Remembering Ms. G on “Chews-day”

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

– Maya Angelou

I generally tend to avoid pithy quotes, particularly mushy-sounding ones, but when I learned today that one of my former teachers died unexpectedly on Monday, this quote was the first thing that came to mind.

I only remember a few of the lessons we covered in Ms. G’s classes. She taught me American History in seventh grade, and the only things I remember from that class are being forced to work in small groups with boys that I thought were dumb and writing an angry letter to President Clinton (post-Lewinsky-scandal), telling him he ought to have more integrity and set a better example for us kids. My classmates and I used to joke that we were obviously Ms. G’s favorite students of all time, because after teaching us in middle school she “followed” us to the big public high school to teach us again there. In her high school Bio class, we dissected frogs and talked about dominant and recessive genes, and I learned that the red hair I had when I was born was rare… or something. As far as lessons go, that’s about all I can recall.

What I remember much more vividly is the way Ms. G delighted in her students. No matter how annoying we were—and as Gifted and Talented students, one of our greatest “talents” was pushing our teachers’ buttons—she was always beaming at us, even when she “fussed” us. Despite how I loathed Biology and wasn’t particularly interested in History, I never disliked being in her classroom. It was a place of joy. I remember how incredibly easy it was to make Ms. G laugh, and how she didn’t mind when we laughed at her quirks, like her pronunciation of the word “Chews-day” or the photos of Brad Pitt (her “future husband”) that she had taped up on the door of the mini-fridge behind her desk. She never took herself too seriously, so when we were on her turf, we couldn’t take ourselves too seriously, either. Now that I teach some incredibly bright teenagers who often suffer needlessly because they’re so caught up in themselves and the all-consuming seriousness of EVERYTHING, I recognize just what a gift we were given in Ms. G—to have the chance to be around at least one person every day who reminded us to “chill out!” and told us (without actually telling us) that everything was going to be fine.

I can’t remember everything Ms. G taught me, but I will always remember her contagious joy. If it’s within my power to leave a mark on my students’ memories with that same sort of positivity and love (and I’m not sure I was convinced that it was within my power until today), then I have some big shoes to fill indeed.

Meekness as a remedy

I had a little epiphany while I was teaching today and thought it needed to be shared. I know I’ve been neglecting the blog for quite a while, but perhaps Lent is a good time to pick it up again. My students have been encouraging me to write more, and it’s good for the soul!

Today I was discussing Dante’s Purgatorio with my Medieval Lit. class, specifically the canto in which Dante meets the souls in Purgatory who are being purified of the sin of Wrath (Anger). He uses Mary’s gentle words to Jesus when she finds Him in the temple as a child as an example of Meekness, the opposing virtue that serves as a “remedy” to Wrath. My students were confused about what Meekness was, exactly, and about how something so seemingly passive could qualify as a virtue, so we worked through it together. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: “When we were reading the Inferno, we talked about Wrath, and we described it as a sinful or selfish way that we respond to certain situations. When is it that we usually give in to Wrath?”

Students: “When my emotions are out of control.”  When things don’t go the way I want them to.”  (And my favorite answer:) “When my will isn’t done.”

Me: “Right. So, if Wrath is the sinful way to respond to a moment when I don’t get my way, then Meekness is the opposite of that. Something happens that upsets me, and I could get angry, but I choose to respond differently.”

Student: “So, how is that a virtue?”

Me: “Because when I am practicing Meekness I say: my will is being contradicted, but I’m not going to be hurtful because of it. I will still be charitable and think of others instead of being selfish.”

Student: “What about this example of the finding of Jesus in the temple? How is that an example of Meekness?”

Me: “Mary had every reason to be angry with Jesus in that moment, but she chose to speak to Him not with an attitude of anger, but rather one of gentleness and love.”

[Confused expressions—so I tried to elaborate.]

Me: “Mary and Joseph were distraught when they were separated from Jesus. They loved Him more than anyone and anything else in the world, and after searching for days, they thought He might be lost to them forever. They probably thought they had failed to accomplish God’s will, that they had failed in their vocation as parents. Then when they found Jesus in the temple, they may have even been tempted to think that He was inconsiderate, that He had forgotten about them, that they were the furthest thing from His mind during such a painful time for them. Was that true? Had Jesus forgotten them?”

Students: “No, of course not.”

Me: “But if they thought He had, they might have been tempted to be angry with Him—and that’s the point, you guys. Any time we feel tempted to be angry at God, it’s because we’re giving in to a lie: the lie that He’s forgotten us, that we’re the furthest thing from His mind—which is never, ever true.”

