Thursday, December 17, 2009

Just One Mom Reflecting on Catholic School

I’ve been thinking about Catholic Schools
for quite some time now.
I’ve graduated two sons from Catholic High school
and have a son in his junior year
at the same high school.

One wonders
why a family would pay so much
to send their child to such a school. . . .

. . . my reasons go back
many years.

When my eldest was going to start school
I was just shocked at some things.
We lived in a much poorer community at the time
and the school building was,
in a very bad state.

The roof leaked in various places.
There were large garbage cans throughout the building
collecting rain water that leaked in.

The fire alarms didn’t work.
Some of us parents tried to report this at the time,
but the fire marshal
was less than complacent.
One parent went so far
as to pull the alarm.
No alarm sounded.

Some of the classrooms
had bars on the windows,
bars which could not be opened from the inside.
In case of an emergency
these children had no way out but the door.

And the back door of the school building
was chained shut.

Apart from the safety issues at hand,
I really felt bad for these children.
This is the reality they faced every day.
Couldn’t we do better for our kids?

I needed to make a decision.
I could not keep my son in this school.
Neither the school
nor the fire marshal were responding.
I sent him to a Catholic School.
At the time,
it was more about safety
than about the faith.

When his younger brother started school,
I did the same.
I just felt like this was important,
to have them in a safe building.

There were many things
that I began to fall in love with
at the school.
I decided then,
when my second child started,
that if I could not send them to Catholic School
I would Home School them.
It just made sense to me.

after several years,
it was time to think about high school.
By then,
we were living in another city.
I went to the local public high school
and asked for statistics,
which they could not give.
I asked what percentage of Latino students
graduate and go on to college.
And you know,
it wasn’t that they couldn’t give me the stats.
It was almost as if
they didn’t even know how to go about
finding the stats.
At that time,
I knew the national drop-out rate for Latino kids
to be very, very high.
Even higher for the City of Detroit.
But what of the suburb where I lived?
This statistic was important to me at the time.

I made the decision to send my boys
to a Catholic High School,
a decision I would not regret.

I now live in yet another city
that really seems to have it together.
I live just behind the high school
and see a lot of what goes on.

at this point,
it just didn’t seem right
to pull my youngest
out of Catholic school.
A few more years
and he’ll graduate.
I have really come to value Catholic School.

It makes a difference to me
that the bible is required reading
throughout the school year. . . every year.
The bible is a required book.

It makes a difference to me
that the kids make a retreat every year.

It makes a difference to me
that the kids do required hours of community service
every year.

It makes a difference to me
that they have theology throughout high school,
that they study the faith beyond Confirmation class.
It makes a difference to me
that the Confirmation class is an extra class,
“also with” their theology class,
not “instead of.”

It makes a difference to me
that they pray every day at school.

Let me say that again:
It makes a difference to me
that they pray every day at school.

It makes a difference to me
that they attend mass as a school once a week.

It makes a difference to me
that through the course of things,
they have served as altar servers and lectors.

It makes a difference to me
that at appropriate times during the liturgical year
they pray The Stations of the Cross
and The Rosary.

I don’t particularly care for the uniforms,
but it makes a difference to me
that my son must wear a tie to school,
because school is a special place
and he should dress for special things.

It makes a difference to me
that sports teams
pray before a game. . .
. . .perhaps my best memory
of my eldest at football
was when the entire team,
dressed in full football gear for a game,
fell to their knees,
bowed their heads,
each with a hand on the shoulder
of the guy next to them
and prayed a “Hail Mary”
in the outdoor grotto near the church. . .
. . . .wow. . . I’m crying as I type this. . .
. . .what a powerful memory. . . .
High School Football Players
praying publically. . . .

And you know,
it makes a difference
when the pastor goes to your kids sporting events.

Please don’t read this wrong.
I am not anti-public school.
I just want something different for my sons.
I pay my taxes like anyone else,
fully acknowledging
that I am responsible
to help educate all of the kids in the community,
not just my own.
I pay taxes
I pay tuition.

I also support the fund raisers
of the local public school system.
When the kids in my community
knock at my front door
I buy the candy bars,
the coupon books, etc.,
because I should,
whether I want or need them or not.

I have made many sacrifices.
I have driven junkers
until just a couple of years ago.
Most of the furniture in my home
is second hand.
I don’t wear the finest clothing,
but I have clothes on my back.

In our home
you won’t find a big screen tv or a Wii.
And our computer is really pretty basic,
an hp pavillion.
Our cell phones have none of the extras.

Yes, our household has made some sacrifices.
But this is one thing
that I do not regret.

Earlier this week
my son had a test in his morality class.
He commented that it was very easy,
that anyone would get a good grade
if they just stop and think.
And then he commented
that the only person
who would have failed the morality test
is Tiger Woods
because he has no morality
and doesn’t think before he acts.

