Faith and fame don’t mix

Actor Shia LeBeouf’s reception into the Catholic Church was in the news again for a while, but then it quickly receded. I don’t know if that’s just because people get tired of news much more quickly than they used to (likely), or because people have actually learned a thing or two about Catholic celebrities (highly unlikely). Either way, it’s a relief.

I don’t know much about LaBeouf. I’ve seen him in a few unimportant movies, and I heard some grumbling about how it seems awfully convenient that he found the Lord right when he was going on trial for some kind of unsavory behavior. I also saw a few photos of him right after his baptism, and he sure looked happy.

But this isn’t about him, in particular! What it’s about is this: Fame and faith do not mix. When they do, it almost never turns out well! There’s so much harm that can come of Catholics elevating a celebrity to favored status just because they join the church: Harm to us Catholics, harm to the rest of the world, and harm to the celebrity himself.

I’m a terrible spoilsport, I know. It’s been an awfully tough decade or so to be Catholic, and it’s natural to feel encouraged when we get someone “important” on “our team.” All too often, Catholics only reach the headlines when they’ve done something awful, or finally got caught after having secretly done something awful for decades. So when the church can claim someone the world has already acknowledged as cool and attractive and appealing, it feels like a win.

Which is fine. But we have to remind ourselves sternly that it’s also a win when the hinky-looking, unpopular, wheel bearing salesman we never heard of becomes Catholic. It’s a win when the cousin you never liked very much becomes Catholic. It’s a win when a fisherman or a tentmaker or a leper is baptised, and the Gospels seem to be just as jubilant over this as they are over, say, a Centurian joining the fold.

But Simcha! you may say. It’s not the caché that matters. That’s not the reason we get excited when a celebrity gets baptized. The thing we’re really thrilled about is the influence such a person could have over their audience. Famous people get others to imitate them in all sorts of ways: How they dress, what they eat, how they raise their kids, what they do for hobbies. How could it possibly be a bad thing for a celebrity to become Catholic very publicly, and open the possibility for lots of their fans to follow?

Moreover (you may say), the Gospels actually enjoin us to be noisy about the good news, and to be ready and willing and able to speak about our faith! Why should people be barred from this good work, just because they happen to be well known?

One of the answers… Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly

image via pxhere (Creative Commons)

Be ye patient, as God is patient

When people start to really hit their stride at adults, they will often laugh at themselves for what gets them excited. “You know you’re really grown up when you’re thrilled to get a new toaster,” they might say, or: “A clear sign of maturity: I can’t wait to tell my friends about these amazing new dryer sheets I discovered.”

Spiritual adulthood is kind of like that, too. The things that you once passed over barely noticing, much less valuing, now rock your world. I remember discovering, for instance, that prudence was actually kind of a big deal.

I had once considered it sort of a loser’s virtue, something that you practice if you don’t have the imagination to excel at anything more interesting. But then my circumstances changed, my life got rearranged, and I realized that not only was prudence really hard, but the steady practice of it could yield beautiful things. And that’s why it’s one of the cardinal virtues! Turns out the church knows what it’s talking about; how about that.

This year’s revelation: Patience. Patience is technically a secular virtue, and not one of the three theological virtues (faith, hope, and love) or one of the cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude), or even one of the gifts of the holy spirit (wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord). But when you imbue a secular virtue with faith, then it becomes something sacred.

Patience, like prudence, maybe doesn’t sound very impressive. It sounds like not doing something, and since when is that something to get excited about? Patience also gets a bad rap because there are all kinds of harmful or thoughtless or cowardly ways to be patient.

You could patiently wait for someone to stop hurting you or your family, even as they give no indication they are trying to change. This is bad for your family, bad for you, and bad for the perpetrator, as it just gives them more opportunities to sin.

Or you could be endlessly patient with yourself while you do the exact same stupid or harmful things over and over and over again, without ever jamming a wedge in those spinning wheels and taking a closer look at what is making them keep turning.

Or you could be patient with a bad situation because you think, consciously or unconsciously, that it’s exactly the crappy kind of thing that a crappy person like you deserves, and why would you even dare to hope for something better, like decent people get?

Or you could be outwardly patient, “keeping sweet” and putting on a mask of unperturbed tranquillity, while under the surface you’re plotting how to get even in subtle ways; or maybe telling yourself that you just need to sit tight until God swoops down and avenges you, humiliating and crushing your enemies, which is something you will enjoy heartily.

