Categories
Caitie Ink Slingers Spiritual Growth

Nunsters and No-Funsters

By day, I am a Catholic high school Theology teacher in my small hometown in Indiana. By night, I am a sassy single gal, navigating the oh-so crazy world of dating in my 30’s.

Yes, I have stories from both times of the day that would make you pee your pants laughing.

But by weekend..

By weekend, I am a fake nun.

(No, I don’t wear my costume on dates.)

 

See, my best friend Michaela (Mikey) and I started this little act about 10 years ago. As volunteer leaders for a local youth group, we were encouraged to come up with a skit for the kids. Our first one bombed. We wore bedsheets. We lip synced to the “Sister Act” soundtrack. The kids fake-laughed politely.. It was bad, my friends.

But little by little we came up with something that was kinda… hilarious! Kids told their parents about us. Parents booked us for mom groups and private parties. The elementary schools booked us for teacher retreats. Mikey and I invested in some legit-looking habits from a costume retailer and we were auctioned off at a fundraiser (uh, we went for almost $8,000, by the way… NBD). We even gave surprise wedding toasts to some of the youth group kids we had started the whole thing with!

Before we knew it, we’d given ourselves a name and “Nun & Nunner” took off. Our Instragram account blew up. We were featured in Glamour magazine, on Catholic Teen Posts’ Live Stream, in an issue of FaithConnect. We are the latest episode (#6) on the current season of Leah Darrow’s “Do Something Beautiful” podcast. We will be on CatholicTV’s “The Gist” with Rachel Balducci this fall and are booked at colleges, high schools, parishes and conferences all over the country through May 2018!! ProjectYM just named us one of the “Top 12 Catholics to Follow on Instagram!” We were thrilled!

Nowadays, as Sister Mary Rose and Sister Maria Stella, we might tell our “vocation stories” with a Disney medley or talk about before-convent-boyfriends with a 90’s R&B mashup. We bring Justin Bieber and Ed Sheeran together to talk about needing to go to Confession before receiving Communion. We love the Q&A time afterward when we tell the kids about how we’re “not real”, talk about our friendship, reflect on our beautiful faith and praise our Holy Mother Church. And we tailor each show to the group that has booked us — never doing the same show twice! It has become something pretty fun AND faith-filled!

But I’d be lying if I said we’d planned it. Mikey and I never publicized ourselves or even imagined it would take off. It was all God. God has been pushing us forward in the most amazing ways.

 We’re totally enjoying the ride and pray so much about our act- from what shows to take on to what to say in interviews to taking the intentions of our growing followers into our hearts to reflecting on constructive criticism from friends. While writing each show, the cutting room floor becomes littered with jokes that will never see the light of day. We love to find that fine line of reverent comedy and it’s usually through prayer that we figure out if we’re getting close to crossing it. We call upon St. Philip Neri (he had an incredible sense of humor!), St. Ephraim (who used to change the words to popular songs and make them about God!), and St. John Paul II (talk about an evangelizer!) to guide us.

But lately, as we’ve gotten more Insta-followers (who we’ve come to call “Nunsters”), we’ve also collected a tiny handful of people who aren’t so kind. We don’t mind if some people don’t understand or like our comedy… even Jim Gaffigan or Judy MacDonald have those who would pass on their latest shtick! We think there are plenty of cups of tea to go around and we don’t have to be everyone’s.

What gets us… I mean REALLY gets us, are nasty and rude comments that a few crabby people must have ordered gall-in-bulk to be able to leave. Really, it’s only been a couple of messages, but they’re surprisingly aggressive! We decided to call these people the “No-Funsters!” I won’t even take the time to repeat their words, but I’d like to show you the one that put it all in perspective!

A couple weeks ago we posted this picture, a beautiful work of art by Michael Belk from one of my favorite series, “Journeys with the Messiah” (LINK IN: http://journeyswiththemessiah.org/). We talked about how, even in the depths of despair, we are always in God’s hands. People responded beautifully and we got into some great discussions! And then we got this message…

Uhhh…

Say what!?

