Saturday, November 22, 2008

I Believe!

Tonight, I cheated. A little. A cold night here in Texas, my fiance and I made coffee and watched the movie The Polar Express. Though an animated children's movie, it never fails to move me. Symbolized by a small bell, the movie portrays the true belief in Santa; only believers in Santa Claus can hear the small sleigh bell.

After watching this movie, I always find myself pondering my childhood Christmases. Since we were a large family, there always seemed to be thousands of presents pouring out from under the tree on Christmas morning. In my childhood, this particular Season was a time of magical wonderment; the highlight of the year. January would find us depressed at the close of Christmas, July found us sneaking Christmas tapes to our room and playing Christmas while my parents weren't looking. But, Thanksgiving and the following days--those were tangible magic. Letters were written and placed on the fireplace, after hours spent pouring over the JCPenney Catalog. A large tree went up in our Living Room, with much fanfare as to who's turn it was to put the tree topper on. Santa Claus the Movie and It's a Wonderful Life were video staples, watched with egg-nog and hot chocolate. Most of all, time and intense thought were given every year as to our gifts for each other.

We believed in Santa Claus. Second to Catholic Dogma, my siblings and I fought for Saint Nicholas' existence. Our friends believed, too, until they got to a certain age. When inevitable doubt would fill us, our parents or big brother would set us straight. While Santa only added to the magic, I knew the Source of Christmas. This perception of Christmas was manifested perfectly in a small statue my has mother placed next to the Nativity every Christmas. A tiny manger, filled with hay, containing the baby Jesus; kneeling humbly next to Him with hat off was Santa Claus. This, materialized, was Christmas. All magic knelt before Him as He was the source of all magic.

As our society loses Faith in God and religion become an extremist and endangered "lifestyle," I wonder something. All magic, for children, is gone. Many children no longer believe in Santa. Commercials and publicity advertise Mom and Dad creating Christmas. Society has begun decorating for Christmas as early as October. Nothing is sacred; nothing is enchanted. Because we have squelched God out of society, we have extinguished all magic. G.K. Chesterton once said, "For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony [like children]. But perhaps God is strong enough exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, 'Do it again!' to the sun; and every evening, 'Do it again!' to the moon!" But, even children no longer exult in monotony; I fear, children no longer exult in anything.

I still believe in Santa Claus. We Smith children still do, though we are no longer children. This belief, though changed somewhat, still burns strongly within my heart. Christ is the foundation of Christmas, but the jolly bearded man is the embodiment of giving. As Christmas approaches, I am reminded of that magic, that enchantment I had as a child. The very fascinating excitement to hand pieces of God's love to others. Santa Claus, he did this. He still does. He is not one man; rather, he is all of us. We are all that magical desire to give joy, peace, and love to others most especially during this holiday season. There are few of us left who have this bewitching desire to give, to love. But, Christ burns all the more strongly in us as the foundation of this magic.

This shall serve as additional incentive for me as the Christmas Season approaches. I shall, give until it hurts because, as Mother Theresa once said, "if we give until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only love." May Santa Claus and his Divine Source serve as encouragement to all Christians this season, as we fight to re-infuse Christmas with Christ. May we all remember that it is only in giving that we receive. And, ultimately, that "the true Spirit of Christmas lies in your heart."

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Death Living in the Hallways: Thoughts from Christ's Little Teapot

Last year, God placed me in a private Catholic school, where I was to teach and guide young people. While there, I was able to freely talk of my moral beliefs and preach constantly about God's Holy Word. While I saw some sad stories and had a few difficult children, I am only now learning how easy I had it.

Now, I am substitute teaching in another school district. The last few days have found me at the High School, working both as a PE and an Art teacher. I thought I had mentally prepared myself for what I was going to see; after all, I was a public school kid, myself. I was more than wrong. As I stepped inside this microcosm, shock overtook me. I watched as fifteen and fourteen year old kids slid their hands all over each other. As a military brat, I have never heard such foul language so often. But, the most saddening aspect: these grown up children move through their day like dead people. Many children never show any expression; rather, they eerily resemble zombies. However, even those who exude some expression, share a characteristic with the others. There is no life in their eyes.

