Life Lessons from Ion

Morning Prayer
Ms. McGregor
Assistant Dean of Students and Mom of Ion, Marist’s service dog in training

373 days ago, I picked up an 11 pound puppy at the Atlanta airport. He was soft and snuggly and very, very hungry. Not much has changed in that regard. This morning, I’d like to share with you a few lessons about life and faith that Ion has taught me over the course of our year together.

Greet everyone with enthusiasm. Let me always strive to be the person my dog thinks I am, even if that level of awesomeness is completely unattainable. Amazingly, God’s love for each and every one of us is even greater than the love a dog has for his people.

Get plenty of rest. Remember to get a good night’s sleep and take time to rest during the day.

Play is good. So is fresh air, lots of water, and long walks. I am blessed by Ion’s persistence to drag me off the couch and outside for regular exercise, because he deserves it and I could use it myself. May God grant him the drive to chase a ball when it’s thrown instead of watching it bounce away and looking at me to fetch it. But don’t forget to stretch when you get up.

Enjoy the journey. Every time we get in the car, Ion nudges my shoulder to roll the windows down. He loves to stick his head out the window, smell the fresh air, and feel the wind in his face. May God grant us the awareness to enjoy the moment. The Gospel of Matthew reminds us: Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. So, enjoy the the journey of today.

When someone is having a bad day, be silent and listen, sit close by, and nuzzle them gently.

Have hope. Ion has never received a scrap of food from the table, but that doesn’t stop him from staring at me while I’m eating. Ion has hope in receiving treats that should mirror our own hope for eternal happiness and union with God.

Be quick to forgive. Ion never holds a grudge even if I step on his tail when he stands under my feet in the kitchen, limit the number of treats he gets, or make him wear a holiday costume for a few quick photos. May we forgive others as quickly as our dogs forgive us.

Can you imagine what a better place the world would be if we treated everyone with the same love, kindness, and joy that we share with Ion each day?

Let us pray:
Dear God, I give you thanks for creating all of the peoples;
Two legged, four legged, winged and finned.
May I learn the great lessons from each of these…
From the Cat, let me learn healing, clarity, and keen vision.
From the Bird, let me learn how to let my spirit soar.
From the Fish, let me learn tenacity and to overcome obstacles.
From the Horse, let me learn strength and freedom.
And from the Dog, let me learn faithfulness, courage,
and unconditional love.
May I walk, swim and fly in harmony and balance with all of these.

In your infinite wisdom, Lord God, when you created the universe you blessed us with all living creatures. We especially thank you for giving us pets who are our friends and who bring us so much joy in life. Their presence very often helps us get through trying times. Kindly bless Ion and all our pets. May they continue giving us joy and remind us of your power.

May we realize that as our pets trust us to take care of them, so we should trust you, God, to take care of us, and in taking care of them we share in Your love for all Your creatures. Enlighten our minds to preserve all endangered species so that we may continue to appreciate all Your creation. Grant this to Christ our Lord, Amen.

Faith, Fellowship and Food

September 4, 2019
Weekly Breakfast Club Mass, Student Reflection
Matthew ’20

This past summer I went on a run from my house late in the afternoon. When I turned onto Ashford Dunwoody from Mount Vernon Road, I looked to my right and saw the purple and orange sky along with the setting sun. The lofty clouds hovered around the buildings with a pink tint. It was one of those perfect moments that we just capture every once in a while.

I’m a bit of a transcendentalist. More than anywhere else, I can see God in the world around me. From any cloud that gets hit by the sun in just the right way, or in the slight movement of the branches on massive trees because of just a slight wind. But more than anything, I love the sublime. Stars in the night sky wherever the light pollution is not too bad or the vast extent of the Appalachian Mountains. It never fails to stir up something in me that tells me that there is something greater out there. And I am not the only one who can see the obvious connetion between our environment and God. In 2015, Pope Francis addressed his concerns for our lack of respect for the Earth God gave us in his encyclical Laudato Si’. He calls to action everyone to make small changes in our lives that would have a big effect on the health of our environment.

