Friday, January 31, 2014

Homemade by Hand

A few years ago, I stumbled upon an Irish Christian band called Rend Collective Experiment. My first experience with this Experiment was through Spirit FM, our local Catholic radio station. I liked the song and so decided to Google it. A YouTube video popped up.

They were eccentric. Upbeat. Fun. Quirky. Funny. Authentic. Just check the out the video. My favorite part was around the 1 minute mark. After hitting repeat multiple times, I went ahead and took a chance on downloading the entire album. I wasn't disappointed.

It wasn't until this past summer, though, that my passion for the band intensified and I got hooked. Again, I stumbled upon their latest album, Campfire, and was blown away by the message: break down barriers, everyone is welcome, God is with us through both trials and victories and so should our Church. Once again, their point, their lifestyle, their music all resonated with me because of their seeming authenticity.

I dug deeper into this band and found their second album named, Homemade Worship by Handmade People. Above all, I heard these words:
Some of the other messages: He gave us both a heart and a home. We can find both in Him. He is our vision, the king of our hearts. He is our best thought. He is worth the cost, whatever that cost may be. His cross changes everything. Second chances are heaven's heart. He is the reason that our hearts beat. He sets our hearts ablaze with hope. We are His Church. We need His power in us. He makes us whole. He is exactly what we need. He guides our hearts. He is our Rescuer. He is our Shining Star, guiding our hearts.

The reason for the album name: they produced all of the music themselves in their homes. Something that's homemade, according to RCE and agreed upon by me, is always better than a factory copy. Think of ourselves. God made us by hand; we are handmade. We are at home in his embrace, where we were made. We were not constructed in some factory with sterile walls and fluorescent lights, mass produced in a very impersonal way. We were crafted in His house by Him with His hands. We are homemade.

From scratch.

One of my favorite television shows is "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives". In it, the restaurants that are featured usually cook all or most of their food in house and from scratch. There is something more authentic about making something at home and by hand. Somehow food tastes better when we know all of the ingredients. Fresher truly is better. Going out to eat, if the food isn't made from scratch, is mostly enjoyable because of the service. Many of us can't prepare the meal we would select while dining out and all of us appreciate only having to eat and do nothing else.

Give me a home cooked, made by hand meal any day, though. Heck, give it to me every day and even let me prepare it. I'm a total snob when it comes to popcorn, pizza and granola. I prefer my homemade versions over any store bought, microwaved, boxed, processed, delivered versions. I like knowing what's in it and being able to pronounce any ingredient these items will contain. I like taking the time to prepare them, tweaking and perfecting my craft.

Somehow over the course of time we have become less authentic as humans. Mass production. Airbrushing. Preservatives. Hormones. Chemicals. Plastic surgery. Artificial sweeteners. Time-outs for commercial breaks. DVR. Texting. Whitening. Coloring. Lebroning.

The same God that made the universe and all of creation also made us. He fashioned us with the care of a skilled artist. Lovingly, He labored and labored over our every detail while tweaking and perfecting His craft. The Psalmist tells us that God formed our innermost beings. We were knit, by God, in our mothers' wombs (Psalm 139: 13).  There was no programming, no 3D printer, no assembly line. God made us.

We are handmade. We are homemade.

Perhaps that's why simple authenticity is so enchanting, so appealing. Pope Francis I. The joy expressed by and found in children. Sunsets. Sunrises. Playing tag. Being creative, spontaneous, unafraid. Altruism. Not only is experiencing authenticity such an anomaly but it also harkens us back to something within us that is primordial, something much deeper than even our bones. It reminds us of our Maker. Simple. Authentic. Loving. It reminds us of Home.

As Catholic educators, we could benefit from a lesson in authenticity. Instead of being consumed by Common Core, tablets, bullying, standardized testing and any other buzzword issue in education, we should focus on our Catholicity. Be unabashedly and authentically Catholic. Celebrate the Eucharist. Pray the Rosary. Adore the Blessed Sacrament. Offer frequent opportunities for Reconciliation. Catechize and evangelize.

Allow your instruction to be authentic. Make tests from scratch so that tests can be authentic representations of the progress of students. What textbook publisher knows your class or your teaching style and preferences better than you? How can a chapter test capture all that was covered in class by an authentic teacher?

Be authentic in your interactions with students and fellow teachers. Young people have an innate ability to search out, detect and name inconsistencies. Treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve as a child of God. Cherish them as we do the homemade cards and gifts given to us by students, children, relatives and friends. Respect them as we would the handiwork of a world renowned artist.

Something homemade is always better than a factory copy.