Love One Another

Love one another…

What does it mean to love? I remember back in high school, we had to read a book entitled “Love” by Leo Buscaglia (1972) as part of our theology instruction sophomore year. It was in the context of this book that I learned many things about this little four letter word, that can have such ambiguity as much as it can have definition.

I went and pulled it off the shelf of my library as I pondered the commandment to “love one another.” While Jesus had provided example after example of what love really looks like in the gospels, the climax being His Passion, rarely are we ever confronted with such a selfless act of love on a daily basis. I thumbed through the pages to see if my sophomore self had left me any nuggets of inspiration, when I stumbled upon an annotation that read:

Love means to commit oneself without guarantee, to give oneself completely in the hope that our love will produce love in the loved person. Love is an act of faith, and whoever is of little faith is also of little love. The perfect love would be one that gives all and expects nothing. (p.96)

Clearly, Jesus feels that we should be able to do this, otherwise, He wouldn’t have given us this directive. Typically, one does not ask of others what one would not do themselves. God loves us. We are to love one another.

I was recently reminded of the phrase “To love another person is to see the face of God,” notably coined in Les Miserable. Do you take time to reflect upon your relationships with this in mind? As I think about it, parents are the first teachers of love. As a parent, I vividly recall the moment I first laid eyes on my children and the overwhelming love that existed in that moment. I can truly say I saw the face of God. I still do. The love of a parent for a child is the closest thing in our human existence that compares to the love that God has for us. A parent would lay their life down for their child. That is what God did for us through Jesus – the ultimate sacrifice. In turn, we must love one another like that.

To all of the moms out there who make sacrifices, take “abuse,” give love, share smiles and tears to show your children the love of the Lord through your face, thank you.

 

Jill Fischer is the Principal of St. Dominic Catholic School

 

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The Directions are Simple

Listen. Pay attention. Follow directions.

These are words and phrases regularly heard throughout the day in any school environment or any home.

In the Acts of the Apostles, it seems that these phrases are being directed at all of the faithful and not just to the apostles and early disciples of the time. The directives are still very real and very profound, especially as we consider that we do not know the time when Jesus will come again, as He has promised. We must listen, pay attention, and follow directions.

As a teacher, Jesus provided us with much to remember and as a teacher, He modeled the expectations. While He didn’t really give us a rubric to follow, we do have the Ten Commandments as a set of standards. Regardless, He gave us two very specific directions to follow in order to pass the test when the time came:

1. Love the Lord with all your mind, heart, and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself. (I love the genius use of the compound sentence.)

2. Do this in remembrance of me – participate in the Eucharist.

How well are you listening, paying attention, and following these directions? This should be a piece of cake, right? If these two things were what comprised the final exam, have you prepared appropriately?

Listen. Pay attention. The directions are simple.

Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. – Mark 16:15-16.

 

Jill Fischer is Principal of St. Dominic Catholic School.

 

God is Speaking to Me

Do you remember your First Communion? I do. I wore my mother’s first communion dress and my aunt’s veil. I wore a necklace that I received on my baptism and brand new white shoes. I vividly recall my excitement and how special the day felt.

While I don’t remember much of the Mass, I remember when I took Jesus into my hands for the first time. I was totally excited. I remember moving very quickly to return to my seat upon receiving the precious Body and Blood so that I could say my rehearsed prayers. I also remember thinking, “That was it?” anticipating something more. I don’t know what I thought would happen. “They” said I would be changed. Did I change? Did something happen that I couldn’t see, but others could?

Do you get that feeling too, like there should be something more? In our heads, we know what is going on, but has the rote nature upon which we receive communion made it something less spectacular than what it is?

As I helped at the First Communion retreat this past weekend, I couldn’t help but be reminded about the magic that it holds. I want to reclaim that—the wondering if I’ve been changed because I have received Christ. I am truly one with Him. I should be changed each time. Am I? Are you? Are we?

As I head to Mass with the First Communicants this weekend, I will be paying very close attention to that, and engaging in Mass with a renewed focus of my place in the Body of Christ.

I will be asking myself, “How is what this Mass holds for me today changing me and inviting me closer to Jesus?” God is speaking to me just as He is speaking to you and he speaks to us all the time through one another.

I pray I don’t miss the message.

 

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

 

Eyes of Faith

Jesus, I trust in you. Jesus, I trust in you. Jesus, I trust in you.

I learned a long time ago that trust is difficult to come by and equally as difficult to maintain. I also learned a long time ago that there are only two beings that can be trusted implicitly and in all situations. Two beings that will never disappoint when trust is placed in them.

Can you guess whom they may be? I’ll go so far as to share that even though I learned this long ago, I still find it difficult to completely trust them. Any guesses further? Of course, it is Jesus (God) and His mother, Mary.

My faith story has evidence all over the place that Jesus and Mary are the only two individuals that, when asked to assist me, never disappoint. Granted their time frame is not my time frame, and their way of coming through for me is not always what I anticipated, but they ALWAYS come through. Eyes of faith have allowed me to see it. To place one’s trust in Jesus and Mary can have the most profound impact on how a person approaches life and appreciates what life offers.