This is all an introduction to the start of The Season of Creation. It is a month-long period where we get a chance to participate and learn about God’s creation. As it says in the first reading today, “Just as in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing, so also among you.” We are called to grow. Grow in knowledge and wisdom. All month, Marist has planned events in preparation for The Season of Creation. All of which are aimed to teach and help push the theme of Love for God’s creation. I genuinely would love to see everyone take part in making the extra effort this season.

And for the next time you spot a colorful sky or a nice tree, I hope you can see a small bit of God there, too.

Dream Small

Morning Prayer:
September 19, 2018
Prayer by Ms. Pamela Kinzly, Mathematics Department

God speaks to me through music, through family and friends.  I’ve often had moments where I’m stressed and I hear a song lyric that reassures me.  Other times, a person will say just the right thing at the right time to help me through a difficult time.

Recently while listening to the radio a song came on and told me to “dream small”.  What a strange phrase!  We are Marist.  We dream big, we strive for a 5 in our AP classes, we start thinking about the state championship before the season starts, we apply to prestigious colleges, and we excel in all we do…doesn’t God want us to have big dreams?

Yes, God urges us to do our best in everything, but Jesus also said we should be humble like a little child.  We should not be so focused on our big important dreams that we lose sight of all the amazing gifts that today, just an ordinary day, can offer.  The song continued to sing about little moments like visiting a neighbor down the street, or dancing with a friend with special needs both of which can be a small moment in your life, but it can have far reaching, wonderful consequences.  On second thought, maybe dream small isn’t so crazy.  I think it means slow down and take time to listen, to learn, and to notice.

St. Therese of Liseux knew this lesson.  She is known for her “little way” which describes her approach to life. Her daily attitude was to be kind to those she met and she made a point to avoid complaining.  These little actions made such an impression on others that we call her a saint today.  Dream small.

Another St. Teresa known as Mother Teresa was called to a life of little moments of compassion for the poor in India.  She described dream small when she said,  Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

I think that’s the point of the song.  We have the opportunity to do something kind for the people we meet and it can change their world.  I know this is true from my personal experience.  When I first came to Marist, one of the things I noticed in the first week or two was the kindness of my students.  A friend asked me about Marist and I said (with a little bit of awe and wonder), “I have had a student say thank you every single day.”  I can say even years later that those two simple words still have a profound impact on me here at school.  When I’ve worked really hard to prepare for that class and a student says thank you, it is meaningful and they probably don’t even realize how much I appreciate their gratitude.

I’d like you to take the next few seconds and think of some small way that you can make an impact on your community.

Even if you think of something as small as holding a door open for someone, it counts.   Think about another quote from Mother Teresa:

We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.

Trust that God can do a lot with our little bit of effort.  If we join our actions with love, Jesus can do again what he did with the couple of loaves and fish produce a miracle.  We can dream small and trust God to make it big.

Let us pray:

Dear God, We offer you all that we do today.  Every moment, every heartbeat, all of our thoughts and our simplest works.  Thank you for loving us.  Help us use the gifts we have received from you to love others in our community in small ways, today and every day.  Magnify our efforts so that they will become perfect through your love.

Amen. Mary, Seat of Wisdom, pray for us.

a Short Prayer of Thanks…

Morning Prayer:
May 9, 2018
Prayer by senior Diarra Oden ’18

In middle school, once social media became popular, every morning the first thing I would do is check my phone for new notifications, scroll through my feeds, and reply to any unattended to Snapchats. Not only was this method of waking up distracting to the process of getting ready, but it also caused me to become immersed in the lives of others before taking the time to thank God for my own.

I’m sure almost everyone has this tendency, so trying something new may seem silly or be difficult, but beneficial in the long run. Now, every morning, I wake up, read a Bible verse over and over until I feel awake, and then I send a short prayer of thanks to God. We all have hectic lives, especially with finals quickly approaching but it’s important to appreciate your life as much as you can because it’s created just for you.

