Saturday, April 18, 2009

The inquisition

Jack and Gus were on Spring Break this past week. In order to keep them occupied with things other than video games, I took them to the local hobby store to find a "project" they could work on. It did not go well.

Me: Gus, why don't we buy some airplane models for you and Jack to work on?

Gus: Naw. That is not our "thing". That is Nick's thing. He likes models.

Me: Ok, well, what are you and Jack into these days. What is your thing?

Gus: (pausing for a second and then running over to Jack) Jack, what are we into?

Jack: Video games

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Endings. A note to our youth catechists.

As we begin the final three sessions of the faith development year, my mind turns to more sentimental things. Endings. I just hate endings. As you all know, the parish office was demolished last week and a shiny new gym will stand exactly where the old building was. There were many good memories in the parish office for me as well as those I work with. Many years ago it was a convent and was later converted into the STM parish offices. If only those walls could talk!

I was wondering when I looked at the pictures of the destroyed office whether the many hands that worked so diligently all these years had any real effect on the many faces that graced its doorway? Did we make a difference in the lives of the faithful? Was Jesus happy with our ministries and most importantly, did we do justice to being “Christ’s hands and feet?" There were many memorable events over the years. We celebrated with those coming to plan weddings, baptisms, new registrations, conversions etc…but most assuredly there were the days where people came in for help out of desperation and sadness: those hungry, those struggling with fallen away children, an unexpected death and sadness. The parish staff worked hard to understand, listen, serve and hold those who were in pain and suffering. We did what we could and that is all. The Lord took care of the rest. That is our commitment to our calling, our ministry, what we were placed here for.

At the same time, we look toward the ending of the faith development year and the many memories we hold of the junior high youth group and their unique exuberance for life. We have had some great moments where we collected tons of clothes for the poor, invited inpirational speakers such as APeX ministries and Steve Angrisano, had whitewater rafting/skiing adventures, movie nights, open gym nights...we prayed together, laughed together and became friends. All good memories, all good times.

Then there were those tougher things to get through…the challenging kids who proved to be difficult in the classroom, sacramental prep struggles, bilingual barriers, coming unprepared, what seemed like a million distractions, and lack of time to impart the teachings of a very big church. Did you wonder at times if you would ever get this year over with? I did.

But as we near the end of this faith development year, we naturally want to ask ourselves the question, “Did I make a difference with the kids?” Did I do a good enough job? Did I do justice to being “Christ’s hands and feet?” “Does it even matter?”

And these are good questions to ask. Especially at the end of the year.

I don’t know for certain the answer, but I do know of many adults along my journey who helped me in my early years of formation, and I am sure they asked themselves the very same questions. Who were the ones who helped to form you? Did they do a good job?

We are ministers of Jesus and his Church. With Mary as our mother and Jesus as the center of our lives, we impart the wisdom of the faith to the kids each Sunday, and that is all we can do. The Lord takes care of the rest. That is our commitment to this ministry. So walk in confidence that Christ is with you in your class and that while things may not be going so well in the physical world, it is what happens in the supernatural world that counts….and he is there at both. Cheering you on and walking with you and your class and fertilizing the seeds that you are so diligently sowing. So keep sowing and never stop; that is the part that never ends. And that is the part where together, we are making a difference.

Mark. 4: 26 and 27: This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cousins, then and now.

Henry and Cousin Mary-2007

Henry and cousin Mary 2009

“Cousins are many. Best friends are few. What a rare delight to find both in you.”

How 'ya doin?

After the wonderful Easter Vigil, our dear family friend Fr. Scott approached me and said, "Do you know what your oldest son did tonight?" I looked at him with dread and said, "Don't tell me, I don't want to know."

He told me anyway.

When 12 year old Nick came up for communion, Fr. Scott raised the host and said, "Body of Christ."

Nick replied in a most honest and sincere way, leaned in and said, " Amen. So, how 'ya doin?"

Yep, my son Nick wanted to start a conversation with the priest in the middle of communion. Totally clueless. Totally sincere. I just love that kid because it all comes from innocence and sweetness.

That whole incident got me to thinking about Nick and his true self. Nick comes by all of this honestly. He has no real sense of the sacred, but neither does his poor mother. It's all learned. I mean, the part that amuses me so much is the many urges I've had over the years to receive communion with more than just an "Amen". Sometimes when I see a Eucharistic minister I know well, I have to hold my spirited self back from saying something similar to "how 'ya doin oh, and thanks for Jesus!" It just seems like the natural thing to do. This person is giving you the most amazing gift of all so it seems appropriate that they receive a hug, embrace, a wink, smile, kiss on the cheek or whatever! It is an intimate act that has profound meaning which has the relational aspect to it suppressed for practical reasons.

