Meditation is an ideal way to pray. Using God's word (Lectio Divina) allows me to hear, listen and reflect on what the Lord wants to say to me - to one of his disciples - just like He did two thousand years ago.
The best time to reflect is at the beginning of the day and for at least 15 to 30 minutes.
Prior to going to sleep, read the Mass readings for the next day and then, in the morning, reflect on the Meditation offered on this website.
I hope these daily meditations allow you to know, love and imitate the Lord in a more meaningful way.
God bless you!


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Lk 13:22-30 Catholics and “Catholics”

Wednesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

By BENEDICT AUGUSTINE

Lord, open the door for us.’
He will say to you in reply,
I do not know where you are from.’
And you will say,
We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’
Then he will say to you,
I do not know where you are from.
Depart from me, all you evildoers!’

Many people around the world profess to be Catholic (1.1 billion, according to a poll in 2010), but a very small percentage of them actually practice their faith and live out the Catholic life. The majority do not attend Mass weekly, let alone on the Holy Days of Obligation. Even those who do attend Mass weekly will often fail to make a regular confession. Among those few who do confess and do go to Mass, the great majority of them harbor deep personal misgivings with the Church's teachings, stubbornly clinging to their own interpretation of the gospel. Poll after poll reveal that the majority of Catholics use birth control and promote it, and that they think same-sex marriage is fine. More importantly, the truth of transubstantiation mostly eludes the understanding of the majority of the faithful even though they hear the words of liturgy repeated at Mass every time—although if most only attend Mass sparingly, and passively, the repetition will not mean anything.

Those Catholics hoping in the future of the Church should probably reconsider their optimism. Many young people ironically leave the Church as soon as they receive Confirmation. Among those who attend Catholic schools, many of them leave their faith behind like they leave behind their old uniforms. With a precious few exceptions, Catholic universities have utterly abandoned their religious identity and have adopted the avarice and boorish snobbery of most private colleges. Even among those faithful Catholics who immigrate from the south and raise their children here often struggle to maintain serious religious practice in their family beyond two generations.

Quite naturally, vocations have dropped. They have dropped as birthrates have dropped and as marriages have dropped. People feel less called to holy matrimony and parenthood, let alone the spiritual parenthood of the priesthood and holy orders. They do feel called to expensive, yet increasingly meaningless, college degrees, new cars, and new houses, that all make them slaves to debt and their jobs for the rest of their lives. They also feel called to cohabitate, to experiment, to hookup, and to fall back on aging parents when all those non-commitments fall through.

The situation has grown so dire that Church leaders now consider loosening some rules to simply bring back a few souls. In the confusion of the recent Synod, only one thing was clear: there is a huge gap between the ideal discipline of the Church and the actual discipline of her members. Like any mediocre person in denial, most modern Catholics blame the rules, not themselves. They went to Church (sometimes), and knew the Church's teachings (vaguely), and donated to the poor (occasionally), and sent their kids to Catholic schools (for lack of a better option). If they fail to even do these things, they could always say that they “grew up Catholic.” Unfortunately, these are the people that the Church hopes to somehow bring back: complacent, ignorant, selfish, defiant, broken people.

Although the small minority of devout Catholics might feel tempted to compromise with pathetic spirituality to contain the damage of modern secular culture, they should resist this impulse. The way to treat widespread lethargy and indifference is through rigor and zeal, not lower expectations and moral relativism. A lax religious discipline does not bring in converts in any circumstance, whether during times of persecution or times of tolerance—tragically, the Church seems to struggle more with prosperity than with adversity. Neither adults nor children want to emulate people who fail in their commitments, change their minds on dogma, and only follow the rules that suit them. People searching for meaning, for a fuller humanity, will not look to a church that demands nothing except positive dispositions and high self-esteem. Rather, they want the Church, that institution of Jesus Himself, that endured the torrents of persecution, heresy, warfare, and corruption, all while keeping her soul. They want the Church of saints, martyrs, holy orders, missionaries, scholars, an authoritative clergy, and a stalwart laity. Most of all, they want the Church who offers repentant sinners the Body and Blood of Jesus Himself. The faithful need the Catholic Church, and the Church needs the faithful. The faithless and the shameless need to repent before they offer their commentary on what the Church and faithful should do.

