Archive for the ‘1’ Category

Assist those in Haiti

The best place for a complete update on the issue is the Anchoress.

I donated to Catholic Relief Services.  Will you?

Ven. Pierre Toussaint, pray for us!


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I was just reflecting on the lessons I have learned on foreign language pedagogy as I headed back from Des Moines today.

One of the things I was thinking about is how stories stick. I read that in Tools for Teaching, by Fred Jones – he suggested that when you are lecturing, make sure to tell stories with detail and imagery because those two things help us create more dynamic memories. I’m sure you’ve also heard of those memory tricks where you create an image – let’s say, a house – and create other things in that house to help remind you of certain things you want to remember. I’ve heard that certain cultures really rely on this type of memory device.

So, I was bemoaning the fact that I didn’t have a resource to introduce Spanish vocabulary in the context of a story. Wouldn’t it be great if there were some lively stories with Spanish vocabulary that were easily understandable? My sister uses a vocabulary series called VocabuLit – vocabulary, in this way, is learned in context with passages and short stories.

Our next chapter in Spanish II is celebrations – birthdays, weddings, parties, etc. As I was unpacking today, I glanced in my black plastic file holder and the yellow book caught my eye – El cumpleaños de Arturo – Arthur’s Birthday. It’s a book a purchased two years ago but never found a good chance to use. When I picked it up and glanced through, I realized it happened to use some of the vocabulary from our new unit, matched the theme perfectly, and used the past tense which my students wouldn’t have been able to understand until this year.

Now the challenge is to use this book in a way that’s actually helpful. We’ll see what happens!

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Slumdog Millionaire

I’m sure there are, well, a million posts on this movie, but, having seen it last night, I wanted to add my thoughts to the picture.

I think the best thing about this film was its ability to energetically portray life in the slums of India.  The vibrant yellows and reds, the contemporary and traditional Indian music, and the variety of camera effects made the movie an intriguing collage of cinema.  The movie made me want to travel to India and speak the Indian language.  It made me want to explore the issues of poverty that the movie explores.

The story line called to mind two experiences from my own past.  The first is a book, The View from Saturday, by E.L. Konigsburg.  In the book, four students when an academic competition because they happen to be asked questions that can be answered from their unique life experiences.  This is the premise of Millionaire, that a young boy from the slums, a “slumdog,” can answer his questions based on his vast life experience.

The movie also reminded me of an experience I had while living in Rome in 2005.  While there, I had the chance to visit one of the priories of the Missionaries of Charity priests (Mother Theresa’s order).  I visited for prayer, dinner, and then, it just so happened, a visit to the gypsy (or “Roma” as they are properly referred to today) camp nearby.  It was an old, abandoned building that housed a hundred or so shanties where the gypsy people live.  Gypsies are the people you find most often begging on the streets of Rome.  The movie reminded me of the Gypsies because a large part of the boy’s experience was his enslavement to an organized ring of beggars and the gruesome experiences that entailed.  The Gypsy camp that I experienced was not gruesome, it was actually surprisingly lively (we had gone over there to show the Passion, I think, for the Romanian Orthodox celebration of Lent).

The movie is rated R and, for that reason, should be approached with some caution.  The movie has some violent and gruesome scenes that even some adults would find troubling, especially those who are sensitive to violence toward children (which would be most adults, I would think, but I’m sure there are some who are more so than others).  There are other adult themes but, ultimately, values and actions that are in line with Catholic teachings seem to prevail.

If you saw it, what did you think?  If you read The View from Saturday or are familiar with the gypsy people, I’d also like your input.

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Prayers for a Favorite Blogger

…and well-known Catholic, Amy Welborn.  Her husband died today, very suddenly.  May his soul rest in peace.

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One Nation Under Blackberry

I just wanted to pass this opinion piece which critique’s Obama’s decision to keep a Blackberry during his years in office.  It is an interesting commentary on the Web 2.0 Culture.