What is more interesting is the quiet understated receiving that I have witnessed over the years both as a teenage Eucharistic minister and as an observant adult. That relational piece always finds its way out, which gives me joy that there is more than an 'Amen' going on in the hearts of the faithful. There is real joy, hope, peace in receiving. I've seen tears streaming from older faces, excitement from the first holy communicants, desperation from those truly seeking God, humility, those walking on their knees for miles to receive and blatant disinterest. It's all good; part of the journey; part of what we relate to as human beings.

All in all, a good strong AMEN has it all covered. Nick and I can keep it short, sweet and to the point...but when the innocent blurt out a random comment or smile...there is our God....saying, how 'ya doin. I love you. It is perfect, so, so perfect.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

O Jesus, Who by reason of Thy burning love for us
hast willed to be crucified
and to shed Thy Most Precious Blood
for the redemption and salvation of our souls,
look down upon us here gathered together
in remembrance of Thy most sorrowful Passion and Death,
fully trusting in Thy mercy;
cleanse us from sin by Thy grace,
sanctify our toil,
give unto us and unto all those who are dear to us our
daily bread,
sweeten our sufferings,
bless our families,
and to the nations so sorely afflicted,
grant Thy peace,
which is the only true peace,
so that by obeying Thy commandments
we may come at last to the glory of heaven.


Monday, April 06, 2009

Roll 'um.

My son Nick is a master procrastinator. That being said, he comes by it honestly since both of his parents are woefully bad at deadlines. Still, it is a challenge for me not to pull my hair out in frustration when Nick comes home mentioning a project that needs to be completed. Here is how this conversation usually rolls:

Me: Nick, do you have any homework tonight?

Nick: Ummmmm. Not really. I just have a small thing to do.

Me: What is it?

Nick: Just a small project for English.

Me: (suspicious) Small project for English? How small?

Nick: Oh, it's no big deal...I just have to make a movie.

Me: Oh. (even more suspicious) When is it due?

Nick: Tomorrow.

Me: WHAT? TOMORROW? Are you crazy Nick???

Anyway, you get the jist and all. I wouldn't react as harshly if it were the first time the boy procrastinated. But he's been doing this since 4th grade and giving me a heart attack each time.

Now in the beginning of this habit, I would help him get out of the mess he put himself in. Many a night he and I would stay up and complete a poster board of a famous individual, or a collage, or diorama and the list goes on. But since he has been in Middle School, I rarely help him out of these predicaments. This is a good thing since theoretically he will learn that there are consequences to waiting until the last minute..and that he will learn from that, and that he will start earlier on these projects, and that he will realize that projects that get the best grades are the ones that you slave over....theoretically.

OK, so back to the movie he needed to make.  Nick only had  a few hours to complete the project. 

"Nick!" I exclaimed, "You don't even know HOW to make a movie, much less how to operate the camera or even make a story board! I can't help you out of this mess, Nick. I don't even know how to make a movie!" Nick looked at me calmly and said, "Mom, don't worry..I know what I am doing!" I glared in anger at my 12 year old (having heard that phrase before) and waved him away to start doing whatever he was going to do.Unfazed by my attitude Nick said, "Can I borrow your camera?" "Yes" I reluctantly replied, "but don't break it!"

A few minutes later, a couple of neighborhood kids knocked on the door and asked to see Nick. They had been enlisted by him to be his actors. I heard some running around, bumps and clunks and soon after, they went home.  Nick went upstairs to the computer to begin his editing work.  I just waited.  Waited for my son to do what he normally does in these instances, and that is to come down the stairs whining about how much work he has left to do on his project.  I waited some more.  No Nick.  

After about an hour and a half, knowing that it was late, and feeling Nick's pain a bit I decided  to go upstairs to offer any help.  There he was, sitting at the computer shuffling things around on the screen, typing words, playing with music....all kinds of things.  I walked closer to get a better look.  

I just stood there amazed.  He had basically finished the project  and it was interesting...I mean for a 12 year old who had never made a was amazing!  And I had NO idea how he did it!!  

"Mom, do you like it? What do you think?  Should I add music here?  How about if I add an accent?"  I just sputtered out something like, "Nick, where did you learn how to do this?"  "Oh, remember that movie making camp you sent me to last summer?  I learned it there."  

Oh.  He learned how to make a movie at the movie camp last summer.  Imagine that.  Amazing.  I stood humbled and proud and shocked and a little embarrassed that I did not have enough faith in my son to complete what he said he could complete.  I apologized to Nick and told him that I was delighted in his project.

Before you watch Nick's 47 second movie, I'll let you know that he was to create a movie based on a book he read in class....a short preview of the book, if you will.  

I don't know if he learned any valuable lessons from this project, but he did prove his mom wrong. You GO Nick! I love to be surprised by you.