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

Monday, March 30, 2015

MSU...4 Ever

Student: Miss Foyle, you didn't even go to Michigan State.
Me: I know.
Student: Why do you love MSU basketball so much?
Me: Well...

It's actually a pretty simple answer that dates back to 6th grade. This blog post from awhile back pretty much sums it up, so no need to reiterate it.

Final Four 2015, here come the Spartans! (Way to be the bracket busters, MSU...)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Lesson in Humility

This past week's Catholicism lesson focused on prayer, so we had a lot to discuss at our table groups. (There never seems to be enough time to get to all the good stuff!) 

Many good thoughts were shared, but I took away something even more important for my own relationship with God: What's hindering your prayer life? Lack of humility.

When I think of my life, I don't go out of my way to seek the praise of others, but if I do something (especially a BIG something) and some people fail to recognize it or be grateful for it, then I get upset and worry that it didn't make a difference. And, while I've worked on it, I often find myself worried about what I'll say to someone else in conversation rather than listen and respond based on what the other person said. In addition, as I mentioned in my small group on Monday, I pray for others, but I don't pray for others enough. So much tends to creep in about me, me, me...and then my thoughts have wandered without my awareness...

In today's Gospel, we hear about the Annunciation of Jesus' birth to Mary, and we hear Mary's yes. She was humbled before God and did not seek any means of glory on her own. She said yes to God, and, at that moment, she turned all eyes toward God with her words, "let it be done to me according to your word."

It's like all the wake-up calls about humility are hitting at once. (I think it was either Fr. Barron's podcast homily this week or Fr. Mike's podcast homily that focused on humility too.) And it's quite revolutionary - I didn't realize how much I had shifted the focus to myself and my feelings/reactions. My main goal needs to be God - letting God's goodness and light shine through me so that I may lead others to God...

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Time to Reflect

We do not learn from experience … we learn from reflecting on experience.” - John Dewey

The more I've read about making time for students' self-reflection in the classroom, the more I am a proponent of it. Just last week, our grade level team had the 6th graders think back over their Greek gods/goddesses project, and today I designed/compiled a reflection for the 7th graders to use after we finish up our unit on prayer and Lent.

Yes, reflection takes up class time, but it is time well-spent. With reflection comes opportunities for growth and acknowledgment of effort/understanding.

I have a feeling time set aside for reflection is here to stay in my classroom.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

March Madness is Here!

...and it's not just all about basketball - in our 6th grade classroom, it's all about the books:

I cannot take credit for the whole book bracket thing (as I told a co-worker, it's all over Pinterest), but whoever originally thought it up had a seriously great idea. Not only has it gotten the attention of the 6th graders (including ones who don't necessarily like to read), but it's also made the 7th and 8th grade boys (and some girls) start talking too.

March Madness is awesome - books and basketball alike!

Monday, March 16, 2015

What an Amazing Grace It Is!

I was never a huge fan of the song "Amazing Grace" growing up - it was one of those ones that, when we sang it, I didn't really feel anything special. It was just a song, one we had to sing every so often because it sounded good. (So, needless to say, I have, over time, committed it to memory.)

However, last night at my church's contemplative Mass, I had a different experience. I think what hit me this time was the word grace (which clearly is in the title, but which, also clearly, I have taken for granted) - it's not by any means of our own that we earn salvation; it's already been won by Jesus who died for us on the cross! (How many times have I sung this song and not really thought of that?!) I think all of the weekly Fr. Barron Catholicism lessons are finally starting to hit home...

It was, to sound cliche, amazing to finally (after all these years) come to this realization - what an amazing grace God has given us! Now, it's our turn to go out in the world, accept it, and share it with others!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~
On an unrelated note (but one that, in some way, has to do with graces), I am so grateful to the family and friends who helped Marisa and me celebrate our birthday this weekend. From enjoying a fish fry after conferences on Friday to phone calls and texts to St. Patrick's Day festivities to getting ice cream to gathering together for margaritas and chips after Mass last night - wow.

Now, if only Michigan State had won their bball game versus Wisconsin yesterday, it would have been pretty perfect... c'est la vie...

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Lenten Letters

Lent is always a good time to refocus - to strip away things that are unnecessary and/or keeping us from growing closer to God.

It's also a time to try new things that have the potential to draw us into deeper communion with Him.

Now, I'll be honest up front - I haven't been keeping up with my Lenten promises 100%. ("The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.") Though, there is one aspect of my Lenten promises that I have been very faithful to: letter-writing - one card/note a day, each one addressed to a different person(s). And, honestly, it's been a beautiful, enriching experience for me. (In fact, I've reached out to a few people I haven't even really talked to in a few years!) It's allowed me another avenue through which to pray for others, and it has made me joy-filled to spend a few moments each day thinking on those folks.

Will I keep it up after Lent? Well, I hope to do it in some sense, whether it be a card a week or notes of encouragement for whatever reason. (After all, my mom can't possibly keep the post office in business all by herself; though, she tries really hard!)