Happily, where there is Jesus, there is hope; and hope is not a virtue until it put in hopeless circumstances. In his teachings, Jesus offers a chance at life for those who follow and obey. Of the billion or so “Catholics,” a good many will probably knock on the door hoping to join in Jesus' banquet. As those in the parable, they will make the same pitiful claims they make today for not practicing their faith, and they will assume that their physical proximity to the Church equates to active devotion. Only a people completely uninterested in God and completely consumed with themselves could be so deluded. Thus, Christ sends them to a place that does not have God — one wonders if people in Jesus' day accused him of being intolerant and unpastoral for saying this. These many souls may not like it, but they had every opportunity to change their ways. Instead they stayed the same, and God grants them an afterlife that, in the end, also stays the same, forever.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Lk 6:12-16 Praying Includes Listening

Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, Apostles(Click here for readings)

Jesus went up to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God.  When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles...

Pray before any important decisions.  The Lord spent the entire night in prayer to His heavenly Father.  Why?  Because He had to make an important decision.  He had to pick Twelve men who would extend His work on earth - that is, live with Him, in Him and through Him.  And so the Lord spent the night in prayer.

Now I doubt the Lord spent the entire night trying to figure out who to pick.  No.  Knowing something about the priesthood, I am convinced He spent the entire night praying for their sanctification - that they would persevere till the end of their lives. 

What is the purpose of prayer?  To unite ourselves, our loved ones and our world to the Will of the Father.  This is Christ's personal prayer: "that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.  May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you sent me" (cf. Jn 17:21). 

The purpose of prayer is to unite our body, mind and soul to the Will of the Father; that I may love what He loves, and hate what He hates and do what He always does.  [Yes, I can perform miracles as well!]  Prayer is not some cute thing.  It is essential to the pursuit of happiness, for true happiness is directly related to God's plan for me.

Are you praying?  Are you spending some quality time with the Lord?

Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.  I admit it.  I'm not a very good listener, but I don't think it's because I don't try.  God knows I try.  I think it's because some people just love to talk (especially at the worst moments possible), and talk about what they want to talk about. 

Stop doing this to others!  Stop forcing nice people to listen to you go on and on and on.  Twitter's success has proven that we can say something in less than 140 characters.

When you speak, do you give others a chance to say something [This includes God].  Try it out.  Let's all avoid having one way conversations. 

Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Lk 13:10-17 This Daughter of Abraham

Monday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

(Click here for readings)

By KATIE GROSS


Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the sabbath.
And a woman was there who for eighteen years
had been crippled by a spirit;
she was bent over, completely incapable of standing erect.
When Jesus saw her, he called to her and said,
“Woman, you are set free of your infirmity.”
He laid his hands on her,
and she at once stood up straight and glorified God.
But the leader of the synagogue,
indignant that Jesus had cured on the sabbath,
said to the crowd in reply,
“There are six days when work should be done..."
The Lord said to him in reply, “Hypocrites!...
This daughter of Abraham,
whom Satan has bound for eighteen years now,
ought she not to have been set free on the sabbath day
from this bondage?”
 

Forgive me in advance for any information that may be incorrect or any inadvertent heresies I may stumble into (more common than you would think, from my experience in freshman theology). As I have said before on Father’s blog, I am no theologian.

That being said, this Gospel seems to be very timely with regards to current events in our Church.

All I have to do is log into Twitter these days and there are at least thirteen retweeted articles on the Synod on the family. Isn’t it interesting that hundreds of people claim their theology is airtight and better than all others, yet still report radically different interpretations of the synod? (By the way, according to CNN, did you know that the Catholic Church is now going to ordain anyone regardless of gender, age, or species and have no concept of this archaic thing called ‘sin’?) All jokes aside, some of the stuff I have seen circulating is downright disappointing. I am sure that if Jesus had a Twitter, He would be shaking his head.

