First—Seek the Kingdom of God

(Prayer offered for the school community on the Public Address system of La Salle Academy on the morning of 28 February 2014)


Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God

Are you a worrier?  Do you sometimes find yourself lying in bed, trying to fall asleep, obsessing about what might or could happen, replaying scenarios or conversations in your mind?  You know what I mean—the kind of mental gymnastics where you fret and agonize  over decisions made and words said. Sometimes a combination of exhaustion and busyness can set this off.


This Sunday’s Gospel reading from Matthew has Jesus telling his disciples not to worry about their lives, about the clothes they will wear or the food they will eat because tomorrow will take care of itself.


Jesus’ words are more than a trite, “Don’t worry. Be happy,” however. Jesus tells the disciples, “No one can serve two masters” and that they are to seek first God’s kingdom. Everything else will follow.


Jesus’ words underscore the kind of radical trust we are invited to live in, a trust that challenges us to place our lives completely in God’s hands, to remember that there is much we have no control over, and to reorder our lives, reexamine our priorities in light of the gospel.

So this morning think about what’s stressing you out or making you anxious. I invite you to pray with me:

hands reaching out from Jesus to Jesus

Heavenly Father
I give you the worries and concerns of my day.
I place them down so that you can take them.
In return, I will try with your help to do some good today—
To give a little, be a bit more kind, see someone in need and reach to.
It is my small part.
It cannot change everything.
But it is my way of bringing your love to others.
Help me to remember I have no control over results or reactions.
Give me the courage to do good anyway.

St John Baptist de La Salle: Pray for Us
Live Jesus in our Hearts: Forever!


Christine Estes (Campus Minister)



My Bit in God’s Hands Is Enough

Over the Winter vacation a group of students and faculty spent their break in Camden, New Jersey.  No, they were not in Camden because from there it is easy to visit Philadelphia; their destination WAS Camden.  Camden is a city devastated by lack of jobs and poverty and violence and substance abuse.  It is a city, seemingly, without hope.

However, that is not the case if you listen to long-time Camden Catholic pastor, Reverend Michael Doyle.

 It seems as if the students, who for a week worked in soup kitchens, elder care, day care, cleaning a neighborhood center, assembling boxes of food, among other things, share Father Doyle’s deep appreciation for Camden and its people.


Here is a sampling of the student reflections:

The workers at the Neighborhood Center were all so loving and happy to be there. We met Zaire, who works with the after school program, and he seemed so passionate and in love with his job and the children he is with. The head of the program, Mike, sat down and talked with us about the Center, and its mission, but the the thing that stuck out to me was how he said that he finds God through working with the people who come through, and it isn’t about sitting in church, and that the people he meets and experiences have God within them, and that’s enough for him. Through this whole trip, I really find that to be true, that God isn’t just in the prayers we say, but in those around us who work hard to make life better for themselves or others. 

 Overall, something that I learned is that God is in all of us, even the broken and the ones that people have given up on. We may have our differences but God is what we have in common. I will take away that everyone is going through something so to be kinder, more understanding and forgiving. This week was by far one of the best weeks of my life and I will never forget it.

Elaine is a living and breathing saint, and the adversity she has had to overcome in her life makes me put things into perspective now. None of my hardships come close to hers so I will be thinking of her the next time I complain. I will also be using her advice and trying to forgive more.


Throughout the day I wandered from table to table, but one particular conversation still remains in my mind. After helping her play an intense game of bingo, I asked a lady if she was originally from New Jersey. She said she was born and grew up in Camden, but the city has changed since she was little. It used to be a nice place to live, she said, but now there are too many greedy people. She went on (and on) to tell me that the solution was to love each other. After our conversation she left to take a nap and I sat wondering: if she can understand what it takes to make Camden a better city, why doesn’t everyone? 

Today we went to the MLK Center, the Rutgers branch for children up to 2 1/2 years old. We spent the day playing with them, reading stories, helping them eat and other activities. All the children were so lovable and excited about us being there. There was one girl in particular, Shanelle, who would always run up to me and give me a huge hug. All of the children showed me the importance of loving one another and seeing the best in every situation. 


What better way to spend a February vacation than delivering some hope and receiving some hope, stretching oneself and finding a special center to one’s life, going outside of one’s comfort zone and finding a common humanity!!  Lasallian education aims at being transformative–for its students AND, through them, for the world. These young people learned, as has Father Doyle, that one person can indeed make a difference—“my bit in God’s hands is enough.”

Brother Frederick Mueller

How Did You Spend Your Snow Day?

(Prayer offered over the Public Address system for La Salle Academy on Thursday, 6 February 2014)

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

How did you spend your snow day?


Yesterday it struck me how different snow days are in general from those of my childhood.

When I was student, snow days were slightly different. There was no phone call, no list online, and certainly no one ever received a text alert while daydreaming in class (not that ANY of you have ever done that). No, back in the 90s, when a snowstorm blew in overnight, you were required to get up very early, sit in front of the news and wait with bated breath for your school to be listed alongside the lucky names running across the bottom ticker. Or you waited, hovering over your bowl of Cheerios for the morning radio DJ to enthusiastically pronounce, “No School La Salle Academy!”