This seems so silly now, but I’ll be real with you… it took us a while to laugh! At first, we were sick about it. Mikey and I talked on the phone and really reflected on the photo, spending way too much of our precious time dissecting this re-donkulous diatribe to ensure we hadn’t really offended God!

Finally I said, “Hold up!” I shook my head, “Girl, we are in Crazy Town and we need to head home. We posted this picture with the best of intentions. If some lady finds this ‘too sexy’, that is all on her! We cannot possibly be responsible for the reaction of a woman who goes into a venomous rage at the sight of Jesus’ six-pack, for Pete’s sake! Lots of people commented with beautiful sentiments and we got so many messages with beautiful reflections. Why are we fixated on one lady’s opinion that, prayerfully, we don’t share!?”

We vowed to put this behind us and focus on the good.

But after this week’s controversial Break-Dancing-Priests scandal (did you miss it? Read my favorite recap and reflection here) I realized that it’s not just Nun & Nunner that the devil is dancin’ on.. We can all relate to this!

 

We could get all the praise in the world and be steeped in prayerful discernment, but one loud-mouth tells us that we are on the wrong path, going in the wrong direction, wearing the wrong shade of taupe for this time of year and we lose our you-know-what. ✢ We post something that moves us as witnesses of Christ on Facebook, but decide to delete it when someone responds with a snarky, “Are you really this ignorant?” comment. ✢ We’re leaving the park in a great mood when Perfect-Mom #3 comments on the number of old popsicle sticks in Messy Child #7’s hair and the whole fam-damily knows; it’s gonna be a hostile ride home, baby. ✢ We love a certain song at Mass and hum it all day long, but are afraid to admit that we like to pray that way when we hear someone toil on about it’s lowliness. ✢ We rejoice in our parish’s strengths until a newcomer asks why we don’t do things another way.. “You know, in my old parish..” ✢ We have a great day at work until we get one email asking us to do something differently and suddenly we’re contemplating dramatic resignation.

For Pete’s sake!

When are we doing to let the chatter die out — including our own ranting voices — and zero in on the one that matters?

God’s!

St. Catherine of Siena gets it. But sadly we can no longer be surprised when people — even fellow Christians — try to douse our fires with big, crabby, stone-cold buckets of not-so-holy water. “Ew… You’re on fire. Stop it. You’re distracting people. You’re doing it wrong. You’re not being a true, oh-so serious Catholic. Ew.”

(Eyeroll).

Girl, you gotta be able to take it to prayer, wring out your Talbots and fire-on.

You are a daughter of Christ with a true and needed purpose in this world! You cannot be somebody who backs down from God’s call every time you get criticized. How committed are you to your calling, friend?

The key here is “being who God created you to be,” not just living off of our own whims and fancies. And truly, we figure that out most fully through prayer. In order to feel secure in our actions — even our mistakes — we’ve got to be able to know in our souls that we’re on the right path. It takes contemplation. It takes knowing the Word. It takes a regular visit to the Sacraments. It takes the honest feedback of good friends. It takes time. But it will come. The certain knowledge that we are in the right place is incredibly empowering; not because we’re so strong and we’re so right, but because we’ll know we’re in the hands of the One Who is.

For Mikey and I, those rude messages might have had a place in our story had we gone on some crusade with Nun & Nunner and pushed so hard for it’s success, feeling and ignoring the current of God’s will pushing us backwards.

But it is precisely God and His divine plan that has pushed us up the Mountain of Faith! He has opened doors and busted through windows and torn down walls for Nun & Nunner all the while allowing us to use our gifts to bring Him glory in a way only the two of us can! Anyone that has a problem with it needs to talk to Him and we’re not the first to be misunderstood.

We have got to be able to let go of the idea that to be Christian is to be perfect or be the same. To be Christian, my friends, is to be His and we are His in so many ways. We simply need to look at the saints to see this is so! We have got to stop jumping on people and digging our claws into them when the way their faith overflows from their hearts looks different from our own! And we’ve got to be able to withstand the attack and stand in Christ when someone does it to us.

We are all trying our darndest to make this journey. And we all have a unique role to play in building the Kingdom of God! Mikey likes to say that Nun & Nunner is “the pinky toe” of the Body of Christ and I love that. Hey, somebody’s got to be! Whatever part you are, I pray that you grow to love it and feel proud of the purpose God has for you, no matter what others say!

