Spiritual Investments

 

Recently, I had a discussion with Dave, my financial advisor. He wanted to update me on investments, as well as guide me in making decisions on what to do with the money I have been saving. He says this every time, but he knows it’s worth repeating: “Our ultimate goal is to get you ready for retirement.”

When I first met Dave and he discussed us working together, he mentioned three points of importance:

  1. You need a plan. If you don’t have a financial plan, you will never be prepared for retirement.
  2. While the short term is important, it’s really all about looking at the long term picture. Don’t be afraid of mistakes and failures. You will win in the long run.
  3. You need to be persistent. Your money needs to keep growing. You can’t borrow against it or use it for an emergency with plans to pay it back. (You never will.)

While many of us have financial plans for our future, we don’t always talk about our spiritual investments.

  1. You need a plan. Living a life of faith just doesn’t happen. You need to invest in the power of doing good. Everything starts with a good intention. The secret is to discover how to put your intention into action.
  2. While the short term is important, it’s really all about looking at the long term picture. Living a life of faith takes energy. As humans, we get selfish. We get crabby. We often forget about taking care of each other. If we stick with our plan, the long term picture only gets stronger.
  3. You need to be persistent. Living a life of faith is not a part-time-Sunday-morning-when-I-feel-like-it type of job. It’s a life choice. Who do you want to be? What’s your plan? How are you going to stick with it every single day of your life?

I trust Dave to guide me with my money. I trust God to guide me in my faith. And I know both will be earning interest and paying high dividends.

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God’s Love for Us

A Message from Andrew Schueller

I love Christmas time! Yes, partially because my birthday is Christmas Eve and usually kicks off the Christmas festivities for my family, but also because the Church takes this time after Christmas to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas – God’s love for us.

No other deity that has ever been worshipped has desired a relationship with humanity. No other deity that has ever been thought of has desired eternity with humanity. This is at the heart of our faith—that we have a God who loves us, desires to have a relationship with us, and hopes to spend eternity with us. So much so that God sent the Word to become man: to walk this earth, eat with us, cry with us, laugh with us, and to show us how to get to heaven. He loved us to the point of becoming vulnerable with us, even coming to us as an infant.

I am a relatively new parent. I think of everything my son needs me to do for him daily: feed him, change his diapers, get him dressed, and snuggle him when he gets hurt. As much as he is growing and learning, he is still dependent on us.

Jesus allowed for Mary and Joseph to care for Him. We are capable of loving God. As in any relationship, to love someone is a commitment. God shows His commitment to us by giving us free will, and by becoming man even while knowing that we would still face temptation and sin. He instituted the sacraments to right our relationship with him and fall more in love with him.

My hope is that this Christmas season, you encounter God’s love anew in the infant Jesus and make a commitment to grow in your love for Him.

 

Andrew Schueller is the Director of Formation at St. Dominic Catholic Parish.

 

A Magical Night

A Message from Fr. Dennis Saran, Pastor St. Dominic Catholic Parish

The walk from the church of my childhood to home was exactly thirteen minutes. In Illinois, because of the crowds, you don’t count distances in miles, but by how long it takes to get there. I know it was thirteen minutes because we had to come home for lunch each school day and we had exactly forty-five minutes. That gave us nineteen minutes to eat. It also helped for the many times I attended Mass or served at Mass to know exactly when I would have to leave.

But there was this one night—this one late night when the walk was different—when it was magical, when it was a special night, when the walk home lasted forever. Christmas Eve, the first year I had returned from college.

It was snowing as we left to go to the still then, Mass at midnight. The snow was eight inches deep by the end of Mass. I helped a few people clean off their cars before my two sisters and I headed home, the only brave souls of my large family that chose to attend.

The streets were abandoned, so we walked down the middle of the road. The moon was full so the new snow shimmered like diamonds as we passed darkened houses. All was quiet. We three spontaneously began to sing the Christmas hymn which is now my favorite, O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining, it is the night of our dear Savior’s birth. We walked into a scene of joy and laughter as my relatives were all gathered around the table for the after midnight feast. It is what was done back then.

There was no more pleasant a Christmas Eve I remember, nor a more sacred and silent night.

As you gather family for this feast of the Nativity of Our Lord, share with each other your favorite Christmas story, the time you really felt the presence of Jesus and really knew that God is watching over you.

