Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Elizabeth can stand. Not quite cruising yet (which, for all of my readers who are not parents, means that a child walks with the support of his/her hands on objects such as a couch or coffee table), Elizabeth is able to pull herself up on just about anything a few inches off the ground; she can also crawl at the speed of some small animals. This, in turn, has caused me and Emily to do a bit of "baby-proofing" around our house. Shoes have to be put in the closet. Food and sharp utensils cannot be kept even with body-length/reach. The TV is kept off between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Doors of rooms "off-limits" are permanently closed. In a lot of ways, the house is more "adult-proof" than "baby-proof".

My heightened sense of anxiety because of Elizabeth's heightened abilities of mobility has perpetuated a reflection on the word "proof".

It has multiple meanings. A noun, verb and adjective, the word means everything from evidence, to a trial copy, to resistant and the activation of yeast.

Proofing was mentioned in last week's Gospel: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened” (Matthew 13: 32 - 33). Part of Jesus' long list of parables, proofing - or the activation of yeast - is a concept that recurs throughout the Bible, but mostly in a negative way. But, as Jesus often does, he reverses the commonly held perception of yeast and gives it lasting power. We think of proofing dough and its connotation to how we should view the Kingdom of God in a positive way. Bread that doesn't rise or expand, even in our carb conscious culture, is typically not a good thing (especially if it is supposed to). Prior to Jesus's use of the concept, yeast was seen as something that would take over dough, similar to the way that sin can take over every aspect of our lives. Expanding and rising in intensity, even a little sin can lead us into a downward spiral.

Jesus's use of the idea is proof that we are called to rise and expand. We are to become activated, quickened, elevated, and in being so enlivened - leavened - we should be able to do the same for others.

Educators within Catholic Schools should be this key ingredient in the recipe for our students' learning. Inspiring the pursuit of greater and deeper knowledge should be coupled with an equally intense search for spiritual development. The two of these combined should leaven us out of our school doors to make the world a better place. We shouldn't just be bread for the world, we must also be the yeast that makes the bread possible.

So, we must provide a different type of proof as well. We must be the proof, or evidence, that the Kingdom of God truly exists. Called to establish His Kingdom here on Earth in the hopes of inheriting a piece of it in eternity, we must behave in such a way that our very lives cause others to consider the fact that there is not only a benevolent God, but that this God passionately desires an intimate relationship with us. We must be the proof (n.):

1. The evidence or argument that compels the mind to accept an assertion as true
2. The convincing or persuasive demonstration
3. The determination of the quality of something by testing (definitions via: The Free Dictionary)

of such a God.

How do we offer up such proof? With the same ingredient that proves we are Christians and that mom's cooking really is the best: love.

Friday, July 15, 2011


Void of both teachers and students for the past month and at the tail end of a two week vacation with my family, I have enjoyed taking a greater role in the "home schooling" of our daughter (she's 8 months old). Present for more naps, block staking and knocking over, movements, attempts at speaking, baths and new foods, I have come to a greater appreciation for single parents and/or parents who are essentially single for any reason such as a spouse serving oversees.

I've taught in classrooms of close to 30 students. I ran a High School athletic program. I just completed my first year as Principal in a school of over 30 personnel and 340 students. I should be able to handle just one, right?

But, as any teacher who is also a parent (and many parents/people who think that anyone with even a high school education can teach) would attest: parenting is an entirely different and entirely more important type of education.

Unfortunately, I would venture to say that our American society does not share my high regard for parenting. Case in point, upon a recent trip to the Post Office with Elizabeth, my wife Emily found herself last in a very long line. The next customer after Emily and Elizabeth was a middle-aged woman with only her parcels in tow. As the line slowly inched forward, and Emily managed both Elizabeth and our packages to mail, the woman said to my wife:
You know, I may be from what you would call a third world country, but there pregnant women and women with children would never wait in a line such as this. In my country, you would be considered sacred.
Now, I understand that the "I hate Casey Anthony" Facebook Page was the fastest growing page last week but does our reverence for the vocation of parenthood extend any further than hitting the "Like" button?

Are mothers in America sacred?

The Catholic Church does not shy from its stance on the importance of parents:

Parents and those who take their place are bound by the obligation and possess the right of educating their offspring. Catholic parents also have the duty and right of choosing those means and institutions through which they can provide more suitably for the Catholic education of their children, according to local circumstances (Can. 793.1).

Furthermore, the Church promotes the family as the primary avenue of the propagation of the faith. Blessed John Paul the Great wrote in his Letter to Families:

Certainly one area in which the family has an irreplaceable role is that of religious education, which enables the family to grow as a "domestic church". Religious education and the catechesis of children make the family a true subject of evangelization and the apostolate within the Church. We are speaking of a right intrinsically linked to the principle of religious liberty. Families, and more specifically parents, are free to choose for their children a particular kind of religious and moral education consonant with their own convictions. Even when they entrust these responsibilities to ecclesiastical institutions or to schools administered by religious personnel, their educational presence ought to continue to be constant and active (16).

Children should learn about Jesus from their parents. This faith should be supported by participation in the Church, not the sole place it is supplied.

Parents are not just important. They are the most important part of Catholic education.

But, how many Catholics have even read this letter? Or, how many, regardless of whether or not this letter was read, even believe that parents and the family play such an integral role in the development of children?

Plato wrote, "A society cultivates whatever is honored there."

Do we honor children? How about families?

Hospitals in America view women in labor as patients. Is giving birth a sickness? Cereal companies, knowing the huge childhood obesity problem in our country, often list sugar or one of its many aliases, as the second most bountiful ingredient- which is okay because they're made with whole grains! Advertisers, regardless of the product, keep in mind our children and strive for brand recognition and loyalty. Television, even "kid-friendly" programs, often contain objectionable material.

But, sex sells, and in a society where money is honored, money is in turn the expense of our children.

ABC News supposedly paid Casey Anthony $200,000.00 for exclusive rights to videos and pictures of her story. Chances are also good that at some point, she will capitalize from this infamy.

Kate (of "Plus 8" fame), sans John, still gets paid for offering up the lives of her children, even though it already cost her her marriage.

Even teachers cultivate money as opposed to children. Despite attempts in many school districts across the country to base teacher salaries on performance, most public systems allow tenured teachers- many of who are burnt out or at best antiquated- to keep their high paying positions regardless of their inadequacy.

Money is honored here and we think that just because we hate Casey Anthony that we can claim to care about and cultivate our kids.

That's like planting a garden in the shade, watering it sparingly with Coke, giving it a shot of Miracle Grow and expecting it to yield a bountiful harvest.

As Catholic educators (teachers and/or parents), we must approach each child we encounter as the sacred gifts that they are. We must realize that (and I've included this before) as teachers we do not "write on inanimate material but on the very spirits of human beings."

In honoring our children, we must do much more than press a "Like" button to voice our displeasure at a bad parent, or add some Miracle Grow to make up for our deficiencies. We must spend less time cultivating our money trees and more time giving some TLC to another abstract arbor: our family trees.