Do we celebrate sacrifice?

In previous blog posts, I’ve reflected on paradoxes and how they often frame our everyday lives more than we realize. On the outside they are dismissed as philosophical posturing or empty intellectual puzzles. Just last week I attended our diocesan administrator retreat where we examined our annual theme “One Body in Christ,” by looking at the Eucharist as an invitation for us to celebrate communion as a group rather than individual experience. It gave me pause to reflect on how the Lenten season is more than a time to think about pairing down habits or sacrificing something we crave. It’s about reimagining and renewing our commitment as a community to seeing the grace in all we are, have, and do.

All is gift…

Eucharist literally means “thanksgiving” and it is a moment, a celebration of community that has most recently been sponsored by the U.S. Bishops in what has been called the National Eucharistic Revival. The reason is quite simple. Many Catholics do not see the Eucharist as the true presence of Christ in the bread and wine; they simply regard it as a ritual or passing tradition. While the philosophical details of accidents and substances (which can be traced back to the writings of Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle) are important concepts to be familiar with, the reality of being together with one another to celebrate the living body and blood of Jesus is in many ways the most social action we do as human beings: breaking bread in celebration of and with one another.

All is gift…

The Church recognizes this celebratory nature of the Eucharist in naming the fourth Sunday of Lent “Lateare Sunday,” calling Catholics to rejoice. It is not called penitential, sorrowful, sacrificial, or miserable even! Sacrifice is the means to a deeper understanding of ourselves, one another, and the world around us. It was never intended to be an ends unto itself. Living our lives like “sackcloth and ashes” during Lent only promotes the misguided belief that self-denial is the next step to sainthood. Instead, we should be reflective about what we can rejoice in because we sacrifice.

All is gift…

The next time you participate in the liturgy, renew your senses to be more mindful of those around you, the greetings and smiles, the restlessness of children and cries of babies, and the call to worship that reminds us that the ultimate sacrifice is simultaneously the ultimate gift. It transcends any ritual or tradition we can imagine because it is the recognition of the divine in ourselves and one another. What a gift that is!

It’s a Great Day to be a Bulldog!

Living in Carnate

When I attended Incarnation Elementary School in Glendale, California during the 80’s, I wasn’t necessarily impressed by the theology in my school’s name; it just reminded me of “Carnation” Instant Breakfast. But in many ways the language of the actual Incarnation, the mystery of faith it represents, and its implications for human nature began with these childhood memories. What does it mean to be embodied, to be “in the flesh”? Is it about the purity and innocence of a newborn? Can it be more than a seasonal remembrance?

Sometimes, words escape us; other times, words become our world. The events surrounding the birth of Jesus seem to accomplish both as I recently came across this poem from St. Ambrose entitled “And the Word Became Flesh”:

Give ear, O Shepherd, Israel’s King,
Enthroned above the angel band.
Appear before us as we sing;
Come with your strong and saving hand.

Come, Savior of the nations, come,
Divulged by Mary’s virgin birth.
Let all the world be rendered dumb
By such descent of God to earth.

Begotten not of mortal seed
But by God’s own mystical breath,
God’s Word became true flesh indeed,
The fruit enwombed that conquers death.

The belly of the Virgin swells,
Her maidenhood remains secure:
Under the banner of “Noel”
Tents God within her temple pure.

The God-Man goes forth from his room,
The great hall, yet the Maiden’s keep;
The double-natured mythic groom
Runs quickened on while sinners sleep.

First from the Father went he out
Then to the Father went he back
His course went down; he broke hell’s clout
His course went up; he, finished, sat.

You, equal to the Father, wear
The trophy of our flesh and blood,
Imparting strength to what you bear
By vivifying mortal mud.

Your manger is now luminous;
Its glow suffuses night’s dim air,
The barren night now numinous:
May faith direct our footsteps there.

When I read this, I was especially drawn to the imagery of the line describing the “double-natured mythic groom runs quickened on while sinners sleep,” as if to remind the reader that Jesus’ human/divine nature challenges us to act and serve in almost perpetual motion. The mental and physical hurriedness of the holidays can leave us tired and irritable, quite oppositional to the joy sung about in hymns. To live incarnate means we are reminded about our fragile mortal bodies but that they are never the final word. It is an invitation to embrace the senses of our body, the lights and sounds of the holiday season, and the joy that surrounds family gatherings and hearing from friends. For even in the darkest moments, the slightest illumination is all the more radiant!

Merry Christmas! It’s a Great Day to be a Bulldog!

The Virtue of Re/connecting

A few weeks ago, I heard about a younger student who was worried they were out of dress code during a Red, White & Blue day we were holding in honor of Veterans Day. Wearing our school gym uniform (a maroon shirt and gray sweatpants) the student felt his shirt wasn’t really red. I happened to be a wearing one of our school shirts and walked into the class where he was and commented “hey, we’re wearing the same shirt!” I stood next to him and reassured him that he was wearing the right colors and the class gave a little cheer.

