Monday, March 28, 2011

Dear Communion of Saints: Is it a work of mercy if the ignorant you instruct remain ignorant?

Dear Communion of Saints,
I am a teacher. I work sixty hours a week, create engaging and thoughtful lesson plans, and meet with students for tutoring whenever they wish. But many of them still don't "get it"--and of those, most do not want to. Is it still a spiritual work of mercy if the ignorant you instruct in the faith remain ignorant?

the shine is off the apple

St. John Baptiste de la Salle, patron saint of educators, answers:

My son, be at peace. Let us remember we are in the holy presence of God. And in all things, honor the will of God in your regard. These children deserve the gift of education, and with it, a chance at a better life: God wants them to survive and thrive, to flourish as human beings, and God gives them this gift through you! These children sit (or throw spitballs) before you for a reason--you are the giver of this particular gift from God. But you cannot make anyone receive a gift. Sometimes people don't even recognize the gift you offer. I turned away a position as rector of my diocese's Cathedral and gave away all my personal wealth in order to organize my friends and brothers to teach those considered unteachable in France; truth be told, it created a bit of a revolution in education. In 2011, that is seen as a gift--not only to those children, but to the Church. Wasn't looked at quite that way then (most thought I was a troublemaker and a first class fool). Ah, what a splendid opportunity for humility that was!

But more specifically, it is not only a mercy to instruct the ignorant, successfully or not--it is an opportunity! This is the divine beauty of teaching--it gives you the opportunity to practice all the spiritual works of mercy at once. Think of it--in one day, I taught class, counseled a student who wanted to give up because he wasn't worth squat, confronted a student cheating, was told I created an overly difficult test, forgave said student, consoled a student whose parent was ill, and prayed for all of them, the sick parent, and one other student who died this year. That's teaching the ignorant, counseling the doubtful, admonishing sinners, bearing wrongs patiently, forgiving offenses willingly, comforting the afflicted, and praying for the living and dead. What other vocation gives you this kind of opportunity? Every day?! Leading the United Nations looks spiritually shallow by comparison!

One of my dear friends up here, Blessed Mother Teresa, has a lovely meditation on failure. True, she didn't write it, but she lived it and prayed it. Perhaps you could as well:

People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have,
and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis,
it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

Live Jesus, in our hearts! Forever!


(Thanks to Paul at Alive and Young, who suggested the question.)

p.s. like this? Buy the book!


catechesisinthethirdmillennium said...

This is a great post. A great response to the question helping one see through St. John that living the Works of Mercy is real! Thanks!

Helen said...

I have been a catechist for many years. Thank you for this encouragement.

Tina said...

I got this weird thrill when I saw that St. John Baptiste de la Salle "answered" this question. He's the patron saint of my university, and seeing "Live Jesus in our hearts! Forever!" reminded me of those happy college days. :)

The Ironic Catholic said...

Tina--which school?

(I teach at a Lasallian University!)

Tina said...

IC - De La Salle University in Manila, Philippines :)

The Ironic Catholic said...

Fantastic, Tina!
(I'm at Saint Mary's University of Minnesota)
Live Jesus in our hearts!

Paul Cat said...