If you have a “No-Funster” in your life, pray for them but consider breaking away from their claws so that you can cling to God and become more of who HE wants you to be. And whenever you find yourself being a “No-Funster” (because we all do at times), stop and pray to see the world, not with your own eyes, but with the loving, patient, generous eyes of Christ.

 

Categories
Charla

On being a Catholic school teacher

classI have been in Catholic education since 1996– actually since 1977, when I started first grade at St. Mary’s Catholic School and continued to graduate from high school and then back again in graduate school. I taught elementary school one year – first grade: I can teach anything to anyone now, middle school for one year– sixth through eighth: I shaved years off Purgatory, and the remainder of my time has been spent teaching high school. I definitely found my fit and I feel blessed with the students with whom I have been entrusted.  The highlight of my job is my students, and I love teaching literature, so I feel I have been even further blessed. There are great things about teaching on a Catholic school and these far outweigh the difficulties.

The best things about my job are:

  • I get to express my Faith openly. I pray with my students and going to work involves Mass and Adoration. What could be better?
  • My students are well-mannered, mostly, and kind and really want to learn. They have been raised with values, mostly, and I get to not only teach them, but I get to love them too.

However, there are many trials that we Catholic school teachers face, and I think it is important for others to understand these challenges:

PARENTS

  • I am one, so I fully understand the position. Parents are generally cooperative and supportive, but there are those few that make it difficult. The hyper-vigilant, helicopter parent is always going to exist and as long as you have their child’s best interests at heart, those parents will support you. The “more Catholic than the Pope” parents pose a challenge.  I teach everything from a faithful Catholic perspective, even the questionable stuff; I find it my duty to help my students navigate the waters of life and anything they might encounter along the way armed with morality. These teens are not sheltered and they need to know how to deal with the harsh amorality of the world using their Faith.
  • A frustration also lies in the parents who do not reinforce the Catholic Faith we are teaching.  They do not facilitate or encourage their children to go to Mass on Sundays, nor do they attend Mass regularly themselves.  We are expected to fully catechize these students with no support at home.  There are those parents who outright defy what we are trying to get across to the students.  I had a graduate tell me her mom said, “Well, I don’t really believe all that stuff.  It was a good education for you and a nice environment.” This discussion was all in the context of her mother encouraging her to abort her unborn child at the age of nineteen, which sadly she did. There are also those parents who profess Evangelicalism and do not take their kids to Mass, but rather they attend “praise and worship services” where they hear rock bands and play at the skate park at their church instead of receiving the Sacraments.  These are difficult pills to swallow for someone who is trying her very best to convey the Truth to those in her care.

SOCIETY

  • These students nowadays so belong to the world instead of to God. Issues such as same sex relationships, premarital sex, and divorce, among others, affect these students who are innately loving and accepting of people. Society has convinced them that in order to love people, they must accept their sinful behavior. If they do not condone or encourage “happiness” for others they feel badly.  It is a difficult thing to comprehend the Spiritual Works of Mercy.  The tangible, concrete Corporal Works make sense to them and they perform these willingly with a joyful heart.  The Spiritual are most perplexing because they involve taking a moral stand that they do not have the courage to do, up against a society that tells them not to be “haters.” As well, these kids have people in their lives, whom they love, whose lives or behavior do not reflect Catholic moral teaching.  This makes it extra difficult and they are internally conflicted.

The other challenges inherent of the teaching profession fade in comparison to the benefits of being a teacher at a school that encourages community and service and goodness.  I truly feel God is at the center of everything I do.  It is also a great responsibility.  I must strive to be extra moral and maintain a virtuous lifestyle.  Eyes are always watching and taking in my example.

csI love Catholic education; that is why I have devoted my life to this vocation.  I truly believe God has called me to strive to be not “of this world, but in this world” in this way. I am afforded an opportunity to strive for holiness every day.