I have spent the last three days searching for it. My sisters have it. I have it. My brothers and fiance have it. Everyone with whom I went to college also had it. That life in their eyes. A spark there that next manifests itself in this all over glow. Innocence. As I scanned the faces of the miniature adults moving through the hallways and entering my room, I never saw it. All that greeted my search was repetitive darkness and death in their eyes; an absence of life.

Still, I exude Christ. Smiling to every face that actually turns to mine, saying hello, using affirmation and endearments. Most are in vain. However, I have had a few rare moments where, almost like a burst of sunshine, Christ's love, through his little tool, is poured into the soul of a youth and blooms instantaneously. Eyes lock, a moment of questioning trust, and then, for a moment, I see the spark. What joy unfolds in this child! And, sadly, how alien they find it. Some shut it down, others come beckoning for more. This is my success.

Even though I am only in the lives of these children for a fleeting moment, I may never know what impact I might have on them. I consider myself Christ's pitcher, into which He pours His love, only to pour it into others. I yearn to be Christ's pitcher, to be the one full container that shares His love with many empty containers.

I will continue to act as His little teapot, the channel for His divine Love. I pray that these young children will realize that they are just that: His children. And that is okay. I pray that these children find Real Love and understand what it is they are looking for. And, lastly, I pray to always remember to put these young sheep first, before me, that they may receive Christ through me and somewhere always have it. God bless the little children.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

She's Back, and Ready for More

When packing my classroom back in May, yearning for a summer reprieve but already missing my kids, I never imagined the path my life would take. Most of the summer flew quickly by and I was superfluously distracted with my own life. While I was lesson planning for the next year and traveling to various weddings and locales, the economy was falling apart. Then, my "superfluous" view suddenly was shattered; Miss Smith was out of work.

I have worked odd jobs and pinched pennies for the last three months. After working in an office with no people contact, I realized that no job would satisfy me like that of a teacher. The economy hit me again and I knew immediately where I was going.

As of Monday morning, I will be back in the classroom. While I will only be substitute teaching, I am overjoyed to returning the classroom. I will be able to help those youth who need guidance so terribly. Miss Smith has put her teacher pants back on.

It won't be the same, however, as Holy Trinity. We were warned in no uncertain terms in Orientation to leave God out of our conversations and lessons. At the risk of losing my job again, I will not mention Him, my Divine Father. However, they cannot ask me to leave Him out of my actions and intentions.

I ask for prayers as I begin again. I look forward to Monday, despite some nerves. Miss Smith is coming back for more.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

All my life, I dreamed it in my head. Once, the whole thing unfolded on a beach, the waves lapping at the shore. Another time, the event occurred in a five-star restaurant, while everyone looked on. Slowly as I grew, the location became secluded, quiet, just the two of us. In college, my imagination pictured the moment on a small bridge located off a rough path on my campus. Of course, when the man I fell in love with finally asked me to be his wife, the location could not have been more perfect: in a chapel, in front of God.

As he sank down to his knee and asked me to be his bride, a thousand thoughts crashed in my head at once: "Is this really happening?" combined with, "I've waited my whole life for this." and, finally, "Am I ready for this?" I said yes. My dreams were coming true.

Now that two months have passed, reality has begun to quickly set in. I have a giant list of things to do. Find a dress, decide on flowers, pick the music, the list goes on. I have a great many desires, as well. I want some new clothes for my Honeymoon, I'd like to replace some shoes that are worn. I really want a nice trousseau, complete with items any housewife would love. I yearn to tweak his home, to pick out bedsheets and shams, curtains, and other items a bachelor's home lacks.

Suddenly, though, I have been overcome by a much different desire. Immaterial and almost inexplicable, this is by far the strongest one I've had since he gently placed a ring on my finger. Recently, I have been stunned into silence by this man. As my life takes directions I hadn't planned, Richard has stood strong. Always affirming and praying, he's held me as my world spins out of control numerous times. Humble and gentle, he's full of advice when I want help and exudes patience as I irrationally spout my fears and worries. This man is my hero.

I have a strong and ardent desire to be the best I can for him. More than the spoons and rugs I want for his kitchen, more than the daisies and cake I hope are at my wedding, I want to humble myself before him everyday for the rest of my life. Never have I met a man for whom I've wanted to scrub his floors and massage his feet. I wish to be the serving wife, the quiet mother, the constant best friend.