Let us pray:

From Proverbs 16:9 “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”

Dear Lord, thank you for waking us up this morning. I pray we have a safe and wonderful day, Amen.

Mary Seat of Wisdom, Pray for us.

an Experience of “the Journey”

Morning Prayer:
February 16, 2018
Prayer by Sara Jane ’21

Last Tuesday a group of students and I went to Clarkston, GA to tutor and learn more about refugees.

While I was there, one of the most frequently asked questions to me was “how many more minutes do I have?” What they meant is how much longer are you going to spend with them. Each time I would try to avoid the answer because it made me feel guilty, but inevitably I gave them the truth. I had 30 more minutes, and I think I wanted to stay just as much as they wanted us too. The child I was with was named Shemi and he would always try and bargain with me for more time. “1000 more minutes,” he kept on saying. The thing is they wanted us there, and that is a luxury that the refugees do not have. Only 63% of people in the United States are willing to have refugees come into our country. That means that 37% of people do not want to give refugees a chance at a better life. I found that they were 100% welcoming to us, and we as a country need to have a more welcoming mindset and give them a better chance to survive and rebuild their lives. Let’s share the journey with immigrants and refugees.

Dear Lord,

Please give us empathy to better understand the plight of the refugees. May we have an open mind to learn more about these individuals and a mouth that says only kind words to them. May we have hearts that show love and what it means to be part of a community to refugees. May we have open ears that hear their calls for help, and helping hands that want to respond. But most of all, may we open our arms to welcome them into our country and communities.

Amen,

Mary Seat of Wisdom Pray for us.

“Share the Journey” this Lenten Season

Morning Prayer:
February 14, 2018
Prayer by Christian ’21

Pope Francis encourages us, “Not just to see but to look. Not just to hear but to listen. Not just to meet and pass by, but to stop. And don’t just say ‘what a shame, poor people,’ but allow ourselves to be moved by pity.”

Last September, Pope Francis launched the “Share the Journey” campaign as a call to respond to the crisis of refugees and migrants worldwide and for Christians to share the journey of young refugees. Many refugees our age spend over ten years in a refugee camp.

Many of you likely remember the simulation of the refugee camp that was set up in the arcade last October. It was a display from Catholic Charities of Atlanta to help raise awareness about the plight of refugees.

As we begin the forty days of Lent today with Ash Wednesday, all of you likely noticed that today is also Valentine’s Day. The first Lenten activity will be an opportunity to send a Valentine’s Card to your representatives in Congress asking for laws that treat migrants with respect, dignity, and justice as God’s children.  Stop by the tables in the arcade during lunch this week to ask our representatives to “Love Your Neighbor.”

And now, if you’re comfortable, I’d like to ask you to reach out and hold hands with your neighbors as we pray. Let’s share the love!

Let us pray together a prayer from Pope Francis.

Heavenly Father,

You are the source of all goodness, generosity, and love. We thank you for opening the hearts of many to those who are fleeing for their lives. Help us now to open our arms in welcome and reach out our hands in support. That the desperate may find new hope, and lives torn apart be restored. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, Your Son, Our Lord, who fled persecution at His birth and at His last triumphed over death.

Amen.

Mary, Seat of Wisdom (Pray for Us)

Compassion as a byproduct of Fasting

Morning Prayer:
February 12, 2018
Prayer by Fr. Rowland, S.M., President

Lent begins this Ash Wednesday. To help get ourselves in the proper frame of mind, I want to quote Rabbi Allen S. Maller, the rabbi emeritus of Temple Akiba in Culver City, CA. He makes the following observation about fasting. “All animals eat, but only humans choose not to eat some foods that are both nutritious and tasty…During Lent, Catholics abstain from meat on Fridays and fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. As a general prohibition all year long, Hindus do not eat beef; Jews and Muslims do not eat pork. And on Yon Kippur – the Day of Atonement – Jews do not eat or drink at all for 24 hours. Every year for the entire month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from first light until sundown, abstaining from food, drink and marital relations…What do the religious practices of abstinence and fasting teach us? What spiritual benefits occur when we fast?”[1]