Categories
7 Quick Takes Books Christi Homeschool Homeschool Ink Slingers Products Reviews

Seven Quick Takes – Why Use “The Rending Of Christendom Sourcebook”

Both Rending BooksSeven Reasons to Use “The Rending Of Christendom Sourcebook”

The Rending of Christendom Sourcebook, written by Phillip Campbell, is a primary document Catholic study course and is very different from the typical textbook that one finds on the bookstore shelves these days. There was a time when one studied history – only original documents were used. In fact, until the Positivist period we only had the original documents or, as they are sometimes called, ‘primary sources’ available for instruction in history. I will attempt in this quick take seven to show why the use of textbooks, when studying history, is not always a good thing; why the use of primary sources is; and thus, why one should consider the addition of “The Rending of Christendom Sourcebook” to your home library as a great resource or as a homestudy course for your high school student.

Quick Take One: The force behind the evolution of textbooks.

Textbooks, as we know them today, are the direct “gift” of the Positivist movement. In brief, the Positivist movement was the belief that “the entire scope of human phenomenon could be accounted for according to rules of empirical science and thus “experts” in various fields sought to find scientific methods for directing their respective fields of study.” (Phillip Campbell) This thought process lead to the development of objective standards of precision in various fields of study and this was a good thing for some subjects of study. This in turn led to the compilation of data into one compendious book which worked well for areas such as mathematics and the sciences. The one area of learning that suffered from this development (rather than improved) was the study of history.

Quick Take Two: Why is Positivism bad for the study of history?

There is more than one reason why the Positivist movement was bad for the study of history. Most importantly, as I have foreshadowed, the Positivists wanted study (of any subject) to be regulated through rules of empirical science. Yet due to the very nature of humanity – history will not adhere to this rule. Phillip Campbell does a very good job explaining this so I will simply quote him here:

“Positivism seeks to find universally applicable laws in all things: history since it concerns human beings with free will, deals only with particular people and events. But there really are no universals in history. . . .  As such we cannot force these [historical] events to yield to precise scientific methodologies. To be sure if we studied enough battles we will find certain similarities . . .  that are all generally true but they fall far short of scientific precision. At best they are ‘rules of thumb’ and no sooner do we state them than a military historian can think of ten exceptions to each.” Yet, despite the fact that history could not bend to this theory of study the attempt was still made to do so leading to the development of the historical textbook or as Campbell points out “Rather than study history from primary sources, historical “data” was compiled by the historian into a compendious textbook.” (p ii of the intro.)

Quick take three: What is the goal behind the historical textbook?

What did Positivists see as the benefit from the use of a text book as opposed to the direct study of the original Old_book_bindingssources? To answer this I will, again, quote Phillip from his introduction to “The Rending of Christendom Sourcebook”.

“The textbook had several ostensible benefits. First, instead of reading everything a certain person of the past wrote, the textbook offered only the “relevant data” allowing the history student to get the “gist” of things without having to wade through so much material. Second the textbook allowed the historian-author to add his own glosses onto the events of history; little insights drawing connections between events, historical assessments of the successes and failures or individuals, highlighting of important innovations – in short, the textbook allowed for a veritable professional commentary on the entire history of mankind. This was held to be a great benefit to the student who was relieved of having to make these connections himself from the primary texts. Thus the regime of the textbook was supposed to bring scientific rigor and objectivity to the study of history.”

Quick Take Four: What was wrong with the goal of the textbook?

While no one will deny the usefulness of the text book in compiling historical facts along with highlighting important events etc; it does not render the recitation of these facts in an objective manner. In fact, one must understand what era the historian himself is writing in, to better understand his prejudices and choices as to what is historically important and what is not. As well, the textbook lends itself well as an “avenue for academia to do violence to the young minds by imposing the author’s particular historiographical vision on students who do not have the intellectual formation to notice it, much less resist it.” (Phillip Campbell)

Quick Take Five: Why go back to using primary documents as sources for studying history?

ramses iiPhillip does a great job of explaining the benefits of the use of primary sources. He begins by pointing out that the original sources are typically biased. “Unabashedly biased.” You might well ask how that is a good thing – did we just not visit why bias in a historical textbook is bad? Campbell explains that in primary sources (letters, documents etc) the biases of the authors is clear and self evident and that this helps the student to identify subjectivity in source material which “paradoxically makes them less susceptible to biased writing”.  He explains that the sort of blatant subjectivity one finds, for example in a depiction of Rameses II as forty feet tall and the Hittites as barely coming up to his ankle, is preferable to the kind of “stealth subjectivity one finds in modern textbooks, where ‘objectivity’ is claimed while in reality hidden agendas are relentlessly pushed.”

