat) I can set to finish this 30-day challenge.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Reason no. 24 why I remain Catholic: The Holy Spirit

Just a reminder that my posts on why I remain Catholic are not written in any particular order.

Who is the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity?

The Holy Spirit is the love of the Father and the Son. The Father who begets (not made) the Son gives His eternal love to His Son and then the Son gives it back in return; this life-giving love that is eternally exchanged, that is the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is the life and the love that comes forth from the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit "proceeds from the Father and the Son."

So how exactly does the Holy Spirit, the love of the Father and the Son, help us in our everyday? The Son, Jesus Christ, promised us a helper, the Paraclete. (John 14:16). The Holy Spirit is here to help us and to guide us towards the Son. We cannot even say Jesus is Lord (1 Corinthians 12:3) without the aid of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit truly helps us to live the life that Jesus has called us to live so that ultimately we can dwell in heaven with the Father.

We receive the Holy Spirit at Baptism and this grace is deepened through the Sacrament of Confirmation. For "by the sacrament of Confirmation [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed."  (CCC 1285)

It is truly the Holy Spirit, like at the time of Pentecost, that comes to dwell in us. It is this love, this life that is from the Father and the Son, that comes to dwell in our hearts. It is only then that we can proclaim that Jesus is indeed Lord, furthermore, He gives us the courage to go out and proclaim to the all the nations this truth that transforms us from within.

It takes courage to tell others of Christ. With the many martyrs we are witnessing in today's age, we should but ask the Holy Spirit to give us this courage. It is by the Holy Spirit that we are brought to the realization that we are made new in Christ and so it is by the Holy Spirit that we can make known to others that they too can be made new in Christ.

Ask the Holy Spirit to come into your heart and renew your life. We receive Him at Baptism but we can continuously receive Him again and again and have Him renew us from within. Do not be afraid of the Holy Spirit for He is only love and life, sent from the Father through the Son.

More reading on the Holy Spirit? Go here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Reason no. 23 why I remain Catholic: Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

This post will not do justice to this saint. He was a young man, from a wealthy family in Turin, Italy. He was involved in many activities both within and outside the Church. He was a normal young man to most: loved skiing, study at the Politecnico. But no one knew that he was living a virtuous life helping the poor.

What I love about Pier Giorgio is the fact that he lived a life like most young people. He was very active in the things of his time. Yet, he was a pious young man who attended daily mass. He would even make time to attend daily Mass before taking the train out to go skiing. He would take his allowance and purchase medicine or food for the poor of Turin.

I remember the first day of teaching at a local high school in Miami. I had placed a poster of Pier Giorgio in my classroom and many of the young people who walked in would inquire as to who this young guy was. He was good looking and just had a look about him that he would be a good friend.

When I told them that he was beatified by St. John Paul II, they did not believe me. It is really beautiful to see holiness in such a real way. This young man made holiness achievable. He made holiness look "cool".

There is so much more to say about Pier Giorgio Frassati but the best way to describe his life and his love for Jesus was something he liked to say: "Verso l'alto" which translates from Italian to "To the heights" and that is exactly the way he lived. He lived his life, despite his circumstances of wealth and a cold upbringing, always striving for the heights of holiness and love of his neighbor because he loved Jesus.

The proof to this was the day of his funeral procession, the poor from all over Turin gathered to pay homage to this great young man. His parents expected his friends and all of the elite of Turin and to their surprise, they say hundreds of poor gather for the sake of their friend Pier Giorgio.

To learn more about Pier Giorgio, go here.

"Heavenly Father,
Give me the courage to strive for the highest goals,
to flee every temptation to be mediocre.
Enable me to aspire to greatness, as Pier Giorgio did,
and to open my heart with joy to Your call to holiness.
Free me from the fear of failure.
I want to be, Lord, firmly and forever united to You.
Grant me the graces I ask You through Pier Giorgio's intercession,
by the merits of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Disclaimer: photo and prayer courtesy of Frassati USA

Reason no. 22 why I remain Catholic: St. Teresa of Avila

So today I have a woman to introduce to you. Perhaps you know her. Perhaps you don't. My little take on her here will do no justice as you can read a plethora of books/biographies based on her life. Even still you would only scratch the surface of this woman's impact on the Church [Catholic], on Christianity and for women in general. She was a woman ahead of her time. I am writing about St. Teresa of Avila also known as Saint Teresa of Jesus. Today is her feast day.

St. Teresa, was baptized as Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada. She lived between 1515 and 1582 in Avila, Spain. Avila is a town just North-West of Madrid in the region of Castilla-Leon. She was born into a pious Catholic family. Her upbringing made her into a prayerful young woman from a very early age. But it wasn't until later that we see Teresa's true colors surface; the characteristics that will shape her and her future as a reformer of the Carmelite order.

Like many teenagers, Teresa also lost some of her earlier more devout ways. She began to yearn for more worldly things and this was reflected in her enjoyment of social gatherings and parties. She was naturally charming and became a kind of social butterfly within her social circles. She loved fashion and reading lots of fiction, just like any other teenage girl. This would set off concern in her father. Soon after her mother died her strict father decided to send her to an Augustinian convent school. Off she went at the age of 16. Although this experience reignited her zeal for the Lord, she soon fell ill and returned home.

To read more, please click here.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Reason no. 21 why I remain Catholic: St. John Paul II

Today is the feast day of St. John Paul II. Here is an article I wrote for Aleteia on-line publication back in April of 2017.

On, April 2, 2005, I was standing in St. Peter’s Square praying for our very frail Pope John Paul II.

Along with thousands of others, I had gathered to pray a Rosary led by a few cardinals. The prayers reverberating across the Square were a testimony from the throngs that had come to keep vigil, as we anticipated that our Papa was about to depart for his heavenly home.

He had a great love for the youth and his last words to us that evening were, “I have looked for you. Now you have come to me. And I thank you.”

We indeed had come to look for him, to say goodbye.

At 9:37 p.m. the light in his papal apartments went dark. The light that had always shined until the late hours of the night, had finally been extinguished.

The bells of St. Peter’s began to toll: 84 times for the years he had spent as a pilgrim on this earth. He had finally returned to “the Father’s house.”

Six days later I found myself looking across St. Peter’s again. The ocean of people stretched all the way down Via della Conciliazione and passed the Tiber. The people joyfully exclaimed, as their many signs read, Santo Subito! Sainthood Now!

To read more click here.

Disclaimer: photo courtesy of uroburos @ pixabay