In college, I vowed no man would stand in the way of my hopes and dreams. As I watched girls seemingly put their dreams on the shelf and follow a man, I told my friends that this would not happen to me. I would get my Master's and I would teach college and live in my own place. When I was ready, I would find a man and settle down. He could wait. Then, appropriately, reality hit me in the face like a train.

Now, I am preparing to spend the rest of my life with this insanely loving and gentle man. Honest, caring, selfless, he puts much of my spiritual life to shame. As it should be. I want to be to him what Mary was to humanity: a selfless, quiet, serving woman who daily martyrs herself for her family's salvation. I want fervently to use every moment, every word, every action to further Richard on his path to salvation. I must be ready for this immense vocation. I am reading voraciously marriage-prep books, praying for virtue, and cultivating my spiritual life. I want to be his Mary.

I adore this man. I wish that I could be what he is. I am humbled to watch him, honored to know him, and stunned by the vital vocation of aiding him to Heaven. I must be ready. This is my call. I am preparing for our life together. With all the tasks to complete before our wedding, all the household items we could register for, with all the new clothes and accessories I dream of, none of these hold a candle to my burning desire to be the best servant for him possible. Everyday, I pray I can stand up to the challenge, that I can daily die to self for love of him.

Lord, make of me a servant; help me to forget myself for sake of him. Aid me in being the best woman I can be. Guide me in becoming an image of Mary, ever selfless and humble in her service for her family. Please help me in fulfilling my vocation that, when you call us both to your home, we both may enter and praise you forever. Amen.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"Greater love than this no man hath,
that a man lay down his life for his friends." Jn 15:13

I remember once sitting in Mass at Christendom, my alma mater. Father Hiesler was giving the sermon. As a highly involved campus chaplain, Father always knew the current happenings on campus and tailored his sermons appropriately. I remember during this time that many girls were going through tough times with boys and vice versa; Spring Fever had hit. As such, he was preaching about dating and marriage. Speaking of women, he said that females should be ready to imitate Mary, loving and serving in a way that was completely emptying. For men, he advised they wait, until they were ready to spiritually die for thier loved ones. Men, he said, were ready to seriously date and marry when they had an ardent desire to place thier lives daily at the mercy of their family. Like Christ, men should be willing and ready to die spiritually and physicall for their family.

I remember many more things about Christendom. The campus, the snow, the camaraderie. I remember the president, the chaplains, the students. Faces, names of faculty and staff pictured clearly in my mind. I remember one man, quiet, steady, constant. He was always there, on campus, talking to the guys and chatting with the girls. He was at all the sporting events, smiling, encouraging, teaching. This man did not lecture in a classroom; he did not have an office in Coeli. Rather, at the back of the campus, in a small room in the gym, he inspired the young men and women to do their best on and off the soccer field and gym court. He developed an intimate relationship with each of his athletes, causing them to grow and become deeply committed and resolute in all areas of their lives. He gave his all in that office, each day. He spent each day spiritually dying for his athletes.

I remember something else about this man. As tough as he was, he had such a soft heart. Always at his side was his youngest son, disabled by Down's Syndrome. This man went everywhere with his son, letting him ramble around campus and make new friends. He always knew what his son was doing and where he was going. Oftentimes, when I was leaving workstudy, I would see these two, walking and talking as if there were nothing else in the world. Totally absorbed in his son, he would see me at the last second but always greet me with such kindness. I looked forward to seeing them on the way back to my dorm; he and his son always left me feeling better than before. I noticed his face was lit up each time his son was rattling about his thoughts. He loved his son dearly.

I was deeply saddened to hear the loss of this man on the Feast of Mary's Nativity. Diving into a septic tank without a second thought, he held his son up for twenty minutes, so as to save his life and in the process he lost his own. Leaving behind a large and greiving family, he also leaves behind other things, as well. Athletes both from Seton High School and Christendom College, whom he watched develop during the most critical time of their lives. He leaves behind his son, Josie, who was the apple of his eye. A college and high school mourn the loss of man who martyred himself daily.

But, more than that, Mr. VanderWoude left behind a legacy, woven with inspiration and humility. News stations have covered his life; newspapers writing lengthy articles on his kindness and love. This man lived his life for others and, in the fulfillment of who he was, he laid down his life for his family. He truly was the pinacle of fatherhood: giving his life spiritually to ot his children daily and, finally, dying to save his son's life. While many people grieve his sudden departure, Heaven rings out welcome for this Saint. A martyr, mirroring Christ, has come home to be with his own Heavenly Father.