Phillip also gives the heart breaking example of the difference of reading the date and time of Mary Queen of Scots’ execution and reading instead her gut wrenching letter that she wrote from her prison cell at 2 am, just hours before her execution. This, much more than the cold facts of a text book, will give one a taste of life as it was at that moment in time.

Quick take six: Primary sources help you fall in love with history.

Or so says Phillip in his introduction to “the Rending of Christendom Sourcebook”.

“To really fall in love with history it is necessary to not only learn the facts of an era but to truly understand it. How did people talk? What sorts of things were important to them? What were their prominent cultural symbols? What sort of literature did they produce? Any thorough understanding of an era requires us to answer these questions – yet these questions cannot  be satisfactorily answered unless we “enter in” to the time of period of question.” And obviously, Phillip Campbell tells us that the best way to do so is through primary sources.

Quick Take Seven – ok, so what original sources does “The Rending of Christendom Sourcebook” cover and where do I get it?

95ThesenThis course study by Campbell pulls together twenty-three primary sources that help us to understand how the Protestant reformation, or revolt, came about and was executed. He has included Papal Bulls, letters, theological treatises, along with polemics as original sources.  At the end of each section he has a couple of study questions – the answers to these can be found within the answer book which can be purchased separately here. He also provides at the back of his book an appendix with a suggested list of how many weeks to study these sources as well as which documents to include in each week.

Each set of documents is introduced with a rationale paragraph that is printed in italics to set it apart from the actual sources being studied in that section. Within the introduction there is a section on how to best use this book. This book was originally written to be used in conjunction with his online course, the Rending of Christendom (available through subscription to Homeschool Connections which was reviewed last year here.)

While the book was written to compliment his recorded online course, Rending of Christendom, there is enough material included in the study that this book could be used as the core material for a semester long course on the Protestant revolt and it is presupposed that the person directing such a course would be well versed in the history of this time period. Regardless of how you use it, Phillip has provided an answer key to provide answers to the study questions that are found in the sourcebook.  (You can go here to read more about these online recorded classes that are available through a monthly subscription.)

I, myself, am lacking in this area of history but I have still enjoyed reading Campbell’s sourcebook and I have found Papal.bullmyself asking questions such as what was King Phillip the Fair’s response to the Papal bull of 1296 by Pope Boniface VIII? This causes me to believe that the use of this book would make for a great family project – reading these original sources and exploring further these naturally occurring questions.

Or you might have a student that is mature enough to engage in separate studies on his own while using this source guide for the core reading materials about the Revolt.  However if, like myself, you lack the knowledge of this time period to lead such a study – then I would seriously consider subscribing to the online course from Homeschool Connections. Having used more than one of their courses (several of which were Phillip’s engaging classes) with my teen aged homeschool students I can, without hesitation, advocate the use of their courses as well as ‘The Rending of Christendom Sourcebook’ by Phillip Campbell.  (At the time of this post the sourcebook and the answer key are on sale here.)

Be sure to check out This Ain’t the Lyceum and the rest of the Quick Take Seven posts featured this week. See you next month when I’ll be taking a different direction with my quick takes and will hopefully have a beautiful bouquet for you to enjoy! seven-quick-takes-friday-2

 

Categories
Adrienne Faith Formation Ink Slingers Motherhood Parenting Spiritual Growth

“Mom, I don’t believe” Update

Sunrise-and-Clouds1
This is an update on my article a year ago about my then nine year old son struggling with believing in God (linked here).  The article stirred up some emotions and thoughts in several commenters both in the combox and in other discussion groups.  A portion of the commenters related to my position and were thankful for some kind of perspective, some found it insightful for guiding their own children, some felt I should have responded in a different way but granted that perhaps I didn’t share all of my response to my son in the article, some applauded my son for taking steps away from the faith they themselves found to be a myth, and one implied that I was creating a “family group where everyone is expected to be Catholic for some therapeutic reason.”  Unlike most things I have written for CS, this one struck a nerve.