FULL DISCLOSURE: As a brand afficiando, I am quite comfortable accepting maroon as a substitute for red, especially when children are involved! 🙂

Why share this simple story? Because in looking at it a bit deeper, you realize it’s more than an example about dress code rules; it’s about finding connection with one another. When I was walking back to my office I was overwhelmed with the feeling I had just made that boy’s day and nothing special on my part contributed to it. In that one moment in time, I literally and figuratively stood with him and connected for his class to witness and that made all the difference.

As with so many other feelings and experiences during these final weeks of 2022, we must remind ourselves of the value of reconnecting with one another. The holiday season is naturally a time to do just this, but we need to remember the intentionality that comes with this habit: meeting people where they are. Reconnecting with others in our lives is not a simple proposition. Many of us face various obstacles that do not make this easy or even possible. We often cite personalities or events that prevent us from making these connections. This emphasis on the who or what of reconnecting allows us to rationalize that things can never change. But they can, and they do!

What we forget to consider is when we are. C.S. Lewis reminds us, “You can’t go back and change the beginning but you can start where you are and change the ending.” Reconsidering the role of time in our lives allows us to rediscover the virtue of connecting with those close and possibly those further distanced from us. Connecting may require us to sacrifice, look beyond ourselves, and embrace our vulnerability. But the potential returns are immeasurable!

It’s a Great Day to be a Bulldog!

Fall into Gratitude

It can be a cliché to say that the change of seasons is a time to reflect on changes in our lives. But the same can be said for expressing and thinking about what it means to be grateful for those people, experiences, and objects in our lives that give us a glimpse into the complex world we exist within.

Being grateful is typically a reaction to a gesture of good will or an unexpected gift from a friend. But to truly fall into gratitude means to make it an intentional and focused part of our daily routine. It is an exercise in mindfulness, a radical appreciation for seeing people and things as they are rather than what we wish them to be. Our own mental health and well being suffers because of doing the latter: we wish things would move faster in our lives, we wish people would act and say things more like us, we wish that everything would work harder at conforming to our expectations which often come to quickly and are set too high,

Gratitude is not code for settling. It is not some cheapened version of being happy with what you have. It is a state of being, an approach to reexamining and reconsidering everyone and everything in our life with a renewed sense of appreciation. In one way, we are continually renewing our ability to see experiences, objects, and relationships in a new light, a new frame of understanding as we also change each year, month, day, hour, second into a new being that is seen through the eyes of another. As the Jesuit Anthony deMello wrote, “Behold God beholding you…and smiling.”

It’s a Great Day to be a Bulldog!

Playing with Ideas

Over the summer, I read several books, articles, and other thought pieces that addressed the theme of social emotional learning (SEL). The increasing priority of SEL in schools is important for a number of reasons, not the least of which include meeting children where they are in their cognitive and moral development. Emerging from, or working within, a global pandemic only exacerbates this need.

The role of play in schools can sound childish (pun very much intended) upon first glance. In all schools, public and private, parents do not pay tuition or taxes for their child/ren to go down slides, climb ropes, and careen back and forth on the swings. If anything, play is framed as a break from the routinization of the school day; it’s a respite from adults teaching to them. But from a cognitive standpoint, it’s a chance to develop in ways even the latest app can’t deliver. Children learn how to navigate, negotiate, innovate, improvise, compromise, and organize. They begin the lifelong process of building relationships and planting the seeds of virtues that will inspire them to grow and reflect on what excites and motivates them. The physical, emotional, and social benefits of play are unparalleled. The social psychologist Jonathan Haidt is a proponent of letting kids play despite many of the fears that surround parents in today’s day and age. He argues that in overprotecting children, many parents unconsciously do more harm than good, projecting an image of fragility over resilience.

Playing with the idea of children getting outside more, letting go more as adults, and hoping we are making the best decisions for the safety and well-being of those entrusted in our care is no simple proposition. While we recognize the role of work in our lives this weekend during Labor Day, we should also honor the role of play in our lives and the lives of children. It’s an idea worth reconsidering again.

It’s a Great Day to be a Bulldog!

Catching Fireflies

On mild summer evenings, there is something blissful about catching glimpses of fireflies illuminate my front yard. The intermittent flickering of bioluminescence is a simple reminder to witness something relatively small, perhaps otherwise insignificant, but incredibly profound these days. This glimpse into nature’s light show affords us an opportunity to reflect on those episodes of joy in our lives. All too often we overemphasize the duration of bliss or relaxation during the lazy days of summer at the detriment of these experiences: How long am I going away? When do I have to return to reality? Can this last longer?

