Annual Letter to the Seniors

May 9, 2019

The following is my annual letter to the senior class, sent to them on Tuesday. My hope is to have the seniors reflect upon this special time in their lives…to take it all in and cherish it.

Dear Class of 2019,

You are entering a special time of your lives, preparing to transition from the high school scene to a time of much more independence.

I hope you won’t get so caught up in what’s next that you fail to appreciate what you have now and acknowledge the love others have for you.

I tried to share that sentiment with you on your senior retreat. Here are some thoughts I like to share with seniors around this time each year, beginning with the time leading up to your departure for college: Continue reading

Value of Catholic Education

January 31, 2019

It is Catholic Schools Week and I was asked to re-post a parent letter from the past, in which I reflect on the value of a Catholic education:

Allow me to share some thoughts on the value of a Catholic education. With free public education nearby, there may be some who are taking a hard look at the cost of educating their child(ren) at Bishop Chatard High School. My hope is that consideration is given to value rather than cost alone. Continue reading

Nachos, Pop-Up Books, Presents, and Presence

December 19, 2018

The following is my weekly letter to the Bishop Chatard parent community:

I post this gentle ‘reason for the season’ reminder each year. May you and your family enjoy your time together this holiday season, and may you feel the loving presence of Christ in your homes now and always.

Let me start by saying my kids love Christmas presents as much as any other kids — always have. But now that the four of them are older (ages 27 and up) and have families of their own, we take more opportunities to sit around during the holidays to reminisce. And when it comes to their Christmas memories, it is not about what presents they received. As a matter of fact, I don’t remember talk of presents ever coming up at all.

We talk about going to 6:00 p.m. Mass and then home to change into pajamas and enjoy our Christmas Eve nachos served with a glass bottle of Coke. We talk about our family sitting in a circle and each of us reading a Christmas book. We laugh about how our oldest son always chose a pop-up book and read the book with different voices for each of the characters. Continue reading

Three Advent Practices

November 29, 2018

The following is my weekly letter to the Bishop Chatard parent community:

While preparing to preach this weekend, I came across this article by Bishop Robert Barron, Three Advent Practices. I offer it here for your consideration:

What practically can we do during the season of waiting and vigil keeping? What are some practices that might incarnate for us the spirituality described here?

How about the classically Catholic discipline of eucharistic adoration? To spend a half-hour or an hour in the presence of the Lord is not to accomplish or achieve very much—it is not really “getting” anywhere—but it is a particularly rich form of spiritual waiting.

As you keep vigil before the Blessed Sacrament, bring to Christ some problem or dilemma that you have been fretting over, and then pray Lola’s prayer: “Ich warte, ich warte.” Say, “Lord, I’m waiting for you to solve this, to show me the way out, the way forward. I’ve been running, planning, worrying, but now I’m going to let you work.” Then, throughout Advent, watch attentively for signs.

Also, when you pray before the Eucharist, allow your desire for the things of God to intensify; allow your heart and soul to expand. Pray, “Lord, make me ready to receive the gifts you want to give,” or even, “Lord Jesus, surprise me.” Continue reading

Loved and Capable of Loving

November 8, 2018

The following is my weekly letter to the Bishop Chatard parent community:

I’ve had the privilege of being a part of a Christian Awakening Retreat for some of our senior students this week. I led an evening meditation on Tuesday, reflected on the beauty of the Mass prior to celebrating Mass, will give a talk on Sacramental Moments this afternoon, and will preach at tomorrow’s closing Mass. Throughout the course of the week, I offered a consistent message:

*God loves you.

This is a simple message, but an important one for teenagers. They get caught up in their lives and things get messy. They need to feel loved, because sometimes they don’t love themselves very much, and consider themselves unlovable to others. Continue reading

Tourist or Pilgrim?

October 18, 2018

The following is my weekly letter to the Bishop Chatard parent community:

I was inspired by the canonization of several individuals last Sunday. It was a sign of hope and encouragement in an age when both are lacking. These men and women, now saints, were ordinary people that accomplished extraordinary things. These ordinary people were sinners like us that stumbled and fell while on their journey, eventually finding solid footing and continuing their pursuit of goodness, truth, beauty, justice, and love. Continue reading

Our Kids are Watching

October 11, 2018

The following is my weekly letter to the Bishop Chatard parent community, but also an open letter to any adult attending high school athletic events:

This may not be the most popular letter I’ve ever written, but I feel a need to write it.