Joy

They arrived one minute before the Mass began and sat in the row in front of me. Mom took off her long, tan coat, then removed the baby from the carrier. She gently picked up the small child and immediately snuggled him to her chest.

In a moment, Dad arrived. He took off his coat and immediately grabbed his son. Mom watched with pride.

Together they sang and prayed and took turns holding the newest member of their family. Neither Mom nor Dad could stop smiling.

When parents welcome a new child into their lives, everything changes. All of their thoughts, emotions, and actions are focused on the baby. They would do anything for their child. Anything. They love their child with all their heart and all their soul.

On that Sunday morning, when I watched Mom and Dad in the row in front of me, it wasn’t simply happiness I saw on their faces. I saw pure joy in their hearts.

It’s the kind of joy we all want in our lives.

This Christmas, we have a chance to experience this joy. It starts with two simple questions.

Are we prepared to welcome Jesus into our lives? Are we ready to let Him guide our thoughts, emotions, and actions?

Reach down, pick up the Christ child, and snuggle Him to your chest.

Love Him with all your heart and all your soul.

Then share Him with the world around you.

Be prepared, because everything changes. You too, will be smiling from ear-to-ear. And you too will feel the joy in your heart.

Merry Christmas.

Measure Twice, Cut Once

My dad would often say, “Measure twice, cut once.” As an engineer and general handy man, this had quite a significance for his work. As I’ve grown older, I have come to appreciate the deeper meaning to this phrase.

For me, the literal meaning is true, but the deeper meaning for me is to take time to measure a situation before you act, so you don’t make an error you can’t reverse. Once you cut something, there is no going back to fix it. If we spent more time weighing situations, whether it be the words we say, actions we take, or time we use, we would spend less time having  to repair the damage. I also thought about how to spend differently. I intentionally purchased gifts for family and friends from independently owned and operated stores vs. big box stores. I prayed for inspiration when purchasing gifts to make sure they were meaningful and personal.

Then I thought about how I needed to spend time differently – to measure twice and cut once. I have been trying to stop and be present in every situation, rather than multi-task. Multi-tasking does not allow me to measure wisely. I have made some cutting errors when I wasn’t careful. This is what I have decided to make as my new year’s resolution: to spend less time being in so many places at once and spend more time being present. I owe it to the people around me to do that. I owe it to myself to do that. The work will always be there, but the people won’t. People matter.

 

Jill Fischer is the Principal of St. Dominic Catholic School.

 

You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch

 

When Dr. Seuss was 53 years old, he was fed up. The children’s book author and illustrator was tired of the noise, the constant activity, and the busy-ness that was attached to Christmas. His desire was that people would celebrate the joy and peacefulness of the season without all the hoopla detracting from it.

So he did what any great writer does. He wrote a story about it. How the Grinch Stole Christmas has become a classic, spanning over five decades.

It’s funny that in today’s world we think of the Grinch as an awful and mean creature. We forget that he actually transformed his attitude about Christmas. He saw the Whos in Whoville celebrating together, even without the gifts and food. He discovered that it was about being together and sharing this special day with each other.

“Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps, means a little bit more.

And what happened then? Well, in Whoville they say that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day.”

How is your Advent going? Are you caught up in the gifts, food, and busy-ness? Are you finding yourself getting anxious about the things to do and people on your shopping list?

What is your focus as we approach Christmas Day? Are you finding time to pray, reflect and give thanks for the miracle of Christmas? Are you setting aside time to be fully present with those you love and those you meet?

How big is your heart this Christmas season?

The Armor of God

Bullying.

Thanks to the media, this word has become an overused buzzword in many circles for what can be considered a natural component of child development as children learn to socialize and communicate.

A large part of what happens in school is the socialization of children. School is a microcosm for the greater society. What is in the world, is in the school. When meanness and unkindness exists in the world, it also exists in the school. Children do what they see and experience. If the greater culture accepts mean behavior and makes it the norm, it will creep into the school unless parents are vigilant against it.

The school cannot control what parents allow in their homes. When a family selects a Catholic school there is the hope that there will be the support of likeminded people in the raising of children. There is also the expectation that work will be done to tame the evils of the outside world. We try. Even a Catholic school does not exist in a bubble despite our best efforts. If it did, one may even question if that would be in the best interest of a child.

Resilience and tolerance are virtues we teach along with love, patience, respect, compassion, empathy, and a whole host of other virtues as well. These virtues are the armor of God. We strive to have our children put on this armor of God to combat what is in the world, but virtues don’t develop in a bubble.

