Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Push Back the Dark

We just endured the shortest day of the year.

Fittingly, Christmas is on the horizon.

Positioned in the midst of the winter solstice, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ at a specific moment in the history of the world, a recognition of His Incarnation in our hearts and lives today, and a recognition that He will come again.

We celebrate the Light of the World during a season where we fight against the darkness. We push back at it with Advent wreaths, shining in full glory with all four candles ablaze. We push back at the darkness with lights on our trees. We push back at the long nights with lights on our houses and across our neighborhoods and cities.

From now until the summer solstice, our world will push back at the dark with much success. Each tomorrow will enjoy a few more minutes of light, building upon the gains made by every today.

Let us follow suit: keep pushing back the dark.

Zechariah, the father of St. John the Baptist, made this connection between light and his Nephew, "In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace."

The dawn from on high shall break upon us, to push back the dark. 

In the midst of all the presents and dinners and cookies, let us remember the real reason for Christmas, to push back the dark. 

And, when December 26 dawns, let us realize that the real work of Christmas begins, and that Christmas is a season, not just a day. It is a lifetime, a daily invitation to let our lights shine - His Light within us - for the whole world to see.

After opening all of the packages, and Christmas songs no longer fill our televisions, radios and devices, let us push back the dark. 

In the words of Howard Thurman:
When the song of the angels is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone, when the kings and princes are home, when the shepherds are back with their flocks, the work of Christmas begins: to find the lost, to heal the broken, to feed the hungry, to release the prisoner, to rebuild the nations, to bring peace among the people, to make music in the heart.
Keep pushing back the dark. Go light up the world.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 8, 2019

His, Now and Forever

"For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever."

In a post last week for the Alliance for Catholic Education, my colleauge Betsy Okello focused our Advent journeys by challenging us to wait in joyful hope, to enact the words prayed by the priest during the celebration of the Eucharist after the Our Father.

In our materialistic world, waiting in joyful hope during the season of Advent for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ, is difficult. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday, Santa, Frosty, Rudolph, elves, reindeer, and presents fill stores, yards, screens, and hearts. Our to-do lists mount: Christmas concerts, parties, pictures, cards, gifts, cleaning, cookies, outfits, travel.

In the midst of the noise, the traffic, the lines, the distractions...Do you hear what I hear?

Listen. It takes focus, discipline, and effort.

It is faint, far away.

A voice, crying out in the desert, shouts, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!"

Hear it again, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!"

Attune your senses to an echo from an ancient time, "Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths!"

See the figure in the distance. As the details become clear, notice clothing made from camel hair, a leather belt, a disheveled beard, a meal of locusts and wild honey.

As he draws closer, observe the crowd behind him, following him, listening to him, imitating him, sensing that he is the return of Elijah, the one to signal the Messiah is coming soon.

Behold how easily he dismisses a group possessing apparent power, authority, and connections as he explodes, “You brood of vipers! Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance." Watch this privileged group turn away, grumbling amongst themselves about how he just blew his only shot at their endorsement.

Absorb his message for all of us, "It's not about me or you. It never has been."

Heed his words as he points us toward Christ, "I am not worthy to carry His sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. He will fill your life with purpose and meaning beyond measure and make you into who you were created to be. All of this is about and because of Him. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are His, now and forever."

This Advent, may we, like St. John the Baptist have the courage to be different from the world.

This Advent, may we listen to and internalize his words:

Repent. In all of the busyness of this season, make room for Jesus. In prayer, give
Him the first part of your day, your week, your Advent, your Christmas. Return to Him in the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation. Allow His grace to overwhelm you with new life.

Make straight the paths. What is most essential right now? What could you courageously leave out of Advent, or intentionally bring into it so that it’s more about Him and less about anything else? What could you do differently to stand out from the world so that you can point to the Cause of our joyful hope when people question just what you’re doing? Turn your cards into messages of evangelization. Take time while shopping to pray for those for whom you’re buying gifts. Recognize traces of the Light of the world in the decorations fighting against December’s darkness. Notice echos of the choirs of angels in the silver bells, jingle bells, sleigh bells and other sounds of the season.

Produce good fruit. The wonder of the season is wrapped up in the wonder of God’s love, wrapped up in a blanket, wrapped up in our humanity, wrapped up in God’s plan to save the world. Follow this example and give Him your finest gift: you. Honor God by giving yourself to others through acts of service, charity, and mercy.  

It’s not about you or me or gifts or cookies or concerts. It never has been.

The kingdom, the power, and the glory are His now and forever.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019


“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” 
-St. Augustine, Confessions

One of my favorite characters in The Chronicles of Naria is the valiant mouse Reepicheep. Ironically, one of the tiniest characters in the series has the largest spirit, the most courage, and unparalleled purpose. 

He hungers to serve Aslan in any way possible and to ultimately make it to Aslan’s country. One of the greatest lines in the whole series centers on Reepicheep’s intense hunger to join Aslan: 

My own plans are made. While I can, I sail east in the Dawn Treader. When she fails me,
I paddle east in my coracle. When she sinks, I shall swim east with my four paws. And when I can swim no longer, if I have not reached Aslan’s country, or shot over the edge of the world in some vast cataract, I shall sink with my nose to the sunrise...(Lewis, 1952, p. 213)
Reepicheep illustrated by Pauline Baynes. 

In C.S. Lewis’s books, Aslan symbolizes Christ. 

Reepicheep represents the best in all of us, the us that God created us to be. He hungers for Aslan, or Christ, with such ferocity that nothing else will satisfy him. 

Because we believe we are made in the image and likeness of God, we bear the imprint of our Creator. As such, we desire something more than what can be found here on earth. 

If we are honest with ourselves, nothing will satisfy the deepest longing of our hearts to reunite with our Heavenly Father. Things of this world point toward Him. We believe that God is in all things and that the world is charged with visible signs of His invisible presence. 

But, no matter how great the best things of this world are, they cannot completely fill us. 

Only God can. He is the only thing that can satisfy our hunger. 

Our hunger for the best thing, God, propels us to greatness and is what draws us to this ministry. The more we grow in holiness, the more we desire to grow in holiness. 

Because of our hunger for God, we yearn for greater accomplishments and strive for more heroic actions to make Him known, loved, and served as Catholic school leaders.  

One problem with our plans to imitate Reepicheep and hunger for only God is something that also helps us in this effort: dopamine. 

Famously known as the feel-good neurotransmitter, dopamine helps motivate us to seek things that bring us pleasure, and produce more dopamine.

Dopamine is triggered in anticipation of your favorite Thanksgiving dish. You’re welcome. 

It is released after we bite into (insert your favorite Thanksgiving item here). Our bodies flood with this feel-good chemical. We help ourselves to seconds, thirds...fifths? 