Many people in the Church have written that they are upset about the findings of the Synod because they believe the Church is losing some of its conservative character. In response, they write out lists of ‘rules’ from the Catechism and Church documents about why things should be stricter and why we should crack down on the ‘rules’ in our parishes.

In a way, I understand their perspective. The teachings of the Church are beautiful and are not something to be taken lightly. We live in an age that is very much hostile to what the Church teaches, and as such, we are called to defend these teachings. But then remains the question: how should we go about defending what the Church teaches? How “strict” should we be?

Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the sabbath…. When Jesus saw her, he called to her and said,
“Woman, you are set free of your infirmity.” Sometimes it seems that some have forgotten about what lies at the heart of our faith: mercy. Jesus constantly was reaching out to those who were on the outskirts of society—criminals, tax collectors, lepers—everyone that society viewed as “unclean” were precisely the people that Jesus spent his life on earth reaching out to. After all, doctors in a hospital tend to the most critical patients first, don’t they? Jesus is our spiritual healer. He is still reaching out to those who are seemingly the farthest away from Him. That means everybody who is far away from Him—even those whose lives are in the center of the controversy.
 
He laid his hands on her, and she at once stood up straight and glorified God. When God truly frees a person, that person usually spends their life thanking Him for it. Imagine if the early Church had written off St. Augustine for being a wretched sinner. Talk about someone with a misconception about the family—he had multiple mistresses and even a son out of wedlock! But this is why his writings are so rich—he writes as one thanking God from the bottom of his heart for his salvation. Just read his famous passage beginning “late have I loved you,” referring to the beauties of the Church he once denied, and you will understand. Without sinners, we would be missing a lot of the rich tradition of our Church. Ironically, this same tradition is sometimes used by Catholics in order to condemn others.

But the leader of the synagogue, indignant that Jesus had cured on the sabbath, said to the crowd in reply, “There are six days when work should be done. Come on those days to be cured, not on the sabbath day.” I would venture to say that we are quick to condemn because we do not trust in the mercy of God. We do not believe that prayer can change hearts. We do not believe that the good example of one person can change the way another lives their life. We see the corruption of once beautiful things in the world around us and we say, “This cannot be fixed. This is beyond redemption.” We forget that God gives grace when and where He wills. We lock ourselves behind the rules, trying to keep our hands clean of the nonsense we see in the world.

We need to go out and make a mess! We don’t have to disregard the teachings of the Church. In fact, we shouldn’t, especially in matters so crucial as marriage and the family. But at the same time, we must recognize that God works in ways that we cannot possibly understand. We cannot reduce God solely to a set of rules that must be followed. He knows what is best for each one of His children who seek him in good will, and He will work in their lives in whatever way He wills. That is the reality of this Gospel reading. That is our faith.

One of the articles that popped up on my Twitter feed the other day was very good, and demonstrated this point well. It was not explicitly about the Synod, but comments on how people in serious sin sometimes “stumble” towards God and He receives them, even if the person is ignorant of Church teaching. The author was an atheist, and is now a Daughter of St. Paul (go figure!) You can find the article here:http://www.patheos.com/blogs/pursuedbytruth/2014/10/atheist-in-the-communion-line-a-follow-up-post.html

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Mt 22:34-40 All You Need Is Love

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

A scholar of the law tested [Jesus] by asking, "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?"  He said to him, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and the first commandment.  The second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."