You would dance around your kitchen with glee, but them your mood was tempered by one realization: shoveling.

You shoveled your driveway. You cleaned the cars. You shoveled your neighbors, your grandparents, your aunts, your uncles. And while this task consumed a fair portion of your “day off” there was still something joyful about the work. Maybe that joy came from the moments between raising scoop after scoop, when you would pause to collect snow in your awkward sized, miss-matched gloves, and chuck it at your father or brother. Or the instances you might fall into an untouched patch of that pure sparkling and make snow angels alongside your aunt. Maybe it was when you talked to the man two houses down and found out he was a Veteran who wanted nothing more than to have someone to talk to. Or when you knocked on the door of the elderly woman who never ventured outside. You watched her peer out the window, but not come to the door, so you began to walk away thinking you’d escaped a whole house of shoveling. But then dad made you do it anyway – and you saw the woman smile through the window pane.

 girl shovelling

Snow days are different now – you get the call, or text the night before.  You might sleep in a little longer. Equipment for snow removal has greatly advanced, and it seems people don’t have to spend as much time hoisting shovels as they used to. But despite all these changes, there is one constant – snow days inhibit our ability to travel beyond our immediate community. And this is where the meaning of a snow day extends just beyond, “No School La Salle Academy.”

There are two kinds of snow days – literal and figurative – and they hold this in common – they force us to slow down, to clear paths for and with our neighbors and families. Snow days keep us close to home and often close to the people we care about most. Snow days are the unexpected breaks we get – neither the big vacations, nor big events of relief in our life. Usually they even bring more work, power outages, blocked roads – but they always bring a change in pace and perspective.

 family and snow

Let us pray,

Heavenly Father, thank you for snow days. Help us to take every future snow day we have and shovel out our neighbors, even if they don’t request it. We thank you for the opportunities to rediscover our communities. Though they may seem like unexpected work or cold obstacles, thank you for the simple moments to show we care.

At our final judgment, when we are asked, “What did you do with your snow days?” help our answer be “I shoveled.”

Saint John Baptist de La Salle…Pray for us

Live Jesus in our hearts…forever

Emily Smith–English Teacher

Change is Hard

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system at La Salle Academy on the morning of 3 February)

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

We are one month into 2014 and statistics suggest that one third of us who made New Year’s resolutions have already given up on them.  I myself pretty much am that statistic as I am going strong on 3 for 5.  I don’t care what anyone says, change is hard.


And change comes in all forms, whether you are talking about putting a razor to your illustrious beard, growing another year older, trying to gain weight, trying to lose weight, exercising, quitting a habit, going to church every week, studying more, being nicer, being more assertive, eating healthier (because I don’t care what Jared says, eating Subway everyday for lunch is not a good idea), whatever the change. It most likely comes with challenges and complexities that few people like to deal with.

So it begs the question, if change comes with all sorts of new difficulties and feelings of discomfort, why do we bother changing at all?  Intrinsically we know the answer to this question is to make ourselves, our communities, our loved ones around us better, to ultimately improve our lives for good.

So we know that change will be difficult, but ultimately beneficial.  Why then do so many of us resist it so intensely or worse yet fake it?  Have you ever lied to say that you’ve made certain changes you know you should, while knowing deep down inside that you have made no sincere attempt to make those changes in your life?  I should have played one less hour of “Flappy Birds” and focused that time on Morning Prayer, knowing the Super Bowl was going to take my entire Sunday up… did I?…nope.  Would I tell you otherwise? Usually! Rather than actually changing, being more responsible, more active, it would just be easier to say I did.


What is it about our old ways that when they are challenged or questioned we dig our heels in all the more, insisting the way things have always been, the way we perceive things to be or the way we pretend things are, is absolutely good enough and in no need of improvement or reconsideration?  How often do we judge others for things that they should change about themselves when are blind to our own shortcomings?

I remind you that change does not need to happen just at the beginning of a new year, or specifically at the beginning of a new month, or a Monday because it is the start of a new week, though they are all good points at which to start.  Change can come at any moment so long as you want it bad enough.  With reflection and prayer I assure you that you can find the strength to make the changes in life that God in fact calls us to make.

For me, when I pray and reflect on the person I am and the person I want to be, sort of a “state of my union with God address,” I ask, “How am I not myself?”  I know that God calls me to be the truly unique and beautiful creature he has made me, to simply be myself.  One thing that I am sure of is, if I am true to the person God calls me to be, I am living a good life, a life worthy of God’s gifts and blessings.


So I pray and reflect: When God calls me to be a man of integrity, how am I not myself?  When I cheat, when I lie, when I am a hypocrite, when I am unable to forgive, but insist on being forgiven, how can I truly call myself a man of integrity? There is certainly room for change.