“Bullying” is a learned behavior. For that reason, we need to be mindful of the models we provide for our children. We all need to look at how we interact with one another. Little ears and eyes are always on. What they hear and see is brought into the school. This is why the partnership between home and school is so important in the development of a child. Intentionally including God in the equation is even more important. When you have a gathering of over 400 children coming from over 200 family situations, this becomes a very complex endeavor.

From media in its many forms, our children are learning that the way to solve misunderstandings is through violence – physical contact and harsh language. Carefully watch the shows your children consume with this lens. Listen to the news with the ears and eyes of a child. Children do act out these scenarios in their play. They do mimic it in their conversations. You’ll see it if you pay attention. This has been true for all generations.

Is this bullying? As parents and educators, we need to be countercultural. The art of communication is being lost, as is civil discourse. Slowly and maybe unaware, we are creating a very angry environment. Yelling, belittling, sarcasm, taunting, jumping to conclusions without all the facts, and teasing are common modes of communication that our children see in the media, if not in our own homes/families, and sadly, classrooms. This is so opposite of what WE should be creating. At school, we tell children to use their words to solve problems, but tones, not even words, can be just as bad. Our words as educators sometimes don’t help either. Love is to be the source of all. We all need to work at it.

Current research in the educational landscape has identified a “crisis in self-regulation” among this generation of children. They are the smartest of all previous generations but lack necessary skills in how to discipline themselves. Instant information and gratification has diminished if not extinguished these skills. This is why more children have difficulty resolving conflict, can’t sit in their seats, as well as struggle with anxiety and perfectionism more than any other generation (Educational Leadership, September, 2018, p10).

Research points to the disappearance of unstructured outdoor childhood play, the growth of media and technology, and the fact that kids are “unemployed”, that is, they often don’t have meaningful ways to contribute to the family or community, especially in ways that aren’t achievement or competition oriented, as the cause for this crisis. How do we turn back the tide? Research suggests that adults stop taking misbehavior personally, and work to find a path to stopping  it without rewards and punishments. This means to foster social-emotional skills. Children need to own behaviors and learn from them. They need patient adults to do this. This is what we try to do in school. We see our role as helping children progress in behavior, rather than expecting children to have everything be perfect. This work is messy. It is hard. It is a case by case basis. Students who misbehave are not bad kids, they are not necessarily bullies, they’re children who need support in learning to manage their behaviors, emotions, and thoughts. (Educational Leadership, September 2018, p11)

As educators, we are trained to identify bullying. We are trained to identify aspects of child development that are “normal.” We have all taken psychology and sociology classes around child development as part of our undergraduate training. We know children very well. The majority of children will respond to distress from an emotional place, which is why they hit and bite or kick and scream – they do not have the words to express what is happening inside. As they grow, and words are more available to articulate what they feel. We then need to work on appropriateness of word choice and timing.

That being said, children develop differently, so a classroom can have kickers and screamers as well as eloquent orators. Oftentimes, an “I don’t know” will come out when the words are not there. An “I don’t know” requires your help in finding the words. An “I don’t know” can also be just that – they don’t know. This means that emotion was very much a part of what is going on – a reaction.

Here is a set of questions to pursue with children when they have made a poor choice in relationship with others:

  • What did you do?
  • What made you do that?
  • What should you have done?
  • What will you do next time?

“Why” is not a good question to ask. Use “what” instead as it gets to the cause differently – What caused you to do that? or What made you do that? The response will bring you to where you need to be to have a teachable moment with a child. The essential component is ownership. Children, and adults, like to bring others into the equation. When behaviors can be owned, correction can be made. It only takes once, usually. Most importantly, be calm and let the child think it through. Don’t answer for them. Don’t put words in their mouth. This line of questioning catches them off guard. Bullying is psychological. The bully is intentionally seeking out a power imbalance with those around them to gain control, usually because something in their life is out of control. The victim/target will lose confidence and self-esteem at the hands of the bully which is exactly what the bully strives for. Victims come to fear the bully. This is done over a period of time. It can be obvious or it can be subtle. Both the bully and the victim need help. Both the bully and the victim need love. If children are afraid of another child, this is something we pay very close attention in order to determine if bullying is or is not occurring.

Where is the line between bullying and normal human development? When does behavior cross the line? Every human being has a level of tolerance. It is that level of tolerance that draws the line.