Praise God for Thomas VanderWoude; glory to God for his complete selflessness. While we naturally mourn his loss, let all who knew him thank Christ. Thank Him for this gift of personified kindness, love, and strength. Thank Him for a living example of Christ's love. For all the sadness I feel at Mr. VanderWoude's death, I am astonished at what an amazing, Christ-like man I was gifted in knowing. Thanks be to God!

Eternal rest grant upon him, O Lord, and may the souls of the faithfully departed rest in peace.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Our Selfless Soldiers

My childhood memories are quite different from many people I know. Talking of their childhood, many of my friends speak of one house, one town, one life. Picket fences, gardens, and old trees exist in their memories. Names of long-time acquaintances roll easily off their tongues while thousands of memories dance simultaneously through their mind. My childhood was different. To date, I've lived in seventeen homes, resided in thirteen towns, and have lived many lives.

The colors brown and olive drab have always made me stand a little straighter; I still find myself listening at five o'clock for that bugle to warble through the air. When I enter grocery stores, I still reach down for my wallet. I feel right at home surrounded by large gates and barbed wire. An American flag waving in the wind still causes me to stop a moment and stare. Airport security and travel are second nature to me. Out of all my friends, I can pack a suitcase fastest: for a thirty day break from college, I was always ready to leave within half an hour. The majority of my language consists of acronyms and I still get the itch to leave every two years.

Despite the incessant moving and changing of scenery, there is one constancy burned in my memory. The PX's and Commissaries were only secondary to this monumental source of pride. As a child, I was almost constantly surrounded hundreds of men in military uniforms, supposedly creating a homogeneous effect. However, there was one man who, regardless of the weight he carried or the workload on his shoulders, walked a little straighter and a little more dedicated than those around him. He always valued every soldier as a person and extended respect to each one. This man always left an office full of women crying in the wake of his PCS's and unknowingly left an unsurpassable legacy behind him. Watching him operate always left me silently stunned. He spent 22 years as an Army Officer, a shining example to every soldier he worked with. And I had the honor of calling this amazing soldier, my father.

I am now grown up, but still find myself silently stunned by this man. As such, I have a profound and abiding respect and pride for the military. I now stand a little straighter at anything American. I try to thank every soldier I meet for his or her service in honor of our country. And God has now given me the honor of having another amazing soldier in my life.

Maybe this is why my blood runs cold when people, especially Catholics, criticize the military. In their minds, soldiers are "over-eager to go to war." Our service men and women are, supposedly, trained for war only. They are not at all capable of attaining and instituting peace. I was appalled recently when one young Catholic suggested we had made a mistake entering war, because maybe Iraqis were better off before Hussein was de-throned.

I understand and bear no hard feelings when people debate and disagree on the current war. I myself am not completely thrilled our soldiers are over fighting in such horrific conditions and risking their lives everyday. But, my patience ends when debate occurs over our soldiers.

After finishing twenty-three years as an Army Officer, my father retired and began working full time for the Veteran's Healthcare System, so he could "serve those he served with." Oftentimes, my family will go and join my father for lunch in the Canteen. Anyone questioning the price the service men and women pay should do the same. Men slowly moving along in wheelchairs without legs, women writhing in pain waiting patiently to see the doctor. Blindness, deafness, death.

These brave men and women leave so much behind to answer the call. Saying good-bye to their towns, homes, and families, they deploy from six months (Marines and Navy) to fifteen months (Army). And some, they never come home. I have to face this, as my fiancee is a Captain in the Army. I have to understand that I may lose the man God gave me before it's time. But, that is what God calls him to do.

Are my fiancee and father war-hungry? Not a chance. Rather, they heard the call to defend their country and it's freedom and risked all to do so. Are they killing machines, only trained to shoot people? No way. The two most inspirational, calm souls I have met are my father and my fiancee. Do they thrill at the chance to deploy? Absolutely not. That is where their selflessness lies. They don't do it because they want to, but because they are needed.

