From Columbine, Red Lake, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, and Parkland?
A couple of years ago, I taught Dave Cullen’s book Columbine (Twelve) to college freshmen, most of whom weren’t even born when Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris gunned down 13 of their fellow high school students on April 20, 1999. My students were largely ignorant of the shooting with little understanding of how profoundly that day shaped their high school experience. They were surprised to learn that only 1 in 5 high schools had security cameras before 1999. Today, 3 in 5 do.
Why is nostalgia so painful?
I love nostalgia even though it’s painful. The word has Greek roots in both the words “homecoming” and “pain.” Every time I go home to my parents’ house, I am hit with shades of it when I open a musty closet, run my fingers along untouched bookshelves, or rummage through dresser drawers that still contain small Mass books and buttons from when my brothers, sister, and I were little. A lot of people spend New Year’s thinking about what they will do in the year to come. I spent it thinking about what we did in years past.
This year, take the focus off presents and put it on serving God’s family.
If your kids are anything like mine, Advent has less to do with preparing for the arrival of baby Jesus and more to do with the studied preparation of Christmas lists. In an effort to combat an increasingly present-hungry holiday focus, a few years ago we started a Jesse Tree. Every morning, we added a new ornament to our Jesse Tree and read that day’s Bible story, which took us from creation to the birth of Christ.
Professors should talk about their personal beliefs in the classroom—even if it makes students uneasy.
A few weeks ago I was standing in the back of a college classroom at the Catholic university where I teach while my students chatted with a guest speaker via Skype. The guest speaker was a deacon on his way to the priesthood and a graduate of the University of Saint Francis, where I teach. In the shadowy back aisle where I stood, I listened while Deacon Jay explained that he was not Catholic during his first three years at Saint Francis, but felt pulled toward the faith after a chance invite from a couple of girls to join them at Mass.
Sometimes I don’t get my son, with his rough-and-tumble play and love of wrestling with his dad.
Thwack. The kickball ricochets off the front of our house and the arguing begins. “Safe!” yells Henry. “Run to second!” yells Thomas. “I got you out!” yells Nate. “You’re all cheaters!” yells my son. Each declaration ratchets up to earsplitting levels. I watch from the window as they abandon the kickball and start to circle each other like lions weeding out the weak. By the time I finally throw open the door to intervene their passions are running so high and their fits of opinion are so strong only dogs can understand their shrieks.
Time never stops moving, so take a few minutes to celebrate the things that make life feel full.
I don’t know how old I was when I was first introduced to Henry David Thoreau’s admonition “to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life,” but it must have been fairly young because it stuck to me in the rudimentary way of childhood when you accept fully the premise of a thing, when you swallow it down wholesale and it becomes you.
Why does the priest pray for our anxieties at Mass?
At night when I exhaustedly flop down on my son’s bed to say evening prayers with him, I inevitably have to curb his tendency to race through the words. The problem is when I slow him down, he cannot remember what comes next. When he returns to his rushing slur, his prayers become an inarticulate jumble. I am fairly certain he could not isolate and restate the phrase “fruit of thy womb, Jesus” if he were asked. And while focusing on the individual words within a prayer is not always the point, it’s remarkable what we can learn when we do.
When my 2-year-old grabbed my chin to pull my eyes up from my phone yelling, “Put down your phone!” I knew I had reached rock bottom.
In the early ’80s, when home computers were first widely available, my family plugged in early. My dad took a corner in the large room my brothers shared and made an office where we all took turns playing 2-bit graphic games or writing code in DOS that translated into a noisily printed image on our dot matrix printer. After that it was Atari, then Nintendo NES, and annual computer upgrades as we shot from the floppy disc era into the present era of all-consuming internet access and digital cloud storage. I came of age in a simpler time but not one without a reliance on technology.
Steer clear of Beelzebub or Baal.
When our first son was born, my husband and I, both writers, labored over the choice of what to name him. It had to be right. It had to be original. It was, my poet husband declared with much gravity, “naming a life.” The burden of that weighed heavily on us. We scoured bookstores and online lists of baby names. We wanted something our son could live up to, something that was different, but not weird. After months of combing through thousands of names, we finally landed on Atticus Levi, a nod to both Atticus Finch and my husband’s favorite poet, Larry Levis.
First communion is a day worth commemorating with something special.
Last fall, our son and the rest of his second grade class at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Fort Wayne, Indiana started preparing for their first communion. First communion prep began with a meeting where he and his friends created prayer dice. The two cardboard die have prayers printed on each side. At night, we rolled the dice on his bed and said whichever prayers landed face up. It was a fun way to get him started on the road toward deeper initiation into the church.