Rabbi Maller answers the question by observing that “Fasting produces many different outcomes. Most importantly; fasting teaches compassion. It is easy to talk about the world’s problem of hunger and to feel sorry that millions of people go to bed hungry each day. But not until one feels hunger in one’s own body is there real impact: empathy is much stronger than pity. Fasting has moral value if compassion toward others has been extended in the process. As the prophet Isaiah wrote, ‘The kind of fasting I want is this: remove the chains of oppression and the yoke of injustice, and let the oppressed go free. Share your food with the hungry and open your homes to the homeless poor’ ” (Is 58: 6-7).[2]

During each week of Lent this year at Marist, we will focus on a specific theme that will stress our solidarity with the poorest of the poor: refugees and migrants. They have no country to call home and no such basic things such as food, water, clothing, shelter and few advocates among those in power who feel their anguish and are moved to relieve their suffering. If you and I are not moved to act; then, who will?

Let us pray,

God of all compassion and Father of all goodness: to heal the wounds our sins and selfishness bring upon us you bid us turn to fasting, prayer and sharing with our brothers and sisters. We acknowledge our sinfulness, our guilt is ever before us; when our weakness causes discouragement, let your compassion fill us with hope and lead us through a Lent of repentance to the beauty of Easter joy.[3]

Amen.

 

[1] Maller, Rabbi Allen S., “Feed Your Spirit,” America Magazine, February 15, 2010, page 16.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Opening Prayer: Third Sunday of Lent.

The Heart of a Champion

Morning Prayer:
December 18, 2017
Prayer by Fr. Rowland, S.M., Acting President

I want to begin this morning by acknowledging the disappointment we all feel as a result of Friday’s football game, but that is felt more keenly by the team and coaches. I would like to speak to them directly.

I consider myself somewhat of an expert at dealing with defeat given that my woeful Cleveland Browns lost their fourteenth game on Sunday. It is the youngest team in the NFL, and after each loss, you will hear one of the players talk about how hard it is just to win one game. If they ever do, they will celebrate it as if they had won a championship. True, it is only one victory, but it will be the one victory that, in their eyes, will make them champions at least for one game. And they can live with that.

I know you would prefer to have won the championship trophy, but that was not to be. But you have won our respect, admiration, and gratitude for the many thrills and wonderful memories you provided us under those Friday night lights. You can stand with your heads held high when you take your place in the Long Blue Line. You should know that in the lore that is Marist football, this team will be remembered as one of our finest. We who watched and cheered for you know that a champion is not only determined by the record but also by guts and grit that make up the heart of any champion. You had that in abundance together with fourteen victories. In our eyes, you are champions. I hope you can live with that.

I want to thank our students and fans for the many gestures of welcome and hospitality they extended to the fans from Blessed Trinity and for the many expressions of congratulations extended to them for having won their first state championship. On Friday night, Blessed Trinity was the better team. There is no shame in saying that. Sometimes, all we can do is tip our caps or, in this case, our helmets in the direction of our opponents and give them the credit that is due them. In doing this, we are practicing the Marist value of humility.

And now, we turn our attention to preparing for the coming of Christ, the Prince of Peace, at Christmas. May his peace reign in our hearts so that we can be at peace with whatever is not to be and with whatever is, trusting that both are part of a grander plan in which we are privileged to have a role – however small and insignificant it may appear to be. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Mary, seat of Wisdom. Pray for us.

The Family Advisory Created

Morning Prayer:
December 14, 2017
Prayer by Ashley ’18

On the first day of high school, I hated my homeroom. I walked into the band room to discover none of my close friends were in sight. The room was pretty quiet and awkward that first day. On top of my disappointment, I had no idea what to think of my homeroom teacher, known for his loud voice and crazy shoes. Persistently holding onto my negative first impression, I anticipated dreading 8:15 every morning for the next four years of my life.