Even still, I like to be in control and think I have it taken care of. I usually make a mess of it when I think this way. Eyes of faith tell me the “mess” is God saying “Give it to me. I’ll take care of it.” After all this time, you would think I would have learned to just trust. One would think by now I would just instinctively “let go and let God” as the saying goes. I don’t. I don’t automatically give it to God to handle things, unless I know I can’t really handle it.

I wonder why that is. Do I enjoy suffering? Am I a glutton for punishment? When I learned and used the Divine Mercy Chaplet, I expanded my appreciation for how the power of God in my life can change the outcome of troublesome situations. I have other such prayers in my arsenal, but this one, for some reason, works the fastest. Holding in my head the troublesome situation while praying brings peace, and therefore clarity. God answers through my prayer. I am able to “see” what needs to be done. The Chaplet blends Jesus and Mary, as the image of the Divine Mercy allows Jesus’s saving grace to shine upon the situation, while hands move feverishly on Rosary beads. It is one of the perfect formal prayers of the Catholic Church. Thank you, St. Faustina, for sharing it.

I would highly recommend it if you are dwelling on a situation that seems overwhelming and out of control. I would recommend it if you find yourself hurt by the actions of others or if you are needing the opportunity to find mercy from someone you hurt. I would recommend it when you feel lost. Here’s a great resource: www.praydivinemercy.com

Jesus, I trust in you. Jesus, I trust in you. Jesus, I trust in you.

 

Jill Fischer is Principal of St. Dominic Catholic School.

 

The Triduum

Nestled within Holy Week is the Triduum, the three holiest days of the year. They are neither part of Lent nor part of Easter. I love the Triduum more than I love Christmas and Easter combined. Is that crazy?

It is rooted in the traditions I had as a child. We would always attend the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper. The pomp and circumstance associated with this Mass has always fascinated me, especially the use of Latin. I pray that our churches never relinquish this practice. I love the whole idea of washing the feet. I always wished I could be one of the chosen to do the washing. How cool is that! To do something truly in the image of Jesus for others! I never miss the opportunity to have my feet washed, as I strive to be the servant leader that Jesus wants me to be.

With Holy Thursday Mass being later into the evening, it made coming home from church foreign to the usual Sunday morning ritual. I remember how odd it felt coming home from church at night and wondering, “What do I do now?” Nothing seemed quite right. I imagine that’s how the apostles felt upon the arrest of Jesus at the garden – nothing felt quite right.

Good Friday is deeply steeped in memories. My younger brother and I ALWAYS had to watch “Jesus of Nazareth”. I credit my knowledge of the gospels to this annual viewing.  It is in watching this mini-series, year in and year out, that helped me to really know Jesus and appreciate what He did for me, for us. My parents kept Good Friday sacred. We truly fasted and it was tradition for our family to go to 3:00 services on Good Friday, followed by a good dose of reconciliation. I ALWAYS cry if “Were You There” is sung. Show Stopper. I have experienced death enough in my life that Jesus’s dying is real. I identify with it. I don’t apologize for it.

Admittedly, we rarely went to the Easter Vigil. Therefore, I never fully appreciated it until my sister-in-law was baptized 18 years ago during the Easter Vigil. What a rich ceremony! It is an evening to learn the history of our faith. It is beautiful!

As an adult, there remains this excitement, as I try to maintain the traditions that helped me fall in love with Jesus for my own family. My own life experiences, especially as a mother, and as I get older, help me to identify more and more with the passion of our Lord and the suffering endured by His mother. By intentionally allowing myself to visualize and be in the story, in real time, as I often did with my students, I “get it” more and more. Our faith is a gift, meant to be reopened time and time again.

Allow the Triduum to work inside you, to make you fall in love with Jesus for the first time or the fifty first time.

Peace.

 

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

I Can Do All Things in Him Who Strengthens Me

Do you ever feel you are not worthy of God’s love? I do, but thankfully, He thinks I am.

Or do you ever fall into the trap of thinking that God will love us no matter what, and He will, and therefore we can go around doing what we want whenever we want?

We have been created to love and be love to others. We are created in His image and likeness, a privilege not a one of us has asked for, but was freely given.

Just as in any relationship, freedom and responsibility go hand in hand. We have a tremendous amount of freedom, but we have a responsibility to use it to do God’s will. This is a huge responsibility and thankfully, He thinks we can do it. He empowers us with gifts of grace and virtue to make it happen. He provides us with sacraments to help us stay true to that gift.

Why in the world don’t we take it? Do we really not want to receive it?

Heaven is not a given. Then why do we hesitate to fully participate in our responsibilities to love God above all things and to love our neighbor as ourselves? Why do we restrict ourselves from our full potential?

I think I will ponder on that.

