Happy Advent, Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays!

This time of the year marks a very special time for Catholics as we prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ. Advent is a time of preparation of our whole selves for the celebration of the incarnation, the birth of Jesus the Christ. This is a special event as it reminds us that God chose to experience every bit of our fragile and joyous human experience in order to be as close to us as possible.  Often time, this season of the liturgical year gets over looked because most of our nation is already in full Christmas, elves, presents, and shopping mode. While this is all wonderful, advent teaches us that before we can celebrate, we must prepare. Broadly speaking, we are called to take a step back, simplify our lives, and focus on bringing wholeness of life to our families, communities, and to be sure we are taking care of ourselves. How do we do this? Below is a simple but effective approach adapted from how Jesus lived his life.

  1. Take time for prayer, even if only for a few minutes. Jesus is depicted as praying in the midst of his busy ministry in order to help him rest and rejuvenate. Prayer, some quiet reflection time, is a good way to care for yourself in order to care for others. Check out Sacred Space online. This cite is run by the Jesuits and guides you through short prayers you can do during your lunch break or when you have downtime at home.
  2. Acts of Shalom. This semester the senior class learned about the concept of Shalom, which Dr. Elizabeth A. Johnson equates to, “an absence of war and fullness of life.” This is, in essence, what the kingdom of God is. We are called to work towards bringing about the kingdom of God, to do acts that bring about peace and fullness of life. Find ways every day to bring goodness and peace to the lives of those around you. It can be as simple and smiling at a stranger, telling those loved ones how much they mean to you, forgoing that large almond milk vanilla latte and instead donating that money to a cause that brings life to others. It can also mean reaching out to those you’ve wronged and asking for forgiveness, forgiving others who have wronged you, praying for those who cut you off while on the 405/10/101/5/110 freeways, or taking part in the sacrament of reconciliation at your local parish.
  3. Get to know your community of faith. We all know that Church isn’t necessarily the most exciting part of our weekends, especially with brunch, football, and sleeping in as other options to Sunday mornings. That being said, being part of your community of faith is an important part of being Catholic. While praying alone is very much part of our tradition, being in community is just as important. We see Jesus pray, eat, and travel with his friends all throughout the Gospels. We are called to build a strong community of faith to help us grow as individuals and as a Church. Moreover, the incarnation itself shows us that God desires us to be in community with each other since God chose to be in communion with us through Jesus.

As we celebrate Advent/Christmas/that time of the year when all the parking lots are full, let us remember to prepare for the party by praying, doing acts of shalom, and spending some time with our communities of faith. By doing this, we are preparing for a celebration that calls us to be our best selves, which is a gift we can keep giving to baby Jesus all year round.

HERO

This year I was given the opportunity to become part of Verb’s Instructional Leadership Team with the role of Academic Lead for Student Support. With this came the task of re-organizing the HERO period. The HERO period is a time within the day in which student can receive time to do their homework, study and receive re-engagement in a course they are taking. HERO has become a resource to address student needs outside the classroom and has become a way in which students are receiving target academic support from their teacher at any given day. Efforts in student support are essential for our boys to master skills. Consistent re-engagement sessions help teachers track who needs extra support in a given unit. Teachers are doing this in the 9th and 10th grade classes and their efforts are coming to fruition.

The HERO space has become an important piece to ensuring students are receiving the support needed in order to pass their classes. Teachers, students and staff have all played a helping hand in supporting the HERO space.

The Silver Tongued Jesuit

Br. Frederico Gianelli has been assigned to Verbum Dei for the next several years.  Although he is trained in palliative care and serves as a campus minister, he also comes to Verbum Dei with a passion for landscaping and facility improvement that is amazing to see.  Like the Pied Piper of beautification, Br. Fred draws others into his magical transformation of the Verbum Dei campus with his charm and enthusiasm.

Br. Fred and Cristina Cuellar

Already, he has cleared out old vegetation and replaced it with bark dust that makes the campus look fresh and clean.  You will find new tress in three of the planters where old dead ones once stood.  He has also cut out overgrown areas of the 300 corridor where there used to be cactus and palm trees that looked like they were from Skull Island in a King Kong movie.  But what is most amazing is the fact that Br. Fred wants to put a statue of Saint Ignatius in front of the chapel.  To do it, he has persuaded a number of donors to help fund the creation of the statue, as well as move the old Eagle statue to a new location to make room for Saint Ignatius.

In order to move the old statue, Br. Fred needed a forklift.  Not one to let anything stand in his way, Br. Fred asked a local recycling center if he could “borrow” their forklift.  When he told them it was for Verbum Dei, they offered to share the lift for free because they said, “Verbum Dei makes such a wonderful difference in this community.”  We are truly grateful for the spark of inspiration that Br. Fred brings to Verbum Dei.