I have come to fall in love with teaching in Catholic schools. What are YOU in love with?...

"Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything." - Pedro Arrupe

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Where to Look for God

"I have loved you late in life, O Beauty, ever ancient and ever new, I have loved you late in life. You were right inside of me, and I was outside looking all around for you...And I was not with you. Those things which were nothing kept me far from you. You called, you cried, and you broke my deafness apart. You shone forth, you enlightened, and you shattered my blindness."

-St. Augustine, The Confessions

I came across this quote today in my daily Living the Eucharist booklet, and it sounded so familiar. And that's when it hit me - the song "Alive Again" by Matt Maher (which, coincidentally, I chose to include as my song on the YAC retreat CD) is based on it.

I knew I liked that song - beautiful sentiment in the idea that we oftentimes look for God in other places and forget at times to turn inward to see God's grace at work within ourselves. And still, God is calling us every day - at each moment - to follow Him. He is already there, waiting for us to answer His call.

And here's an inspirational thought for today about being hungry for worship --> Max Lucado daily email

Have a beautiful night!


On a completely unrelated note, a number of my students went to see the play "Bud Not Buddy" (based on the book by Christopher Paul Curtis) last weekend, and one student brought me a signed program today - she said it was because she knew how much I love the book. How cute was that!

Monday, February 25, 2013

WRAD Blog Challenge Week 3

WRAD Blog Challenge continues with Week 3's Challenge:

Week 3: February 24 - March 2
A Snapshot of My Reading Life
Post a photo that gives readers a glimpse into your reading life. This could be your favorite place to read, your bookshelf, your library, a classroom, a book from childhood that you still re-read today, your favorite person to read with. Anything that brings joy to your reading life will work!
Below the photo share a short narrative explaining why this picture is meaningful to you.

So, I kind of stretched the "rules" this week...and I made a collage of some books/shelves/etc. that represent a small glimpse of my reading life. (One picture just can't capture it all!)

These pictures are meaningful to me because they show how much I value my classroom libraries. It also shows how incredibly excited I get when I meet authors like Christopher Paul Curtis. The picture on the bottom right is quite accurate in describing how I choose to spend my money. And there are also pictures of some books I have either recently read and loved or ones I plan to read soon.

(I guess I really stretched the rules, as my description isn't a narrative either. Oops.)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Retreat Reminders

“Every one of us needs half an hour of prayer a day, except when we are busy - then we need an hour." 
- St Francis de Sales

"God does not need our prayers! He knows what we need even before we ask. He is the all-merciful, and he pours his abundant bounties even on those who do not ask him. It is for us that prayer is indispensable; it appropriates man to God." 
- Saint Ignatius Brianchaninov (1807-1867)

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, That is, than falling in a love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings, What you will do with your evenings, How you spend your weekends, What you read, Who you know, What breaks your heart, And what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”
- Pedro Arrupe, S.J.

"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty...I can do all things through Him who gives me strength."
- Philippians 3:11-12

"'For I know the plans I have in store for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"
- Jeremiah 29:11

These are just a few quotes that were either from this weekend's young adult retreat or that remind me of my experience this weekend. I'm going to be frankly honest up front - it's going to be hard to go back to work tomorrow...I don't want to because I'd rather remain on that proverbial mountaintop with the 60+ other young adults with whom I was able to share retreat.

This weekend was everything I hoped it would be...and then more.

I was reminded of...
- the simple beauty and serenity in contemplation, especially using meditative (and repetitive) music.
- the power of prayer when 20 or so of us gathered during free time to pray the Rosary.
- how much I love spending time with the Blessed Sacrament in Adoration.
- how it feels to be vulnerable - to open myself up to others and to have them open up to me as well. (What incredible conversations!)
- the essential call to be my truest self, for in Jesus' presence we see who we truly are. (And since we can't please everybody, we should remember to strive to please God first and then ourselves next.)
- the joy of laughter - pure belly laughs - during social and game time. (I probably haven't laughed as hard since last retreat.)
- why I pray and why the forms of prayers I use (when there are SO many to choose from) are, at least for the present moment, the ones best-suited to me and my needs.
- how beautiful it is to share such tremendous events with my sister. (There were actually a total of 4 sets of siblings on the retreat - crazy!)
- why I choose to believe the Catholic faith.

I pray that this weekend's insight, discussions, reflections, and activities act as a springboard and catalyst for my continued faith renewal and dedication to my faith community. And I thank God for all of the wonderful people I was able to work with who made this retreat such a special, memorable, and meaningful weekend.

most of the 2013 YAC retreat team

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Answers to Our Prayers

“Ask and it will be given to you; 
seek and you will find; 
knock and the door will be opened to you. 
For everyone who asks, receives; 
and the one who seeks, finds; 
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened."
(Matthew 7:7-8)

When it comes to the daily Mass readings, I don't believe in coincidences.