Thousands of men and women have perished in our Fight against Terrorism. Fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers. Some left behind babies and children. So, when my husband inevitably deploys, will I stand by happily and watch him go? No. I will feel as though my heart and soul are being ripped out of my body. But, I, too, will make my sacrifice as an Army wife. I will watch my soldier go. I will keep my home and family safe. And, God-willing, I will see my soldier come home. That is when my Captain will be eager. This is when I will be excited.

Whether or not you agree with the War, I ask you all to stand behind our troops. As Catholics, we are creatures of charity and love. Support these men and women who are fulfilling their God-given vocations. When you pass a blind or lame veteran while walking into Wal-Mart, do not look away. Stop, thank them for their service. They did not have to fight. They did not want to leave. But, they answered the call and kept our nation free. May God bless them for that.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

"What the Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away;
Blessed be the name of the Lord!"

One can fully understand this passage only when he or she has been unemployed in the current job market.

One month ago, I was standing the Christendom College Chapel while the man of my dreams was on his knee beckoning me to spend the rest of my life with him. As I muttered a tearful yes, I painted romantically the next year in my head. Only the week before I had moved into my own place: a sweet, wonderful apartment I was making my own. School would start and I would return my students, once again throwing myself into my passion: teaching. I saw myself balancing work and wedding planning. Side by side with my mother, putting together a wedding while I spent other time with Richard and madly grading papers. I could see myself in the classroom, working my children, aiding and encouraging them to achieve their dreams, awakening their passion for learning. Life was set: just the way I had pictured it. And then God called.

One week, exactly, after I had accepted Richard's proposal and, coincidentally, two weeks exactly after I had moved into my own place, I was called into the school to meet with the principal. I cannot lie: I expected it. Still though, I felt as though my life had fallen apart. Nothing had left me so exhausted at the end of the day as teaching. I would head home, just to sit for an hour while I regained my sanity and energy. But, it was this pouring myself completely out for my students that had never before left me so fulfilled. I put my whole self into molding my children, standing in the classroom ,while Christ worked on my children through me. It was a truly rewarding experience and I felt as though I'd found my niche.

It's been a roller coaster ride ever since. I've spent my days looking for work and my nights worrying myself sick. Questions ride through my head while voices of failure stab at my soul. Moments of false optimism gave way to long periods of despair and discouragement. I felt as though the Devil had his nails dug into my throat, while he attempted to turn me from Christ. I felt a burden to many around me, refusing to ask for help. This went heavenward, as I shrunk away from God, too ashamed to pray. Thoughts of my students wafted in my head, as I heaved myself through the day. Nights would bring terrifying dreams of unemployment and trips to the school to beg for my job back tiptoed wickedly through my sleep. Nothing has left me so terrified as being laid off suddenly from work.

I had to go and clean out my classroom. I dreaded it. But, as soon as I drove out of the parking lot, I felt an inexplicable sense of peace. I no longer felt the emotions crashing, the negativity dancing wrathfully in my head. Oddly enough, it felt...right. How bizarre. Still the feelings have not returned. A constant sense of contentment has replaced the feelings of despair and terror. I have begun praying again. Sleep still is difficult, but the nightmares have decreased.

As I was making dinner this evening, a bible passage popped into my head. I remember a friend turned nun would remind me of this when life got tough: "What the Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away; Blessed be the name of the Lord." Honestly, I never could relate to this verse...until recently. Having gone through a Job Divorce, I now fully comprehend. The Lord blesses us with vocations, filling us with joy as we empty ourselves for others. At any moment, however, these jobs can be snatched away, leaving us with questions and discouragement. We should not wallow in sadness and despair, but rejoice at the opportunity we had. Inevitably, though, the fear and the sorrow will follow. But God ALWAYS has something better planned. We just have to wait. Sometimes, it's tremendously hard and scary.

Too, this passage runs hand in hand with Roman's 8:28: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Even when God does not will life's setbacks, He will still provide for us in His time. We are called to serve His purpose and He will provide ample opportunity for this. Even in sadness, there is salvation. Later, the passage relates, "If Christ is for us, who can be against us?" As we face life's demons and destruction, even these forces cannot stand up to the power and grace of God. For He is the all-powerful ruler, who is also all-loving. Really, who could ask for more?

