Post Christmas Blahs—New Year’s Hopes

After the adrenalin-charged, high sugar peak of Christmas has passed, we enter into the post-Christmas blahs–a time when a little depression sets in, a time when we reflect whether all that rush to the 25th was really worth it, a time when we become a bit nostalgic as we put away those once-a-year heirlooms that we have carried from our past.  Is that all there is?  It came and went in a flash, like Santa’s mystical reindeer!

Yet, in the cycle of life, post-Christmas doldrums give way to New Year’s hopes and dreams as we ring out the old and ring in the new!  In my family the New Year’s Eve tradition was that the youngest left through the back door and entered the front door with a loaf of bread and a few coins to go under the statue of St. Joseph (the protector)—a ritual to symbolize new life entering with enough food and sufficient funds for the New Year.

As we enter the season of hope here is a prayer video offered to us by our Brothers of the Midwest District:

Have a blessed and healthy New Year!

Brother Frederick

Count Your Blessings

Christmas is a time to count our blessings: our blessings of family, our blessings of friends. our blessings of an education, our blessings of living in the bountiful United States, our blessings of faith, our blessings of recalling frequently God’s presence as Lasallians, our blessings of love given, shared, and returned.

In the midst of the tinsel and lights, in the midst of gifts being opened and boxes being thrown out, in the midst of plentiful food and drink…it might do us well to pause and to “Count our Blessings”:

May God continue to bless you during the New Year!!

Brother Frederick

“Is There Anyone Who Knows What Christmas is All About?”

(Morning Prayer offered at La Salle Academy on the Public Address system on Tuesday, 17 December 2013)

We pause and remember that we are in the holy presence of our loving God.

We’ve all seen it on Charlie Brown Christmas- his little sister Sally asks in a letter to Santa to note the specifics of her list and send the many presents or just tens and twenties. Then his dog decorates his house to win a contest on the true meaning of Christmas- money, money, money! Then his friends call him stupid because he can’t get into the modern, aluminum type of Christmas tree. Finally, Charlie Brown yells, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”

Charlie Brown

Do we? Each year the culture tries to make Christmas more and more secularized and commercialized. And it’s easy to fall in the trap to become consumed with the shopping as if that’s the only thing that matters. We are surrounded with instances of violence, and apathy for the poor in the midst of preparing for the birth of the Christ Child. Where can we turn for evidence of what Christmas really should mean?



Pope Francis has said that the poor have much to teach us because they are living Jesus’ poverty where only the beauty of love matters. And that we are called to fight against the throwaway culture. Is this even possible when all we see is the “idolatry of money”, as the Pope calls it?


If you take the time to look around, we have had people right here following the Pope’s words as they spend their lunch money for an extra donation to Adopt-a-Family or spend their free time buying and delivering gifts to the poor or even giving a Dunkin Donuts card to a stranger. Can we continue this fight during the remaining week of Advent? Can we really find a message that sums up love and peace so that our hearts fill with the light of what Christmas is all about? Oh yes, just really listen to Linus and Luke:

Let us pray: “And there were in the same country shepherds in the fields keeping watch o’er their sheep that night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord stood over them and the glory of the Lord shone round them. They were sore afraid, but the angel said, ‘Fear not. I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by all people. Today in the city of David a Savior has been born to you, who is Christ the Lord. And here is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.‘”


“…That’s what Christmas is all about, La Salle.” Continue the great work you have begun.

St. John Baptist de La Salle, pray for us.

Live, Jesus in our hearts, forever.

Leslie Martinelli (Science Teacher and Moderator of the Social Concerns Committee)

The Gift that Never Stops Giving

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system on Friday 13 December 2013)

Let us remember that we are in God’s holy presence.

One summer a number of years ago I read the wonderful trilogy written by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings.  In that mesmerizing tale we are introduced to a delightful group of little creatures called hobbits.  These easy-living, gentle people who inhabited Middle Earth can teach us much about gift-giving at Christmas time.

Among the customs of these hobbits was to give new gifts only to new friends.  Old friends were given old gifts such as family heirlooms.  The older the friendship, the more ancient the gift.  What happened naturally was a sort of perpetual gift exchange.  Prized possessions, rare and beautiful things, simply flowed back and forth among them.  This custom of giving away a gift that you yourself had once received might strike us as being a bit impolite, even cheap.  But if that gift is a symbol of love, should not love be shared—passed around—given away, only to be returned?


