Sunday, May 25, 2014

When 'The Good News' is Presented Badly. By:C.C.

"But in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence" (1 Peter 3:15)

  Our modern technological advancements and the embracing of media as a means of evangelization has given rise to the increase of sharing ones faith. In many ways this is a wonderful and beautiful thing. Yet, at times it seems that there is need for more silence, reflection, thought, and most importantly reverence before one can share the 'Good News' effectively. I have come across many wonderful blogs, tweets, Facebook shares, and other forms of social networking that primarily focus on sharing and reflecting the Catholic faith. I have sadly also come across the opposite. I say this with all reverence to Christ and void of judgement toward my brothers and sisters in faith. When 'The Good News' of our faith is poorly presented it does more to wound than heal. It does more to turn one away from Christ than to lead others toward Him. It does more for division than it does for unity. It does not reflect the love of our Lord and the 'hope' that is within. Rather, it highlights the virtue one is without and the time they truly need to spend with reverence in their heart for Christ as Lord.
  Today's Gospel highlights our need to be hidden in the heart of Christ, and reminds us that we are to be 'prepared to make defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you'. We must not read today's Gospel and isolate this one sentence but further our reading and see that we are called to do this with 'gentleness and reverence'. Charity must be at the root of our message or it is not rooted in Christ. There is not a lack of morality or sound doctrine and discipline by sharing and responding to others with gentleness and reverence. 
  Today we have an outpouring of instant communication. Absence of thought and quickness of speech. Technological advancements while able to contribute positively to our Catholic evangelization can also greatly wound and lead to confusion. If we claim to be a follower of Christ, if we claim to have faith, if we profess to be in communion with the Holy Catholic Church, then we are obligated, responsible, and accountable to build up and foster the fruits of what this means and cultivates in our lives. It is not about us and our feelings. It is about Christ and His Church.
  Let us place our energy and our voices first into the silence of prayer. Let us turn to our Lord , hear His voice and understand what it is He asks of us through our trusting obedience to Him and His will. If we disagree with someone let us pray first for them before we react. It is not about being `right` it is about our Lord seated at the `right hand of the Father` who is the judge of what is `right and just`.
   Let us not be victim of reacting before retaining, speaking before listening, and commenting before first comprehending. We can often realize in hindsight that if we first sought His sight and turned to our Lord with matters of faith, our concerns, and our confusions, we would gain clarity and understanding. To be a disciple of Christ and to strive to evangelize we must first be a student of silence and prayer. We must patiently endure and prayerfully wait upon the Lord. 
  The old question `What would Jesus do?` comes to mind to me today. If our Lord had to tweet, blog, and facebook..what would His page look like and what response would he offer to others when called to give account? (C.C.)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Absence of Happiness and The Presence of Unending Joy. By :C.C.

"These things I have Spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full." (John 15:11)
"Joy suggests a more complete, ecstatic, consuming passion than mere happiness. In short, “happiness” can be described as an emotion, while “joy” is more properly related to a state of one’s being. By definition, happiness is a response to happenstance, contentment, good luck, prosperity, or good fortune.(Catholic Exchange)
    Our joy is limited because our gaze is set upon our desire for the fleeting reality of happiness. By keeping our eyes upon the visible and not entrusting ourselves entirely to Him who has made all that is visible and invisible,we can not attain a true sense of joy in our lives. To be joyful is to go beyond what is mere 'happenstance' and toward the Source of our true joy found in God alone. 
  It is a journey past emotions and things tangible. It is a calling outside of what can be merited and all that can be pursued. To find joy begins with acknowledging that we have first been pursued by an all loving God who has 'Spoken to us' ,that His joy may be within us so that we may experience fulfillment in this life'. In order that our joy may be full we must first become empty and make ourselves humble before God. Our Lord's commands to us are designed for the purpose of our joy. If our gaze is limited to the things of this world and our perception of joy rooted in our emotions, then we keep ourselves away from knowing true joy in this life. When we dismiss the path of virtue as one of destruction and embrace the inauthentic sensory pursuit of happiness we deny ourselves the genuine experience of joy as God wills for us.
  Even our moments of suffering and perceived trials are opportunities to affirm the presence of true joy. 'The state of one's being' can be inclined toward joy by seeking to remain rooted in our Lord. The enduring presence of joy in our life depends upon the endurance of our hope, our trust, and our love of God in all things. As our faith teaches us, “... true happiness is not found in riches or well-being, in human fame or power, or any human achievement…or indeed in any creature, but in God alone, the source of every good and of all love.” In other words, temporal happiness is not enough to satisfy us; we long for the “joy of the Lord” (CCC 1720). Recognizing that God is our Creator and that we rely totally on Him is a “source of wisdom and freedom, of joy and confidence” (CCC 301).