Love is enough.  Not too long ago, I read a book by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (today, Pope Benedict XVI) entitled:  "What it means to be a Christian."  I came across this little story:

"A story current in late Judaism, in Jesus' time, tells how one day a pagan came to Rabbi Shammai, the famous head of a school, and told him that he would be willing to join the Jewish religion if the Rabbi could tell him about its beliefs in the time someone could stand on one leg.  The Rabbi probably thought in his mind about the five books of Moses, with all the ideas in them, and everything that Jewish interpretation had added in the meantime and had declared to be equally obligatory, necessary, and essential for salvation.  As he went over all this...he had to admit that it would be impossible for him to summarize in a couple of sentences the whole of everything that made up the religion of Israel.  The strange petitioner was not a whit discouraged.  He went...to the competition:  to the other famous head of a school, Rabbi Hillel... Hillel found the suggestion in no way impossible and answered him straight out, "Whatever is offensive to you yourself, do not do that to your neighbor.  That is the whole law.  Everything else is interpretation." 

I wish I had read this a long time ago, for a non-Christian once asked me what it meant to be a Catholic.  Instead of answering his question, I handed him a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  I thought I was being pretty smart.  I wasn't.  The poor man looked at me and said, "I don't think God ever wanted to make it this hard to get into heaven." 

He was right, at least when it came to understanding God's Law.

I find it interesting how a scholar of the Law asked Jesus what he must do to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.  I find it refreshing what the Lord said:  "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and the first commandment.  And the second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depends all the law and the prophets."

What does it mean to love someone?  Cardinal Ratzinger goes on to explain: "Being a Christian means having love.  That is unbelievably difficult and, at the same time, incredibly simple."   It is difficult because most of us have not yet experienced the Copernican revolution; that is, we still think and act as if everyone revolves around me - that I am at the center of the Universe - that all things and people should be serving and loving and honoring me.  Well, it's not going to happen, and it's not going to happen because the world was not made that way. 

Face it:  the world and life revolves around the Son.  That, my dear friends, is the honest truth. 

Have you come to terms with this reality? 

Of course this does not sound very appealing (or even loving) to any of us. It's hard to admit this, but this is simply due to our fallen nature.  Sin has distorted everyone and everything.  But the irony of it all is how Christ resolves the problem. He takes a dip for us as well.  That's right!  Think about it.  When God became man He fell. When He stepped down from heaven He scratched His name off the top of the list.  When He became a simple man He left most of His Light back home.  And when He preached to simple folks He kept a safe distance from the top brass of humanity. It was only when He ate at the homes of sinners and forgive their sins that the light of darkness began to shine on Him.  "Who does this man think he is?  Who is this that forgives sinners???"  For those in power, it was at this moment that "He" became "he." 

Why did the Lord waste His time and life on simple people?  Were they people better than others?  Of course not.  Then why did He help them?  Because the Lord knows how to love.

The Lord does not love us because we are good, or because we can do something for Him, or because He can get something out of us.  The Lord loves us because He is good. 

So simple and profound.  

What does it mean to be a Christian?  "In our generation the Christian faith finds itself in a much deeper crisis than at any other time in the past... If faith is to survive this age, then it must be lived, and above all, lived in this age.  And this is possible only if a manifestation of faith is shown to have value for our present day..." - Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger

To be a Christian means to be another Christ.  To be a Christian means to put God in your heart, in your soul and in your mind.  It means to think like Christ, speak like Christ, move like Christ, live like Christ.  To be a Christian literally means to be another Christ.

And what exactly did Christ do that our neighbor finds so difficult to do?  Love unconditionally.  And what does it mean to love someone unconditionally?  It means to give and forgive.  

We Americans - and not necessarily just Christians - are a very giving people.  We really are.  We cherish giving to others and helping others.  We encourage it among our children and we do it ourselves.  We help our own and we even help others, especially the undocumented or illegals that come to our country.  We really try to live the words of Christ:  "For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited me in; naked, and you clothed me; I was sick, and you visited me; I was in prison, and you came to me." 

We are good at doing good things.  But we are also extremely bad when it comes to doing tough things, like forgiving others. 

Forgive like no other.  What does it mean to be a Christian?  It means to forgive like no other - to forgive the unforgiveable.  It means to forgive like it's nobody's business.   Wow!