Some of my most prized possessions are gifts given first to another and then passed on to me—what is now a well-worn, almost fur-less finger puppet was given to my father as a child by his parents, my grandparents, and in turn given by my father to me as a child—and soon it will go to my 2 year old grand nephew; a simple wooden music box, a wedding gift to my grandparents that they gave to me because as a child I used to love to listen to the music (Tales from the Vienna Woods), a music box which I passed onto my niece when she was married.  Both of these items were treasures of my childhood and remain treasures, even more so that they now or will soon belong to those whom I love deeply.


Just because a gift is old, well-worn, and perhaps out of style does not take away from its symbolic value: perhaps it adds to it!  For the longer we have a valued possession, the more affection we will have had to invest in it and the more of our loving energy it will have absorbed.  Our friends, the hobbits, remind us that all gifts are really symbolic.  They are magic reminders that we ourselves are the real gifts and that, when we offer another a gift, we are really offering ourselves, our love, our deep affection.  This central and sacred concept, that gifts are intended to be signs, is often forgotten in the blizzard of Christmas advertising.  We become more concerned about the size, shape and price tag than with the meaning invested in the gift.

The central gift of Christmas is the gift of God—a Father who gives to all his sons and daughters the special gift of Himself, a poor little baby born in a stable, displaced and homeless.  Not the stuff of Christmas advertising; not glitzy; not the number one sought after gift of the year.  No!  A gift, however, of immeasurable worth—a sign of life, a symbol of hope, a giving of love.  And, if we were to be true to the tradition of the hobbits, once we have received this priceless gift from God, of God, a gift of God’s love for me, for you, we would give it away to another.  God’s love is a precious gift, but not to be hoarded, rather to be given away—and miraculously to be returned to us over and over again in a perpetual giving and receiving of love. And you know what? There would never be need to exchange this gift, because the color is not right or because it does not fit—love is always the right color and love always fits.

jesus mary joseph

So, what do you really treasure?  Would you be willing to give it to a friend as a sign of your love?  Would you be willing to give of your love, of yourself—to those lacking love and needing a warm smile today, to those families adopted by our homerooms and lacking what we take for granted, to an elderly relative or neighbor who doesn’t need a gift but rather a visit?  Maybe, just maybe, if we, you and I, give of our most prized possession, ourselves, this Christmas, then we will find, maybe not under the Christmas tree, but we will find somewhere God returning that love to us in ways that we can never imagine.  Maybe our friends the hobbits can teach us an important lesson about life and about love!!

Let us pray:  Loving Father, you have given us the gift of your Son.  Jesus emptied himself, dying for us, giving us totally of himself.  Give us the grace and the courage to give selflessly—not counting the cost, freely giving to others ourselves and our love.  Amen.

 Saint John Baptist de La Salle…pray for us.

Live, Jesus, in our hearts…forever.

 Reflection for the Afternoon

This morning’s prayer reminded us of the hobbit practice of the perpetual gift exchange and of a gift being symbolic of ourselves.

 What do your really treasure?  Would you be willing to give that away to a friend as a sign of your love?  What are the gifts you have given and received this day?

 Saint John Baptist de La Salle…pray for us.

Live, Jesus, in our hearts…forever

Brother Frederick Mueller, FSC

Saint Nicholas–A Model of Christmas Giving

(Prayer offered over the Public Address system on the Feast of Saint Nicholas, 6 December 2013)

Mr. Lisi:  Let us remember that we are in the presence of a loving and great God.

 Katie: Hey, Jimmy.  Today is December 6th.  It’s the feast day of a very special saint.  Do you know what a feast day is?

 Jimmy:  Of course I do, Katie.  I’m in PEGASUS!  A feast day is a day set aside by the Church to honor the deeds and accomplishments of a saint.

 Katie: You got it, Jimmy.  Today is the feast day of St. Nicholas.  St. Nicholas lived in the 4th century.  He was the Bishop of Myra, which is now part of modern-day Turkey.