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Sacred Sharing from A Retired Catholic Educator. By: C.C.

My father-in-law

   The third Catholic educator I have decided to highlight throughout Catholic Education Week is my father-in-law. He is now happily retired and still filled with great knowledge about the profession. Him and I have enjoyed various conversations about education and the importance of the Catholic faith being woven into the classroom. I am happy that he took the time to share with me, despite his busy schedule with the Knights of Columbus and everything else that he is spending retired time committed to. Thumbs up dad! Here is what he has to share about Catholic Education and his experiences...

   If we are truly interested in educating our children then we not only have a responsibility to nurture their mental , social , and physical well being but most importantly their spiritual well being. Students, after leaving our educational institutions, should not only be prepared for the workforce but also should be decent, respectful individuals, who uphold the precepts of the Roman Catholic Church.
   I attended a Catholic Elementary school in Sault Ste Marie from kindergarten to grade 8. I can remember the principal who was a nun to be very strict with us. She was our choir teacher and brought us to music festivals. The priest would come in on a regular basis to teach catechism. All  of the students in the school would walk to the church nearby for Mass and Confession. Some of us would go to the church which was being built and help out on the job site. Many times when I had to serve mass in the early mornings l was allowed to arrive late at school. Preparing for Confirmation was also an exciting time, especially when we got to meet the Bishop!
   I taught elementary school for 30 years. I taught grades 3 to 8. I spent 25 years in the classroom and taught as an itinerant music teacher for 5 years. I worked with teachers on their music programs as well as conducted a children’s choir made up of students from grades 4 to 8 from 14 schools. I have been retired since June of 2009  which is now 5 years.
    In my classroom I always had a religion corner with a statue of the baby Jesus, various prayer books, as well as books on the saints. Each week one student had the responsibility to lead the children in prayer first thing in the morning. They read from a daily prayer book which was also kept in the religion corner. Religion was taught daily. Any issues during the day were always dealt with the question ‘What would Jesus do?”. I was in charge of the school’s liturgical committee, making sure the readings and songs were appropriate with the Church calendar. Christmas and Easter time always involved the children in concerts and plays. Prayers were also said before lunch as well as at the end of the day. We always had children say special intentions for those people they thought might be sick or were in need of healing. When the priest was present for school Confessions we would have the examination of conscience in the classroom. 
  During the month of May we would say the rosary every morning. Our principal converted the photocopy room into a chapel and we would take the children down at random times for silent prayer and reflection. On Fridays the Holy Eucharist would be present. When the Pope, and now St. John Paul II first came to Downsview Park we taught the children the songs and prayers for the Papal Mass. 
   As a Catholic teacher I have always considered myself as a role model for my students who l treated as my own children, as a loving and caring parent. Each month students received certificates based on virtues. At Christmas time children would meet me at the local food bank called the Knights Table and they would help make Christmas baskets for the less fortunate in our community. We also had food drives at the school.
   The biggest challenge I see in today’s Catholic schools is the way that we have become watered down. Catholic education is invaluable and adds great meaning to our classroom settings but especially in the lives of our young people as they seek to know Christ in their lives. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Sacred Sharing of A Catholic Secondary School Teacher. By: C.C.

"I try to help students see God in everyone and everything and to help them follow the example of Jesus Christ. I don’t think I could ever teach in a school where I’d be discouraged, or even not allowed to talk about God. Young people need to come to better know God and what better way for them to do that than in a community setting through their daily education." (Nadia)
Nadia, the wonderful teacher and I, on my wedding day
    The second contribution to the focus on Catholic Education is a sharing from an interview with a Math teacher at Cardinal Ambrozic Secondary School, and one of my dearest friends. Nadia agreed to speak to me in a more formal manner than most of our many conversations surrounding the faith and education in general.
   I have known Nadia since I was eleven years old and have journeyed with her throughout our school days at St. Patrick Elementary School, and then onto Robert F. Hall Catholic Secondary school.
   Our best memories include many wonderful times as teammates throughout our competitive soccer careers, venturing to Italy for a tournament, and appropriately getting lost among tourists while praying in St. Peter's Basilica;which resulted in getting reprimanded by our chaperoning mothers. It was then at the Vatican where Nadia told me that she would most likely grow up and become a nun. I spent my first year of university as her roommate, was a bridesmaid at her wedding (she didn't become a nun after all), and our friendship continues to grow.
     Nadia's faith has always inspired me. She is a year older than me, and has always be more than ten steps ahead.  In matters of faith Nadia was always a sound mentor to me, and though I stumbled and stumbled away from the path of righteousness, Nadia was a stable, sturdy, companion through it all. 
    We both felt called to the vocation of teaching and Nadia quickly found a position within the Dufferin Peel District School Board, and I with the Public sector. We are both Catholic educators, yet sharing different experiences based upon where we teach.
   While the Catholic education system is often the brunt of much criticism, I find it rather important to highlight the small seeds being planted. These are seeds of hope that can attribute to the fostering of faith in staff and students alike. I am grateful that my friend agreed to take some time to embrace writing (as she'd rather be crunching numbers) and share....