It has been a year since my son bravely told me “I don’t really believe in it … God and the Bible and stuff like that”.  In that year he turned 10 and kept the theological questions coming.  He is a smart and logical boy.  I grew up a cradle Catholic and never bothered to study the faith beyond what I failed to absorb in CCD classes.  By the time he was born, I didn’t even know what Baptism was for, just that it was something to be done, which is such a shame!  However, challenged by a few family members to question and leave my Catholic faith for another Christian faith tradition, I chose to study and learn the Catholic faith first before ignorantly and blindly following those persons on their own paths.  Being ignorant of the purpose baptism is already a shame, but what a greater shame it would have been for me to leave the Catholic faith before I even knew what it taught!  Ten years later, I am genuinely thankful for these family members’ challenges because I know the Catholic faith so thoroughly I can answer most any question completely, with evidence to back up the explanation.  This skill has proven most valuable in my discussions with my son.

This week alone the boy and I had a 30 minute discussion about purgatory and indulgences (while I was exercising, no less), predicated on his desire to know if saints are sinless before they die.  Purgatory and indulgences are two of the most misunderstood Catholic doctrines both by Catholics and most especially by non-Catholics, however it is revolutionary in understanding our souls (as man is a composite of a soul and a body), our will (an attribute of our souls) and God given free-will (our ability to make choices, something that He never overrides).  Yesterday at dinner my son was adamant to know, “who started church?!”  My answer of “Jesus”, while perfectly true, wasn’t enough.  He wanted to know how the Apostles “did church” after Jesus’s ascension.  So we had a long discussion about how Jesus told us specifically how to worship Him in the future when He instituted the Eucharist, so when the Apostles gathered together, they always celebrated the Eucharist, which is exactly what we do today when we go to church.  We also talked about the Roman persecutions of Christians under the emperor Diocletian and how Christians had to “do church” in their houses as they weren’t free to build places of worship until the Roman Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity.

As my son asks more questions, and especially as his sense of logic develops, he is understanding the whole picture of Christian teaching, and this seems to be helping his faith develop.  It’s hard to believe in something nebulous, especially when the secular world offers so many answers.  However, Christianity is only nebulous when a teacher doesn’t have answers.  Christianity offers a comprehensive paradigm of truth that spans from our souls, Heavens and Hell, to our bodies and our earthly world and earthly existence.  Thus it is imperative to either be ready with the answers to our children’s questions or be ready to find out, knowing the sources or persons to seek out, as the answers exist.

"Jesus, I trust in you."
“Jesus, I trust in you.”

Just like my kids, I too, am still learning the faith, and always will be.  Just this morning at Mass we walked the church walls, looking at the stained glass windows.  There were a few Old Testament stories I didn’t recognize from the window pictures and also a few saints I need to read up on.  My son is looking forward to us learning these together.

Lastly, we have been attending daily Mass every day of the week.  The grace we receive sitting in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord (and most especially partaking of Him) is as healthy for our souls as the Vitamin D our bodies absorb from the sun.  Also, we have been reading avidly upon the lives of the saints.  Compared to these holy men and women, my example of Christian living for God pales in the shining light of their stories.  My son has been most impressed with stories of saints who led less than holy lives before converting to Christ.  He relates less (as do I) with stories of saints who were graced by God to be holy from their youth, though their stories are still amazing.

Our experience on Earth is a pilgrimage with ups and downs.  I expect that my son and other children will have doubts again.  It is my duty to them to teach them the faith as thoroughly as possible, and to guide them in keeping their souls as healthy as possible.  While under my care, I need to ensure that my children’s wills, which are perfectly free, have the ability to freely move toward God without the impediments of ignorance or lack of grace.

Categories
Charla Ink Slingers

Search me, O God, and know my heart…

This story happened to me several months ago; for some reason I wrote it all down.  I am still not quite sure why, but as time has passed, I understand that I needed to revisit the experience by reading it over to myself.  I thought I would share it.

