Monday, December 20, 2010

Family Matters

     This is my sad attempt to use a Mac to edit photos...  Not so impressive.  I can't figure out how to convert file formats... so... oh well.  I gave up. 
     I spent the last couple of days visiting a rather nutty aunt of mine in Oceanside.  She came to greet me wearing a light up Christmas tree hat.  Typical, I thought.  We spent the better part of the weekend discussing family stories, and ours has more than its fair share of oddities.  Whether it's the great uncle who convinced his cardiologists to do a different surgery in order to keep his hunting arm (we're from Western Pennsylvania... hunting is a big deal), the aunt who got married in a 18ft tepee in Yellowstone National Park, the grandmother with the chronic card playing habit that paid off in Las Vegas, or the cousins who served moonshine at the Thanksgiving dinner, my family has enough eccentric stories to fill at least three seasons of a TV sitcom.
     I'm getting to the point in my life where I'm embracing the weird.  Some of the endless bizarre stories can be repulsive, but above all they make me laugh.  Despite all the crass personalities that often clash in my family, we are never short on laughter.
     I'm looking forward to going home and spending time with the family, ridiculous though they may be, but I've been thinking a lot about my students at the same time.  Some of them come from pretty broken families, whether due to drugs and violence, to immigration laws, or to poverty.  Many of my kids are going to Mexico for the holidays to see family that hasn't yet met immigration qualifications.  One girl told me she's worried that she won't be able to come back.  Their stories break my heart.  I don't know how to fix these problems, or where really even to begin.  I guess the best thought that I have for the moment is just to remember to be grateful for the ability to spend time with my family (barring any huge weather mishaps and flight delays) because I know there are many people who are not so lucky. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Return of the Prophet

     As I have again been swamped with work, the blog has been relegated to the back burner.  This is what I've been reading via audiobook recently:
     The well of love that waters your garden is at times filled with your tears.  And it is good that it is so, for no waters are purer than those precious droplets released in your moments of surrender.  Tears are seed drops of joy shed by your soul's physician.  You may curse the physician's medicine, but the cure for your suffering is in your tears.  Weep until seeds of joy take root in the womb of your soul.
     -Return of the Prophet, Hajjar Gibran

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

La Inmaculada Concepcion

     I had another Catholic moment tonight, as my roommates term my habitual inclination toward the sacraments.  This week has actually been something of a doozy - mass on Sunday night, Advent reconciliation service on Monday, and mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception today.  Tonight I was reminded again of the global reach of the Church as the mass was celebrated in Spanish.
     Mary, our mother, unites the Church on Earth and gives us hope of heaven - her purity invites our own.  As the mother of Jesus and Queen of the Church, she knows the heart of God better than any other human, and in this season of Advent, as the year draws to a close, we are reminded of the perfection of which humankind is capable.  As mother of humanity, she unites us in the Church, and nowhere is the global reach of the Church more apparent than in the mass where different languages and cultures meet in joy and harmony.
"Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!"
Pray, O Mother, for all of us.
Pray for humanity for those who suffers poverty and injustice,
violence and hatred, terror and war.
Help us to contemplate with the rosary
the mysteries of Him who "is our peace",
so that we will all feel involved
in a persevering dedication of service to peace.
Look with special attention
upon the land in which you gave birth to Jesus,
a land that you loved together with Him,
and that is still so sorely tried today.
Pray for us, Mother of hope!
"Give us days of peace, watch over our way.
Let us see your Son as we rejoice in heaven". Amen!  

-Pope John Paul II 

Monday, December 6, 2010

America, Land of Dreams

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)
from "Let America Be America Again" Langston Hughes

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Voice Crying in the Desert

Prepare ye the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
     Our brother, John the Baptist, brings us news of the one who will come to set the world ablaze with the fire the Holy Spirit.  His voice echoes in the desert of our hearts during this Advent season.  A whole year has passed, and during its course our hearts (or my heart anyway) have been weighed down by a year's worth of frustrated plans, incessant worry, and exhausting heartache.  Today's readings bring hope that the light of Christ can come into even the darkest places of our hearts.  Advent is the perfect time of year to examine where our lives have brought us in the past 12 months, what we have learned, what we have gained, and what needs to be left behind.  John the Baptist invites us to prepare the way in our hearts for Jesus to enter in.  We get the next few weeks to clear out everything that will keep the light of God from entering into (and from shining out from within) our hearts.  For me, Advent is all about finding the dark places where God wants to shine His light and waiting with a joyful hope for the Holy Spirit to breathe fire back into my life and make new those things that have been worn out in the past year. 
On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:
a spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
a spirit of counsel and of strength,
a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
                                                                          Isaiah 11:1-2

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Poetry All Up In Here

     I'm teaching a lesson tomorrow on poetry.  
     I'm starting with Tupac and Mos Def.  
     Then moving to Langston Hughes - 
I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"

They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed--

I, too, am America.