Tonight as I climb into bed, I will climb into the lap of Jesus, my all-powerful and all-loving Father, and lean my head against His chest. I know He will wrap his arms around me and hold me, showering comfort and grace with unspoken words. I will find peace and contentment in hearing His heartbeat and slow, constant breathing. In the morning, I will climb down from His lap and search for His holy will for me. I am called according to His purpose, the Father of Heaven, and He works for me because He loves me. He is for me, so no one can be against me. Praise be God!!!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Wonderful and Wasted Opportunity: Oprah Denies Christ

In this video clip, Oprah is interviewing several people on their views of good and evil and the supernatural. The woman in the beginning is a Christian, who argues with Oprah mid-video about the "ways to Christ." Oprah states that "there are various ways to what [Christians] call God," and questions the salvation of those who live in remote areas and consequently never know God. While she asks two different questions, the answers are easy and never answered in this video.

Oprah's statement, concerning the multiple ways to God, is a common and gravely erroneous belief today. Oprah elaborates, saying that her ways to God may be different than that of the Christian woman's ways. There is no such idea as wrong/right, or black and white. Rather, there are infinite paths we humans may take in order to achieve what I call my God. This is tantamount to Nike's advertising slogan, "Just do it." If a young man feels that it is morally permissible for him to steal money from his mother's wallet for his date that night, so be it. If a young woman feels that it is morally right for her to have intercourse with her boyfriend to make him love her, fine. However, we Christians are blessed to know that, along with a soul, every human being has a conscience. Whether or not we are willing to admit it, every morally wrong choice we make was deliberated upon in our conscience. We sense the sways and preferences of our consciences and must live with the inevitable pang of guilt when a moral wrong is chosen. Oprah fails to realize the gravity and universality of Natural Law; rather, she lives by a moral relativism in vain attempts to salve her hurting conscience.

The second half of the video, she asks about the salvation of those who never know God, which is a completely valid question. As a High School teacher, I frequently am asked this by my students. I confess, there was a time I was curious about the same situation. However, we must remember that God is not an angry judgmental God; instead, he is full of mercy and love. He is frequently stereotyped as a all-powerful rule maker who revels in sending people to Hell. Not true. God is willing to do anything to bring us to Heave with him; the rub lies here: are we meeting him halfway. We must live a good life and make morally correct choices. As stated above, every human person has a conscience which comes with a general, inherent knowledge of right and wrong. Provided that the person, while not knowing God particularly, makes morally good choices based on his conscience, the our Lord will bring him to Heaven. However, if the converse occurs, they will be unfit for Heaven and spending eternity with God.

As Christians, it is imperative that we educate ourselves on these and other answers. I find it incredibly sad that Oprah's questions were never answered, since to this day she holds the same beliefs. Instead of properly and adequately answering Oprah's questions, the Christian women simply became emotional and rattled out answers that did not make sense. I continue to read about my Faith and to know the answers that people like this ask. I pray that other Christians and Catholics do the same. We must fight the good Fight and conquer with Christ.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

When Will the Madness End

"I can do all things in Christ, Who strengthens me."

These words could very well sum up the last eleven months for me. I sat in my room yesterday, talking to my sister still at Christendom. She was excitedly getting ready for Spring Formal. I was only able to speak with her a few minutes, as she had a million girlish tasks left to do. I think back, once in a while, and remember my time at that school. It was only a year ago that I was there, myself, and was juggling classes, academic activities, social obligations, and my impending graduation. I thought I was so busy. And I was awfully scared. Had I known what was going to happen, I might have chosen to double major, tacking another year onto my education.

However, God is a clever man; there is a reason we do not know our future. From a car wreck to suffering the loss of a sister-in-law, I would be lying to say the last year's been easy. God is not done. I recently suffered such a Cross that left me feeling stunned and devastated. For several days I was struggling with discouragement and almost giving up. I am still scared.

God has given me quite a blessing though. For the last year, my swirling, crazy life has sped by at the rate of 95 mph on a slow day. I look back and I see a whirlwind of activities and events that have drastically changed me into the woman I am a year after my college commencement. On top of the Crosses, I've been a high school teacher--a job I adore. I have spent most of my energy putting everything into teaching my kids. But, the first of year of teaching is a hardship in itself. While it was a blessing, my profession only added to my fast-paced life.

Through it all, though, there has been this one constant blessing. As the rest of my life turned about me, I can see this person steady and strong for me. On a number of occasions, he's dropped everything and come to me. He's held me and loved me and changed me. He's inspired me and he's impacted me. And I love him.