Why do you see Catholic education as important?

     I think it is essential to be able to talk about God and Catholic values and teachings with my students. Many adolescents are not being taught a lot about the faith at home and I’d venture to say that most do not attend mass or participate in religious activities regularly. Many students are curious as to what the teachings of the Church are and how they apply to their lives and society. We often have very rich and meaningful discussions about various aspects of life and about the events happening throughout the world. Without God there would be nothing. 
   I try to help students see God in everyone and everything and to help them follow the example of Jesus Christ. I don’t think I could ever teach in a school where I’d be discouraged or even not allowed to talk about God. Young people need to come to better know God and what better way for them to do that than in a community setting through their daily education. I think the activities that go on in a Catholic school are invaluable for students and hopefully will lead them to be more charitable and to think about the common good of all people as they become adults. For example, at our school we have the following activities each yea  Grade level retreats (done with each religion class),  March for Life in Ottawa “Thinkfast and Day of Service" , Each month classes go to help out at Dr. Simone’s warehouse, Masses/liturgies throughout the year (opening and closing of the school year, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, etc.)
What are things that you do in your Math classes to incorporate the Catholic faith?

-  Reading the “life of a saint” at the beginning of each class. Then we discuss what the saint did in his/her life and how we are supposed to follow his/her example. This often leads into discussions about how life was during different historical periods, how the church is run and how it has changed over the years, miracles, the process of canonization, Catholic teachings and values, etc.
- During Advent and Lent we read daily reflections about the liturgical time of the year and its importance and relevance today in our live
- I have a quote of the day on the board– many of which are from saints or the Bible. Otherwise they always reflect Catholic values and how we are called to live.I make sure that students treat each other with respect and if they are rude to someone I make them apologize sincerely. I try to foster a supportive and welcoming environment and often times students will clap for their peers who provide solutions on the board.

What are the challenges of being a Catholic School educator today?

Having to defend why our system should receive funding from the government. Some students complaining about having to take religion courses each year – the court ruling about also not having to participate in retreats / liturgies / masses may also become a problem.

What are things (if any) you’d like to see changed?

    I have only taught in two Catholic high schools. However both of them just had either someone come around to distribute ashes on Ash Wednesday, or classes come down to the chapel to receive ashes after a reading was done over the PA system. We often have grade / whole school assemblies for other things so I really think that on Ash Wednesday there should be a Mass where the whole school gets together.



Monday, May 5, 2014

Seeds of Hope And Catholic Education By: C.C.

"More emphasis must be placed on teacher Catholicity, and then one will be able to see the progress in our students, in their search of Jesus in their lives." (Luciano Novia)
St. Edmund Campion Secondary School Chapel

  In light of Catholic Education week I will be focusing Sacred Sharings primarily on Catholic Educators. My inspiration for this began in the chapel at St. Edmund Campion Secondary School. 
    Over time I have come to observe the 'regulars' who attend morning Mass held at Campion. I am delighted when I see students before beginning their school day, and also a few educators from St. Edmund quite regularly.
   There is one gentleman in particular who caught my attention for some time. He is there without fail and is the daily lector at morning Mass. Despite all of the criticism that seems to surround Catholic Education I feel it is important to highlight some of the seeds of hope that are undoubtedly present. I chose to walk up to this man (thankfully he was quite pleasant) and asked him if he would like to share some of his sentiments about Catholic education in an interview for my blog, he agreed. I came to learn that his name is Luciano Novia. I also learned a whole lot more about his faith life and here is some of it below...

What are among your most memorable moments growing up in the Catholic education system? 

         I was part of the catholic and public system through the 50’s and 60’s. My Catholic education in the primary system is one that I recall to this day; the catholic environment was woven into the delivery of the curriculum and into our daily education for us all, and not a façade that many seem to employ today.  Charity, faith and sacrifice are all tools of a catholic educator, but one that many fear to employ and practice. Mass, Eucharist, fund raising brought us all together as a community to share in our catholic faith and dimension. Through these school activities we built relationships with staff and students and the value of charity; part of Pope Francis’ papacy. For 30 years I have organized or directed our schools food drives, though taxing it allowed me to see the many students and families that truly share my vision of community and Christ.

