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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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)

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On the Calendar: St. Mary Magdalene

This year, the feast of my Confirmation saint, St. Mary Magdalene, falls on a Sunday. While the Sunday Mass takes precedence over her feast, I thought I’d share this beautiful prayer I stumbled upon recently. 


Gabriel Wüger, Stabat Mater, 1868

Gabriel Wüger, Stabat Mater, 1868

Prayer to St. Mary Magdalen

by St. Anselm of Canterbury

St. Mary Magdalene, you came with springing tears to the spring of mercy, Christ; from Him your burning thirst was abundantly refreshed; through Him your sins were forgiven; by Him your bitter sorrow was consoled.

My dearest lady, well you know by your own life how a sinful soul can be reconciled with its Creator, what counsel a soul in misery needs, what medicine will restore the sick to health. It is enough for us to understand, dear friend of God, to whom were many sins forgiven because she loved much.

Most blessed lady, I who am the most evil and sinful of men do not recall your sins as a reproach, but call upon the boundless Mercy by which they were blotted out. This is my reassurance, so that I do not despair; this is my longing, so that I shall not perish.

I say this of myself, miserably cast down into the depths of vice, bowed down with the weight of crimes, thrust down by my own hand into a dark prison of sins, wrapped ’round with the shadows of darkness.

Therefore, since you are now with the chosen because you are beloved, and are beloved because you are chosen of God, I, in my misery, pray to you, in bliss; in my darkness, I ask for light; in my sins, redemption; impure, I ask for purity.

Recall in loving kindness what you used to be, how much you needed mercy, and seek for me that same forgiving love that you received when you were wanting it. Ask urgently that I may have the love that pierces the heart, tears that are humble, desire for the homeland of heaven, impatience with this earthly exile, searing repentance, and a dread of torments in eternity. Turn to my good that ready access that you once had and still have to the spring of mercy.

Draw me to him where I may wash away my sins; bring me to him who can slake my thirst; pour over me those waters that will make my dry places fresh. You will not find it hard to gain all you desire from so loving and so kind a Lord, who is alive and reigns and is your friend.

For who can tell, beloved and blest of God, with what kind familiarity and familiar kindness He Himself replied on your behalf to the calumnies of those who were against you? How He defended you, when the proud Pharisee was indignant; how He excused you, when your sister complained; how highly He praised your deed, when Judas begrudged it.

And, more than all this, what can I say, how can I find words to tell, about the burning love with which you sought Him, weeping at the sepulchre, and wept for Him in your seeking?

How He came, who can say how or with what kindness, to comfort you, and made you burn with love still more; how He hid from you when you wanted to see Him, and showed Himself when you did not think to see Him; how He was there all the time you sought Him, and how He sought you when, seeking Him, you wept.

But You, most holy Lord, why do You ask her why she weeps? Surely You can see; her heart, the dear life of her soul, is cruelly slain.

O love to be wondered at; O evil to be shuddered at; You hung on the wood, pierced by iron nails, stretched out like a thief for the mockery of wicked men; and yet, “Woman,” You say, “why are you weeping?” She had not been able to prevent them from killing You, but at least she longed to keep Your body for a while with ointments lest it decay.

No longer able to speak with You living, at least she could mourn for You dead. So, near to death and hating her own life, she repeats in broken tones the words of life which she had heard from the living. And now, besides all this, even the body which she was glad, in a way, to have kept, she believes to have gone.

And can You ask her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”

Had she not reason to weep? For she had seen with her own eyes – if she could bear to look – what cruel men cruelly did to You; and now all that was left of You from their hands she thinks she has lost. All hope of you has fled, for now she has not even Your lifeless body to remind her of You.

And someone asks, “Who are you looking for? Why are you weeping?”

You, her sole joy, should be the last thus to increase her sorrow. But You know it all well, and thus You wish it to be, for only in such broken words and sighs can she convey a cause of grief as great as hers. The love You have inspired You do not ignore.

And indeed You know her well, the Gardener, who planted her soul in His garden. What You plant, I think You also water.

Do You water, I wonder, or do You test her?

In fact, You are both watering and putting to the test.

But now, good Lord, gentle Master, look upon Your faithful servant and disciple, so lately redeemed by Your blood, and see how she burns with anxiety, desiring You, searching all round, questioning, and what she longs for is nowhere found.

Nothing she sees can satisfy her, since You whom alone she would behold, she sees not.

What then? How long will my Lord leave His beloved to suffer thus? Have You put off compassion now You have put on incorruption? Did You let go of goodness when You laid hold of immortality?

Let it not be so, Lord. You will not despise us mortals now You have made Yourself immortal, for You made Yourself a mortal in order to give us immortality.

And so it is; for love’s sake He cannot bear her grief for long or go on hiding Himself. For the sweetness of love He shows Himself who would not for the bitterness of tears. The Lord calls His servant by the name she has often heard and the servant knows the voice of her own Lord.

I think, or rather I am sure, that she responded to the gentle tone with which he was accustomed to call, “Mary.” What joy filled that voice, so gentle and full of love. He could not have put it more simply and clearly:

“I know who you are and what you want; behold Me; do not weep, behold Me; I am He whom you seek.”

At once the tears are changed; I do not believe that they stopped at once, but where once they were wrung from a heart broken and self-tormenting they flow now from a heart exulting. How different is, “Master!” from “If you have taken him away, tell me.” And, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him,” has a very different sound from,

“I have seen the Lord, and He has spoken to me.”

But how should I, in misery and without love, dare to describe the love of God and the blessed friend of God? Such a flavour of goodness will make my heart sick if it has in itself nothing of that same virtue.

But in truth, You who are very Truth, You know me well and can testify that I write this for the love of Your love, my Lord, my most dear Jesus. I want Your love to burn in me as You command so that I may desire to love You alone and sacrifice to You a troubled spirit, “a broken and a contrite heart.”

Give me, O Lord, in this exile, the bread of tears and sorrow for which I hunger more than for any choice delights.

Hear me, for Your love, and for the dear merits of Your beloved Mary, and Your blessed Mother, the greater Mary.

Redeemer, my good Jesus, do not despise the prayers of one who has sinned against You, but strengthen the efforts of a weakling that loves You.

Shake my heart out of its indolence, Lord, and in the ardour of Your love bring me to the everlasting sight of Your glory where with the Father and the Holy Spirit You live and reign, God, forever. Amen.

Source: http://feastofsaints.com/anselmmarymag.htm

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“I seal my love to-be…”

Here is a glimpse of my Mass of Consecration, together with the beautiful poem that came to my mind at that moment!

Mass of Consecration: prostrate during the Litany of the Saints

During the Litany of the Saints: “All holy men and women, pray for us!”

Who knows what days I answer for today?
Giving the bud I give the flower. I bow
This yet unfaded and a faded brow;
Bending these knees and feeble knees, I pray.

Thoughts yet unripe in me I bend one way,
Give one repose to pain I know not now,
One check to joy that comes, I guess not how.
I dedicate my fields when Spring is grey.

O rash! (I smile) to pledge my hidden wheat.
I fold today at altars far apart
Hands trembling with what toils? In their retreat

I  seal my love to-be, my folded art.
I light the tapers at my head and feet,
And lay the crucifix on this silent heart.

– Alice Meynell, “The Young Neophyte”

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Deo gratias!

Just wanted to write a quick post to express my gratitude to all who have remembered me in their prayers of late. My Mass of Consecration was more beautiful than I could have imagined! I am still resting and recovering from all the excitement (and also gearing up for my last week at my current job), but I promise to share more soon. Please continue to pray for me!

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