You could certainly call these things patience, because you’re quietly waiting without fussing or fighting while something undesirable continues. That is secular patience. But sacred patience is something very different.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly

Image via pxhere
(Creative Commons)

Reading about Church news is not having a spiritual life

What’s going on in the American church? Oh . . . the usual. Fiducia Supplicans, etc., and all the ensuing confusion and panic, real, self-induced, and otherwise. Before that, if you’ll recall, the Pope swatted down Cardinal Burke, and he kicked out Bishop Strickland; but meanwhile the Vatican still continues to publish and feature the work of Marco Rupnik.

St Michael’s Media/Church Militant is still melting down in spectacular fashion, and some bishops — I can’t even remember who, but it was a fuss at the time — are refusing Communion to some Catholic politicians, but not others. And people are upset. They are upset! 

I am reading about some of it and skipping over a lot.

I’ve written many times about Medieval Peasanting my way through the news:

“Medieval Peasanting” means reminding myself that there once existed Catholics who couldn’t read or write and who never strayed more than 10 miles from the place where they were born.

They had some vague notion that the Holy Father lived in a far-off place called Rome and they ought to pray for him every day. They said their prayers and did their best to obey the commandments, and when they failed, they repented. That is how they lived their faith. When they had the chance, they received Jesus in the Eucharist with glad hearts and gratitude and fear of the Lord. And so should I.

This mental image is, I realize, an idealization of medieval life. Medieval people, peasants and everyone else, were not automatically holy simpletons just because they didn’t have the internet. They were just as prone to vanity and pettiness and selfishness and idiotic mind games as I am.Where I have the distractions of trolls and Twitter ratios and doomscrolling, they had the distractions of toothaches and fleas and runaway infections.Just because they were disenfranchised, that doesn’t mean they were magically able to fix their eyes on the Lord with unwavering attention.

But they were supposed to try. And so am I. I am supposed to be pursuing eucharistic coherence in my own life, and if the political and ecclesiastical discourse on eucharistic coherence is distracting me from that, I should chop it off. This is a real choice, every day.

Every time I suggest something of this kind (which I do periodically, because I very much need the reminder myself), some readers respond with incredulity.

Jesus does not want us to stick our heads in the sand! It is an abdication of our God-given brains and free will to play dumb and act like we don’t see what’s going on right in front of us! It’s not enough to just pray! We have to act!

All very true. I’m not telling anyone to check out, or pretend everything’s fine in the church or in the world, or to refuse to act when action is necessary. I’m not even telling you (much to my editor’s relief) not to pay attention to headlines!

Instead, I’m trying to remember what’s really going on when I do let my mind and attention and heart be constantly engaged by these matters. It may not be what it seems.

When I was growing up, my mother was fascinated with theology. She devoured just about any theological text she could find, and she gave everyone a chance. She read not only Christian works (everything from the writings of the Church Fathers to The Shack), but the Book of Mormon and the Quran. She was just plain interested in reading about God, and she never stopped being interested.

But it didn’t make her holy. She said so all the time…Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly

Photo by Alexander Dummer

O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree, how lovely are your choices

On the way to school this morning, I heard an interview with a Canadian man who travels to New York City every December to sell Christmas trees. Every year, he fights to win a corner spot, and he builds himself a little insulated shack to live in for a month; and then he sells his trees.

He hinted that he witnesses some pretty rough things on the sidewalks of the city, and the whole thing sounds pretty grueling; but he spoke about the whole endeavor like it was mainly an adventure, or a personal challenge, like an extreme marathon, or a wilderness survival test.

But the part that really struck me was when he said, in his charming Quebecois accent, “There’s a privilege of bringing happiness to homes.”

“It’s just joy. There’s few jobs where you actually bring happiness to people. And I worked in the Bronx and I worked in Manhattan, which are two different experiences. But most of the time, the answer is the same. Like people are happy you come with the Christmas trees. You’re kind of mythical, folkloric creatures, like Christmas elf bringing them like holidays, which is super fun, super fun.” he said.