This is an open letter to all adult fans of high school athletic contests. It begins with a simple question: “Is it really necessary to have alcohol at pre-game tailgate parties at high school football games (or any other athletic event)?”

You may be able to guess my answer based on the biased wording of the question. Continue reading

Knowing God Has a Plan

October 4, 2018

The following is my weekly letter to the Bishop Chatard HS parent community:

On September 19, Bishop Chatard held its Annual Fund Dinner. Thank you to all who attended! The highlight for me were our two senior speakers, who spoke so eloquently about their school and their faith.

The following was the reflection offered by BCHS senior Claire Williams:

“Let the peace of Christ control your hearts.” Colossians 3:15

A simple phrase with a depth of meaning so profound and enlightening, we can never fully understand it.

But we can try.

The human heart in a figurative sense, meaning our emotions and passions, is not something that is traditionally “controlled”. Modern culture has promoted, and even praised, the idea of “following your heart” in a spontaneous and carefree way. And there’s some truth to that. Our hearts are not supposed to be refined or constricted. Our feelings should be free to flow naturally, and guided in a way that reveals our true identity as humans. Continue reading

Strategies Continued: Go to Mass!

September 27, 2018

The following is my weekly letter to the Bishop Chatard parent community:

The last two weeks I have shared the contents of the BCHS Parent Village presentation, Keeping Faith Alive at Home. Today I’ll wrap up with strategies #5-7.

Strategy #5: Participate in the life of your parish

Participating in the ministries and activities of your parish sends a great message to your kids – engaging in your faith community is important. Parishes are always looking for lectors, hospitality ministers, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, choir members, cantors, and more. When you do this, it is also much easier to encourage your children to participate as altar servers or other roles at Mass.

Read your parish bulletin. If your parish is anything like my parish, there is so much going on! You can’t do it all, but you can choose some activities in which you and your family could participate. Parish picnics, speakers on different topics, scripture studies, decorating committee, etc.

Encourage your child to engage in the youth group at your parish. Consider helping that group thrive in any way you can – it is the future of the Church! Continue reading

Strategies Continued

September 20, 2018

The following is my weekly letter to the Bishop Chatard HS parent community:

Last week I began sharing the contents of the BCHS Parent Village presentation, Keeping Faith Alive at Home. I shared a few common mistakes parents (myself included) make in forming our children in the faith. I then began listing some specific strategies. Offered as strategy #1 was Being a student of your own faith – we cannot effectively form our children in the faith if we are not comfortable doing so. Knowledge is power.

Today I will share strategies #2 through #4 and next week I’ll wrap up with #5-7.

Strategy #2: Display signs and symbols of your faith throughout your home

I remember going to my grandparents’ house when I was young. There was a crucifix or cross in every room and hallway. In my parents’ house, I can remember three strategically placed crucifixes – one in the bedroom hallway, where we would all see it as we emerged from our bedrooms; on the wall near our kitchen table where we gathered to share meals; and near the front door, clearly visible as we entered or exited our home. Visual imagery is powerful. How many crucifixes and crosses are in our homes?

While the crucifix certainly serves as the strongest symbol of our faith, it is not the only one. Consider having these other symbols included in your home: religious artwork such as paintings or sculptures, coffee table books or even a “faith library”, or other faith-based room décor. I shared an example of a baby’s room I’ve seen that featured a painted wall mural of Noah’s Ark – the animals two-by-two, the ark, the rainbow, the dove…the whole works. The infant won’t likely get the full effect of the mural, but what about the older siblings or visitors to the home?

Carol and I have a prayer “Intentions Board” hanging in our front entryway. It is a decorative framed chalk board on which we write prayer intentions for ourselves or others. Under it is a shelf with a small bowl with chalk. Visitors to our home are welcome to write their prayer intentions on the board as well, knowing those intentions will be added to the daily prayers of the Wagner family. Continue reading