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Much thanks to the most recent guest Blogger, Genesis English teacher, Thomas Snyder. Tom is doing some great work with his kids, finding ways to help all of us cope with the crazy, often frightening world in which we live through reading and critical thinking!
The 7th grade is currently reading The Maze Runner by James Dashner to inspire them in their creative writing unit. Hot on the heels of The Hunger Games’ success, The Maze Runner is the latest entry in “dystopia fiction.”
While dystopia fiction is often grim in its depiction of our future, it is also often popular with teenagers, and many famous examples (Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, The Giver) still make frequent appearances on reading lists. Dystopia is relatable to the YA crowd. It’s dark. It’s angst-y. Young heroes, power-mad adults, rampant technology – these are things they know and experience. More to the point, it asks difficult and unnerving questions: how fragile is our society? How tenuous is our sense of civility and order? These are the questions the 7th grade seeks to answer.
And these are also the questions that were brought into stark, terrible focus after the events of the Boston Marathon bombing. That horrible event would seem to make real the dark vision of the future we see in fiction. But the 7th grade chose to read it in a different light, and provided wonderfully inspiring commentary on the society in which they are coming of age.
One student wrote, “The weakest things in a society are, like vulnerable flesh, the physical things. The things that we so desperately cling to: our phones, electronics, games, homes -- these things are all weak. Removing them from our society would be easy. But removing the spirit from a city, that is hard. The kind, down-to-earth attitude of the people in Boston was unaltered. People jumped into action to help those in need, not once thinking about themselves, only thinking of others. It is this attitude that is the most powerful in society. It is the spirit of people that keeps a society strong.”
Indeed, what the 7th grade have found and will continue to find in their reading is that, though bleak, dystopia fiction holds up a mirror to our society. And sometimes we see what’s truly important – that love is what holds us together when everything falls apart.
I am sick and tired of praying to strengthen my faith in the midst of terror,
I am sick and tired of praying for the ability to see hope in the death of a child,
I am sick and tired of praying for the love to forgive the animals who kill the innocent
Lord I am heartsick
Lord I am tired of the violence and evil
I am sick and tired of fearing for my children’s safety,
I am sick and tired of fearing what the future will look like,
I am sick and tired of fearing anyone who is different.
Lord I am heartsick
Lord I am tired of the violence and evil
I am sick and tired of being strong in the midst of this confusion
I am sick and tired of promising a better world
I am sick and tired of wondering where you are in the midst of it all
Father, in the midst of the temptation to despair, I pray, through the intercession of St. Thomas the Apostle, the Doubter and the Martyr, that I stay strong in my Faith, Hope and Love of You and Your creation.
As we begin the St. Patrick Day weekend, there is much of which the Irish in America can be proud! The Irish are successful in every aspect of our Country’s life. But as many gather with family and friends to celebrate this weekend, I wonder if there will be any reflection on why so many Irish left the Emerald Isle for “greener” pastures.
One of the best kept secrets in most Irish family is the an Gorta Móror The Great Hunger. Most families simply don’t talk about it, yet from 1845 to 1850, because of the potato blight, Ireland lost over 25% of her daughters and sons to death and immigration. The implications of the Great Hunger have had echoes in history for over 150 years.
Recently I was visiting Ms. Lauren La Torre’s 6th graders in our Genesis program and noticed the title: Black Potatoes on a student’s desk. It was the first time in my 48 years education that I had seen a book addressing the Great Hunger being used in a class. I asked Ms. La Torre to offer the following reflection on her work for this blog.
Genesis' 6th grade literature class has just begun reading Susan Bartoletti's Black Potatoes, the Story of the Great Irish Famine, 1845- 1850. While initially added into the curriculum to satisfy the Common Core Standards' new emphasis on non-fiction, the book satisfies a deeper need: the human need to comprehend disaster, and help relieve suffering.
Students are shocked and enthralled to read about the economic and social disparities entrenched in Irish society that kept Irish Catholics at its lowest rungs (and consequently, made them most vulnerable to catastrophe). In the history of the famine, many students see the story of their own family's heritage, as a great deal of our students come from Irish backgrounds. More importantly, however, we all see our own spiritual family's past.
The story of people of great heart and faith banding together to overcome adversity is not new. It has happened from the days of the earliest Christians, since the days of Jesus himself. But it is also not an old tale. Students, teachers, and other faculty who helped in the relief effort after the destruction of Hurricane Sandy know firsthand what it is to help allay suffering and need.
The book's themes of overcoming obstacles and injustice, the virtues of resourcefulness and scrappiness, the power of love, and courage in adversity resonate then as they do now, and always will wherever good work is done.
Of course, doing good deeds or charitable works are not just limited to the aftermaths of disasters. Lent is a time for us all to sacrifice and help others, and remember how much we really do have, and what matters: family, friends, faith, and the enduring spirit to persevere. These are the things the Irish had an abundance when abundance could not be had. In this, the poor Irish were richer than kings.
Forty years ago on Jan. 22, 1973, the Supreme Court ruled on Roe v Wade which allowed for abortions to be performed throughout the country.
Abortion is a terribly complex issue; transcending slogans and the pithy appellations of "pro-Life" and "pro-Choice." No matter where an individual may stand on this topic, however, the fact that a woman, in the United States, could find the termination of her pregnancy the best or only option available to her is nothing short of a scandal!
As a Catholic School, firmly rooted in the Xaverian Brothers’ tradition, Xaverian is unequivocally united with Bishop DiMarzio and our Church’s moral teachings that each unique human life begins at conception. We also understand that we have a responsibility to do what we can to protect all life, from “the womb to the tomb.”
Please take seriously the invitation to send a letter to Governor Cuomo and our other elected officials regarding the latest proposed support and expansion to the existing abortion laws in NY State. A link for the New York State Catholic Conference is provided at the bottom of this note.
Keep in your prayers the people from all over the country who are going to Washington D.C. on Friday (Jan. 25) to protest the existing federal law.
Finally, and most importantly, let us all keep in our thoughts the women who are struggling with the possibility of abortion and the innocent children they carry. Let us all pray fervently that we as a Church and as a Nation will be able to offer to them more life-filled choices and protect both lives!
A little advise from St. Thérèsa de Lisieux to start the new year:
"Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love."