Thursday, August 27, 2009

Last Day of Classes for the Week

Whew!

It's hard to believe that it's already Thursday. Fortunately for me and, certainly, the students at U of D Jesuit, today is the last day of classes this week. In keeping with tradition, tomorrow morning our entire school will gather to celebrate the Mass of the Holy Spirit where we pray that God's Spirit be with us this year.

This has been, arguably, one of the more exciting weeks in my life. I have woken up every morning excited and I've gone to bed each night exhausted. From explaining to freshmen what it means to "Fight and Not to Heed the Wounds" (from the Prayer for Generosity) to discussing with seniors just what it is that Simone Weil means by the word attention, I feel like I've been running full-speed throughout the week. I went to bed last night with an awful sore throat...a reminder, perhaps, that I had talked too much over the course of three days! Upon awakening this morning, however, I was glad to discover that the soreness had abated.

One of the great graces of my schedule is that I have a planning period immediately before two of my classes and then one before my final two classes for the day. What this has allowed me to do is to spend 10 minutes in prayer before my students arrive. I sometimes have a hard time remembering names, but in those moments before the classes start I pray with my seating charts, asking that God give me the grace and strength to help in the formation of their hearts and minds. I pray, too, that God be with each student during the day. I remember how hard the transition to high school was for me, so I pray in a special way that my freshmen experience in a special way the nearness of God.

Perhaps it is because of the patten of praying-through-the-day that I've really found a special love for teaching the sophomore-level New Testament course. I think that, sometimes, teachers are tempted to treat the New Testament as simply another book, just as a piece of literature. To be sure, this is appropriate for certain scholars. But in the context of a Jesuit school, I think it especially important to invite students to reflect on the question that Jesus poses to each one of us in faith: "Who do you say that I am?" Before each sophomore class, I pray that I be a good steward of the Gospel so that each student has the opportunity to come to know and love Jesus more deeply.

In a word, while there's a part of me that wants the young men to know about Tacitus and all the names of the 27 books of the New Testament, my ultimate goal is to help the students to (1) love theology (2) come to know and to love Jesus Christ more deeply so that (3) each one can commit himself to being a disciple and an faithful and active member of the Church.

Had you asked me last year at this time where I imagined myself for Regency, I would have said that I'd be at a college. I'm glad that I did not get what I then wanted! I do not know that in a college classroom I would be able to share with my students why Jesus Christ is the love of my life or if I could as easily encourage them to think about who Jesus is for them. Perhaps some college teachers can do this - Father Gray and Father Fiore were supremely gifted in this - but I don't know that I'm quite capable of doing so...at least not yet. So I am glad to be with these kids, seeing them in the hallways, having them in class, encouraging them at practice and at games, making them clean up after themselves at lunch. In all of these encounters, I hope to embody for them the very special way of discipleship that is religious life in a manner that makes it attractive to them. Good vocation promotion doesn't depend on slick ads or videos, although those are extremely helpful! I think good vocation promotion is rooted in our willingness to live out our vocations with joy and vivacity, showing to those around us our enthusiasm for having found the 'pearl of great price' and inviting others to seek this treasure as well.

As the school year "officially" kicks off tomorrow, please pray for my students and for all students this year. May the Holy Spirit enkindle their hearts a flame that sets all that they do - whether inside or outside of the classroom - aflame for the Greater Glory of God.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Insanity

As many of you know, I have taken a strong interest in physical fitness over the past few years. It began by going to the local YMCA with fellow novices. Then, as I moved into studies at Fordham, I became a regular gym goer. Just three months ago, my training culminated in the running of the 2009 Cleveland marathon.

One of my worries, given my teaching schedule, has been how I'd find the time to exercise. Part of the difficulty is that I've never had to work out by myself: I've always had other Jesuits to go to the gym with. So I was intrigued when I saw ads this summer for the Insanity workout program by fitness guru Shaun T.

You can go to the website if you want to get the gist of the program. Let me say only this: I did the first full workout this morning: the Plyometric Cardio Circuit and now, two hours later, I'm really feeling it. I have never, in all my life, sweated like I did this morning. Considering that this is Day 2 of 60 and that this is only the first of several workouts, I'm both excited and unnerved by what I experienced today. I seldom believe infomercials but, if today's experience is any indicator, I reckon that this workout program will deliver on many of its promises.

In other news, things are very quiet here in Detroit. Today we have Community Faith Sharing, a business meeting, followed by a dinner with the community. Tomorrow I'll put the finishing touches on my syllabi and get ready for the storm: classes start on Monday. I am really, really excited to start teaching. I'm pretty much settled into my room, although I need to do more in terms of decorating the walls. I should also think about decorating my classroom, although I have little talent for such things.

So say a pray for my students as we begin this new adventure. I'm sure there'll be much to report in the upcoming days!

Friday, August 14, 2009

A New Beginning

In just a few minutes, I will leave Villa Marquette here in Omena, Michigan. My three weeks of villa concluded, I head southward to Detroit where I will attend a prayer vigil tonight and then go to Windsor to play a feis tomorrow. I'll leave the feis a bit early, cross the bridge (please God), and attend the First Vows ceremony for three of the novices. Following the reception, I'll drive to Lansing where I'll play another feis and then, on Sunday night, I'll return to my new home in Detroit.

This next week will, I suspect, be pretty busy. I need to do some serious planning for my courses. You know, little things: reading the texts, thinking about assignments, perhaps making a syllabus or three.

I'm most grateful to have had these weeks to rest and relax. I was fairly intentional about not blogging while here...I really wanted to have time to myself without feeling pressured to write about my experiences. I've long looked at this blog as a public journal, a way of sharing my life and experiences with others. Perhaps it's just indicative of being an extrovert: I wear everything on my [digital] sleeve! Hence, it has been refreshing not to feel pressured to write regularly.

I suspect that I'll actually blog rather frequently during my regency. As I strive to shape the hearts and minds of the young men I'll be teaching, there is little question that it will provide me with a great deal of energy that I'll want to expend in and through writing. Again, it's a trait of the extrovert that we find energy in being with people. I reckon this stage of my Jesuit formation will really be of interest to people because it is in the classroom and in the school that questions that all of us face each day will be posed. My blog, I hope, will be an extension of my classroom where I can share with readers the concerns of my students in a way that is both interesting and entertaining.

So stay tuned. I'll be quiet until Monday at least but then....let the fun begin! Please pray for me as I enter into this next stage of formation and please, most of all, pray for my students. They're going to need it!

On Dissertating

An old acquaintance, seeing my blog post from yesterday, emailed me this morning. He, too, is enrolled in a doctoral program and he was sho...