Sunday, April 10, 2011

LEAP testing

Dear friends,

Please keep my students (and myself) in your prayers this week as we complete our state testing known as LEAP/iLEAP. For my 8th graders in particular this is a high-stakes year, meaning that if they don't pass they can't graduate and move on to high school. I can only hope that I've taught them something this year!

Also, I will be reading the iLEAP aloud to a group of my students and am really NOT looking forward to that. Hopefully my voice won't go out and I won't have to invalidate any tests. Again, prayers are certainly needed!


Peace be with you

Life is filled with so much noise.

Noise, noise, noise, noise, noise. Think about all the noise your life is filled with: from the moment you rise to the moment you lay your head down again at the close of day. It's quite overwhelming when you truly consider it.

I have found in particular that my life this year has been filled with more noise than the average person's... mostly because I deal with screaming, squealing children all day. And no, I don't teach kindergarten, I have the middle schoolers. Things can get so crazy with them sometimes that I find myself simply wanting to say to them, "Peace be with you." I even find myself raising my hands up to try to calm them as I imagine Christ calmed the raging sea. He was much more effective than I. But it truly has become my prayer for them that their lives (and our classroom) will become more peaceful.

Ever notice how much of your life is filled with noise? Ironically, oftentimes we even surround ourselves with more noise to try to find some peace. How often do you turn on the TV or flip open the computer or turn on the ipod whenever you have a moment of silence?

Sometimes it takes being immersed in silence to really understand the extent to which our lives are besieged by noise. For example, on Friday evening after Mass and Stations of the Cross I got home and was simply waiting for a friend to arrive so we could go hang out. Both of my roommates happened to be out at the time, and as I made a quick dinner and was waiting for my friend, I almost turned on the TV, but I realized that there was such a perfect silence in my house that I didn't wish to ruin it. It really was beautiful! It was so arresting and dramatic a change that my friend even commented on the peacefulness when she arrived.

I definitely need more silence in my life. I've noticed this for some time now, and really began to actualize it on Friday, when I finally made the conscious decision to turn off my radio on the way to work. I also want to get away for the Triduum and immerse myself in silence for a few days. Right now the plan is to take off work on Holy Thursday so I can spend some time in silence and prayer to prepare for Easter. Hopefully that will all work out! Say some prayers for me that it does!

My friend Brittni told me today about a book which I look forward to reading by Franciscan priest Richard Rohr entitled Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer. What was most striking from our conversation was the idea that people who have a better self-awareness are more peaceable people. Looking at the lives of the saints, we can see that they had a deep knowledge of themselves and that above all, their self-knowledge was and is founded in the humility and wonder of knowing who they are in Christ. I believe this is the source of true and lasting peace and joy, and it is something we must all be mindful of every day. We must let the peace of Christ reign in our hearts.

When Christ greeted His disciples after the Resurrection, He said to them:
"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. (John 14:27)
I pray that on this Sunday you'll be able to find some time to devote to making place for silence in your life, so that the peace of Christ may find its way into your heart to dwell.

Friday, April 1, 2011

April's fool

Note to the world: children are horrible at making April Fool's jokes. And if ever you teach at a public school in New Orleans, the students will make these ridiculous comments all the day long. Of course, thinking about fools and foolishness made me recall what Paul had to say to the Corinthians:
"For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will thwart.' Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?" (1 Corinthians 1:18-21)


"We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are honorable, but we without honor." (1 Corinthians 4:10)
So every time my kids make me feel like a fool, whether it is because I fall for their stupid April Fool's joke or because they are throwing little balls of paper into my hair, I can try to remember that somehow this foolishness on my part is helping me to be more like Christ. I can only hope and pray! So this April may we all be fools for Christ!

Unity of Hearts
Speaking of being more like Jesus, I was really excited about the fact that today was the first Friday devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus! ...and that it was the first time I've been able to go to Mass on a first Friday in a very, very long time. To top it all off, I was not only able to go to Mass but Stations of the Cross as well. This must be why Lent is my favorite season! It even beats out Fall.

As I have understood it, the main reason for the first Friday devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is to increase fervent love and adoration of Jesus, especially in respect to His ardent love for us and the suffering He endured for our salvation. Immediately following this day we honor the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who was so enjoined to the Heart of her Son that she led a life of perfect and heroic Christian virtue. It is for this reason that the Church encourages devotion to her and her Immaculate Heart... that she truly gave herself over fully to the Lord, and the fruits of this were seen in her life. For this reason we who deeply desire unity with Christ are encouraged to image her as she so perfectly imaged Christ and united her own heart to the Heart of Christ and the will of the Father.