However, over time, my homeroom started to warm up to each other. Conversation buzzed over ninth grade homecoming and how hard biology was. Additionally, we slowly got to know our homeroom teacher: he revealed that he spoke a ton of languages, had lived in all these cool European countries, and was a lot wiser and more interesting than we thought at first. He even told us the meaning behind his wacky ties that featured famous paintings and music notes: he showed us it’s always cool to just be yourself.

Flash forward to schola brevis this year, as seniors. My whole advisory rushed into C250 to take a group picture of the family advisory time had created. This closeness was mostly due to the trust we had built over the years. I now know I can confidently tell my homeroom anything and the secret would stay between us. They share in my triumphs, my defeats, and my anguish over uniform detentions. I am very grateful for Mr. Craddock’s  advisory and everyone in it for being one of my favorite parts of high school.

Now, I’m not just telling you this story to encourage you to get to know the people in your homerooms, although you definitely should. Instead, I want to remind you that sometimes God doesn’t always give us what we want, but he gives us what we need. My advisory was what I needed to grow into who I am- I just didn’t always know it.

Let us pray:

Dear God,

Help us to remember to keep an open mind today and everyday.

Amen.

Mary, seat of wisdom, pray for us.

The Drama Surrounding St. Nicholas

Morning Prayer:
December 6, 2017
Prayer by Mrs. Erin Paul ’92, Theology Department

Today is the Feast of St. Nicholas!  Happy Day! For those of you who have studied Church History with me, you know I like a good drama.  Church History is full of it!  And St. Nicholas doesn’t disappoint!

We all might have heard of the good things St. Nicholas did during his lifetime…

His story goes a bit like this…

His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.

I lost you somewhere around, “he dedicated his life…blah blah blah.” Right?

So here’s the real scoop, that makes me want to hang out with St. Nicholas in heaven.  Before he was a saint, he was a bishop – bishop of Myra in Turkey.

Constantine you may recall called a little council together to solve some issues in the Church.  Over 300 bishops convened in a city called Nicea to talk it out.  A gentleman named Arius, was talking about Jesus not being fully divine.  Wait what???  Yep.  He was, how should we say today? Arius was roasting my friend Jesus!

NOOOO you say.  Mmmhmm.

So, the bishops, being polite and holy, let Arius talk.  And talk, and talk.  Until Nicholas just couldn’t take it anymore.  The story goes, that Nicholas got up, walked across the room and slapped Arius across the face.  Seriously.  No one knew what to do.  Bishops don’t hit people.  Nicholas was thrown in jail – and stripped of his title.  Oh no you say – not his title!  Yes, his title. Whoa.

So now, regular guy Nicholas is in jail, kinda bummed he let his anger get the better of him, when who should appear? But Mary and Jesus – and no reindeer.  Sorry, that was a stretch…

Ok, really.  Mary and Jesus appear in a vision to Nicholas in prison. They dress him in his bishop clothes, and give him some scripture to read, while he’s in a timeout.  Well.  When the other bishops came the next morning – they were shocked to see him dressed and reading.   He apologized and so happy ending – he got his title back!  Whew, thank goodness!

So what does this have to do with St. Nicholas Day? We all think of St. Nicholas as Santa Claus – that jolly guy who helps people, gives gifts to children, and reminds us that there is good in the world.

But Nicholas was a person.  A person who could be frustrated.  I’ve found myself frustrated a lot recently.  There have been plenty of occasions that I have wanted to walk across a room, or into my TV, and slap someone.  St. Nicholas reminds me that I’m human.  But the greatest part of the story is the character with few lines.  My friend Jesus.  He makes a small appearance, reminds me that even when I’ve been a bit out of control, I should sit down and maybe read some scripture.  Probably say “I’m sorry.”

Let us pray,

Heavenly Father, we await your birth during this Advent. May our focus be on you and your kingdom.  But if we become distracted along the way and maybe slap someone, thank you for the gift of St. Nicholas who reminds us to sit down, read Scripture and maybe say I’m sorry.  Because our focus should be on you, whom we should love above all things. Amen.  Mary, Seat of Wisdom.  Pray for us.