Monday, February 26, 2007

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Training the mind and the will

I teach science at a Catholic school. Our motto is "Faith, Knowledge, Virtue". A common phenomena to all teachers is the student who is very bright. He understands the material quickly and can perform well on tests. However, he constantly neglects homework assignments. As a result, he earns a grade of perhaps a C or even a D when he could easily make an A with simple effort. Many of us say, "He COULD earn an A, but he just doesn't try."

I've come to realize that he really CAN'T get a better grade on his own. Just like another student who really exerts himself but struggles to understand the material really CAN'T get a better grade on his own. BOTH require significant effort on their part and significant guidance on the part of teachers and parents.

The reason is that a person has two spiritual faculties of his soul: the intellect and the will. By his reason, [the human person] is capable of understanding the order of things established by the Creator. By free will, he is capable of directing himself toward his true good. (CCC 1704) A student who really works hard and scraps it out all quarter to earn a C+ is struggling particularly with a fallen intellect. I often recognize this struggle in students and council extra effort and practice for them to achieve a better grasp of a given concept. Another student who immediately understands a topic but fails to do his homework is struggling particularly with a fallen will. But, I have a default attitude of "Just get it done!" with this second student.

I'm realizing more and more that the second student needs to exert additional effort and practice (along with external structure and monitoring) just as much as the first. The will must be trained just as hard as the intellect. There is no switch to flip from "slacker" to "on the ball". Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. ... The moral virtues are acquired by human effort. They are the fruit and seed of morally good acts. ... Human virtues acquired by education, by deliberate acts and by a perseverance ever-renewed in repeated efforts are purified and elevated by divine grace. With God's help, they forge character and give facility in the practice of the good. (CCC 1804, 1810, emphasis added)

I'm starting to get the "Faith, Knowledge, VIRTUE" thing a little better. Now, how do I teach it?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Praying the morning psalms

I've completed the links for Lauds (Morning Prayer). You can find them here.

Now I have to actually read all of them! :)

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Praying the psalms

Over the course of this school year, I've been acquainting myself with the psalms as prayed in the Liturgy of the Hours. I struggle with consistency in my prayer life and I find that the LH provides a necessary resource for praying each day, particularly Evening Prayer after the boys are asleep. (As my good wife remarked while paging through the prayer book, "It's just like a choose your own adventure book!") The nice thing about it is that the whole Church is invited to enter into this prayer together. So if the circumstances of life tie me up for a day and I miss praying, I know that the LH goes on around the globe and I can re-enter that channel of grace.

Christ has taught us the necessity of praying at all times without losing heart (Luke 18:1). The Church has been faithful in obeying this instruction; it never ceases to offer prayer, and makes this exhortation its own: ‘Through him (Jesus) let us offer to God an unceasing sacrifice of praise’ (Hebrews 15:15). The Church satisfies this requirement not only by the celebration of the Eucharist but in other ways also, especially through the Liturgy of the Hours, which is distinguished from other liturgical actions by the fact that it consecrates to God the whole cycle of day and night, as it has done from early Christian times.
(General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours, 10)

I've admitted to myself that I'm a beginner in prayer (no heights of contemplation yet). So I'm working on the basics: regular vocal prayer. Father Thomas Dubay especially recommends the Liturgy of the Hours for this purpose in his book Prayer Primer. The LH also offers many gems for mediation from the scriptures which I find helpful in learning that next highest form of prayer. However, I've never studied the psalms before and needed some help understanding them.

Pope John Paul II began a series of catechesis on the psalms from Morning and Evening Prayer in 2001. After his death, Pope Benedict XVI completed the series, ending in 2006. All of the pope's audiences can be found online (great!), but only sorted by date, not topic (not great). While there is a book which compiles some of the talks, I searched in vain for an online compilation of the entire catechesis.

So, I did it myself. Here are the links to all the audiences during which the Holy Father (John Paul and Benedict) taught through the psalms for Evening Prayer. I'm working on Morning Prayer next. I hope you find it useful. Please let me know of any problems with the links.

God bless!

Vespers Psalms catechesis by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI

The Liturgy of the Hours online at Universalis.com

*****EDITTED 2/21/2007*****
The links for Lauds (Morning Prayer) are now finished. God bless!