This is our valuable contribution to civilization.  This is what we can do better than anyone else.  We must, for world peace, global partnerships, worldwide efforts in combating the ills of our world depend on it. 

We are not doing a good job at it.

Man (man and woman) is horrible at forgiving; that is, forgiving the sins and failings and mistakes of others.  Man loves to rub dirt in people's noses.  He loves to remind people of their wrong doings.  He actually enjoys keeping a keep a record of it, and, if possible, keeping it on page one of Google searches.  

He loves to see people pay with pain for their transgressions.  This is why life has become unsustainable and almost impossible!  Where is the humanity in all of this!!!     

Of all the major religions in the world, no religion speaks more loudly or forcefully or convincingly about the need to forgive than Christianity. Forgiveness is at the top of Christ's list of things to do.  It is in His heart, mind, soul, body and blood.  It is on Christ's lips ALL THE TIME!

Forgiveness is all about giving life to the dead.  It is the most powerful and efficient tool Christians have at their disposal to cast out Satan (and others) from the center of our world and replace them with Christ and our neighbor. 

I love you, Lord, my strength!  (Ps 18:2).

Friday, October 24, 2014

Lk 12:54-59 Don't Live in Weather Vain!

Friday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

By  JENNIFER BURGIN

Jesus said to the crowds “When you see a cloud rising in the west you say immediately that it is going to rain–and so it does; and when you notice that the wind is blowing from the south you say that it is going to be hot–and so it is. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky; why do you not know how to interpret the present time?"

Whenever a rain storm approaches, my allergies flare up.  My nose transforms into a weather vane indicating the direction of the winds, predicting the onset of storm activity. I sneeze and cough as my head pounds from the change in barometric pressure.  Feeling lethargic, I say to myself:  Come on, Mother Nature!  Just rain and clean out this air!  I feel miserable, and everyone around me thinks I'm getting sick.........

Appearance of the earth and sky  I imagine our Lord, after his sermon, silently praying on the mountain top. Rain clouds form high in the sky showering his head with water droplets. Jesus is annoyed by the crowds lack of understanding and frustrated they are experts in the weather, yet ignorant of the faith.  Jesus wants his children to love one another and care for one another.  He wishes for them to let go of sin (i.e. pride, lust, vanity) and live a holy life.  He hopes they will finally believe he is the Messiah - God in human flesh sent to convert and heal his Chosen people.

In modern day life, we often choose wrong over right.  We "value" concupiscence over chastity; anger over love; ignorance over knowledge; and even murder over life. Many of us live in our own weather-related "bubbles" with heavy storm clouds following us wherever we go.  If the sunshine does slip through every once in a while, it's difficult for us to tan ourselves under its brilliant rays.  Why don't we desire a blast of Vitamin "G" (God!) to get ourselves back on track? It's easier to remain pale and withdrawn, wallowing ourselves in our own personal dramas, than to open our hearts to Christ.

Present time   Social media promotes self expression and individualism but in ways that can damage us.  Yes, social media is good in many respects.  We are given access to information much more quickly. However, the rise of pride, vanity, and sensuality is a side effect.  Twenty years ago we'd never imagine a teenager building his self-esteem based on how many "likes" on Facebook or followers on Twitter.  We never considered young women advertising their bodies on YouTube with the question "Am I pretty?"  We never considered terrorist groups recruiting followers over wikis and underground Internet websites.  It's as if social media has created a more narcissistic culture.  It's all about me, myself and I; how I can be better than someone else; how I can look more attractive and more successful than another person; how I can be more anti-religious and more radical.  Qoheleth's words from Ecclesiastes "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!" come to mind when I think about the effect of social media on our secular culture.