How long have you been teaching in the Catholic Education system? 

         30 years. I started teaching with the implementation of full funding in 1984 and had the opportunity to teach in both the private and public sector. The latter allowed me to see the different dimensions of catholicity in action.

Why is it important for you to teach in a Catholic school? 

         For me, I believe that my teaching in a Catholic school was a directive by God and not a choice. Though I had 6 teaching opportunities upon graduation, I prayed to God and asked for his guidance and direction. I chose, with Christ to be an instrument of His Peace and the Spirit to guide me on my journey of faith. Without a Catholic dimension in my teaching, my role and efforts would be lost. I try to lead and teach with God’s love, compassion and understanding. Though at times I may wonder, I always pray and return to the One who comforts and guides me to do His will. I love to talk to students about Christ in my life, through the good and tough times and how He provides me with the means to survive and profess His faith.

   How do you make the faith accessible for non-Catholic students?
           Accepting their faith and traditions allows us to see them as equals and that we are all children of the same God. When students are asked to present themselves in their faith and I in mine we share community through our acceptance of each other’s beliefs and teachings. When we listen tentatively to their beliefs, they will reciprocate the same in return. We are not better, but different. Acceptance is the first step to self-recognition of one faith.

How do you seek to be more involved with the faith with co-workers?
         When we leading by example and ask others to be part of our personal faith journey, we allow others to share in Christ’s message of hope and salvation. When they see your conviction and dedication to the faith and love of Christ in all that you do, they do not question but rather co-celebrate in His message of hope and salvation through giving of oneself. Your personal presence and involvement in the schools Catholicity through the Eucharist allows for His presence to become prevalent and forthright in the daily functions of school life. 

What are things (if any) you’d like to see changed? 

         Monthly mass for all staff; religious retreats and prayer vigils for staff and students; class teacher-student retreats for all and not only religion teachers. Mandatory prayer and participation for all teachers in Teacher performance appraisals. Talk the talk and walk the walk of Christ.

A special thank you to Mr. Novia for taking the time to share his faith with me. +JMJ


Friday, May 2, 2014

Courage in Evangelization is Rooted in the Heart of Christ. By:C.C.

“Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor - the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant "To speak one's mind by telling all one's heart." Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. (Brené Brown)

    "Courage is a heart word", and as Brown states above, it was previously defined as speaking "ones mind by telling all of one's heart". Courage in this manner can be easily viewed as a noble and honest deed. However, this is dependent upon the purity of our intention and the truth within the deepest realities of our heart. As Christians the light by which we should judge our own intentions and inmost realities is through the lens of virtue and the Gospel teachings. By the fruits of our courageous action the condition of our heart is communicated. Do we seek purity of heart? Do we seek union with the heart of Christ?
   To be called to courage as Christ's faithful is firstly to imitate the early disciples. We are not only to imitate their outward courageous action, but to venture inward as did these first followers of Christ; seeking purity of heart, repentance, and union of heart with Christ Himself. We are to spend time with our Lord and learn from Him.
   "Courage and determination" were words shared today by Pope Francis as he addressed members of the newly-formed Council for the Economy. I was inspired by these familiar words of the Holy Father. Courage is found many times in Scripture and in the teachings of our beloved saints. It often seems today that the idea of courage and zeal for the faith is promoted far before any spiritual fruit is cultivated and a deep awareness of God's presence through prayer encountered. Evangelizing with courage for the faith is a result of love and honest devotion. It is born from the heart of one in love with our Lord and faithful to His decrees. The boldness of being courageous is born from the fragility of ones own vulnerability and self-awareness before God. It is born from a humble walk with the Lord and being aware of weaknesses and assured of God's almighty strength. We respond best to the call to courage when we surrender our hearts fully to the One who has called us.
    As Saint John Paul II stated in Redemptoris Missio "The new evangelism is not a matter of merely passing on doctrine, but rather a personal and profound meeting with the Savior." To be sent forth prematurely with a misguided understanding of the heart of Christ and without a deep experience of encounter, then our mission becomes one rooted in ones mind telling all that one knows. To enter into our heart first, and to seek an encounter with the heart of Christ, this is where courage is found. Boldness for the faith is manifested in the quiet tranquility of prayer. This is where purity of heart and intent can be sought. It means not only living the Gospel, but to spend time, frequenting the Sacraments continually seeking the heart of the risen Lord. (C.C.)