Take today's Gospel (see above) for example - this is the theme of the young adult weekend retreat that starts tomorrow.

Boy, that was timing it.

I've been reflecting on this passage from Matthew for the past few months, and each time I hear it, I do so in a different light. Different phrases speak to me...or I read others' reflections on it, and those provide new inspiration.

One of the reflections that stuck with me about this passage came from a children's resource - during our morning prayer over the loudspeaker at school, one of the older students was reading a reflection that said (something along these lines), "It doesn't say 'you shall receive what you want' but 'you shall receive.'" And this actually reminded me of a neat quote I came across on Pinterest a few weeks back (and have since shared with a few people):

...very true!

So, yes, I do believe God always answers our prayers when we ask...it's just not always in the way we expect Him to.

May we find hope in #3 on that list when we feel our prayers aren't being answered - God has something better in store...or maybe we just need to exercise a little more patience...

Monday, February 18, 2013

WRAD Blog Challenge Week 2

And so begins Week 2 of the WRAD Blog Challenge! (from Lit World) -->

Week 2: February 17 - February 23
Now & Then
Answer the following questions twice. The first time, answer how you would have when you were 10 years old (or any age from elementary school that you remember clearly) and the second time, answer in the present.
1. I think everyone in the world should read...
When I was 10:
(repeat this format for the remaining questions)
2. If I could listen to anyone in the world read aloud to me it would be...
3. When I read aloud, my favorite character to impersonate is...
4. The genre that takes up the most room on my bookshelf (or e-reader) is...
5. The last book I wish I’d written or inspired me to write my own story is...

Here I go...
1. When I was 10, I thought everyone in the world should read Matilda (by Roald Dahl) - at that point, I had already read it a few times, and I thought it was the best book of all time.

I think everyone in the world should read Tuck Everlasting (by Natalie Babbitt) and The Time Keeper (by Mitch Albom), both of which deal with the idea of time and question the idea of immortality (or, unlimited time - What if you could live forever?) To quote The Time Keeper, "There is a reason God limits our days...to make each one precious." Both of these books provide incredible insight to these tender topics.

2. When I was 10, if I could listen to anyone in the world read aloud to me it would have been my mom. :)

If I could listen to anyone in the world read aloud to me it would be Julie Andrews - her voice is so calm and peaceful. She seems to be full of life and creativity.

3. When I was 10, when I read aloud, my favorite characters to impersonate were the children in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (because of their accents). 

When I read aloud, my favorite character to impersonate is Turtle (from Turtle in Paradise) because of her quirky humor and somewhat southern accent.

4. When I was 10, the genre that took up the most room on my bookshelf was mysteries (Nancy Drew Boxcar Children books).

The genres that takes up the most room on my bookshelf (and e-reader) are religious books and realistic fiction. (I also own more and more children's books, but that's another story...)

5. When I was 10, the book I wish I'd written or inspired me to write my own story was (probably) Ramona the Brave.

The last book I wish I'd written or inspired me to write my own story/poem is Kindred Souls (by Patricia MacLachlan).

Wow, that was a little harder than I expected...but so much fun to reflect!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Beauty Within

This Lenten season has barely begun, and already I have immersed myself in the Word of God. (This has mostly been done in preparation for retreat next weekend and for a Lenten "Living the Eucharist" small group  of which I am a part.)

However, I also decided to revisit one of my all-time favorite poems - it is not linked to Scripture, but it speaks of beauty from within. I used to have another (shorter) version of this poem memorized, and I think it's about time to re-commit it to memory. Since re-reading and studying it again, I have found when I ponder these words throughout the day, my outlook really does change!

And imagine my delight when I came across a version of this poem read by Audrey Hepburn on YouTube (see below). What an extra treat! Enjoy...

And so, as Lent continues, I will try to challenge myself to live by these words each day. And, in doing so, I pray to grow in inner beauty and in love, creating a clean heart in preparation for the most holy season of Easter...

Saturday, February 16, 2013

What Fasting Is Really For...

The pastor at the school where I teach is a man of few words...but, boy, does he make 'em count!

I don't know why (or how) it's taken me so long to realize what is meant in the Gospels when it speaks of Jesus (in response to the Pharisees) explaining how guests cannot fast while a bridegroom is with them -->

Mark 2:18-20 (from Biblegateway.com)

18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”
19 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. 20 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.

I admit I never quite got it.

But Fr. Pat put it so simply - the Apostles had no need to fast (a practice to remove one's reliance on earthly needs to allow opportunity to grow closer to God) because they couldn't get any closer to God than they already were - Jesus was in their midst! He was already "hanging out" (excuse my colloquialism) with them.