With all the difficulties the year after graduation brings, God was immensely good to give me this man. Together, we have prayed and grown and discerned. I don't know where I'd be if I hadn't had him this year. As such, I can't say that I wish this year hadn't happened, primarily because I wouldn't have him. Also, the difficulties and Crosses have brought us closer.

The verse above, from Sacred Scripture, floated through my head all year. When I forgot it, my father would remind me. It's so apt. My advice to the Graduating Class of 2008: treasure your life left on Christendom Campus. Never will you have the constant opportunity to turn to the Chapel. Your days on the hall with your friends are severely numbered. The next year will be hard and there will be times you will be scared to wake up the next morning. But, God is there. God is holding you. And to make up for the Crosses, He will send grand blessings. And, above all, remember: You "can do all things through Christ, who strengthens" you.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Non-Opposing Blessings: The Virtues in Purity and Sex

When I was in High School, I regarded "Sex" as a bad word and it was not to be repeated. To be completely honest, all I knew was that this was something mothers and fathers did to make babies. I knew not the process, nor what was involved. Very quickly, I became convinced that Sex, itself, was horrible thing. My reaction was in response to the rampant immorality of today's society. Most of my peers frequently engaged in Sex after school and on the weekends; I would have to sit between the girls as they discussed the whats and whens of their latest sexual moments. As a result, any type of physical affection, beyond a simple kiss, became to me a grave sin.

I now know better. It took me four years at a Catholic college and practically being forced to read Church documents on the subject following my college graduation to convince me otherwise. I realize how erroneous I was in my judgments. In the proper time and place, Sex and physical affirmation are beautiful ways to show love for another person. Sex is a self-gift from one spouse to another and is a fine, even beautiful requirement, in marriage. Having read Theology of the Body, my opinion vastly differs from my High School days. But, a child like me in High School is also one in a million.

Fast forward eight years. For someone who hated High School so terribly much, I am now teaching Freshman and Sophomore Theology and loving it. However, the irony continues. As a Theology teacher, I am in charge of the Freshman Purity and Sex Talk. In two weeks, I must teach Freshmen girls and boys the value and beauty of both Purity and Sex. That's right, not just the virtue behind Purity or the self-gift of Sex. I am in charge of making sure over thirty hormonal teens comprehend the difference between and the goodness of Purity and Sex in five days.

I have been reading multiple sources on the subject, from the Catechism to Jason Evert's If You Really Love Me. I have appreciated the value and explanations the Church has put behind every statement and piece of Dogma. Every what and why make perfect sense. The explanation by Pope John Paul II of the gift of Sex has brought tears to my eyes and guilt to my heart for previous opinions. I have a stronger devotion and commitment to Purity than I did two weeks ago. True Love is a wonderful truth, but so rarely understood. The dogma and beliefs of the Faith behind Purity and Sex are infused with the different but equal dignity of man and woman. The intense philosophy and theology behind these sources are a treat to read. But, I also have four years of High School and four years of a Liberal Arts education behind me, aiding my comprehension.

While I am almost finished in expanding my knowledge of the subject, I still have the daunting task of simplifying all this information, without diluting the truths, and conveying it all to my students. I have to pick out awkward, personal topics to cover with my girls and talk to them about various aspects of their sexuality. With my boys, I must develop a lesson plan for the three days when the classes are split up. I must choose, with the utmost caution, topics that boys face at that age dealing with their sexuality. Where do I begin?

When the week ends, I want the children to ultimately respect themselves as Children of God; to understand that each boy and each girl has an invaluable intrinsic dignity simply because they are God's children. I want them to relate this understanding in respect for themselves and for each other. I pray that they refrain from the mistakes so many teens and young adults make. I beseech God to aid the children in keeping the gift of Purity, so deeply connected to Sex, until they find and marry their Spouse. I hope for this not because the Church forbids premarital sex and encourages purity, but because I know this is what they deserve. Each girl in that room wants love; I pray she finds the true meaning. Every boy desires to prove himself a man; I hope he does so at the right time in a Christ-like way. Ultimately, I hope, only through God's infinite mercy and love, that the children realize that they need only gaze upward for True Love. For, only the truest form of Love is found in our Lord.