Any time we feel tempted to be angry at God, it’s because we’re giving in to a lie: the lie that He’s forgotten us, that we’re the furthest thing from His mind—which is never, ever true.

That thought had truly never occurred to me until it came out of my mouth, and it was just what I needed to hear. I guess my students needed to hear it, too.

On the Calendar: The Immaculate Heart of Mary

IHM and Child Jesus

“Mary, my dearest Mother, give me your heart so beautiful, so pure, so immaculate, so full of love and humility, that I may receive Jesus as you did and go in haste to give Him to others.”

– Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

Today is my “liturgical anniversary,” the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, so it seemed like a good a day as any to resume my regular blogging about my vocation as a consecrated virgin – a Bride of Christ! What a year it’s been! The demands of my new teaching job (which I love!) unfortunately made it  impossible to blog regularly during the school year, but I know that I need to be writing, so I have plans to resume (and possibly redesign!) By Love Alone this summer.

I am calling today my “liturgical anniversary” since the actual date of my Consecration was June 16 (not June 8) – however, the Immaculate Heart will always be my special feast, and after today I’ll share it with FOUR – that’s right, four! – friends who were ordained to the priesthood for my diocese this morning. My heart is so full! I honestly don’t have words to express my gratitude for the friendship of these young men and for all the work our good Lord has done in our hearts as we were formed for our vocations. My prayer for those dear friends (and for myself) today is that we might always be generous with our God so that He can bring this work to completion, according to His will and in His time.

Please continue to pray for me! And look for more posts (and perhaps a new look?) sometime soon.

Charity

Help a Sister out!

We would like to interrupt this terribly long blog break to bring you a very special announcement and prayer request:

A friend of a friend is trying to enter the Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco, but she needs to pay off several thousand dollars in student loans by the end of this month in order to enter. Will you help? Every little bit counts! Click here to donate.


As for the terribly long blog break – nothing is amiss! I’ve just been a little overwhelmed by the demands and chaos of my second semester as a first-year teacher. Fortunately, the end (read: the summer) is in sight! Be on the lookout for a revival of the blog once the school year winds down in May.

Please pray for Chelsea’s fundraising campaign, and pray for me and my students as well!

Charity

On the Calendar: The Solemnity of All Saints

John Nava, The Communion of Saints (www.johnnava.com)

John Nava, The Communion of Saints (detail) – Sts. Paul, Peter, Charles Lwanga, Maria Goretti, and Agatha (www.johnnava.com)

“Very often, without our knowing it, the graces and lights that we receive are due to [the prayer of] some hidden soul, for God wills that the saints communicate grace to each other through prayer, with great love – a love much greater than that of a family, even the most perfect family on earth. How often have I thought that I may owe all the graces I’ve received to the prayers of a person who begged them from God for me, whom I shall know only in Heaven… In Heaven, we shall not meet with indifferent glances, because all the elect will discover that they owe to each other the graces that merited the crown for them.”

– St. Therese of Lisieux

On the Calendar: St. Teresa of Ávila

George S. Stuart, St. Teresa of Avila historical figure

Historical figure (sculpture) of Teresa of Avila by American artist and historian George S. Stuart (source: http://www.galleryhistoricalfigures.com)

“If Christ Jesus dwells in a man as his friend and noble leader, that man can endure all things, for Christ helps and strengthens us and never abandons us. He is a true friend.”

St. Teresa of Ávila

Photos from my Consecration

It’s been two and a half months since my Consecration on the Feast of the Immaculate Heart, and I couldn’t be more joyful! I haven’t posted much since June because (a) I am still pondering the many blessings and graces our Lord has been pouring into my life since then, and (b) I am still adjusting to my new job as an English teacher at a local Catholic classical school. Teaching is, by far, the most exhausting work I’ve ever done, but I’ve never felt so fully alive! What a gift it is to have found a job I truly love – even if my new routine will take some getting used to. This is my first year teaching, and I am teaching five different grades, so things will probably be pretty hectic for a while! (Perhaps for quite a while.)

For all those who responded to the first photo I posted back in July, asking to see more – here are some of my favorite pictures from the day I became a Bride of Christ. Please continue to pray that God would grant me the grace to live out my vocation fervently and faithfully, according to His holy will!

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“As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.”

Isaiah 62:5  (the verse I had engraved on the inside of my wedding ring)