Dopamine is also triggered in pursuit of a goal. We set out to accomplish something. Arriving at small check-points along the way, we receive small hits of dopamine, propelling us toward our target. As we get closer, anticipation mounts and dopamine floods our brains when we arrive at our final destination. 

The stronger the hunger for the reward, the more the reward satisfies us if/when we receive it thanks to dopamine. Having received the reward and dopamine, we hunger for more of both. This is both dopamine’s blessing and its curse.

We get dopamine from so many sources today, especially our devices, that we become desensitized to it. Social media provides a series of dopamine hits, making it hard for you in a moment of dopamine free-living - waiting, reading this reflection - not to pick up your phone and start scrolling or switch tabs to a dopamine-inducing stimulation. 

The hunger we have for dopamine distracts us from pointing our noses to the sunrise. 

Thanks to Silicon Valley executives, dopamine fasting is a thing. Dopamine fasters think that denying our brains the production of dopamine for short periods of time helps us achieve greater concentration and focus. Once the fast is over, we can return to the sources of our dopamine hits with greater awareness, enjoying them more than we did before the fast. 

The science behind this trend is sound. Fasting can lead to greater concentration, focus, and awareness. As Catholics, we would be wise to take this centuries-old practice back. 

Within our Catholic tradition, fasting does not just lead to greater concentration, focus, and awareness, it points us toward God, the source of our deepest longing, and helps us to recognize that nothing can fill the innate hunger we have for Him except Him. Fasting reorients our vision, gives us clarity about how to get there, and supplies energy for our journey.  

Our fasting fuels us to hunger for the thing that really matters: God. 

This awakens us to the mission that God has for our lives and focuses our efforts to accomplish it. It strengthens us to make Him known, loved, and served with even greater conviction, and more profound effect.

While dopamine fasters are returning to the source of their emptiness, let us fast so as to return to the source of our life.  

In doing so may we, like Reepicheep, make plans to point our noses to the sunrise and hunger for only God.

-Lewis, C.S. (1952). The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. New York: Scholastic. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

It's Not Just a Symbol

The Eucharist is the source and summit of our Catholic faith. Yet, only one-third of Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist (https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/08/05/transubstantiation-eucharist-u-s-catholics/).

Only 50% of Catholics know Church teaching on the Eucharist. Batting .500 would be amazing in baseball and many other sports and endeavors. But, roughly the same percentage of atheists (47%) know that the Church teaches that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Jesus.

Almost 70% of Catholics think that the Eucharist is just a symbol, 20% of whom know the Church's teaching on it.

It is not just a symbol.

It is not a symbol of Jesus, or of the Last Supper, or of bread, or life, or the Passover, or anything.

Catholic writer Flannery O'Connor famously defended the Eucharist as more than just a symbol at a dinner party with friends. She writes:
Well, toward morning the conversation turned on the Eucharist, which I, being the Catholic, was obviously supposed to defend. Mrs. Broadwater said when she was a child and received the Host, she thought of it as the Holy Ghost, He being the "most portable" person of the Trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one. I then said, in a very shaky voice, "Well, if it's a symbol, to h*** with it." That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest is expendable. (https://muse.jhu.edu/article/20417/summary)
The Eucharist, instituted at the Last Supper, is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. In the sixth chapter of John's Gospel, Jesus teachers His Real Presence in the Eucharist as more than symbolic. Known as the Bread of Life Discourse, Jesus's language continues to press toward the fact that He is the Bread of Life.

Notice how His language intensifies with each iteration of this teaching:

  • Verse 35: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst."
  • Verses 47 and 48: "Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life."
  • Verse 51: "I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
  • Verses 53 - 56: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him."

As this teaching progresses, people in the crowd murmur, quarrel and leave. In response, Jesus does not back down or soften His language to the realm of symbolism.

He leans in and declares that His flesh is true food and His blood is true drink. At two different times He leads off with the phrase, "Amen, amen". Not one, but two. Not once, but twice.



It is so.

He is the Bread of Life.

The Eucharist is not a symbol.



This is really hard to believe, which is why it's a mystery of our Catholic faith.

I've recently been praying for Jesus to help my unbelief. Ever since my daughter, Elizabeth, made her first Communion earlier this year, I have been receiving Jesus under both species. My church growing up never offered the Precious Blood, so in churches where both were offered, I typically only received Jesus's Body.

And, candidly, a cup shared by an entire congregation scared me. Especially during cold and flu season.

But it's not just a symbol. It's not just a cup of wine shared by hundreds of people.

It is Jesus's Precious and holy Blood, poured out for me and my sins. Eating His Body and drinking His Blood puts His life inside of us, "Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1323).

This teaching is hard.

In a sense, though, it is even harder if it's just a symbol.

Why go to Mass every weekend, especially with young kids in tow, if it's only a symbol? I can read the Bible, look at a crucifix, and show up for the important days if that's the case. This is probably why there is a correlation between belief in the Real Presence of Jesus and weekly Mass attendance.

Why receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, unless maybe I've done something really bad, if it's just a symbol? Jesus already died for my sins, and going into the dark confessional is scary.

What's the point of Baptism, Confirmation, Matrimony, Holy Orders, Anointing of the sick if they, and the Eucharist, are just symbols, if the life and grace of Jesus does not fill us and change us in these moments?

If it's just a symbol, what other teachings are symbolic? Loving your enemies? Being peacemakers? Offering forgiveness? Going out to encounter those on the margins?

What about the Resurrection...?

It's not just a symbol, and if you believe that it is, start living as if you believe that it really is Jesus's Body and Blood.

And pray that Jesus might help your unbelief.

And mine.

Until then, and especially after, act and pray like a believer.

It's not just a symbol.



*for another take on this same idea, check out this Word on Fire blog: https://www.wordonfire.org/resources/blog/jesus-may-not-need-our-adoration-but-he-asked-for-it/25556/

Thursday, August 29, 2019

God's Will

As a parent, there have been countless times with each of my three children where my interactions with them were nothing more than either side repeating his/her thoughts incessantly.

"Daddy, I don't want to brush my teeth!"

"If you have teeth, you have to brush them."

"But, I don't want to brush my teeth!"

 "If you have teeth, you have to brush them."

The volume of either line might increase. Maybe the pace of delivery quickens or slows. There might even be tears associated with what is said. But, the content remains the same.

In many ways, I think this interplay is similar to the way that I've interact with God as of late, or maybe forever. And, maybe, like a good parent, or least one that is much better than I am, maybe this is the way that God has chosen to respond to me...or maybe not. It's God's response back to me that has me puzzled. 

