Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

November 10, 2006

The View From Here

Growing up in Southern California, I was never far from the ocean. As a teacher and youth minister at St. Monica Catholic Church and School in the early 80s, I felt used to think it a privilege to share the faith with teenagers just seven blocks from the beach. Taking a dreamy view I used to imagine myself from my classroom in Santa Monica on the edge of modern American culture and civilization. After school, I had a regular jogging course that took me to the end of Wilshire Boulevard where I would rest near the statue of Saint Monica in the Palisades Park and look off to the immense reflection of a red and orange sun seemingly dropping under the water on the faraway horizon.


It was in times like those—both while thinking about the beauty and goodness of God on the coast and teaching religion class to my beloved students at St. Monica's—when I felt some tangible glimpse of that everlasting kingdom we all long to be a part of and experience while we journey along on Planet Earth. One of the questions I had when my family and I moved to the Midwest and I began working in the editorial department at Ave Maria Press was how I would be able to replicate such experiences.


The answer came early and easily. Ave Maria Press is located on campus at the University of Notre Dame. As I peer out my office window each day, I don't see an ocean, but I see a Lady. Peeking out over the top of Moreau Seminary is the tip of a golden dome, and the back of the 16-foot, two-ton statue of the Blessed Mother. If you have any devotion to Mary or maybe the Notre Dame football team (I have both), you can understand why I feel as lucky as I do to have such a view.


Monday to Friday I work with a view of the Golden Dome. On Saturdays in the fall, I have another great place to be. I am an usher for Notre Dame football games and get to stand on the sidelines during the game. Notre Dame football itself is a passionate experience of life's drama—literally dying and rising through each game and season with the beloved Fighting Irish. The 2006 season has been particularly filled with those experiences. On September 23 my two sons and I went on the road to Michigan State, sat in the middle of a bunch of obnoxious Michigan State fans, and then watched joyfully as Notre Dame rallied from 17 points down in the fourth quarter to win dramatically 40-37. What a celebration walking down the ramp from the top of Spartan Stadium! Talk about exhilarating! Then on October 1 Notre Dame pulled another stunning victory out in the last minute, this time scoring a touchdown with 27 seconds left to beat UCLA. As I had a house full of Bruin fans from L.A. ready to meet me at home after the game, the victory was sweet again as you can tell from the photo of the game winning score. I am the usher in the tie and jacket on the left, mouth agape!


These "little resurrection" moments make life go around and help to balance the "little deaths" that are bound to make up our Christian experience. I'm sure you experience both on a regular basis in your daily interaction with teenagers.


Allow me one more Notre Dame experience to share. On November 3, the rock group Chicago joined with the Notre Dame Marching Band to play at halftime of the North Carolina game. The performance reminded me of one of my favorite Chicago songs "Beginnings." When I think about this life we lead awaiting our permanent home in God's kingdom, the repeated verse of this song comes to mind as I imagine what it will be like to be with family, friends, and God through eternity. As for now, it's "only the beginning of what I want to feel forever."

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1 James

Jan. 3, 2007
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2 James

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