At first I thought, “Wow, he really is lucky. What a cool thing, to be able to be the guy that everyone’s glad to see.” Because it’s true: You are sort of predisposed to feel friendly toward the person who sells you a Christmas tree. It’s not a normal, everyday transaction, and even if you’re rushed, or annoyed at the price, or frustrated by the logistics involved, it’s a special and cheering thing to come into possession of a fresh, fragrant, scratchy, rustling, deep green tree, and to have someone hand that over to you.

Every day, we buy milk and toilet paper and office supplies, and we pay our bills, and drop off parking fines, and have countless dreary, joyless transactions with people we don’t think twice about; but it’s probably only once a year we come home with our arms full of evergreen. And that’s what he’s a part of, all day, for a month every year. A lucky man!

I thought of all the people who spend 40 hours or more doing the opposite kind of job, giving people things that nobody wants. The prison guard. The teacher who teaches a required class that everybody hates. The repo man who comes around to take away the car you can’t afford anymore. The oncologist who has to tell you, “I’m sorry, there’s nothing more we can do.” Or even just the meter maid who leaves a ticket under your windshield, or the customer service rep who has the bad luck of catching your call when you’ve already been treated poorly by the previous four reps, and now you’re good and mad. What unlucky people!

I thought of my own job, which is and always has been a mixed bag of pleasant and awful, easy and hard. It’s easier than it used to be in many ways, and it’s harder in a few ways, these days. What do I do these days? I take care of children and manage the household. I cook, and I clean, and I schedule, and I drive. I write for magazines and websites, and I more or less choose what I get to write about, and how. I feed the dog. I feed the ducks. I cover and uncover the bird. I pull the cat off my keyboard and toss him lightly on the couch, or maybe less lightly on the floor, if he trampled all over the essay I was writing.

Later today, I’ll probably talk to a pharmacist and ask again whether my migraine injections have arrived yet (probably not); and I’ll probably talk to at least one cashier and bagger and maybe a clerk of some kind. I’ll check my bank balance, and second guess everything we’ve spent money on this week, and anxiously check the mail. I’ll check out my comboxes and my Twitter replies and see who needs to be thanked for their support, who needs to be ignored, and who needs to be sent to inbox gehenna for their unrepented online sins. I’ll pick up the kids from school and moderate maybe half a dozen little skirmishes between siblings on the way home, and I’ll deal with expectations and misunderstandings and defiance and badly articulated needs. I will comfort, counsel, laugh, chide, and navigate a thousand human interactions, which is the main thing I do every day.

I am lucky. I know that. But I also make my own luck…. Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly

Image: Phil Roeder via Flickr (Creative Commons

What are your kids really learning at school? How will you find out?

When my family used to homeschool, I used to interrogate myself about which was be worse: The horrible knowledge that I was in charge of everything they would learn that day? Or (if we switched to someone else teaching) the horrible knowledge I wasn’t in charge of anything they would learn that day?

It was very hard to get used to sending my kids off for six or seven hours a day, and not really know what they were learning. Now that I’m used to it, I can see that some of it is great, some of it is fine, some of it is terrible, and some of it is just baffling. The thing is, I never really know how much I know. All I know is what the kids choose to tell me, or what I can figure out.

This is true for every parent who is not physically sitting on top of their child twenty-four hours a day. All you know about what your kids are learning is what you are allowed to know, by the people your kids come into contact with, and by your kids. That is the nature of kids growing up.

Right now, there is a case working its way through the courts about whether or not parents should be able to get their kids to opt out of learning with books with LGBTQ+ themes. The problem with stories like this is that, reading it, I don’t really know what these books are. The article says the parents who are suing object to “LGBTQ+ inclusive books.”

It mentions, “Some of the books at the center of the clash include Pride Puppy, geared toward preschoolers and Uncle Bobby’s Wedding, geared toward students in kindergarten through 5th grade.”

You get the general impression from reporting on such stories that the parents are opposed to these books solely because they include LGBT people. This may be the case, but I have read numerous stories phrased identically to this one that, when you drill down into the facts, are revealed to deliberately mention one title but not another, or excerpt one page but not another. It’s hard not to conclude that the goal is to make the parents appear foolish and bigoted. It’s hard not to conclude that the article is complicit in hiding something from the general public.