Don't live in weather "vain" Despite a secular culture, and obsession with online social presence, we don't have to live in weather "vain"!  We can decide to turn away from selfishness, and our egos, focusing more on living like Christ.  We can love and pray more.  We can be truthful and forthright.  We don't have to hide behind the clouds, masking our true selves from the world.  We don't have to wait until an earthquake or a tornado to help someone in need.  We don't have to wait for the floods to come, washing away all of the filth and stench in our lives.  We can make a conscience effort to positively impact the world through religious faith.  I'm convinced that if people were less self-absorbed and more focused on God some of our social problems would disappear.  Something to think about....

In this transition from summer to autumn, at least her in North Texas where the leaves aren't quite crimson yet and the rain is sparse, let us reflect on how we can allow Jesus to be more present in our lives.  Remember to use social media in ways that evangelize and spread the good news. As Pope Francis recently commented:  "The digital world can be an environment rich in humanity; a network not of wires but of people."   People can positively impact the world!

This meditation was written by Jennifer Burgin.  Please visit her blog:  Jennifer's Spectrum of Spirituality

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Lk 12:29-53 Setting The Earth On Fire

Thursday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Jesus said to his disciples:  "I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!"

Set the earth on fire.  Did your fire die out long ago? 

I find it disturbing the significant number of young men and women (from the West) traveling to Syria to join the Islamic State's caliphate.  We're not talking about ten or twenty crazy people;  We're talking thousands and thousands of well-educated, well-established young men and women risking their lives to take up arms to take away lives.

They are not crazy.  They are on fire for their faith, and this is crazy!  Why is this crazy?  Because their belief is telling them:  KILL! KILL! KILL!

I used to think it difficult - especially in the 21st century - to convince a young person to take their faith - any faith - seriously.  I never imagined in a million years that thousands of young men and women could so easily be wooed to leave their family and friends, go off to war, commit suicide (or kill someone and cut off their head and take a picture of it) and be proud of it.  And do it all in the name of God.  I don't understand this! 

But what I find even more confusing is the apparent difficulty that Christians have in convincing a young person to share their faith in Jesus Christ with others, share their love for him and (God- forbid) say a personal and silent prayer in school before meals.

What is going on here?  Where is our fire?  

Do we not see that our world - our children and grandchildren - need, more than ever before, our fire for the Lord?  Why do we give up so easily?  What is wrong with us?  Do we not realize how important Christ is to the health of our children?

Our world needs Christ's understanding of Creation - that rationality and freedom are not bad but good.  It needs Christ's understanding of the sacredness of life - that all life, regardless of what others may think, are still children of God.  It needs Christ's understanding of holiness - that "the first shall be last and the last shall be first." It needs Christ's understanding of divine intervention:  mercy, compassion, forgiveness.  What does it look like?  "He who is without sin cast the first stone." What does it not look like? Look at this! WARNING:  This article is very disturbing

Are you eager to join Christ in His fight to save humanity's soul???

Is wish it were already blazing.   I have no doubt that the sickening images of women being stoned to death; and children being kidnapped and turned into sex slaves; and Islamic converts from the American heartland - who turned away from Christianity and turned into suicide killers and bombers - will stir in the hearts of many a repulsion for anything "religious."  That's what the extremists want.  They want the West to turn away from Christ and turn into secular Crusaders.  If this happens, then we will only continue to feed the fires of extreme Islamic ideology and theology, and end up creating more and more warriors for the Islamic State (ISIL). 

What the world needs right now - come to think of it, it is what the world has always needed - are not the fires of hatred and revenge - an image of hell, but the fires of Christ's image and likeness of God - of calm and peace.

Peace be with you. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Lk 12:39-48 Reflections on Teaching English to the Best and Brightest


Wednesday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

By BENEDICT AUGUSTINE

Much will be required of the person entrusted with much,
and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”

Teaching an AP English class, I have the opportunity to work with the school's most talented and motivated students each year. Because my class focuses mainly on writing, which reflects one's thinking, I also have the unique perspective of seeing these students' thoughts. Whether an essay prompt concerns the relationship between certainty and doubt or the morality behind offering incentives for charity, a unique pattern of reasoning and values will always filter through their essays. Some students work through the prompt like a math problem, speedily moving through a logical sequence without much analysis or nuance. Others let their imaginations roam through the many mental associations they have made on the subject, and spiral their way through an essay until their thoughts converge on a focused claim. Unfortunately, the rest of the students usually have little to say on the subject: they have no opinion, no curiosity, and no background.