 Jimmy:  I remember learning that he is also known as the Wonder-worker because of all the miracles he performed.   His miracles can be attributed to feeding his fellow townspeople during hard times and a famine, resurrecting three youngsters who had been killed, saving sailors caught in a tempest, and many more stories.

 Katie:  I especially like the story of how he tossed bags of coins into his friend’s window to help his friend marry off his daughters.  The coins fell in the man’s slipper at the side of his bed.  Many say that that’s how we got the tradition of having Christmas stockings filled by Santa.


 Jimmy:  Speaking of Santa, that jolly rotund man dressed in a red suit actually comes from the image of St. Nicholas.  During the time when many nationalities were coming to the New World to settle down, the Dutch children would always celebrate St. Nicholas’ feast day.  They called him Sintaklaas.  Sintaklaas, which eventually evolved from St. Nicholas to Santa Claus.  Later on, Sir Clement Moore wrote the famous poem about St. Nick.  You know that poem, Katie, don’t you?  It was the night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

 Katie:  OK, Jimmy, I know that poem.  If you read the whole thing, we will all miss first period class. Enough, please!

Jimmy:  Well, anyway, it’s true that the image we hold of Santa Claus was modeled after a great man in the Catholic Church.  Today we honor the spirit of a man of tremendous faith, unending generosity and unconditional love for his people.  After we finish prayer, let’s stroll down to PEGASUSland to see the St. Nicholas display we have in our display case.  Students and teachers are welcome to come to view our display anytime between today and Christmas.


 Mr. Lisi:  Let us pray,

Heavenly Father,

Christmas is a time of giving, giving to those who are in need.  Help us to show our generosity to others in a way that models what St. Nicholas did for his people many centuries ago.  As we ready ourselves for the Adopt-a-Family Program,


we pray that all that we bring in will brighten the lives of others during this very special time of the year.  We also pray that we will open our hearts to our family members and friends.  Help us to give generously to their needs too, whether it be giving them special time that they need, lending a helping hand, saying words of encouragement, or giving handshakes, high 5’s  and hugs.

St. John  Baptist de La Salle – Pray for us.

St. Nicholas – Pray for us.

Live Jesus in our hearts – Forever.

La Salle Academy PEGASUS  7/8 (Robert Lisi [Principal and Saint Nicholas in the pictures] and students Katie Friedemann and Jimmy Truslow)

The Spark of Lifelong Learning

Annie Murphy Paul in the School Library Journal article “The Science of Interest” has identified a “force” that teachers can use to their advantage while working with students in the classroom.  As researcher Joseph Mazer states, “Teachers can utilize explanatory summaries to highlight relationships among lecture content, use clear transitions to help students follow the lesson content, and implement visual materials to make abstract and unengaging material concrete and stimulating—building cognitive interest.”  He also found that students who are emotionally and cognitively interested in a course are more likely to be engaged in the learning process.

Please enjoy reading The Spark of Lifelong Learning”

“Scientists have recently made a remarkable discovery,” says author/journalist Annie Murphy Paul in this article in School Library Journal. “They have identified a force, commonly found in classrooms and libraries, that makes people think more clearly, understand more deeply, and remember more accurately. This force has the power to transform struggling students, and to lift high-achieving students to a new plane.” What is it? Interest! In Dewey’s words 100 years ago, it means “being engaged, engrossed, or entirely taken up” with something. “Interest pulls us toward the new, the edgy, the exotic,” says Paul. “But interest also focuses experience. In a world too full of information, interests usefully narrow our choices: they lead us to pay attention to this and not to that.”


Interest also makes us better learners. We pay closer attention, think more critically, use self-monitoring strategies, make stronger connections between old and new knowledge, look below the surface, work harder, remember more clearly, and persist longer. Interest can even help students overcome academic difficulties and perceptual disabilities.