Slate magazine—hardly a mouthpiece for conservative, reactionary parents—recently published a story about this very phenomenon, in which the author admitted that he thought it was overblown hysteria when people objected to the popular sex ed book It’s Perfectly Normal. But when he saw the actual copious and explicit drawings of intercourse, masturbation, and genitalia designed for ten-year-olds to pore over, he was taken aback.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly. 

Image by USAG-Humphreys via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Learn, then unlearn

When you are young, you think that becoming an adult is going to be a series of learning how to do important things, and getting better and better at doing those things. You probably realize it’s not all going to be fun and games, and you may also have some idea about finally learning how to have some discipline, and getting serious about life and making yourself do the things you know you’re supposed to do. This is how I imagined adulthood when I was young.

I wasn’t wrong. But what I didn’t anticipate was the next step: Where you have to unlearn it. There are so many examples. When I first got married, I was a complete and entire slob. I never put one single thing away, and then suddenly I was in charge of a household, and soon I was home with a baby while my husband worked, so if I didn’t put something away, it didn’t get put away. This quickly got out of control, so I had some fast catching up to do. Clean up, everything, every day. Put things away, sweep the floor, do the dishes, sort the mail, fold your laundry. Do it, or it doesn’t get done.

Ah, but I had a baby, and then before long, I had two babies. I had just barely gotten the message about how important it was to clean up, when I had to learn something new: Sometimes, there is something more important than cleaning. Sometimes you have to ignore the mess, and focus on the baby. Sometimes you have to let it go so you can sit and rest. Cleaning is important, and you do have to do it, but it’s not always going to be on the top of the list every time, and you have to learn how to be okay with that. You have to know it’s important to do and also be okay with not doing it right now. A tall order!

Something similar happened when my kids got old enough for school. We lived in a town with no good schools, so homeschooling was the best choice—and that meant I had to get my act together. Make a plan, gather materials, do the work, get the kids to do their work, follow through, follow up, stick to a schedule, and so on, every day. This went against my grain, and I really struggled with every part of it, but each year I got a little bit better at committing to what was required of me to get those kids a decent education.

And then things changed, and our situation changed, and our family changed, and it became apparent that homeschooling no longer made sense for us. So I had to take all that commitment, and all that discipline, and all that fervor, and all that attention, and… let it go. Just when I started to get good at it, I had to let someone else do it. Be just as convinced that my kids’ education was extremely important, but also understand that someone else might be better suited, right now, to be the front man for it all.

The strange thing is, I think the second part, the unlearning, couldn’t happen as well or as well if it didn’t come second. You can’t just not learn something; you have to learn it first, and then unlearn it. I’m picturing some kind of biological process where a plant puts out a stem which grows to a certain point and then hardens and dries at the end, which is what makes it strong enough to support the fruit that eventually grows. The second part is the point, but you can’t really do without the first part; but the first part does have to come to die off.

These aren’t just personal anecdotes. They aren’t even just extremely common. They’re universal, by which I mean they are how God works in the universe.

Behold, if you will, the way God deals with the chosen people in the Old Testament….Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly

The habit of “let’s find out”

The other day, as soon as I got home, I looked up “oyster etymology.” It turns out the word “oyster” comes from the Greek “ostrakon,” meaning “a hard shell.” That’s the short version, but it was enough information for me. I previously had no idea, and I really wanted to find out.

I also wanted my kids to see me following through, after a question popped into my head. We had been chatting about oysters on the way home from school. Specifically, we had been chatting about what was making that unusual smell in the car. I admitted there was a seafood sale that I couldn’t resist, so that explained the odor. But what explained the word? I thought it must be Greek, but I wasn’t sure, so I said I would look it up. And I did.

I am a word hound and my husband is a reporter, and at our house, we always look things up. It has been a great gift to me to realize that my kids think this is totally normal, and something worth doing, when a question arises: You wonder something; you go find out. Not everybody does this! Not everybody even thinks to try!

It was a gift to me because half my kids are now legal adults, and I so often feel that I have failed so miserably in transmitting even the most basic truths to them. It’s not a reflection on them. They’re all actually doing quite well. It’s just that I feel like I’m only just now figuring out, myself, what’s most important, and it’s too late, too late, for me to pass it along.

But this is largely melancholy speaking. It’s fall, which is “everything is dying” season here, and it’s hard not to let that sense of desolation creep into everything I perceive. The truth is, nobody can teach someone everything they need to know. That’s not the nature of teaching. It’s not the nature of people. It’s not the nature of knowing. You telling people what they need to know, and them believing you, remembering it, and acting on it is not how good ideas get transmitted, most of the time.