Growth, after all, is what we're striving for, right? We gotta keep trying...

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

God Is Good

God is good.

If you ever doubt that, go to Reconciliation.

Last night was absolutely beautiful - so solemn, so sacred. The lights were dimmed, the candles were lit, the music was meditative, and the homily/reflection was relevant. I was able to sit in Church and pray, tuning out other distractions and noise that I am accustomed to hearing.

While confessing to the priest, I explained how in praying the Examen each night, I have found that the times when I did not act as God would want me to act have been the same. I told him that I want to be able to let go and that one night I hope that won't be what comes to mind when I pray. And, he assured me that one day it won't be.

When I knelt to pray, I honestly felt like something that has been holding me back was lifted. And it was incredible and beautiful. And so, I remained a bit longer, just sitting and listening to the music, letting my eyes wander to the different sacred artwork around the church.

Yes, I'll say it again: God is good.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Confirmed in the Spirit

On Friday night, 19 young men and women became empowered by the power of the Holy Spirit at Confirmation. It was a night that was a long time coming - it took a lot of preparation (by both the catechists and the students) and a lot of prayer.

And it was absolutely wonderful.

During the Rite of Confirmation, I was blessed to read the names of my students to the Bishop (see picture below). I was so proud of each of them.

A few parents came up to me to thank me and let me know how their children have grown in their faith this year. It was affirming to hear, and it gave me great hope for the future of our Church.

Let us continue to pray that these young people continue to be guided by the Holy Spirit throughout their lives. May they make wise choices and be filled with courage to do what is right in the eyes of God.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Planting Seeds of Faith

After the students' Confirmation vigil and rehearsal last night, one of the moms introduced me to her daughter's sponsor by saying, "This is the woman who's taught my daughter all about the Catholic faith." I was astonished that she would give me so much "credit," as this particular family is one I know of that practices the faith regularly and engages in opportunities of service and growth in relationship with God. It was a simple affirmation, and it was one I needed, as (in the education field, as anyone would likely tell you) it's hard to know sometimes if one is making a difference.

This ties into what my Bible Study group was discussing the other night - we often plant seeds but do not ever know if those seeds have taken root and blossomed. (If we saw the fruit of every seed "planted," I imagine we'd lose a little (or a lot of) humility.) We have to rely on faith and the grace of God.

I pray that the seeds that have been planted in these young people over their years at our Catholic school and over the experiences they've had with their family and friends will one day take root and hold firm. May God bless them abundantly and the Holy Spirit fill them with the Gifts and Fruit they need to be men and women for Christ. Amen.

Monday, March 2, 2015


This week's Catholicism lesson at Church focuses on the four marks of the Church: one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. And I want to focus on one today. (Yes, actually one.) Because, it struck me this afternoon - almost as if I were actually being slapped in the face or as if a lightbulb was shining over my head in a cartoon - just what one really means...

To start 8th grade Religion class off today, I invited the students to close their eyes and to speak to God and the Holy Spirit - to offer up any concerns, anxieties, excitement, and thoughts that they may be having, especially in light of their Confirmation. And I gave them a few moments in silence to do so. Afterwards, I shared with them just how much they are on the minds and hearts of so many people:

- This past weekend I was blessed to be on retreat with over 60 young adults from my parish (as mentioned in my previous post). While there, we had a prayer intentions board. On that, I wrote "for my 8th grade students who are receiving Confirmation this week," and I know people read that and prayed for them. 

- A friend from Notre Dame (in the seminary) sent me a beautiful text message on Saturday night with a candle lit at the Grotto. Below it, he wrote that, while he wasn't sure exactly when Confirmation is, he is praying for my students in a special way.

- Each classroom at our school has 1-2 doves decorated with the names, Confirmation Saints, and pictures of the 8th graders; thus, the classes have been holding the 8th graders in prayer this past month.

After relaying these sentiments to my students, they seemed to be in awe. They were silent (which is highly unusual). The wheels seemed to be turning - they are about to fully enter into the Church, which is so much bigger than themselves. It's a body (the Body) in which there are so many others around the world and in the local community who are united together in their faith in God, their prayers for the community, and their love for one another.

This is what it means to be one - we have one God, and we, near or far, are one community, one body in Christ, lifting each other up in prayer and following in the footsteps of Jesus, which will lead us to heaven.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Retreat High

Currently on a "retreat high," and this is the first message I come across in my email inbox:

“It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your heart your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.” 

Jesus fills our void/space - a space that we need to create and cultivate through silence and intentional prayer. 

This quote could not hit home more incredibly than right now. After being on retreat up in Wisconsin with over 60 other young adults from my parish this weekend, I feel so blessed, overwhelmed with gratitude, and filled with God's grace.

Thank you, Lord, for speaking to me through the words and actions of so many wonderful people this weekend. I pray that as a community we continue to grow closer in our love for you and in friendship with one another. Amen.