Lessons in Pride, Peace, Pitching and Practial Philosophy

Published in the Michigan Catholic
July, 2013
Paul Stuligross

After twenty-four years at the police department, working holidays and weekends, I’ve learned to cherish "normal" time off with family and friends. I’ve also learned some valuable lessons being "off" all summer as a teacher.  I’d like to share five of them with you.

Lesson One: the pros of being off all summer are great. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t cons. Pro: I’m off all summer with my kids. Con: I’m off … all summer … with my kids.

Lesson Two:  Slowing down to "smell the roses" is underrated. Our society bogs itself down, as much with activities as with goods, to find "peace." Going on bike rides, camping in the back yard and enjoying nature at Kensington are oddly more fulfilling than I expected. I’ve even been reintroduced to the moon and stars at night. It made me realize something: peace is free when we all slow down long enough to find it. It’s God’s gift to us – and it doesn’t cost a dime. I wonder if the reason it’s so fleeting is because we’ve taken the "governor" off our busy lives.   

Lesson Three: Sometimes it’s just as frustrating to watch the Tigers as it was last season. But I still love them. And I love the simplicity listening to them on the back deck while looking at those stars of which I spoke. Can we please get a ‘closer’?

Lesson Four: Having daughters has forced me to think like a philosopher. While driving through Ann Arbor, they asked me about a billboard sign in front of a church. It read: ‘No God. Serve People. Serve the world.’ They were perplexed at why a church would say such a thing. I explained to them they got two out of three correct, but they missed the one necessary for the others. It put me in mind of the struggles we humans have faced throughout our salvation history; many of which are written in the bible. Has human nature changed that much? Maybe not. I recall the people of Shinar who tried to construct a tower to get to Heaven, or the Pharisees whose strict adherence to rubrics was going to "earn" them Heaven; then I marvel at why God was so mad at them. I mean, weren’t these people trying to get to Heaven? To be with Him? Maybe so; but perhaps where they – and we – "miss the mark" is when we try to "leapfrog" relationship with God to get there. We look at Heaven as a destination rather than a way of life. Relationship is what God wants from us. And He wants us to want it back; relationship with God AND with others.

When religion turns into a service project, leaving God out of the equation, we deny our need for a Redeemer. And we necessarily lose our ability to be humble in the face of such love. Thus, we become our own gods and no longer need to adhere to God’s laws when the media tells us they make no sense. Isn’t that what the Pharisees and the people of Shinar did in Genesis?  

Which leads me to the last lesson I’ve learned; lesson five. Why are people so eager to bestow our media with the same infallibility they categorically deny the Church? I’ve noticed this with my kids. If it’s on television, it must be true; but if the Church teaches it, it must be questioned. When did that happen? Certainly, the sins of some Catholics have caused great scandal. As Catholics we need to take ownership of that. But why do we allow those sins to debunk our faith in one institution while we confer blind confidence in another? We question the Church’s motives and embrace the media’s in the same breath. Aren’t they just as capable of deceiving us?

Human pride has been a problem for as long as we’ve known God. To become more like God, we have to be in relationship with God, which means losing the idea that we are gods. When we do that, I think we can realize that God wills relationship with us, even though we make it messy; that God wants us in relationship with each other, even though it’s not always easy. God never promised us paradise on earth, but I think we can create glimpses of Heaven when we open our hearts to His ways of relationship.

I hope I can remember that as I refer to lesson one, and realize "being off" all summer isn’t really as … "being off" … as I thought I’d be. Please, somebody remind me of that when my kids tell me how bored they are.


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