At various points in my life, I have had many conversations with God about His will for my life. In most cases, those conversations have been incredibly one sided.

I've told God that I want to know His will for my life.

I've asked God what His will for my life is.

I've offered to God what His will for my life should be.

I've prayed for the wisdom, courage, and strength to know, follow and see to the end whatever His will for me is.

And, despite some whispers, some fleeting breakthroughs of grace, I often don't think I've heard God's reply. Does this mean that I'm not following His will for me? Does this mean I'm not praying hard enough, or often enough, or the right prayers? Does it mean that I'm doing His will and His silence is His way of saying, "Yes. Now go and do it."

But, over the past few weeks and days, I've had some glimpses of how I may be able to find an answer.

The first is in the form of the lead singer for the band Tenth Avenue North, Mike Donehey. Mike recently published a book titled, "Finding God's Life for My Will". I haven't read it yet, but Mike's main premise is that instead of asking God what His will is for our lives, we should ask how we need to change so that we can more closely align our lives to His. In Mike's own words, "God's not after our success, He's after our surrender. He's not after our achievements, He's after our hearts."

St. Theresa of Calcutta had a similar message:

“God has not called me to be successful; He has called me to be faithful.”

Stop worrying about God's will and start following the life of Jesus. God's will for me is that I come to know, love, and serve Him. The best way that I can do that is to be as faithful as I can to the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.

I can find God's will for my life by putting the life of God in every ounce of my will. 

Another lead came in the form of a question I recently heard posed by a Catholic consulting group to an organization using its services, "How do you discern God's will?"

At face value, this question seems really deep and philosophical. My initial response was, "I have no idea! If I knew that is all that I would do. Ever!" 

But, after my quick frustration subsided, I realized that the question can be much more practical. What am I doing in my life to discern God's will? What habits, practices, behaviors afford God the opportunity to reveal to me His plan? 

The Mass, frequently receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation, reading scripture, praying the Rosary, listening to podcasts about the faith, enjoying Christian music like Tenth Avenue North, spending time in silent prayer, performing service to others, sitting in front of the Blessed Sacrament, dialoguing with other disciples, studying Church teaching, keeping a gratitude journal, doing an examination of conscience, praying novenas...

Our rich faith tradition offers many pathways for God's grace to break through our lives. Having a handful that are used for the purpose of discerning God's will can offer Him avenues to reach us.

He doesn't want our success. He doesn't want our accomplishments.

He wants us to be faithful. He wants our hearts.

He wants us.

He constantly pursues us, trying to find ways for grace to interrupt us and turn us toward Him, closer to Him.

God's will for my life is that I give my life to Him. In doing so and by engaging in practices to actively discern His will, I will find God's life for my will.

And, I will find God's will for my life.

I will find God's will.

I will find God.

I will. 

Friday, August 23, 2019

No Adequate Substitute

One of my daily prayers for my children is that they will hear the call that God has on their lives and that they may have the courage to answer it by saying yes.

Elizabeth dances with many ideas of what she'll be when she grows up. Catherine's list is a bit shorter and more consistent.

As for Gabriel, he says he wants to be a flying bulldozer.

Regardless of what they will do, I pray that they will come to know God, love Him, and ultimately choose to serve Him and that they will be who God created them to be - His disciple.

I pray that my fatherhood offers them rich opportunities to encounter Christ, because I believe that they will come to fulness of life only through a relationship with Him. Christ said, "I came so that you may have life, and have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).

I believe that Christ desires the good of my children even more than I do. Because of this, I need to bring them to Him. There is no adequate substitute for a relationship with Jesus.

A few years ago, as a member of the Diocese of St. Petersburg Vocation Enrichment Team, I attended a meeting with Catholics from around the diocese to focus on enriching, enhancing and promoting vocations to the priesthood and religious life. The theme for the day: Family - The First Home of Vocations - centered on the role of the family in fostering a sense and acceptance of vocation.

Fr. Alfredo Hernandez, the keynote speaker for the event, retold pieces of his own vocation story, including the simple prayer of his mother for him to discern what God was calling him to do and that if it was priesthood that he would be a good priest.

Citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#2221 - 2231), Fr. Alfredo mentioned that the role of parents involves moral formation in addition to physical and intellectual nurturing:
2221 The fecundity of conjugal love cannot be reduced solely to the procreation of children, but must extend to their moral education and their spiritual formation. "The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute."29 The right and the duty of parents to educate their children are primordial and inalienable.30 
Parents must recognize their role in moral and spiritual formation and they must accept that it is "almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute" for their influence. Such is the important role of parents in the faith lives of their children!

At times, though, this task can seem overwhelming. Given the magnitude of decisions that parents make on an hourly basis regarding the formation of their children, just surviving seems good enough a lot of the time.

One of the best ways to pass on the faith is by modeling the faith. Children come to learn about love, forgiveness, generosity, compassion, loyalty through the examples of those virtues. And while this seems daunting, it can happen in small, yet profound, ways.

Fr. Alfredo recalled that his mother would call him regalcito de cielo - little gift from heaven - and this shaped his sense of generosity and trust in God. We are made to be a gift and we are called to be a gift to others. Fr. Alfredo's mother made this clear to him through the use of this sweet nickname.

He also recounted reciting this prayer as a child with his dad: "Take my heart. Take my heart. It is yours, and not mine." Once again, this faith sharing need not be long or poetic. Instead, it must be heartfelt, authentic, and consistent.

As Catholic educators, we must help parents and families to establish a culture of joy instead of a culture of the temporary.

Our society tells us to love for as long as love lasts, to commit so long as the commitment is easy.

Our God, however, wants us to make a decision for once and all. To be all in. Totally. Close the door from the inside. Have the confidence to make a definitive - lasting - decision. Be open to the possibility of the permanent, and take whatever small step you need to take now so that you can take the next one, and the next one, and the next one...so that you can be ready to take the permanent one at some point.

True joy is borne from the encounter with others, hearing someone say, but not necessarily with words, "You are important to me." True joy is borne from knowing that Christ died to tell us this.

Our families can and need to be the places where this message is first conveyed. But, if it isn't, our Catholic schools must be places that offer both a surrogate message of worthiness and a prescription to help families grow stronger.

From Lay Catholics in Schools: Witnesses to Faith, written in 1982 by the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education:
The family is "the first and fundamental school of social living" therefore, there is a special duty to accept willingly and even to encourage opportunities for contact with the parents of students. These contacts are very necessary, because the educational task of the family and that of the school complement one another in many concrete areas; and they will facilitate the "serious duty" that parents have "to commit themselves totally to a cordial and active relationship with the teachers and the school authorities". Finally, such contacts will offer to many families the assistance they need in order to educate their own children properly; and thus fulfill the "irreplaceable and inalienable" function that is theirs. (#34)
As Catholic educators, our efforts to partner with families, to communicate early and often, to celebrate the positive while honestly addressing areas in need of improvement, to provide opportunities for involvement, education, prayer, not only develops the relationship between the home and the school for the benefit of the student.