When God calls me to be a man of respect, how am I not myself?  When I disregard rules, when I am disruptive in class or during prayer, when I am stubborn and uncompromising, when I use derogatory or hateful language, when I spread gossip, how then can I see myself as a man of respect?  What changes do I need to make in my life to live with more honor?

When God calls me to be a Lasallian, how am I not myself?  When my effort is minimal in the classroom, when I idolize the rich and discard the poor, when focus on prayer and God’s constant presence in my life becomes old hat and unworthy of my reverence, when service to those in need is too tiresome, boring, or uncomfortable.  What then is the value of the word embroidered on our uniforms, painted in our hallways, engraved on our trophies?  How can I change to ensure the word Lasallian is an accurate description of me, the man I want to be?

 lsa pennant

And when God calls me to be a Christian, how am I not myself?  When church and prayer are perceived as a burden, when I forget to show mercy and compassion to all my brothers and sisters and especially my enemies, when I judge those around me and measure myself closer to God than others, when I only love within certain conditions, only certain people, who do certain things, and behave certain ways.  How can I claim to be a follower of Christ when I cannot follow his simple command to love God and all God’s creations as I love myself?  Is there not room for me to grow, to learn to walk closer with God?

 fan or follower2

Let Us Pray,

Heavenly Father, when I pray for change it is not the change you deliver, but the opportunity for me to be the change in the world that I want to see.  Guide me to see these chances to better my family, my friends, my community and myself.  Help me to see that everything I am today is a gift from you, and everything I can change myself to be tomorrow is my gift to myself.

Saint John Baptist de La Salle…pray for us.

Live Jesus in our hearts…forever.

Brian Ciccone (Social Studies teacher)

Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

(Prayer offered over the Public Address system for the La Salle Academy school community on Tuesday morning, 4 February 2014)

Let us pause and remember we are in the holy presence of a loving God.

Two weeks ago I walked from my house to Church for Sunday morning mass with two of my daughters, Mia and Maddie. We held hands on the way, and I told them how our Sunday morning walk, rain or shine, was always one of the best times of my week. I had one of those rare moments in which I recognized the goodness of a moment as I was experiencing it, I took a deep breath and exhaled, and felt, in that moment, completely at peace.

man and daughters

We walked into the church building and picked a bench not too close to the front, but also not too far. I knelt down to pray – the prayer of St. Francis has been my prayer of choice for the last year or so – and tried to continue to feel that peace I was feeling…but I soon got distracted.

You see, there was a guy sitting three rows in front of me and he was wearing acid wash jeans. So inside my head I’m like “Hey buddy, George Michael and WHAM! have a reunion concert tonight and they need their jeans back.” Then “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” was in my head. Luckily that catchy ‘80s tune was pushed out of my conscience by the opening hymn, which I stood and sang along to, holding my daughters tight, like a good Christian. During the opening prayer I became distracted again.


This time I noticed that the same guy was wearing a collared white shirt with a gray sweatshirt over it…but the sweatshirt was tucked into his acid wash jeans.  So in my head I’m like “Hey buddy, not even Theo Huxtable and Cockroach could pull that look off on the Cosby Show and they defined cool.” So now I’m wondering if the guy lost a bet or something. He was sitting alone – maybe his kids sat somewhere else because they were embarrassed. I don’t know. Next thing I know it’s time for the gospel and an old retired priest approached the podium.


So I whispered to Mia, “Hey, do you think the priest is older than Gracie?” Gracie is my 97 year old grandma. Mia giggled and nodded. The gospel was about Jesus calling the fishermen to be fishers of men. I turned to Maddie and said, “Hey, how does he know so much about this story? Do you think he was actually one of the fishermen Jesus called?”  Maddie didn’t laugh, but she’s only 6. I laughed. I am the best dad in the world, I thought, as I hugged my daughters tight to my side. And I sat back to listen to the homily, like a good Christian.


In his reflection, the priest talked about how the fishermen smelled like fish and how they were looked down upon by folks because their livelihood lacked prestige. But that didn’t matter to Jesus. He saw through the exterior, through whatever stereotypes existed, to the essence of a person – that they are made in God’s image. Jesus, the priest said, had authority because he practiced what he preached – Judge not lest ye be judged! And I hung my head in shame.

Yesterday Mr. Ciccone prayed about New Year’s Resolutions. It’s never too late to try again, so I’m going to try to work on this for 2014 and I encourage you to try too. Judge not lest ye be judged. Try not to judge a book by its cover, a person by their clothes, or their profession, or their age, or their abilities in academics or athletics or the arts…but to remember that all people are made in God’s image and likeness. Judge not lest ye be judged.

judge judge

Let us pray.

Father, forgive me for falling short of the mark. For being judgmental or exclusive or arrogant or greedy or wrapped up so much in me that I forget your call to love others. Help me to be better than I’ve been. Help me to live up to being made in your image and likeness.

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

Live Jesus in our hearts…forever.

Matt Daly (Director of Campus Ministry)