“St. Paul said, ‘I can do all things in him who strengthens me.’ You must come to the conviction that with Jesus, you can do all things. Even the weakness that troubles you, you can get rid of with him.” – Mother Theresa, Thirsting for God

 
Jill Fischer is the Principal of St. Dominic Catholic School

The Classroom of Silence

How is your Lent going?

I have been intent on prayer. The kind of prayer with lots of words. While words are important, I now realize that I need to retreat to the “classroom of silence.”

The concept is connected to such minds as C. S. Lewis, Matthew Kelly and others. The devil wants to create so much noise that men and women can no longer hear the voice of God in their lives, which would gain more souls for him. Therefore, our  goal is to remain connected with God by shutting out the noise.

“The classroom of silence is where we go to break the wheel. For a few minutes, every day, we go to hear the voice of God in our lives. It is in the classroom of silence that we finally are able to listen to God and life can finally start to make sense. It is in the silence that the whole world starts to make sense.” (https://dynamiccatholic.com/everyday-life/theclassroom-of-silence.)

In my classroom of silence, I must also fast. I need to get rid of my distractors. I need to shut it all off. The distractors are making me miserable. So, my Lent is starting over during this second week. I know that God is good with that, because at least I am trying.

How is your Lent going?

 

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

 

Getting Back on Track

How is your Lent going?

To be honest, it took me a little bit to get going. Admittedly, I have been distracted and really needed to be set right. That is exactly how the devil tempts us–through distraction. That is why I truly love the Gospel story of the  temptation of Jesus in the desert. My favorite version is Matthew 4:1-11.

When teaching this passage to students, we walk through the various ways the devil attempts to turn Jesus away from his mission. The devil tempts with food, fame, and fortune; all things that would tempt any mere mortal. Jesus confronts each one and remains firm in his purpose. Jesus ultimately banishes the devil with “Get away, Satan!” But what is often overlooked are the words of the last devilish offer that tips Jesus over the edge, the words that speak to the heart of why Jesus was really here.

“Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to him, ‘All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.’” (Mt 4:8-10)

As if the world was the devil’s to give! But indeed, it is, because of sin. The world is full of sin, as we have witnessed too many times in small ways and in big, horrific ways. Remember that these are the result of our choices. However, Jesus, the power of Jesus, banishes the devil away. Anything that tempts us away from what God desires of us is the devil. They are the distractions that take us away from what our purpose is. Just as Jesus wasn’t distracted in his purpose, neither should we be. The key is being close to Jesus. Cast the devil away and get back on track.

I was getting distracted. I needed to get back on track. This reading and some lovely reminders from “Best Lent Ever” has gotten me back on track.

So how is your Lent going? It doesn’t matter when you start to build/rebuild your relationship with God, but that you start.

 

Jill Fischer is the Principal of St. Dominic Catholic School

 

Here I am, Lord

Here I am, Lord, your servant is listening.

These were important words spoken by Samuel in the first reading this past weekend. If you recall the story, Samuel is under the tutelage of Eli. During the night, Samuel hears a voice calling him. He understandably thinks it is his teacher, Eli, who is asleep in the temple. Samuel gets up and lets Eli know that his call has been heard.

Three times Samuel undergoes this process of call and response. It is after the third time that Eli understands what is happening; that the Lord is calling Samuel. Eli encourages Samuel to respond, “Here I am Lord, your servant is listening.”

These words really hit me this last weekend. They’ve been lingering with me since. I can’t quite tell if it is the interaction between pupil and teacher that strikes me. I can’t quite tell if it is the openness of Samuel to the will of God that strikes me. I can’t quite tell if it is the wisdom of Eli that strikes me. It might simply be the response all by itself that strikes me. It might very well be all the above.

It is an endearing tale that could, quite simply, encompass the experiences of all of us; hearing the voice of God and questioning whether or not you are hearing it.

How did Eli figure it out in order to counsel Samuel? Well, Eli knew God, and he led a prayerful, devoted life. Do you have someone who fits that role for you – a person who can help you hear God in your life? I do.

Here I am, Lord, your servant is listening.

Jill Fischer is Principal of St Dominic Catholic School.

Our Family Stories

Over the Christmas break, this popped up in my Twitter feed: God is in love with us. He draws us to Him with tenderness by being born poor and fragile among us, like one of us. – Pope Francis.

For some reason, I have been thinking a lot about the humanity of Jesus lately. Very profoundly thinking about it in relationship to his mother, our mother, Mary. These were/are real people. When you stop to ponder this, it is much easier to understand and appreciate their relationship to us as family. When you focus on them as people and appreciate the Scriptures in this way, hearing their story is like hearing the stories of relatives shared at a family gathering. They become more real and familiar. When you hear the stories enough, it is almost as if you were there.

I believe that is the beauty of the Liturgy of the Word. These are our family stories shared around the table. To miss the meal is to miss the story. God has us over weekly for a meal that He has prepared with great love. He draws us to Him to pass on the wisdom of the ages so that the stories can continue on to the next generation in order to make us stronger as a family.

 

Jill Fischer is the Principal of St. Dominic Catholic School