It also sends the message to families, "You are important to me" in more than just words.

True joy is borne from these encounters.

Joy that leads to a fulness of life in Christ, a fulness that only comes by answering the call that He has on our lives.

A joy and a fulness for which there is no adequate substitute.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019


Encourage - (v) give support, confidence, or hope to (someone)

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Barnabas, Apostle. Interestingly, his name was actually Jospeh. Due to his positive demeanor, though, the apostles called him "Barnabas" which means "son of encouragement". 

He advocated for Saul - St. Paul, before anyone else believed in his conversion. This act alone seems enough to qualify him for this nickname. Barnabas defended Saul, perhaps one of the greatest persecutors of Christians ever, before he became known as an apostle of Christ. Standing up for St. Paul must have brought St. Barnabas much conflict and ridicule.

An encourager, though, supports, offers confidence in, or hope to someone. 

Encouragers play essential roles in our lives. If you think on your own life, consider those people who have encouraged you and your relationship with them. Likely, these relationships are, or at least were, incredibly strong. You probably wanted to be close to this person, growing in excitement during moments together and/or leaving his/her presence having felt stronger, lighter, joyful, hopeful, determined. 

Contrarily, consider people who discouraged you. If possible, you distanced yourself from this discourager. You dreaded your time with him/her. You left encounters with this person feeling dejected, deflated, defeated. 

As a parent, husband, Catholic educator, leader - as a person - I hope to be an encourager. I hope to bring hope to others. I hope to see others as God sees them, encouraging them that becoming the person they were created to be is more than possible. It is necessary. 

I assume that everyone would answer similarly. We want to encourage and be encouraged. 

Given the daily grind of life, and without others to encourage us, encouraging others may be beyond our capacity. Just fighting through our own battles and struggles can leave us feeling drained, with little to nothing to offer others by way of encouragement. 

Enter the Holy Spirit. 

Gerard Manley Hopkins described the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, in the following way: 
For God the Holy Ghost is the Paraclete, but what is a Paraclete?  Often it is translated comforter, but a Paraclete does more than comfort.  The word is Greek; there is no one English word for it and no one Latin word, comforter, is not enough.  A Paraclete is one who comforts, who cheers, who encourages, who persuades, who exhorts, who stirs up, who urges forward, who calls on; what the spur and word of command is to a horse, what clapping of hands is to a speaker, what a trumpet is to the soldier, that a Paraclete is to the soul: one who calls us on, that is what it means, a Paraclete is one who calls us on to good. One sight is before my mind, it is homely but it comes home: you have seen at cricket how when one of the (batters) at the wicket has made a hit and wants to score a run, the other doubts, hangs back, or is ready to run in again, how eagerly the first will cry/Come on, come on! – a Paraclete is just that, something that cheers the spirit of (people), with signals and with cries, all zealous that (we) should do something and full of assurance that if (we) will (we) can, calling (us) on, springing to meet (us) half way, crying to (our) ears or to (our) heart: This way to do God’s will, this way to save your soul, come on, come on! 
No matter our circumstance, the Paraclete is with us, encouraging us, calling us on to do good, to be the people God created us to be, to strengthen us with fortitude, to fill us with wisdom, enlighten us with understanding, guide us with counsel, direct us with knowledge, humble us with piety, and enliven us with fear of the Lord.

Come, Holy Spirit, encourage us! St. Barnabas, son of encouragement, pray for us!

Be encouraged and be an encourager!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Unleash the Power to Conquer

This post is one year late.

ICS Class of 2018, these are my parting words to you. I'm sorry that they are just now getting to you. You've already experienced and most likely finished your first year of high school.

Better late than never.

Transitions are really hard. You know this now a few times over. Your 8th grade year endured changes that neither you nor I intended. We arrived at a theme, and a really good one at that. You designed a t-shirt, and a really good one at that! You volunteered to help lead various initiatives. You showed how you were poised and ready to "Unleash the Power to Conquer".  

But, from what I know, none of this came to fruition.

I hope and pray that you still managed to unleash the gifts, talents, and energies given to you by God to become the people He created you to be. I hope and pray that your stamp last year on Incarnation Catholic School may have been more lasting than mine. The thing about our work is that we are meant to toil for the sake of the Kingdom, not for our own glory, fame or lasting name.

ICS is still making God known, loved and served. The Kingdom is still being advanced. Amen.

The thing about unleashing this power to conquer, though, is that the conquering does not entail an easy fight. I'm sure you've had your share of battles over the past two years. I hope that you've picked up your armor - the cross and the Bible - and that you have fought courageously, if not victoriously. I pray that despite the absence of a t-shirt, the phrase being spoken, or the opportunities to lead as we had collectively envisioned, that you still managed to unleash the power to conquer.

The Spirit - your spirit - cannot be boxed into a pep rally. It wasn't made to fit nicely into a letterhead or on a wall.

It is meant to run wild, live free, and love strong, all for the sake of our King and His Kingdom.

Unleash the power to conquer - your fears, life's battles, transitions, sin, evil, even death itself.

I've been reading my daughters the Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. We're on the final book, The Last Battle, but there is a scene from the previous book, The Silver Chair, that I want to share with you.

Prince Rilian has been taken prisoner by the Lady of the Green Kirtle, the Queen of the Underland. Prince Rilian, though, does not realize that he's been taken prisoner, as the Queen has put him under an enchantment, enslaving him as her servant, promising him kingdoms of the Overlands and her hand in marriage if he just continues to serve her.

The enchantment, however, wears off for an hour each day. It is during this time that the Queen has Rilian tied to a silver chair so that he cannot escape. He is told that the opposite is true. The Queen lies to Rilian telling him that the enchantment happens during this hour and that he must be tied up because he becomes such a horrible monster that he would cause destruction unimaginable if loosed.

So, night after night, Prince Rilian suffers through an hour of knowing his true nature, his authentic self, screaming for help, straining to break the bonds holding him captive, only to fall back into his enslaved trance. Caged. Bound. Trapped. Leashed. Conquered.
"Ah," (Prince Rilian) groaned. "Enchantments, enchantments...the heavy, tangled, cold, clammy web of evil magic. Buried alive. Dragged down under the earth, down into the sooty blackness...how many years is it?...Have I lived ten years, or a thousand years, in the pit?"
He had been speaking in a low voice; now he looked up, fixed his eyes upon them, and said loud and clear: "Quick! I am sane now. Every night I am sane. If only I could get out of this enchanted chair, it would last. I should be a man again. But every night they bind me, and so every night my chance is gone. But you are not enemies. I am not your prisoner. Quick! Cut these cords."
"Once and for all," said the prisoner, "I adjure you to set me free. By all fears and all loves, by the bright skies of Overland, by the great Lion, by Aslan himself, I charge you-" 
The story's protagonists, Eustace, Jill and Puddleglum, debate for a while about whether or not to believe him and set him free. He is the first person on their long and arduous journey to say Aslan's name, a sign given to them by Aslan himself that this person would be the long-lost Rilian. Despite their own fears holding them back, they take up swords and release him.
"In the name of Aslan," they said, and began methodically cutting the cords. The instant the prisoner was free, he crossed the room in a single bound, seized his own sword (which had been taken from him and laid on the table), and drew it.
"You first" he cried and fell upon the silver chair. That must have been a good sword. The silver gave way before its edge like string, and in a moment a few twisted fragments, shining on the floor, were all that was left.  
"Had I forgotten (Narnia) when I was under the spell?" asked the Knight. "Well, that and all other bedevilments are now over. You may well believe that I know Narnia, for I am Rilian, Prince of Narnia, and Caspian the great King is my father."
ICS Class of 2018, in your life you will have many silver chairs. There will be countless things that will hold sway over you, challenges that will overpower you, events that will bind and trap you and attempt to turn you into someone you are not.

Unleash the power to conquer and cut each of those silver chairs to pieces. Leave but only a few twisted fragments behind, if anything.

The world, at times, will try to convince you that you are someone you are not. The world will tell you that you are not good enough, smart enough, creative enough, strong enough, pretty enough, tough enough - that you are not enough. In those moments, cut your silver chair and claim your royal birthright.

This won't be easy; it will be hard. Incredibly hard. It will end up being the hardest thing that you've ever done. But, you can do hard things.

You are a child of God.

His royal blood courses through your veins. You were made for greatness, built for holiness and destined for sainthood. Unleash the power to become who you were created, built and destined to be.

ICS Class of 2018, no matter what life will continue to hurl at you. No matter the battle you find yourself fighting, no matter the chair that seemingly holds you captive.

No. Matter. What.

Unleash the power to conquer.  It's not too late...it's better late than never.

Congratulations on your 8th grade graduation and completing your first year of high school, ICS Class of 2018. Goodbye, good luck, God bless and GO IRISH!

-Lewis, C. (1953). The Silver Chair. Scholastic Inc: New York. 

Friday, May 17, 2019

ICS Class of 2019: "Go, you have been sent!"

Dear ICS Class of 2019,

Congratulations on your 8th grade graduation! May God bless you as you journey from the place many of you have called home for the past 9 years. Know that despite your departure, you are a part of a larger family of Incarnation Irish whose bonds cannot be broken by any distance or time.

I cannot believe it has been two years since we have been together and that it was nine years ago that I became your principal as ICS kindergarteners. So much...so much has changed since then, the most important being your maturation, growth, and development into the people that God created you to be. Know that this formation is permanent, not in the sense that it is now completed, but rather that it is ongoing. Never stop never stopping.

I have prayed for you every day and will continue to do so. You are forever in my heart. Please let me know if I can ever help or support you in any way. I am honored to have been a part of your lives and to have you as a part of mine.

In this spirit, I offer to you some thoughts and words. I hope and pray that they may provide some inspiration, wisdom, and if nothing else, a short shot of nostalgia:

The closing prayer at mass is “Go forth, the Mass is ended”, “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord”, “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life”, or simply, “Go in peace.” All of these variations derive from the Latin, Ite missa est, which means, “Go, you have been sent.”

Go, ICS Class of 2019. You have been sent. Over the course of your time at ICS, the school, its teachers, coaches, administrators and staff, alongside of our Church and your parents and families have prepared you to be the best versions of yourselves. There is still work to be done and that is true for all of us, but go into the next steps of your lives and be who God created you to be.

Witness to others about the life in Christ that you have because of your time at Incarnation. Do not shy away from being ready to give people who ask an explanation for the hope you have in Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:15). Boldly profess and proclaim your faith in Christ, not in a way that divides. Rather, use your faith and the power of the Gospel in the same way that Christ did: to unite, to heal, to love.

Hold fast when your faith will be tested, because it will undoubtedly be put to the test. Whether this happens sooner or later, your discipleship will be questioned, mocked and even persecuted.  Embrace these trials. It is only through extreme heat and pressure that we have diamonds.

In these moments, lean on each other. The gift of community is something that is truly divinely scripted. Our God is Himself relational; therefore, all relationships that are rightly ordered are pathways to holiness. Turn to your parents, teachers, coaches, priests and others who want nothing more than for you to find fullness in life. Believe that we are always better together.

Dive into the Good Book. Make a daily habit of breaking open God’s revelatory Words to us. We have the Words of eternal life. Never forget that the messages contained within the Bible are intended for you, right now, and that Jesus seeks after your heart through its pages.

Return to the Sacraments. Jesus gives us His life in profound ways through the Eucharist and Reconciliation. There is no limit to your reception or to the immense good that your participation can have on both you and our world. Frequent both often. Because of your Baptism you have been set aside for a special purpose - a mission - for which only you can be sent and only you can accomplish. God has claimed you as His own. You have been built for holiness, made for greatness and destined for sainthood. Your Confirmation galvanized these graces and supercharged your spirits for your mission. Stir up the charism of your Confirmation saint and invoke his/her name in your prayers. You have been called, by name, to do great things. Do them.

Fail and grow comfortable with struggle. Do not endure grit for the sake of being gritty, but persevere through the challenges that life will hurl at you for the sake of His Kingdom. Struggle is a sign of growth, whether it be mental, physical or spiritual. Seek out ways to constantly improve and search for opportunities that will be beyond your abilities. Jesus is not found on, nor has he called you to, the safeties of shore. Get into your boats and cast out into the deep. Abandon even your vessels to find the One who knows you even better than you know yourself. In doing so, He will introduce you to your life in Him, a life of abundance, of purpose, of fulfillment. He will give you your mission.

Through it all, continue to make God known, loved and served in all that you think, say and do. Believe that you have no greater purpose than this and that Christ wants nothing more for you than to come to fullness of life in Him. In doing so, may you bring that fullness to a world so desperately in need of it.

Go, ICS Class of 2019, and make Christ incarnate in our world through the gift of your lives. May others see the Incarnation of Christ through your witness to His love, power, majesty and glory.

Go, ICS Class of 2019, you have been sent.

Congratulations, good luck, God bless, and GO IRISH!


Mr. Z

Thursday, May 16, 2019


GospelJN 13:16-20

When Jesus had washed the disciples' feet, he said to them:
"Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master
nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him.
If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.
I am not speaking of all of you.
I know those whom I have chosen.
But so that the Scripture might be fulfilled,
The one who ate my food has raised his heel against me.
From now on I am telling you before it happens,
so that when it happens you may believe that I AM. 
Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send
receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me."

Ite missa est. 

The Latin form of the words that we hear at the conclusion of every Mass mean, "Go, you have been sent." After having feasted on the Bread of life, nourished and strengthened by the Eucharist, we are called to live out our baptismal mission to be priests, prophets and kings. Christ tells us, through the person of the priest (or deacon), as he told the apostles, "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19 - 20).

We are called to witness to the truth that Jesus Christ is the only Son of God; one of the three persons of the Trinity; who suffered, died, resurrected and ascended into heaven; whose death and resurrection we celebrate through the mystery of the Eucharist, the source and summit of our lives, our "daily bread" that gives us strength for this mission.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, "The duty of Christians to take part in the life of the Church impels them to act as witnesses of the Gospel and of the obligations that flow from it. This witness is a transmission of the faith in words and deeds. Witness is an act of justice that establishes the truth or makes it known" (CCC, #2472).

We are impelled to act as witnesses of the Gospel and of the obligations that flow from it. This requires much more than just going to mass and saying our prayers behind closed doors.

This apostolic witness requires a bold profession of faith. It entails always being "ready to give to anyone who asks you a reason for your hope" (1 Peter 3:15). It requires that we embrace Jesus's call to renounce the riches of this world, and to seek out the widow, the orphan, the outcast. We must turn our cheeks and go the extra mile to love even those that persecute us. Christ teaches us to let the children come to Him, becoming like children ourselves. We are to give to Caesar that which belongs to the state, taking seriously our earthly duty to be good citizens. Be humble, meek, poor in spirit, hungry for righteousness. Make peace. Rejoice when we have been counted worthy to suffer for the sake of the Gospel. Wash each others feet. The two shall become one flesh. Remain clean of heart. Repent. Forgive. Love one another and love the Father in heaven, as we have been loved by Him.

In short, be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect.

This is our striving, our yearning, our desire to be all that God created us to be. Our lives will come to fullness only in Him. All else is vanity.

But, this perfection is not a pre-requisite to being a witness. Rather, our pursuit of it is itself an act of witness.

Jesus did not call the qualified; He has qualified the called.

His grace is sufficient.

Witness about what you have seen and heard so that others may have fellowship with Christ.

Go, you have been sent.

Monday, April 15, 2019


Our son Gabriel will turn two and a half later this month. While I have come to appreciate all of the ages of my kids as they've gotten older, Gabriel's current range has been one of my favorites. The explosion of words. The emergence of personality. The exploration of movement. I understand why this age is considered terrible, but to me it's also, thankfully, a lot of fun.

One of Gabriel's current sayings is "because..." in response to questions about how something happened.

For example, if you ask, "Gabriel, how did that train get over there?"

He might respond, "Beduz, da doo-doo oer dere."

Or, if you were to pose, "Gabriel, how did you jump so high/run so fast/eat so much?"

Most likely the first word out of his mouth would be, "Beduz" followed by something like "I do dat."

It has reminded me of how Elizabeth referred to herself using the pronoun "you" or how Catherine was already telling detailed fantasy stories around the same age.

As I think about his response in regard to Catholic school leadership, though, I find it to be incredibly profound.

In response to questions about how something happens, he responds with rationale. He responds with an explanation of why it happened in describing how it happened.


This is something that Catholic school leaders should do, too. We should lead from our deepest convictions, our beliefs, and use them as the purpose behind all of our decisions, words, actions, and programs within our schools.

For example, if a teacher were to ask, "How am I supposed to turn in lesson plans next Monday with so many other events between now and then?"

A dynamic, transformational Catholic school leader may respond, "Because we believe that excellence happens on purpose, we ensure that we are adequately prepared to impart this excellence to our students."

When our why is strong enough, we will figure out the how. This is what can make leading with beliefs and responding with "because" so powerful. It puts the issue on something more fundamental than logistics. It pushes the issue into the emotional realm. It makes it something that cuts to our hearts...if others share in this belief in their hearts, too.

Or, maybe it's a response to a parent or family, questioning the use of time during the school day for religion or liturgy, "How can you meet your instructional minutes by spending so much time on God?"

"Because we believe that we are disciples with hope to bring, we tap into the source of that hope as often as we can. In this way, we have greater zeal and focus for the other portions of our days and weeks."

Simon Sinek calls this starting with why, stating, "People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it." Our decisions and behaviors, Sinek argues, stem not from the neocortex, but from the limbic region of our brains, where emotion and desire are housed and transmitted. This is what can create loyalty organizationally, connecting us to more than just products and end results.

Here are some other examples:

How can we meet the needs of all students? 

  • Because we believe that all children can and will learn, we utilize a variety of instructional methods and assessment strategies to engage students in ways that best suit their needs so that we can help all of them to achieve our standards and benchmarks. 

How can we compete with charter schools and a declining sense of the value of Catholic education? 

  • Because we believe that God is in all things, we see the world in a sacramental way and we recognize God's presence in it, especially in developing the religious dimension of our students. 



I've also heard it said that while how is powerful, why is magical. Focusing on how or what can get us trapped in the details and arguments over particulars. Being rooted, however, in your purpose - your why - can unlock the constraints of personal preferences or logistical demands and usher in creativity, innovation, collaboration, excitement and synergistic effects.

Starting with why, being purpose-driven, mission-minded, intentionally-inclined.

Whatever you call it, living from your deeply held beliefs can infuse your life, and in turn your ministry, with new energy, momentum and spirit. It can invoke the power of the Holy Spirit to transform your efforts into something greater than what we can ask or imagine.

Start with why.

Return to why.

End with why.

And the next time someone asks you how something is to take place, lead with because... 

Tuesday, April 9, 2019


“When faced with change, conflict, relativism, and bleak prospects for the future, people are beginning to despair under the burden of daily life and have forgotten how to be protagonists in history.” 

In the first reading from last Thursday, Moses is conversing with God on the top of Mount Sinai when God’s people, delivered from slavery and saved from death multiple times, erect a golden calf and start to worship it. In response to this idolatry, God wants to wipe them out. Moses, however, intercedes and gets God to turn back His destructive wrath.

For a bit more context, we can read earlier in Exodus to know that Moses has been on the top of the mountain for some time. This is when Moses receives the ten commandments after which God offers more in-depth instructions about the prescriptions of the law. Scripture scholars believe that Moses stayed on the top of the mountain for 40 days, enough time for the Israelites to grow weary of waiting, and to want to put a face and shape to this God who had delivered them. Culturally, this is what they knew to do. Aaron, at the people’s urging, solicits all of their gold, melts it and forms it into this idol. He then declares a festival to the “Lord”.

In the responsorial psalm we hear that the people “exchanged their glory for the image of a grass eating bullock” and that “they forgot the God who saved them, who had done great deeds in Egypt.”

They had fallen short of their call as God’s chosen people. They had forgotten that they were to be protagonists in history.

How often do we fall into this trap? Weary of the work, impatient for God to move, how easily do we despair? How often do we forget the good things that God has done for us, that He has been faithful before and that He will be faithful again?

But, just as Moses pleads to God for mercy, inviting God to remember the good deeds done to save His people, we, too, must remember that we are children of God. We must believe that the Holy Spirit courses through our veins in no smaller measure than any of the saints. Whereas Moses was privileged to converse with God and see His back, we have the living God inside of us!

We need to remember.

Jesus warns us in last Thursday's Gospel, “You search the Scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf. But you do not want to come to me to have life.” Let us not forget or fail to realize that all the scriptures pointed to Him! Let us listen to His words, and recognize His ongoing presence in our world.

We must remember that He has called us to a relationship, an encounter, a covenant. He does not a desire a contract.

We must remember that we are God’s, created for a specific purpose, called to bring Him honor, glory and majesty.

Change, conflict, relativism, and bleak prospects for the future, cause us and others to despair. The burden of daily life overwhelms us.

In these times, though, we must remember that we are His chosen people, that He has been faithful before and will be faithful again, that He desires mercy, not sacrifice, our hearts, not just our heads and hands.

We must remember that we are His protagonists, called to advocate and fight for others, and in doing so calling them to this same remembrance: we are His.

We must remember...

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The Deepest Reason

What is the deepest reason that you do what you do?

This question, posed by Fr. Lou Delfra in January at a retreat for the Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program, has lingered with me.

Why do we do what we do? Why do we have Catholic schools? Why do we expend resources for Catholic schools? Why do the women and men working there fight so hard? Why do parents and families sacrifice so much to send us their children?


Answering this question and then operating from this response can energize, inspire, animate and enliven us and all those with whom we come into contact.

Why do we do what we do?

We do what we do because we were created for joy.

We do what we do because Catholic school communities and everyone in them deserve this joy, this fullness.

We are made for dancing and intended for the divine.

Jesus tells us, "I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). "They" is us. You. Me. Them. All. Everyone.

Our Catholic schools need to be dance floors, not auditioning stages. Feasts, not invitation-only events. All should be welcomed, known, and cherished. All nations, every tribe and tongue.


The mission of our Church is the salvation of all souls and the total human formation of every person, to build up the Kingdom of God in heaven and establish it here on earth. We are called to "generate new creatures in Baptism" and to awaken in everyone a life in Christ (Divini Illius Magistri, #94). Our Catholic schools are a ministry of the Church to accomplish this mission. In fact, they are "privileged means" used by the Church for this purpose (The Catholic School, #8).

Salvation and total human formation for everyone.

In Plato's Allegory of the Cave, the experience of liberation is intended for all members of the state, not just the philosopher queens and kings meant for leadership.

Our Church offers a similar stance:
A Christian formation process might therefore be described as an organic set of elements with a single purpose: the gradual development of every capability of every student, enabling each one to attain an integral formation within a context that includes the Christian religious dimension and recognizes the help of grace. (The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, #99)
That's every capability, of every student. Fullness of life. For all.

Our Church also poses this:
In its ecclesial dimension another characteristic of the Catholic school has its root: it is a school for all, with special attention to those who are weakest. (The Catholic School on the Threshold of the Third Millennium, #15)
We are called to be schools for all, with special attention to those who are the weakest. Fullness of life. For everyone.

For those of us called to work in Catholic schools, this is a huge task. But, we can do hard things. Our ongoing formation in greatness, holiness and sainthood must lead us to an apostolic boldness that invites others onto the dance floor.

What is the deepest reason we do what we do? The answer isn't a what, it's a Who: Jesus Christ. We do what we do because Jesus Christ conquered sin and death and desires a personal relationship with everyone.

In the Father's House there are many rooms and a huge dance floor, big enough for everyone to fit. In the words of Fr. Lou Delfra, paraphrasing Notre Dame, Our Mother, "I didn't go through the Virgin birth so people could live comfortably. I want people on the dance floor!"

So, keep dancing, continue inviting others into your schools, into relationship with Christ, and into fullness of life, because that's what Jesus did.

And, He is the deepest reason we do what we do.

"For the love of Christ impels us, once we have come to the conviction that one died for all; therefore, all have died. He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh; even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him so no longer. So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come" (2 Corinthians 5:14-17).

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Affecting and Upsetting

“(Evangelization) is a question not only of preaching the Gospel in ever wider geographic areas or to ever greater numbers of people, but also of affecting and as it were upsetting, through the power of the Gospel, (human)kind’s criteria of judgment, determining values, points of interest, lines of thought, sources of inspiration and models of life, which are in contrast with the Word of God and the plan of Salvation.”

-Pope St. Paul VI, 1975 in Evangelii Nuntiandi

My daughter Elizabeth's piggy bank shattered unexpectedly and suddenly in the fall of 2017. In an attempt to help ease her emotions following the drop, I told her I would collect the pieces and that I would work on putting it back together for her. The shattered pig sat in a box on the top of a shelf in our house, though, for the better part of a year. The task just seemed to be too big and Elizabeth did not mention its repair. "Best Dad Ever" I am not.

An unexpected Christmas wish - I want Santa to bring me my piggy bank put back together - roused and inspired me to make good on my initial promise. 

The work was slow and difficult. The bigger pieces were the easy ones. Their placement was immediately evident and their adhesion seamless. These early victories fueled much needed momentum. 

However, as the pieces shrunk, the difficulty of this task grew. Their placement was more puzzling, their adhesion more likely to result in my fingers getting cut and/or superglued to the shard or to another finger. Gaps resulted and the once smooth exterior of the pig was now rough and jagged. 

On Christmas morning, Elizabeth showed genuine surprise and appreciation. While not the version of her restored pig that she had envisioned, she was grateful to have her piggy bank back. 

To me, this long, slow, difficult, and sometimes painful work of repairing a broken ceramic is much like the work we are called to do repair the various ways in which our society is shattered. 


Equality and equity. 




As a white, middle-aged, middle class, straight, Christian, married with children, non-disabled, cisgender man, there is not an area of my life that is not in a dominant category (at least in America, which is another way that my life is incredibly privileged). 

