How I first began to teach…
“I call you, for this time to be for all of you, a time of witnessing. You who live in the love of God and have experienced his gifts, witness them with your words and life that they may be for the joy and encouragement to others in faith.”
December 21, 2020
Dear Family of Mary TV, Apostles of Our Lady of Medjugorje:
A correction to my last Update, “A room with windows round about!” provides an opportunity for the next one.
“I was teaching “Theology” at St. Joseph High School, right across the road from Notre Dame. My starting salary five years earlier had been $5,000 a year.”
That starting salary of $5000 a year had actually been in 1975, not 1980. Here’s how it came about.
After a prayer meeting one night in the LaSalle building in 1974, Paul DeCelles came up to me: “Denis, you have a degree in Theology from Notre Dame. You should apply to teach at St. Joseph High School next year. There’s an opening.”
After politely saying, “Thanks”, I turned around and walking away whispered: “Jesus, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. I didn’t learn anything!” But I wasn’t happy reading water meters for the city… And Cae Esworthy had recently told me: “Denis, you can lay fleeces before the Lord too, just like Gideon did!”
And so I continued: “Jesus, if that’s what you want me to do, I don’t have any coats and ties, and I don’t have money to buy any… You give me coats and ties.”
Two days later while pushing chairs through the parking lot from Christ the King school to the basement of the Church for a prayer meeting, John Kraus, who was pushing the stack of chairs with me, said: “Denis, this morning when I walked into my closet I felt the Lord put his hand on my shoulder and say, ‘John, you have too many coats and ties. You ought to give some of them away.’ Do you know anybody who could use some coats and ties?”
Catching my breadth, I said, “Maybe I could?” I never told him about the fleece I had laid before the Lord. I took one coat. It didn’t fit. But I kept it as a reminder that teaching at St. Joseph High School was what Jesus wanted me to do.
The first day of class I said everything I knew in 10 minutes. I then asked if anyone had any questions. No one did. Classes were 50 minutes long. I stared at them and they stared at me. For 40 minutes! I had no podium to hide behind. Total silence. I had five classes that day. The same thing happened in each one. I said everything I knew in 10 minutes and then just stood there in silence staring at them. And they sat there in silence staring back at me. For 40 minutes!
Telling this story a year or so ago to one of Michael’s pilgrimage groups in Medjugorje, Steve Dlugosz got out of his chair and with emotion exclaimed: “That’s true! That’s true! Forty minutes! I was in that class!”
It was the 70’s. As I remember it there were no textbooks, at least in Theology courses. Teachers were to come up with your own material.
At home I’d plead with Cathy to give me something I could teach the next day. She finally said: “I can’t take it anymore. You’re bringing fear into this house. Go somewhere and deal with it,” something to that effect!
That evening I had a neighborhood meeting with Jim Oleksak and Joe Stante. I told them what Cathy had said and asked if they’d pray with me. Jim had what he believed was a ‘word from the Lord’ as he and Joe laid hands on me and prayed: “Don’t worry. I’ll send my angel Reichtag to help you, to be with you in the classroom.”
The next day teaching was totally different! I still didn’t know anything…but I wasn‘t walking around with a finger pointing between my eyes… The horrible fear was gone. Ten years later I happened upon a book, “Nouns: Names of Persons, Places and Things.” And there was the name of that angel Jim had gotten when he prayed over me! It meant: “Protector against blasphemers of religion.” Spiritual warfare had been going on in that classroom. But the Lord sent protection in the form of an angel, and I was free to communicate with the students about Jesus, about faith.
As a teacher I was a disaster. In my classes I could only give one thing: Jesus. That’s all I had. But it was what the students needed. And Jesus became more and more what they wanted. I was voted the favorite teacher of the senior class so many years in a row the administration changed it to a favorite male teacher and a favorite female teacher. In fact, after celebrating the school’s 50th Anniversary, Mike Cassidy, the former principal, told me my name had been listed by students through the years more than any other name as the favorite teacher at St. Joe. Hard to believe. I never really got beyond being a disaster as a teacher. But Mr. Cassidy insisted it was the true.
Spiritual warfare is going on now as well. We find ourselves in battle each day. Maybe that finger is pointing between your eyes as it had been all those years ago as I began to teach. But we are not alone. Our Lady is with us. She is guiding us through her messages in Medjugorje safely through these difficult times. She once told us: “I desire to draw you ever closer to Jesus and to His wounded heart that you might be able to comprehend the immeasurable love which gave itself for each one of you. Therefore, dear children, pray that from your heart would flow a fountain of love to every person both to the one who hates you and the one who despises you. That way you will be able through Jesus’ love to overcome all the misery in this world of sorrow, which is without hope for those who do not know Jesus.” (11/25/91)
She is equipping us to bring Jesus to all those around us, in the same way that Jesus helped me in the classroom. Without fear, in the freedom of the sons and daughters of God, we can help souls find their way to peace. We can nourish them with faith and hope.
I want to encourage you all to call on the Name of the Lord in these days, asking for protection from the enemy of our souls. Jesus will come and guide us into peace and we will be able to share Him with all those we meet. This is no time to live in fear. The Lord and Our Lady need us to be strong and confident disciples. We still have a couple of days of this Advent left. Let’s get close to Jesus!
“Work on and build peace through the Sacrament of Confession. Reconcile with God, little children, and you will see miracles around you!” (November 25, 2020).
Let’s get those miracles!
God bless you!
During the year 2020, Our Lady’s children in 170 countries throughout the world were staying connected to her presence in Medjugorje through Mary TV.
Modern means of communication technologies aren’t cheap. For just a few more days we’ve been offered a Matching Grant. Until December 31, 2020, your donation will be doubled! Thank you for always being generous. Mary TV is your gift to Our Lady!
And this gift is big! She told us on Nov. 2, 2014, “My Son promised me that evil will never win, because you, the souls of the just, are here!” And she explained “The souls of the just” are simply those who don’t quit trying. “A living desire of faith and love is sufficient, and my Son will accept it!” (11/2/17)
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