What’s the Point?

As a family we recently started watching the television series “The Walton’s.” I remember watching the series back in the days of three analog channels. The show takes place on a mountain in West Virginia during the depression. At the time, a person could buy a bull calf or a new drive shaft for $9.00. Radio was the only form of electronic entertainment and some houses didn’t even have telephones. Work was hard to find and those that could find it worked hard


So why the history lesson? I get nostalgic whenever I watch shows like this. Shows that put our humanity into perspective and the values of life, love, journeys, family, and relationships. I ask myself at times if, with all the technology we have at our fingertips, have we lost some of these values? Do we not need these values anymore? Are the old days and old ways no longer applicable?

On “The Walton’s” John Boy is the oldest son and he processes his thoughts by writing pen on paper much like I process by typing on my blog. He was more diligent than I have been the past few months. Yet, there is still something about taking pen and paper to process thoughts that resonates with the human psyche.

I have noticed a number of news articles lately stating that using computers for notes and discussion in class leads to less retention by students. I try constantly to get my students to understand that by taking physical notes they will have better comprehension and retain information longer. Jesus taught by using parables and through example. He constantly challenged the conventional wisdom of the day. See, parables were intended to get people to stop and think. Isn’t that the point of a high school theology course?

Aha! We need to stop and think, we need to discuss Church teachings, we need to explore the values of life, love, journeys, family, and relationships. This must be face to face not device to device. If I didn’t sit with my students and process what they read in their textbooks, then good questions and relationships would not develop. If I didn’t introduce my students to the four types of love as put forth by C.S. Lewis, How could we have a discussion about family, love, and relationships?

Catholic theology teachers also need to teach students how to look references up in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, and various papal encyclicals. They also need help knowing how to find the answer to the various questions that invariably come up in a teenagers life. Of course, getting them comfortable with asking their parish priest for guidance should be practiced also. How do they get to practice this if they either don’t go to mass or if they don’t have some sort of relationship with their parish priest? I have made it a priority to invite priests and other religious into my theology class so that my students can become comfortable in knowing these people at a personal level.

Nothing has really changed from the times of the Walton’s. The things around us might change, our modes of entertainment might change, but humanity has not really changed since our beginning. Values matter, relationships matter, love matters teaching our students with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and a Christ like spirit of charity is necessary in every generation.

Good night John Boy!




Preparing for Christmas 

Being a husband, a father of four school aged children, and a theology teacher to 70+ students can be challenging in the best of times. At a time like Advent it could downright drive one to drink. Christmas music has been playing for weeks, Black Friday has come and gone, Cyber Monday is upon us, and many a tree has been trimmed.

Society, school, and the media are telling us to buy things, to not forget that someone special, and that we’ll be happy if we get more things. Oh, and go ahead and spoil yourself while you’re at it. In listening to my parish priest’s homily this morning, I was reminded that Advent is a time for reflection/prayer, for looking forward to the coming of Christ not only in the celebration of Christmas but at the end of life, and for detaching from the rush of life.

As Catholics and Christians we are called to be counter cultural and there is no better time to do that then during Advent. We are asked to live and work in the world but not be of the world. How can we possibly live this out during this busy time of year? It takes some planning, dedication, and strength.

I will be sharing my personal plan with my ninth grade theology students and my grade 7/8 religion kiddos (see plan below). I will ask my students to begin some sort of Bible reflection (daily Bible reading, Advent reading, or even readings from an Advent calendar). Once you have found your source, set up your plan.

The keys to doing this are simple. 1. find 15 minutes each day for just this activity. If that means waking fifteen minutes earlier in the morning, then just do it. Set up what you will need for the morning the night before. 2. Find a place that is comfortable. 3. Find a holy object to hold onto or to look at that is calming. 4. Play Advent music in the background (this works best if it is just instrumental).

Whatever you do, put Christ in the center and reflect on what he has done for you and make a plan to be for him and with him at the end of time.