My parents are white. They, too, fit all of the above categories. As such, my upbringing was as privileged as it could have been. We lived in a suburb of Cleveland that was predominantly white. We had access to a strong education, where the teachers in my school looked like me. The curriculum favored my life experiences. I had a plethora of extra-curricular activities from which to choose and I had the recreational time to pursue them all the way through college. I had easy and ready access to healthcare and medical services. 

My high school, a private, all-boys, Catholic high school - another example of my privilege - was one of only two aspects of my life that bucked against my white privilege. The school was not located in a white neighborhood. The student population was almost an even split between black and white. I had teachers, coaches and a principal who were black. 

The other aspect of my life that embodied this type of diversity was the school where I served as principal for seven years. Its surrounding neighborhood is richly diverse and its student population enjoyed a similar composition. 

In both instances, I experienced coded language as people talked about my schools. Do you feel safe going to school there? That's just a football school, right? The school population sure has changed since you became principal. We are leaving because we feel the education will be stronger where there are more families like us. Is there a quota on the number of students on scholarship that the school can accept? 

But, no matter how much these questions irritated and annoyed me, and despite the fact that they hardened my pride to be a part of either school, I still got to go home to my white privilege. While I believe that my life has been enhanced by these experiences, my circumstances were not improved as a result of them. Any success I've had is due in large part because the intersection of my race, gender, class, sexual orientation, religion, marital status and nationality has been the corner of Easy Street and the Yellow Brick Road. My life is the result of my privilege. 

Therefore, this is why it is so important that I leverage all of this privilege and do the long, slow, hard yet vital work of cultural responsiveness. This is why I must push past and own white fragility and critically self-reflect on the many ways I maintain my dominant position, the many implicit biases I hold, and the many ways that I must fight and change in order to make our world more just, equitable, fair and right. 

This is why I can't just bring in the Responsiveness Team to do this work for me. This is why I can't just ask the Diversity Expert to do the work that I must do. This is why, given my privilege and my current position, I must affect and upset others to put their own fragility aside and partner in critically looking at our intersections and working against the systemic racism that is rampant in America. 

As Pamela Nolan Young, the University of Notre Dame's Director for Academic Diversity and Inclusion, stated in a recent presentation on inclusive excellence, the work is difficult. Young remarked:
I was not feeling passionate about the work I was doing on diversity, inclusion and equity. As Fannie Lou Hamer said, "I am sick and tired of being sick and tired." I'm not feeling that hopeful either; however, I do have faith. And as first Hebrews teaches us, "Faith is confidence in what we hope for, and assurance about what we do not see."...So when all seems lost, I return to my faith to restore my hope. Working for diversity, inclusion, and equity is difficult, but I have faith in God and trust in His promise for the Kingdom.
The work of responsiveness is hard, but we can do hard things.

The work of diversity, inclusion and equity is long, but that does not make it any less urgent.

The work of building the Kingdom of God here on earth will require "affecting and as it were upsetting, through the power of the Gospel, (human)kind’s criteria of judgment, determining values, points of interest, lines of thought, sources of inspiration and models of life, which are in contrast with the Word of God and the plan of Salvation” (Pope St. Paul VI).

This work is uncomfortable, but we were not made for comfort. We were born for greatness, made for holiness and destined for sainthood.

This work is ours.

Let us begin.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Mission

Over the course of the past week, I found myself drawn into the whirlwind that was the students from Covington Catholic and their interaction with both participants in the Indigenous Peoples March and members of the Black Hebrew Israelites. 

I was caught up in how forcefully divided we are as a country. Some quickly chastised the students. Others came to their defense and propped them up as models of behavior and restraint. As is the case with so many events in our country, vehement polarization ensued. 

This situation was a powderkeg. From racism to abortion to immigration to the Catholic Church to women’s rights to all of the many associations with MAGA hats, there were so many emotionally charged aspects of this event.

As I emerged from the vortex still trying to figure out what really happened, I was overwhelmed by the great and urgent need throughout the world for healing, justice, peace, reconciliation, and love. 

If we ever needed the Lord before, we sure do need Him now. 

We believe that Jesus Christ conquered sin and death through the Resurrection. As His disciples, we are charged with carrying on His salvific mission: the salvation of souls and the total formation of all humans.

As such and in light of our world’s dire need, “There must be nothing little about us, we must have hearts of apostles” (St. Julie Billiart). We must embrace the apostolic boldness that is the Spirit of God within us. We must harness the zeal that has animated countless holy women and men throughout history. We must then “cooperate with divine grace in forming the true and perfect Christian, that is, to form Christ Himself in those regenerated by Baptism” (Divini Illius Magistri, #94).   

Pope Pius XI states that Catholic education should result in the formation of super-humans. “Hence the true Christian,” Pius XI writes, “product of Christian education, is the supernatural [person] who thinks, judges and acts constantly and consistently in accordance with right reason illumined by the supernatural light of the example and teaching of Christ; in other words, to use the current term, the true and finished [person] of character” (Divini Illius Magistri, #96). 

People of character. 


Supernatural people.


Christ Himself in those of us regenerated by Baptism. 

As Remick Leaders, we hold fast to our beliefs and we use them to inspire, inform, and enliven our respective ministries. We believe that God is in all things. We believe that we are made for each other in the image and likeness of God. We believe that we are disciples with hope to bring. We believe that excellence happens on purpose. We believe that school leaders drive student success. 

We believe our work makes God known, loved, and served. 

Therefore, we must believe that the Remick Leadership Program has a part to play in bringing healing, justice, peace, reconciliation, and love to our world. 

We must believe that our work is bringing people closer to Christ and bringing Christ to the world. We must believe that when we do it right and well - and we must - that we can create the type of people the world so desperately needs. 

In the 1982 document, Lay Catholics in Schools: Witnesses to Faith, the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education writes: 
The vocation of every Catholic educator includes the work of ongoing social development: to form men and women who will be ready to take their place in society, preparing them in such a way that they will make the kind of social commitment which will enable them to work for the improvement of social structures, making these structures more conformed to the principles of the Gospel. Thus, they will form human beings who will make human society more peaceful, fraternal, and communitarian. (#19)

Our world needs these types of humans - humans supercharged with zeal, relentless curiosity, hunger, purpose, vision, courage, humility.

Our world needs people of character. 

Our world needs saints. 

Our world needs heroes.

Our world needs Christ Himself in those regenerated by Baptism. 

Our world needs love.

Our Catholic schools can form these types of super-humans. Our Remick Leaders can ensure that our Catholic schools do this. 

Our world needs Catholic schools.

And our Catholic schools need Remick Leaders.