I was fortunate to have several of these moments with my family this summer as we took time to get away, as so many do during the season. And while we took our share of pictures and videos, I tried to be mindful of these “firefly moments” with my wife and boys, taking in the colors, smells, sounds, and emotions of experiences, even those some would consider mundane or not worthy of such attention like eating a meal together. The last couple of years have, if anything, provided us with the stark realization that such moments are graced moments. And so I think there are “four commandments” to consider as we embark on a new school year.

Be Mindful

Mindfulness has become potentially misunderstood in our culture as an psuedo-easy-going philosophy during difficult times, a zen-like mantra to relax. But mindfulness is much more than a mindset or a cognitive exercise in breathing; it is a way of being. Being mindful means cultivating a profound appreciation for all thoughts, experiences, and sense we encounter on a daily basis. It does not eschew pain or uncomfortable thoughts but rather recognizes them for what they are, giving gratitude, and letting them go. It is an embrace of the sum total of our world not a selective mental buffet. But it first requires us to allow these thoughts and experiences to permeate our lives.

Be Open

It is a true mindset to be open to growth but it comes with the inherent recognition that we may be wrong about our perceptions, attitudes, and beliefs. Openness is not psychological naivete but rather invites us to see our relationships and their settings for what they are, not what we desire them to be. Being open to people and ideas that run counter to our own risks getting hurt or emotionally wounded in one way or another. To be open also entails that we invite and welcome new ideas and concepts that challenge the status quo. Echo chambers may be kind to our ears but in the end they do not contribute to our intellectual or moral growth.

Be Vulnerable

Often times vulnerability is collapsed into an image of weakness or powerlessness. Far from it, being vulnerable is a fierce ability to unite mindfulness and openness into an adaptive attitude that allows us to nimbly adjust to ever-changing circumstances and provide an emotional network for those around us. Brené Brown discusses vulnerability as the ability to “drop the armor” which allows us to be open to experiences and purpose and meaning to our lives. These last two years have not invited us to be vulnerable; they’ve thrust it upon us. But this does not mean we have to overshare or burden others with emotional baggage. Instead, we should be more present to the duress of others, more patient with the impatient, more clam with the distracted. In short, we are called to look and act beyond what is in front of us. We are a people of horizons, looking beyond today. We are a people of hope.

Be Hopeful

Being hopeful is not wish fulfillment. It is not merely desiring that our circumstances change or that we are somehow able to eliminate pain and suffering from our lives or the lives of our loved ones. Benedict XVI wrote about hope in the encyclical Spe salvi where he notes, “Human life is a journey. Towards what destination? How do we find the way? Life is like a voyage on the sea of history, often dark and stormy, a voyage in which we watch for the stars that indicate the route. The true stars of our life are the people who have lived good lives. They are lights of hope” (Spe salvi, no. 49).

Recently, the Feast of the Assumption serves as a reminder of the model of hope, the Blessed Mother Mary. The act of saying “yes” in the face of uncertainty is the ultimate channeling of mindfulness, openness, and vulnerability. We affirm ourselves when we take up this simple affirmation: yes. It is saying “amen” to the challenges and joys in our life. But only when these three actions are completed can we truly appreciate the hope that persists in all of our lives!

Look for the fireflies in your life. Catch one. Release it. Discover the joy in your own small revelation of bliss.

It’s a Great Day to be a Bulldog!

What is Coming?

Some years, we patiently await the birth of Christ; others, we rush toward it. Some years, we look forward to new beginnings; others, we avoid them altogether. This year, many of us may have experienced what psychologist Adam Grant called languishing, the neglected middle child of mental health. Neither flourishing nor depression, we may have had a sense of being joyless and aimless. Perhaps we found ourselves more forgetful about appointments and more guarded about attending unnecessary events. If 2020 was forgettable, then 2021 was meh.

During the liturgical season of Advent, we are reminded once more about the humble beginnings of Christ: a manger surrounded by livestock, anxious parents, and an unknown future. We are reminded that kingly gifts may attract the eye but the presence of new life warms the soul. We are reminded that there is always room for our neighbors. The value of community and what it does should encourage us
all. The Irish poet John O’Donohue once wrote that, “True community is not produced; it is invoked and awakened. True community is where the full identities of awakened and realized individuals challenge and complement each other. In this sense both individuality and originality enrich self and
others.” What a community does is often more important than who comprises it.

Perhaps in a Trinitarian way, good things happen in threes. Maybe 2022 is the year of reimagining and renewing the priorities in our lives. Maybe it’s a time to take stock of what we have come to love and appreciate as invaluable during an otherwise surreal time in our lives. Then again, maybe it’s “just another year.” And even if it is, we should be vigilant in safeguarding what we hold to be true and cherish our time with it. If the Advent season teaches us anything, it is that the virtues of faith, hope, and love have no variants; they are constants in the life we have and the one we are called to.

It’s a Great Day to be a Bulldog!