About a year ago as I contemplated this mystery, I was praying a series of novenas for a friend, and had chosen to pray a novena to the Holy Spirt, another to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and (saving the best for last) a novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Because of my own particular devotion to the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts, I searched continually for a novena that would speak to the mysterious union of Mary's soul with that of Christ's... yet I found none. So after months of searching and praying I felt God was telling me it was time to create one. What could be more beautiful than a prayer to Jesus and Mary asking that we could grow closer to Christ and more perfect in His graces? And so was born the Novena of the Communion of Hearts.

The novena which I compiled finds its source in the Spirit, scripture, and several novenas to the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts which I had been praying at the time. I found myself pulling from a great number of resources to create this one unified vision of what it means to enjoin your heart to Christ. I hope that in sharing it with all of you, my friends, it may prove to be efficacious in your spiritual lives and truly help you to surrender your heart to Christ as Mary surrendered her heart to the Lord. Any fruit which is borne of this novena is of the Spirit alone as I was merely an instrument in His hands.

I hope that in praying this the Spirit would move your heart to continued conversion and deeper communion with the Heart of Him who redeemed us. I plan to begin praying this prayer daily on the Saturday before Palm Sunday, so that all through Holy Week I may meditate on this and be drawn ever nearer to the Heart of Christ. Please join me and invite others to do so as well!

Without further ado, here is the prayer:

Novena of the Communion of Hearts
O Sacred Heart of Jesus,
Full of love to all who call,

Overflowing with mercy and graces,
In this humble prayer I ask You
To grant me the grace to love You
With all of my heart,
All of my soul,
All of my strength
And all of my mind,
And to truly love my neighbor
As You would have me do.

O Sacred Heart of Jesus,
Meek and humble of heart,
Make my heart more like Thine own.
Perfect my impure heart
And help me to be holy
For the glory of Your name,
That others may see Your faithfulness
And come to know that You are
The way, the truth, and the life.

O Sacred Heart of Jesus,
I place within the wounds
Of Your Piercéd Heart
My joys, my sufferings,
My hopes and my fears,
Trusting that one day You will
Deliver me from my present affliction
And unto the promised land,
The new and eternal Jerusalem,
To live with Thee forever.

O Sacred Heart of Jesus,
May You always be loved and adored
In the most holy Sacrament of the altar
And in all the tabernacles of the world
Both now and forever.
O Sacred Heart of Jesus,
Draw me ever nearer to Thee.

Sweet and Immaculate Heart of Mary,
Loving mother of the Church
Your heart was open to the call of the Lord
And you faithfully gave Him your “Yes,”
That His will might be done in you.
Pray that I, too, may hear the voice of the Lord
When He calls out to me
And that I may be filled
With His Spirit of courage
To fervently cry out, “Yes, Lord!
Be it done unto me according to Your word.”

Sweet and Immaculate Heart of Mary,
Meek and humble of heart,
The intimacy of union you have with your Son
Is beyond my comprehension,
Yet I desire for myself that same unity.
Pray that I may, by your example,
Seek to make my heart perfect through His graces
And to hold all these things,
Pondering them in my heart.

Sweet and Immaculate Heart of Mary,
As your Son suffered the pain and humiliation
Of His passion, crucifixion, and death,
You suffered alongside Him,
For it was foretold by Simeon,
“A sword will pierce your soul also.”
Pray that in my sufferings
I may be assured of the presence of your Son,
Jesus Christ, by my side through it all.
May I trust in His promise forever.

Sweet and Immaculate Heart of Mary,
May you always be honored
As the mother of our Lord and Savior,
And may we your children cling to you
And always beg your faithful intercession.

Sweet and Immaculate Heart of Mary,
Pray that I may draw ever nearer to your Son

I offer You, O Sacred Heart of Jesus
My whole heart—all that I am—
And ask that by the intercession of
Your mother’s Sweet and Immaculate Heart
My offering may be purified
And brought to Your heavenly throne.

I ask also that You would hear my cry
And extend Your graces to me for the following intention:
Grant my prayer, O Lord, if it be according to Your will,
But if what I ask for should not be granted,
May I receive that which will be of greater benefit to my soul
And will aid me in participating in Your divine plan.
May I ever seek to praise You
And place all of my trust in You,
Merciful and loving Savior.

As I echo the words of Your mother,
May my heart be drawn through her Sweet and Immaculate Heart
To Your Most Sacred Heart
And there find its dwelling forever:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
My spirit rejoices in God my Savior
For He has looked with favor on His lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blesséd:
The Almighty has done great things for me,
And holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear Him
In every generation.
He has shown the strength of His arm,
He has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
And has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of His servant Israel
For He has remembered His promise of mercy,
The promise He made to our fathers,
To Abraham and his children for ever.