But example is a very good teacher. It’s one thing to say to a kid, “This is the right way to do things,” but it’s quite another to simply do it, almost every single time, as if no other option were thinkable. It’s very good to tell kids what is right and just and wise; but it’s far, far better to simply do it in their presence. Something to think about. This is how we teach, whether we mean to or not: By how we live. Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly

Image: Oyster on ice from Wikimedia (Creative Commons)

Why do we worship Jesus instead of Zeus?

There is an account on the platform formerly known as Twitter, which shares posts encouraging people to worship Greek gods. For real. At least, it seems to be in earnest. We all know that many social media platforms openly pay contributors who stir up lots of engagement, and an easy way to do this is to post crazy, provocative things.

At the same time, we also all know that people in the year 2024 will really, truly believe anything. People are uneducated in a way we haven’t seen in quite some time, and they are thirsty for meaning and direction in direct proportion to how little truth they are encountering. So it’s plausible that “The Hellenist” is making money on social media, but is also someone who thinks the Greek gods look cool and has decided: Sure, I’ll go with that.

Here is the recent post that got my attention. He wrote: “What if instead of forcing our children to become Christians, we let them choose which gods to worship. Does anyone honestly think they would choose Jesus?” And the image that accompanies it has photos of statues of Zeus, Aphrodite, and Apollo, pointing out that they are the Gods of (respectively), “the sky, lightning, thunder, law, and order,” “love, passion, pleasure, and beauty,” and “oracles, archery, healing, music, light, knowledge, and protection of the young.” And then it has a picture of Jesus hanging limply from a cross, and under him, it says, “God of loving your enemies, turning the other cheek, meekness, and poverty.”

It matters to God whether or not this fellow is in earnest, or if he’s just yakking about sacred things as a way of earning some cash; but it doesn’t really matter to me. The truth is, he’s asked an excellent question. Why WOULD we chose to worship Jesus, when he puts up such a poor show? It’s easy for comfortably established Catholics to say, “Oh, how ignorant this guy is,” and wave him away, but this is a missed opportunity, especially since he’s specifically talking about children, and what they would do if they had a choice.

Since I do have children, and since they do have a choice about whom to worship, but they also presumably have the advantage of knowing a thing or two about why we follow the man on the cross, I went to my kids, and I showed them the image. I asked, “What would you say, if someone asked you this?” Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly

The male priesthood points men toward service

The Southern Baptists have been ousting all their female pastors. It’s been a long-standing policy in the Southern Baptist Church, which is the largest protestant denomination in the US, that women cannot be leaders, but some churches, including a few powerful and prominent ones, have bucked the teaching. But this year, presumably in response to recent culture wars over gender and gender roles, there has been a crackdown, and the organization voted to expel some churches that hadn’t been following these guidelines.

I haven’t been following this news closely. I don’t think I know any Southern Baptists, except on Twitter and such. But I have been hearing snippets of their genuine struggle, and it’s gut-wrenching to hear people make arguments that boil down to: God says women cannot teach men, and God says women cannot be in authority over men, and God says women need to understand their place.

I thought to myself, “These poor women. They should get the heck out of that church and come be with us Catholics.”

And then I realized, “Oh, that’s what most people think Catholics are like.” They see the all-male priesthood and think that we also teach and believe that women can’t be priests because they need to be subservient to men; that they need to learn from men, and not teach; that they need to cede all power to men; and that all men are born leaders and all women are born followers. They think women can’t be priests because men are more like God than women are…Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly

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Image: baptism in Järfälla via Pxfuel

Microdosing catechism

When I was growing up, we had catechism classes at the church, occasionally at school when one of us was going to Catholic school, and also at home—and those were real, formal lessons. Sitting on the couch in the evening, we would go over the reading and do a question-and-answer section, true and false and multiple choice, and sometimes my mother would even set up little games to reinforce what we had learned—bingo and catechism baseball.

We had memory work and little practice sessions and occasionally prizes for good work. My mother was an incredibly organized person, and dedicated one or two days a week to catechism.

This is not my style. My style is more to be in a constant state of freaking out over how much my kids don’t know about their faith. But my life is very different from my mother’s, my family is different, and I am different. So I do things differently. Sometimes I’m even able to convince myself that it’s not a bad system.