Impossible Mission

This school year was without a doubt a formidable challenge to even the most veteran educator. A dizzying myriad of safety guidelines, curricular expectations, medical provisions, and technological improvisations challenged schools in the fall after a seemingly lost summer dedicated to planning for an unknown horizon. It was simply an impossible mission, or so I thought.

Today marks the feast of St. Rita, the patron saint of impossible causes, who lived a troubled life according to most narratives. Her commitment to her faith, what might best be described as the epitome of grit, should serve as an inspiration for all of us as we dabble in a “new (newer) normal” of returning to what once was.

Facing the impossible in many ways is no different than facing what is probable. Both are arenas for a mental chess game whereby perceived losses only function as small steps to winning, a methodological anticipation of what has yet to come. We are all exceedingly impatient beings. The impossible mission we have faced only underscores the need to keep modeling patience, like St. Rita, as we focus on the ultimate endgame of our lives.

It’s a Great Day to be a Bulldog!


It has been just over a year since our world started to unravel. Everything that was familiar became strange and the strange became familiar: types of masks, remote work/learning, and daily lessons on immunology and hygienic practices. While we reminisce about what our world used to be like, we also ponder what will be. The period of Holy Week echoes this sentiment as it begins and concludes with joyful events. First, the entry into Jerusalem with palms, a sign of victory; then the empty tomb, a symbol of new life. The anguish, pain, and turmoil experienced in between represent more than a historical rendering of the passion of Christ. It is a revelation of a world yet to come.

And we rise.

We celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus by proclaiming “he has risen,” which marks the event itself; this is the Easter message. But we can also think of it as a command, a habit of sorts, to act in spite of insurmountable challenges: “to rise.” By recognizing that the human condition is imbued with hope, it is perhaps the most theologically significant event in the Catholic faith. Until that time, we find ourselves in a state of “holy waiting,” unaware of the miracle that awaits us. We recall the steps to Calvary, the suffering and humiliation inflicted upon Jesus, and look toward our own lives and those around us who continue to be persecuted.

And we rise.

Today, we continue to witness persecutions of our brothers and sisters because of their beliefs, ethnicity, and class. But we cannot simply bear witness to the plight of others no more than we can merely recall the events of Jesus’ death and Resurrection; there must be a conscious effort to model what is asked of us. We all struggle at times to rise from everyday challenges of life as the daily toll of worries and fears can be debilitating for many. Yet how often does our focus remain inward, limited in its scope?

And we rise.

During the Paschal Triduum, we do more than simply recall the events that frame the Christian message of redemptive suffering and eternal hope. We remember that Christ has truly risen only when we have ensured that those around us are able to rise, when we act as one community of faith and one people of God. Those who are privileged to rise first must extend their hand to those around them. Only then will we begin to walk the path Christ began so long ago.

Happy Easter to you and yours! It’s a Great Day to be a Bulldog!

Who’s Coming?

James Joyce wrote in Finnegan’s Wake that “Catholic means ‘Here comes everybody.’ ” For Joyce, defining Catholicism meant recognizing the universality in the experience of Church. It represents the coming together of everybody: Every path, experience, and individual. But it also speaks to the need for action and outreach. Catholic is a verb!

This week, Catholic schools across the country celebrate “Catholic Schools Week,” a commemoration of every group that supports the work of a value-based education rooted in Gospel values and a call to service. While there are the playful days of dressing down or up and maybe a special treat or two, the reason for the week should not be lost on those who sacrifice and commit themselves to a community that strives to live its mission in every aspect of its work. Members of our community including parents, alumni, grandparents, friends, and parishioners contributed over $60,000 in support of our school to invest in educational needs ranging from technology to facilities. Our students wrote thank you cards for numerous individuals who are part of our community: crossing guards, benefactors, lunch monitors, teachers, and custodial staff, among many others. They also brought in food, snacks, and drinks to make over 300 bagged lunches and helped personalize over a 100 scarves and blankets. And they’ve also helped to bring in over 8,000 pairs of socks for a local ministry that serves numerous at-risk communities in the greater Wilmington, DE area. People who they know, people who they kind of know, and people they’ll never know have been touched by these children.

All of this during a global pandemic. A challenge to our way of life perhaps but not to understanding who we are and what we seek to embody every day. Service to our neighbors need not limit itself to a season of the year. Physical needs like shelter and clothing do not subside simply because the holidays have passed; bills do not skip a month because you have to focus on feeding your family; and relationships do not flourish if they are not nurtured and cared for. We must live with intentionality for others. We must teach that justice begins with charity but cannot end there. We must model the teachings of Sunday on Monday. Building reminders about our collective religious identity like Catholic Schools Week and what it calls us to be serves an important function by answering the question, “Who’s coming?” Answer: Everybody.

It’s a Great Day to be a Bulldog!