For the rest of the year, I usually work on improving these types since almost no student comes into the class as a ready-made writer. I try to show the logicians how to elaborate their points, ease their transitions, and consider a deeper way of thinking about the subject in general. For the dreamers, I have to give them various grammatical and compositional structures to hold their ideas in place and give them coherence. For the raw majority, I simply have to break their mental silence with constant practice and flood their empty caves of thought with every piece of relevant content I can find. For any problem with writing (and there are many), I have a handout and prepared lecture; for any gap in general knowledge, I have an essay and list of writers for further reading; for any flippant dismissal of writing, I have powerful arguments and a loud voice to refute them.

By God's grace, many students make significant improvements in their writing and, more importantly, in their thinking. They enter the class as children sheltered from any real thought about anything outside themselves, yet leave the class as young adults prepared to engage the ideas around them. They can think through their decisions because they realize that thought involves more than a knee-jerk impulse or hunch. They can talk with adults because they can now adapt their thinking to others and ask relevant questions to develop a conversation. Finally, these students can now take a certain amount of joy in thinking and expression now that they have a certain measure of competence.

In the past, this achievement alone would content me. As a teacher, I had succeeded in all the meaningful ways. My students have earned their AP credit, learned the necessary skills, and can now follow their dreams. Although I still feel this way to some extent, I have now started worrying about less academic matters. They have fine minds and great potential, but what does this mean if they have nothing in their hearts?

I normally have to keep this concern to myself because public schools and most parents think teachers should remain morally neutral—or empty, depending on how one looks at it—and treat their students as products rolling down an assembly line. After I affix the proper equipment and input the proper sequences at my station, the students move on to a destination that I never really have the chance to see. I have made the students a little more human, albeit in a rather mechanical way, but what for? Where do they go? I always hope that they will go on to find God, find their neighbor, and love them both; yet I know, based on my conversations with them, that they go on to find the World, find themselves, and love nothing. They do not see their education as a gift, something that liberates their mind and frees their heart; they rather see it as a set of marketable skills in an already glutted marketplace. Instead of rising above the grind of working and consuming, they become further entrenched in it, competing for petty honors and empty pleasures. I helped along in their journey, but they were going the wrong way all along.

In my own quiet way, I try to help my students find a Catholic alternative, sometimes mentioning a feast day (today is Sts. Celine and Viator, by the way), discussing Catholic history, referencing a rhetorical strategy that I heard in a priest's homily, or offering a Catholic perspective on issues that sometime arise. I pray in the “moment of silence” and cross myself at the conclusion of that tiny oasis of silence and reflection. I embrace my job despite its many crosses and its modest compensation, and try to communicate the hidden joys that come from learning and helping others. I could add that what I teach and what I do helps brings me closer to God, but I might lose my job if I say that. A few students notice this, but most of them already have their courses fixed on the star of apparent success. Even though they are not even old enough to vote, they still have enough wisdom to somehow pity me in my idealism.

Pitied or not, I choose to rest in my idealism confident in my Savior's words. As I read, as I write, as I teach, I “draw joyfully from the springs of salvation.” His words are truth and endure forever, and I must follow them as well as I can. Jesus expects this of me and every other disciple. He also expects these bright young people to bring God into the world and make life better for all His creatures. Jesus expects them to use their talents and gifts to care for those in need, not enter the rat race and pretend that death does not exist. Obviously, their minds need instruction; perhaps less obviously, their hearts need Jesus. If we truly loved our young people, as Jesus loves them, we would teach them how to love before anything else.