Maybe I just never fully understood the idea of fasting before. (Society doesn't help with the understanding of fasting, that's for sure, as the term is often understood in light of fasting from foods in an effort to diet and so forth...)

But I am very thankful for those few (wise) words from Fr. Pat. It actually makes sense now...When we fast, we discipline ourselves to deny something worldly, and, in its place, we have more room for God.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

WRAD Blog Challenge

A whole day devoted to celebrate Read Aloud? Yes please!

As it turns out, they have a blog challenge - check it out -->

From the website:
Week 1: February 10 – February 16
What do you think is special about reading aloud?
Your first mission is to answer this question. We are using this prompt to bring awareness to the act of reading aloud. It is meant to be open-ended to draw out many different perspectives, and we anticipate that every answer will have a unique style and format.
After answering the prompt, share a short description of how you plan to celebrate WRAD on March 6. Who will you celebrate with? Where will you be? If you have celebrated WRAD in the past, what activities brought you and those you celebrated with the most joy? If you haven't finalized your plans, or if this will be your first WRAD celebration, Use this space to share your brainstorming process, and direct your readers to litworld.org for activities and recommendations.'

Here goes nothing...

Reading aloud is special for so many different reasons. First, read aloud provides an opportunity for students to hear their teacher (or parent, if done at home) model strong expression, volume, and pacing with a text. I can still hear the voice of my mom reading from the Narnia series and my sixth grade teacher reading to us from Tiger Eyes and Walk Two Moons.

Second, read aloud during the school day gives students a shared reading experience - from there a whole discussion begins and characters become more like friends. For a few years now, I've read The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary School, which is an incredible book of humor and short stories about students that come together to weave one larger picture of a school year. After reading a part in which the teacher (Mr. Jupiter) calls attendance and students respond that they are "not here," my students have always thought it funny to tell me they are "not here" when I call attendance.

In addition, read aloud puts all students at the same level. The kids are able to sit back, relax, and, in a sense, enjoy the show. No need to decode words or worry if they can't keep up. We can laugh, cry, and discuss together. And that is a beautiful thing.

Clearly reading aloud is a special tradition and gift meant to be shared with everyone!

Now, World Read Aloud Day is apparently March 6, 2013. (I believe it's a Wednesday.) I will be definitely celebrating reading aloud with my students (just like I do every day), and we will be in the middle of the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio. 

I'm also interested in learning more about activities and more at litworld.org.

Care to join me?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

And so Lent begins

Yesterday I have to admit I became upset when students started complaining when we asked them to think about giving things up - "Do we have to?"

Not exactly the attitude I was hoping for.

But today, for some reason - maybe after giving it some thought - students were generally more positive and tried to think of ways they could pray, fast, and give alms this Lenten season in preparation for Easter. We proceeded to put these plans on hearts (that they cut out themselves), and I pinned them to the bulletin board. I think my favorite part during the process was when one student (who usually enjoys being difficult with me) said, "Ms. Foyle has my heart" to which I replied, "Yes I do" and smiled. It was pretty good timing...

After hearing from some students at lunch and after reading some of the kiddos' plans for the season, I am highly impressed with some intended sacrifices - no TV, no video games (during the week), no fighting with siblings, and more.

Those were just the kinds of ideas to get me in a better mood for Valentine's Day tomorrow.

And speaking of Valentine's Day, check out these play-on-words valentines that we'll be handing out to our students tomorrow. (We figured they'd get enough candy from each other.)

We think you are just "WRITE"!

How's your Valentine's Day shaping up?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Gearing Up for Lent

Ash Wednesday will mark the beginning of this Lenten season.

I'm not procrastinating - I just can't decide exactly what I need to do to best help me grow closer to God this season.

There are plenty of resources to help:

101 Practical Fasting Ideas for Lent
40 Ideas for 40 Days (Catechist's Journey)
Pray As You Go podcasts
Lenten Articles, Reflections, Videos, and More from Loyola Press

And those are just a few.

I also  recommend The Magnificat Lenten Companion & What Am I Doing for Lent This Year? 2nd Ed. (Personally, I am very much looking forward to using both of them.)

What are you doing for Lent this year...?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Doing It Your Own Way

“I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”
 ― Nelson Mandela

As I likely mentioned before, I have been reading My Life With The Saints by Fr. James Martin, SJ, for an upcoming young adult book club meeting later this month. The book is structured so that each chapter focuses on one saint, what he/she is known for, important parts of his/her life, and Fr. Martin's own encounters with those saints.

What I wanted to know was if there was something similar about how or when or why each of the saints started (and kept on) working for God. As it turns out, there is no such trend - each saint found God's call for his life in his own way - St. Joan of Arc heard the voices of three saints; St. Therese had a desire to be a nun when she was 9 years old; Thomas Merton spent most of his life searching for something unaware of what he was truly searching for; St. Ignatius of Loyola was wounded in battle and during his recuperation ended up reading about the saints...