But the sad news is that students’ level of interest declines steadily through school, bottoming out in early high school – just as they are called upon to make some crucial life decisions. Is it possible to spark interest in the surly adolescent? Definitely, says Paul. Research tells us that interest “always begins with an external ‘trigger,’ and that well-designed environments can make such a triggering more likely.” But should parents and educators be giving kids something that ideally should come from within? We shouldn’t spoon-feed them, says Paul, or depend on extrinsic rewards. Rather, the role of wise teachers and librarians is to skillfully elicit interest by exposing children to a wide variety of subject matter that’s novel, complex, and comprehensible, hooking them by linking prior knowledge to challenging new material. “A virtuous cycle is thus initiated,” says Paul: “more learning leads to more questions, which in turn leads to more learning.” A key factor is teachers’ and librarians’ own passion for particular subjects, communicated in a friendly, chatty, encouraging way.

pencils and hands

Once captured, what leads students to maintain a new interest? One thing not to do is tell students how useful and important it will be in their adult lives. A better approach, says Paul, is to encourage kids “to generate their own connections and discover for themselves the relevance of academic subject matter to their lives.” It’s also important to build students’ feelings of competence and self-efficacy, which will help them sustain their attention and motivation when they come across challenging or confusing material. Paul describes how Suzanne Hidi of the University of Toronto “jigsawed” a museum visit, telling each student to become an expert in a particular exhibit and then use what they learned to help the class complete a collaborative challenge. Librarians can use this approach with the library’s resources. “The goal in each case,” concludes Paul, “is to produce young adults with interests that provide them with lasting intellectual stimulation and fulfillment, interests that they pursue over a lifetime with vigor and zest.”

“The Science of Interest” by Annie Murphy Paul in School Library Journal, November 2013 (Vol. 59, #11, p. 24-27),

Paul can be reached at

Donald Kavanagh

Advent–Missing the Point

(Prayer offered over the Public Address system on Thursday, 5 December 2013)

Let us remember we are in the presence of a loving God,

When I was in kindergarten my family moved from California back to Rhode Island. As far as my 6 year old self was concerned, this was the worst possible thing that could happen. I loved my kindergarten teacher and I had what I assumed would be my life long best friend who conveniently had the same name as me. When we moved, I entered into what at the time seemed like an impossible situation. Rhode Island winter meant indoor recess , the local Brownie troop would not be accepting new members until the following year and worst of all everyone already had established their weekly play dates.

With some heavy guilt I convinced my parents to let me have my birthday party at Chuck E Cheese.  I invited my whole class, even Caroline who had delivered to me the first insult I received in my life by calling me a Chatterbox. Reflecting on it now many of my students and fellow teachers would actually agree this is a fairly accurate description of me.

I consumed myself with preparations, selecting the perfect party dress complete with the 90s ruffle collar, picked out some amazing party favors and lectured my younger sister on how to embarrass me the least, which basically meant pretending she was a there with a different birthday party. I imagined the events of the day over and over again in my head before going to sleep at night. Where would everyone sit, who would get the most tickets, would they like my party, and how much would Chuck E Cheese delivering my birthday cake elevate my street cred on the playground.


After what seemed like an eternity, the day finally came. Let me say this was my most memorable birthday in my quarter century on earth. It is repeatedly referenced by my parents and sisters and comes up each year at my birthday. After all of my planning and stressing I was ready to triumphantly enjoy my big day. Unfortunately as I turned 7 I spent the majority of the day passed out asleep on the booth cushion at Chuck E Cheese. I had been so concerned with the party being perfect that the pressure of the day exhausted me to the point that the only part of my party I remember was greeting my guests.

The preparation of an event consuming the actual joy of the event itself seems to be a common trend in the chaos that has become the American Christmas. In our pursuit of the perfect present, the ever trying task of parking at Providence Place, finding the ugliest Christmas sweater, one upping every other Christmas card or bracing for the onslaught of family members, we lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas.

Mall Parking

Advent is supposed to be a time of anticipation and hope; but, much like my 6 year old self, we lose sight of what really matters. Rather than being grateful for my parents doing the best to fulfill my every birthday dream and spending the day with my sister who had also experienced the move, I had told her to stay as far away as possible. In case you are wondering, all of my kindergarten troubles were erased at the start of first grade when in a new classroom at the start of the new school year I was no longer the new kid. And Caroline in all her infinite wisdom actually became my best friend; apparently she did not mind my chatterbox ways.

Let us pray,

God grant that we may not lose sight of the true meaning of Advent, that the preparations for Christmas do not overtake our joy and anticipation of the birth of our savior Jesus Christ.


St. John Baptist de La Salle…Pray for us.

Live Jesus in our hearts…Forever.

Meghan Dillon (Social Studies Teacher)