I really try to refrain from complaining– too much anyway– but I had to let this all out, a catharsis of sorts.  I am a high school teacher and end of the year events, though exciting, are the most stressful of the year.  Baccalaureate Mass was Wednesday, I had been trying to rein in restless ninth graders all week,  just finished organizing and putting on the Junior/Senior Prom the weekend prior;  Thursday, I put on a barbecue for 200 eleventh graders and chaperoned a movie night the same evening.  I had pulled my back pretty badly the afternoon before and could hardly sit or stand without it hurting.  So, I’m overworked and in pain. Did I mention the stacks of grading and cleaning my classroom?  In addition there were lots of little minor things that happened in regards to the big things. You get the idea.
At Baccalaureate Mass, the seniors did a video tribute to the teachers. I had a few kids thank me—sweet, heartfelt messages, but let’s just say comparing myself to others muted those messages in my mind.  All I could think was “Why am I killing myself?  They don’t even notice or care.”  I am a really good teacher. I really am, but aside from academics, I also nurse broken hearts, help kids with other classes, open my room for lunch, write numerous college recommendation letters, work through my own lunch and prep time with kids, among other things. I felt so deflated. Obviously, I don’t do this for recognition and this was a lesson in humility for me, but I was still a bit heartbroken. Remember, my back was killing me and I’d been sitting on bleachers for three hours. Thursday morning I was hurting badly but got through the school day and barbecue. I came home and broke down. I was sobbing and uncontrollably crying. (Thank goodness my parents had taken my young daughter to dance class for me, but my teenage boys got to witness “my crazy.”)  I cried on my husband’s shoulder for awhile, talked with him about maybe changing careers. Remember, I was feeling dramatic and emotional. Then I got it together, stopped at Starbucks then went to chaperone movie night.

teacherWhen I got home late Thursday night, I came across my favorite Psalm; a Face Book  friend posted the last few lines, and I decided to read the Catholic translation before I went to bed. I went to work Friday, thankful it was my last day of full classes. My first class came and went, I let them watch a movie and draw on the board, since we were finished reviewing for exams. Then my first junior class came in. One of the girls handed me a big stack of notes and letters. I started to read them, and each one told me how much he or she loved the class, how prepared they felt for their national exam and how grateful they were to me, and what an impact I had on their lives.  It was so incredibly surreal, and I started to cry. They too watched a movie;  I put the notes away so my students wouldn’t notice my tears. Another class, then lunch, then my second junior class came in– same thing, a stack of notes and cards, and more tears. Then one of the moms came in with a huge container of lemonade and nachos for the class and a bouquet of bright yellow daisies and mums.  I was just beside myself.  I asked one of them, “Did my son tell you I was a little stressed (understatement)?” She said, “No, Mrs. Smith, we just ‘know’ you and we could tell something was bothering you.” I cannot even describe how that made me feel. Last class– my tough class– watched a movie and drew on the board. They were actually pretty well behaved, and they each hugged me as they left the room. These were my BIGGEST challenges this year, and they were so sweet and loving to me. I turned on the lights (remember, movie) and I went to erase my chalkboard. It was COVERED with little “I love you” notes and hearts and flowers and “we will miss you” and “you’re the best teacher ever…” all from my little crazy freshmen. I have no idea how this all happened to me!

teacher-and-studentIt gets better… There was a knock at my door and it was a former student of mine who is currently in the seminary. I was elated to see him, and we talked for quite awhile, until he said he had actually come by to thank me. He had discerned the priesthood as a child and tried ignoring it in high school (when he discovered girls). He remembered my (and another teacher) telling him that I thought he would be a magnificent priest and he should discern the vocation; I remembered that vividly.  He graduated and tried engineering in college and hated it. He talked to a deacon and he listed pros and cons of different vocations and realized his calling. It was beautiful! He said he was so grateful because he never forgot my words and it confirmed what he felt all along. That was the end of my school year last year.

I believe God gave me a calling to be a teacher, and He sent me signs that day.  I hadn’t been listening well, so He screamed them at me, and I am very grateful.

Here are the Psalm verses I prayed: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” Psalm 139: 23-24