Again - I stress - there is no "formula" for finding a vocation or one's path to sainthood. 

Wouldn't it be nice if we could all hear God speaking directly to us or for us to be certain at an early age of what vocation God is calling each of us?

But it doesn't work like that.

God is calling each of us to be saints in our own way - not in the same way or manner as anyone else. 

This is both relieving and stressful - I know I am able to serve God as I am...but am I truly living as God intended? Is there something I am missing or not doing? When do we know for sure that we are serving in our vocation?

Let us ask ourselves, "How am I currently working to achieve my potential in service and love of others?" and let us answer ourselves honestly and vulnerably. And then there just might be a little more light on our paths.

Or, I suppose the worst thing is that we could be like Thomas Merton, searching yet striving all the while to please God.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


Look Ms. Foyle, I made Dribble!
Dribble the Turtle from "Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing"

Ms. Foyle, I made this for you.

Even though the day didn't exactly start out on the best note, it turned out to be a pretty good day. Above are two things students created - so cute! And we had a field trip to the NBC 5 studio downtown to learn firsthand about the weather and how they report it. The slushy snow wasn't that great (as I forgot my rain boots), but I made it to Adoration, which was followed by dinner (paid for by a gift card - woot!) with my sister.

And tomorrow is Friday...  :)


This was too good not to pass on. To be directed to the original post on Ignatian Spirituality's page, click here.

A New Serenity Prayer

I have a friend who says that the basis of all true religion is believing that “There is a God and I’m not him.”  That’s the spirit of this updating of the Serenity Prayer by Jim Martin, SJ.
God, grant me the serenity
to accept the people I cannot change,
which is pretty much everyone,
since I’m clearly not you, God.
At least not the last time I checked.
And while you’re at it, God,
please give me the courage
to change what I need to change about myself,
which is frankly a lot, since, once again,
I’m not you, which means I’m not perfect.
It’s better for me to focus on changing myself
than to worry about changing other people,
who, as you’ll no doubt remember me saying,
I can’t change anyway.
Finally, give me the wisdom to just shut up
whenever I think that I’m clearly smarter
than everyone else in the room,
that no one knows what they’re talking about except me,
or that I alone have all the answers.
Basically, God,
grant me the wisdom
to remember that I’m
not you.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


"When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” - Ernest Hemingway

These days, I feel that all I've really been doing is listening. Now, that's not a bad thing. But it's listening that involves hearing information/feelings that I have no right to pass on or share. Therefore, it keeps building up inside...and that might just start being a bad thing.

Take today, for example. I became easily frustrated with my students during morning activity, which was a review of 2 sections of our Family Life unit, when they kept calling my name and saying, "I don't get it" or "This doesn't make sense" without first trying to find the answers for themselves. (The answers, by the way, were right there in the book, had they taken some time to actually look.) Normally, though, I wouldn't have let this bother me as much as it seemed to today. So, I have to think some of these things are actually weighing on me.

[And on top of all of that, a couple of our students are being downright mean to each other, but that's another story. (Ah!)]

But what can I do? I want to listen because I want to help. Oftentimes, I don't even feel right offering advice back, as every person's situation is different from one that I have experienced. Most people don't need advice anyways - they just need to vent or think aloud. But I don't think I should stop listening - that wouldn't help either.

I'm not trying to vent, and I am sorry if this comes across as negative - I just feel like I'm in a pickle. I try to appear calm and collected on the outside, especially at school and with my other various activities, but sometimes I'm actually quite the opposite, though no one would ever know it. I usually come up with some kind of answer, some creative solution or new way to think about something - and I strive to be positive and set the tone.

I know I need to pray about it - to give it up to God. And, again, usually I'm pretty good with that. Maybe I just haven't done it enough recently. After all, God's pretty darn good at listening...and it's helpful to talk things out.

...which is kind of what I just did here. So...

Thank you for being my listener today. :)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Winter is Here!

The first "real" snowfall of the season finally came this weekend. 

It was exciting for a number of reasons: 
1) As it fell softly, shimmering and glittering in the moonlight; 
2) I got to break out my snow shovel, which I had bought last year but had yet to use;
3) The fresh snow crunched under my boots to and from Saturday morning's trip to Trader Joe's;

and more...

The main thing was that I got out and enjoyed it. Call me crazy, but shoveling the driveway was actually fun - probably because it was still the light and fluffy snow. And, while my face felt like it might freeze right off, my run on Saturday morning with my sister was invigorating and surprisingly enjoyable.

It's cold, that's true. But the snow in all its white purity is making it bearable and better. Winter feels like it's finally here!

our driveway, post-shoveling

the lakefront path with the skyline in the distance