(It is better listened to than simply read)

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Today I drove with two teachers from my high school and one other from Memphis to see Imacculée Ilibagiza speak at St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in McComb, MS.  The parish was marking their fourteenth year of Eucharistic Adoration with an inspiration presentation from this survivor of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.

Before Mass, Imaculée spoke and sang the Magnificat in, what I imagine to be, a Rwandan language.  She said that the Eucharist is a powerful medicine that can heal our bodies and our souls and that we should come to it as frequently as possible.

Mass was beautiful, if simple, and was celebrated by a very vibrant parish community.  You could tell that the parish was very faithful and seemed energized by something – perhaps the Eucharistic adoration.

After Mass, we watched a short video clip from the larger DVD, “The Diary of Imacculée,” which recounts the history of the genocide and Imacculée’s return to Rwanda to forgive those who murdered her parents, two brothers, and numerous other family members and friends.  The video also gave us a brief overview of Imacculée’s 91-day stay in a tiny restroom with seven other women while they waited out the genocide.

It was there that Imacculée says her heart was more fully converted to the Lord.  At this point, Imacculée herself picked up the story, filling in details here and there but all the while focusing on her relationship with God which was sustained by the prayers she said on a red and white rosary her father gave her just before she ran away into hiding.

Imacculée herself seemed a gentle soul.  Although she wore a bright yellow garment with glittering gold stripes, she clutched at her heart at more intense points in her story.  Her facial expression was always somewhere between a smile and a tear, but she consistently made subtle jokes that lightened the mood.  For example, she told as story about how at one point, as she was praying the rosary in the bathroom, she decided to cut part of Our Father out because she could not say it authentically – it was impossible for her to pray the words “…as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  She smiles shyly and said, “but I heard in my heart, “Imacculée, the Our Father is not a man-made prayer!”  She later resolved to say the Our Father in its entirety, adding to her prayer the hope that God could make her understand the words he had given the disciples.

Imacculée reminded me of St. Therese of Lisieux, in some ways.  Although Imacculée is not herself a religious sister (she is married with two children), there was something very gentle, sensitive, and pure about her.  At the same time, just as St. Therese was, there was a quiet inner strength that showed through as she spoke and certainly showed through in her persistence not only during the genocide but throughout the rest of her life.  While she was hiding in the bathroom early on in the first three months and members of the Huto army came to look for those in hiding, she was tempted to bring on what seemed like the inevitable by simply giving up and opening the bathroom door.  Through prayer, she maintained her hope.  Later, she persued a job at the U.N. when she walked there every day to obtain a job until she finally got one.

Imacculée said that there is always hope.  She encouraged the sacraments as remedies to all our ills.  She says she knew she could have gone crazy with revenge after what she experienced, but her faith in the Lord saved her.

I encourage you to read her book Left to Tell. Although I have not yet read it, having met the author, I am guessing it would be a very powerful book.

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My Cup Runneth Over

Although it made for a crazy evening, I’m actually sort of glad that they didn’t change the oil correctly.  As I was on my way to Target to pick up a gift for a friend, I smelled a strong chemical smell and saw smoke emanating from my car.  I got out at the Target parket lot and realized that the smell was undeniably coming from my car.  Fortunately, another teacher was able to pick me up, though the night was not the usual grading and sitting around at home.

That’s why I’m actually sort of glad for the bit of excitement.  Sure, I didn’t get quite as much work done, but it allowed me to get out of the house a bit and switch up my routine.  However, it wasn’t just that my routine was switched up, because usually my routine holds me in.  Rather, it was that I had something new to focus on: my car.

There are only two more days of my third semester as a teacher.  As I look back on them, can I say that in addition to my oil overflowing out of the filter, graces and blessings have overflowed out of my experience as a teacher?  Yes, I think I can.  They are not, however, the graces and blessing that I expected.  They are much rawer, much grittier, much more stern blessings than I had ever imagined.  Again, I imagine I will be unpacking them for quite some time.

The 10th grade Scripture teacher says God is forging a soul in this experience.  Forging hurts.

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