Thank you, Jesus.

It has been costly
and I’m almost finished.
My youngest has one more year
of high school.
It has been costly,
but my three sons
are well worth the investment.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Advent: Joyful Expectation

Well, we just celebrated Gaudete Sunday.
We lit the pink candle.
I don’t think we got it.
One child in the choir told me
that he thought the pink candle
didn’t get lit until Christmas.

we celebrated Gaudete Sunday.
Did we, in fact, rejoice?
how is our advent going?
I think we just don’t get the Advent Season.

As far back as I can remember,
Advent has been described
as a time of “joyful expectation.”
It is a time of looking toward
the Second Coming.
But you know,
we don’t often get that.

Several weeks ago,
as I was reviewing music for the Advent season
I went to the internet.
For those of you who don’t know me all that well,
I live on the internet.
I saw a liturgy planning website
that actually had song suggestions for Advent
that were really more Lenten.

A “joyful expectation,”
and sometimes we can turn it
all somber or even dismal.

there is a penitential character during this time,
but it is certainly not the penitence of Lent.
And you know,
even Lent shouldn’t be dismal.

And liturgy people
still challenge each other
over such things
as Purple or Advent Blue.
Perhaps we don’t understand
the color of Advent
because we don’t understand Advent.

. . .and, if may digress,
many don’t have a clue about color
and the power of color to begin with. . .
let alone, the reasons why
one liturgical season is one color
and other liturgical seasons are other colors. . . .

But back to the season of Advent. . .

Advent: Joyful Expectation.

During Advent we celebrated
The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe,
for whom I have an ardent devotion.

Without detailing the whole story,
we can, at least,
focus on something in the Guadalupe story
that is so ultimately Advent:
Our Lady of Guadalupe
appears to St. Juan Diego pregnant.
What an absolutely beautiful image
for the Advent season:
Our Lady in Joyful Expectation!
It doesn’t get any simpler than that.
Our Church has a feastday built into the season.

Just think of a young couple
as they await the birth of their first child.
Will the child be a boy or a girl?
Will he be healthy?
Will she arrive on time?
Do we have all we need:
crib, car seat, stroller. . . .
Which hospital will she be born in?
Is my doctor the best doctor?
So many details,
and yet,
such joy as they wait.
For nine months,
the young couple waits.

This is joyful expectation.
This is Advent.

Joyful Expectation.
We can also liken Advent
to a surprise birthday party.
There we are,
in the dark,
awaiting the guest of honor,
to surprise him or her
on their special day.
The party isn’t here yet.
There won’t a party
until the guest of honor arrives.
But we’ve ordered the cake.
We have prepared the meal.
We have a variety of refreshments.
We’ve cleaned and decorated the house.
We are ready!
All we need is that special guest!
And there we are anxiously waiting
in the dark, but ready!

And such is Advent.
We are joyfully awaiting
The Second Coming.

When will He arrive?
What day and what time?
Will we be ready?
Will we fall asleep waiting for him in the dark?
Do we realize that while sometimes we walk through the dark
we are actually people of light?
And is our house in order?
Are we ready to embrace the moment?
Will we be ready to sing at that moment?
Are we aware of who is with us as wait?

But let us remember that
the joy does not culminate with Christmas.
The Nativity celebrates
Our Lord’s first coming.
But even after the Christmas season
comes and goes,
we should be living an Advent life,
full of expectation,
joyfully awaiting that day
when Christ Shall Come Again!

Happy Advent!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mary, Immaculate Conception, Pray For Us.

(a prayer that came to mind this morning. . . .)

Mary, Immaculate Conception,
Pray for our military personnel,
especially for those stationed in far away lands.

Mary, Immaculate Conception,
Pray for our political leaders:
local, state and national.

Mary, Immaculate Conception,
Pray for our religious leaders.

Mary, Immaculate Conception,
Pray for those of us do who do not have employment.

Mary, Immaculate Conception,
Pray for those of us who do not have health care.

Mary, Immaculate Conception,
Pray for those of us who today find themselves homeless.

Mary, Immaculate Conception,
Pray for those of us
who are immigrants in these United States.

Mary, Immaculate Conception,
Pray for those of us
who are sons and daughters,
grandsons and granddaughters
of immigrants.

Mary, Immaculate Conception,
Pray for those who defend freedom,
who give food to the hungry,
who give shelter to the homeless,
who help find jobs for the unemployed,
who care for the sick,
who welcome the stranger.

Mary, Immaculate Conception,
Pray for the United States of America.

About the photo:
a picture I took a few years ago
Of Our Lady of Guadalupe
in Detroit at St. Stephen/Mary, Mother of the Church Parish