Of course we avail ourselves of the faith formation classes offered by the parish when we can. Sometimes we can’t, for various reasons, and sometimes it’s just not what our kids need right now. But there is a method we’ve found that consistently yields some kind of good fruit. I’ll call it “microdosing theology.”

Silly name, simple method: You just do a tiny bit almost every day, and you don’t stop. Or if you do, you start again as soon as you can. That’s it. That’s the method. The theory is that it doesn’t overwhelm anybody, because it’s just a tiny bit. You can keep it up because it just takes a few minutes; and the kids can hardly complain, because it’s just a few minutes.

And even if they do complain? Well, it’s just a few minutes.

When you keep a constant, steady stream of words and ideas about theology in the family conversation, it no longer feels like some kind of uncomfortable, rarified activity that it would be weird to introduce. This way, even if the topics you’re introducing are not what they’re interested in, it’s not such a big leap to begin talking about the things they do want to talk about.

It works the best if you already have an established routine. We do have a pretty firmly entrenched habit of evening prayers (and that, too, follows the “just a little bit every day” model, because someone once told me to pray as you can, not as you can’t, and how we can pray is a little bit), and after prayers, we read a little bit.

Two books we recently used for microdosing, that have worked very well:

Saints Around the World by Meg Hunter Kilmer. We had the kids take turns reading aloud the short, punchy biographies of saints, one a day. I had never heard of most of them, and have been fascinated and occasionally incredibly moved to learn about the vast variety of saints, from ancient to modern times, all finding a way to follow God’s will in circumstances that could not vary more widely.

The tone and reading level is aimed at maybe grade 3, but the material is more than interesting enough to capture the attention of all ages; and although it doesn’t go into gory detail, it doesn’t sugarcoat the facts of martyrdom or persecution. It is thought-provoking and frequently made me want to learn more about the saints we met in these pages. Really good for a child preparing for confirmation, and it just provides a good, natural overview of what holiness looks like in action, in real life, which is the entire point of studying theology.

The illustrator has gone to a lot of trouble to include historically and culturally accurate and meaningful details in the pictures, which are briefly explained in the captions.

When we finished the saint book, we switched gears and began Michael Dubruiel’s The How-To Book of the Mass. This is less entertaining, but it’s an intensely practical book, written by someone who really understands the obstacles and temptations that beset the typical Catholic, and offers actionable advice about how to deepen your relationship with Christ and to enter more deeply into worship at Mass.

It is systematic and thorough and extremely clear. It is probably aimed at teens and older, but some parts of it are extremely simple and easy to understand, so I’m comfortable with the “take what you can manage, leave what you can’t” approach. Did I mention, it’s short? It’s broken up into very short sections, just a page or two, so you can easily read for just a minute or two per day and work your way through the Mass that way.

When we’re done with that, I’ll probably return to a book we read some time ago: Peter Kreeft’s Your Questions, God’s Answers. I recall that it did answer many of their questions, answered questions they already knew the answers for (which counts as review, which is fine), and opened up discussions about things they didn’t realize they had questions about.

And here is one of my important rules, vital to the whole microdosing operation: Always let the discussion happen! Doesn’t matter if it sticks to the original topic or not. If they ask a question about God, then right now is the right time to answer it, period.

The segments are short enough to read in five minutes or less. It’s intended for teenagers and is slightly goofy but not pandering. It’s theologically meaty and profusely studded with scriptural references, but written in a clear and chatty style that is easy to understand. Some sections are better than others, but some are very good indeed.

In general, I try to remember what several people told me when I signed up to teach faith formation one year: No matter what else I did, I must remember that it is not about me. It is about being there and letting the Holy Spirit do what he wants to do with the hearts of the children in that room. Yes, I had to do my best, and I have to put the effort in. But my efforts, my performance, are not what will make the difference. I have to remember to stand aside and make a place for the Holy Spirit.

That is harder than it sounds. Sometimes—most of the time, even—you really don’t know how good of a job you are doing when you teach your kids. All I can tell you is to keep going. Just a little bit at a time is good. And if you stop, start again.

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A version of this essay originally appeared in The Catholic Weekly in May of 2023.
Image sources: eyedropper ; Bible (Creative Commons)