Every school has children learning how to be civilized human beings and that isn’t a problem, that is what we do in school. Bullying should not be tolerated. Bullying requires help. We are here to help people be the best versions of themselves. If you feel your child is being bullied or your child is the bully, we can help. If your child is struggling socially, which isn’t bullying, we can try to help. We are in this together.

 

Jill Fischer is the Principal of St. Dominic Catholic School.

 

Impossible

How would you like to prepare a meal for 4,000 people?

Many of us have cooked Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners with tables full of people. It’s takes planning and coordination. And it takes a bit luck to make sure everything is ready to eat at the exact same time.

But making a meal for 4,000 people? I think most of us would say one simple word: “Impossible.”

In today’s Gospel, we read how Jesus and his disciples went up to a mountain near the Sea of Galilee. The crowd that was following Him had been with Him for three days, and Jesus knew he needed to get them something to eat. But when He made the suggestion for a dinner break, the disciples responded with their own version of “impossible.”

“Where could we ever get enough bread in this deserted place to satisfy such a crowd?” 

Needless to say there were no nearby grocery stores and the ability to call for take-out wouldn’t be invented for a few thousand years.

But of course we know how this story ends. We’re all familiar with the loaves and fishes and the extra baskets of scraps.

How quick are you to say something is impossible in your life? How often do you reject an idea or a thought simply because you don’t think you’re able to follow through on it? We often find ourselves rejecting our abilities and talents, or questioning our place in the world. “I’m not good enough. I can’t do it.”

The Feeding of the 4000 is a lesson for us all. It’s a simple reminder that we can easily turn the word “Impossible” into two words: “I’m possible.”

All we need to do is repeat one simple sentence: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”-Philippians 4:13

We Have a Choice

A Message from Kurt Peot

Advent brings back many fond memories for me, does it for you? I remember decorating our home with our Nativity set and an Advent wreath. One of my favorite memories was the Advent calendar which helped count down the days and also offered a bit of chocolate as a reward. There were the catalogs that came in the mail, and searching through them for what I hoped to receive for Christmas.

Most of all, I recall a time of great anticipation and preparation for the birth of Jesus, and well, there was Santa too.

The gospel stories tell of that same anticipation and preparation. They remind us of God’s plan for our salvation. The plan where His love, so pure and freely given, sent the Word made flesh, Jesus, to save us.  I think it’s easy to fall into a rhythm of life where Christmas comes and goes, and the stress of life can cloud our vision and dampen our enthusiasm of this amazing gift. The stories encourage us to not let anything get in the way of our anticipation and preparation.

  • Are you heading into this season with anticipation and excitement, just as a child?
  • Are you allowing your anxieties to dampen your enthusiasm?
  • Will you let the Christmas parties, shopping, decorations, concerts, Christmas cards, and stress obscure the most beautiful gift ever given?

We have a choice.

That gift is the Son from the Father. A gift given solely because He loves us and wants to spend eternity with us. That is something worth all the anticipation and preparation we can muster. Let the mystery of what has occurred, and is yet to occur, shape our daily life.

 

Kurt Peot, parishioner and diaconate candidate

 

Preparing Our Hearts

In 1978, Dr. Amar Bose was flying from the US to Switzerland, when he was given a pair of headphones by the airline staff to listen to music. The problem was, the plane was so loud that he could barely hear the music.

So what did he do? He did what any great sound engineer would do. He began sketching plans for the first pair of noise cancelling headphones.

In 2018, every electronics company in the world offers some form of noise cancelling headphones. And with good reason. There is a lot of noise out there.

Here we are today, at the beginning of the holiday season. Advent is here, and we’re thinking of ways that we can prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ.

The problem is, there is a lot of noise out there: holiday parties, shopping, Christmas cards, work events, more shopping…our minds are filled with December noise.

So what can we do? How can we cancel out the noise? It’s actually very simple. We each have our own noise cancelling device: it’s called prayer.

Matthew Kelly says it best: “In the classroom of silence, we discover who we are and the Father’s love for us.”

This Advent, make an appointment each day for five minutes. Find a corner of your house…or the front seat of your car…or anywhere that you can get away. Put on your noise cancelling headphones (either literally or figuratively), and talk to God. Ask Him to quiet your brain, to relax your breathing, and calm the world around you.

And then begin the preparations to have Jesus reborn in your heart once again.

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK.