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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Reliance upon ourselves

Well, I gave my talk tonight on the Wedding at Cana...and it didn't exactly go as planned.

I was very nervous, as I always am before speaking in front of a group. One of the sponsors is a teacher by profession, and I asked her if the nerves every go away? She said no, they don't, and suggest I picture everyone as second graders! Well, I was too nervous to envision ANYTHING!

My talk consisted of an outline with a lot of detail, and even some notes in the margin for scripture references. I had prayed the rosary this morning, and by memory, did a Scriptural decade with the verses from this Gospel. Afterwards, I practiced my talk, by memory alone, and the connections were so CLEAR! I even thought of others! So I finalized my outline and notes, read it over, remembered the connections, and geared up for my 15 minutes of dubious fame.

I always go to Adoration prior to teaching, partially to calm my nerves, but for certain to offer my efforts and any results to Jesus. After all, I there to talk about HIM and His bride, the Church.

As I prayed, I realized that I was overwhelmed by the amount of information I had, having not just used the talk I attended last summer, but also research in a Bible commentary. My mind is grasping the information well, but I was also pressed for time; this topic is WAY too huge for a 15 minute talk! I had been realizing this, but my enthusiasm for the topic overshadowed my good sense. So I prayed to Jesus to help me know what to say.

He asked me in the silent recesses of my soul, "Why didn't you ask me that weeks ago?"

And he was right. It was then that I realized that although I had worked on this while in Adoration, I had paid little attention to what Jesus might have wanted to teach me, and instead I had my nose in a book, looking up Bible verses, making connections - like a big Biblical jigsaw puzzle. It's like introducing someone without bothering to ask that person what they want the people to know about him, the guest of honor.

So I guess I saw in myself today that gift I have for analytical insight; and the fact that although I understand it well, I don't know how to simplify it or even focus on one theme. I relied on myself and my knowledge; I should have been relying on God to take what I already knew and understood to present a very simple talk.

This is my first year teaching, and it has been a wonderful experience, and tonight was yet another lesson on what not to do. These lessons can be expected, and my guess is that if I compared notes with other teachers of any subject, be it religious or secular, they would all say that at some point, they had done the same thing.

God's grace is a wonderful thing, so even though my talk kind of tanked tonight, He will still likely use whatever I said to touch someone somehow with some understanding of the Mystery of Jesus Christ, of Mary as the intercessor.

And so, tonight I myself learned once again that it's important to sit at the feet of Jesus and pay attention to Him, rather than relying on information I don't have enough theological training or teaching experience to adequately convey.

I have the Scripture readings next week, too. So it seems that I will go back to my original plan: to go to Jesus and ask in all humility, "Lord, what do you want me to say about you?"


Anonymous said...

I am doing the necessity of baptism next week and you just reminded me to "keep it simple." If my knowledge comes from 4 years of intense study then that is not the right level for the "newbies." I have to meet them where they are yet speaking Truth in love. Thanks Adoro for reminding me of that.

Can you imagine what Jesus went through calling simple fisherman and explaining things to them! No wonder He taught using simple parables.

Anonymous said...

Thank GOD for adoration, if your using that in order to calm your nerves, you KNOW you got God on your side ;o)

Anonymous said...

As a teacher, I can tell you that lots of things I have done in the classroom have not 'worked'. But like all teachers, through those events I have learned a lot more about teaching!

Potamiaena said...

Thanks for this post. I am scheduled to give a Life Teen parent talk on 4/22, "Using the Catholic World Wide Web". I am going to pray your prayer while I am researching my talk. It is true. . . we need to listen to Jesus.

Anonymous said...

It's so hard to take such a rich subject and boil it down to one talk.

We had this same problem in RCIA class. There were a couple of classes where the teacher(s) tanked pretty hard. I hate to say it, but, it was pretty bad. The class was confused, nobody understood what the teacher was trying to get at, it ran 10 minutes late, etc.

BUT...we all still got something out of it. In talking with some of the students later everyone's unanimous take was that, while we didn't learn a single thing about the subject at hand, we were all inspired that the teacher was so passionate about the subject and so excited to talk about Christ and his Church. His passion was contagious, even if his words were not.

Anyway, I'm sure your lesson wasn't that bad at all. And even if by some chance it was, I guarantee your dedication and love of God and his Church shone through more than your words ever could.

Adoro said...

Thank you, everyone, for your comments and insights.

Angela ~ great observation about the use of parables. I think if I had been paying attention to Jesus, I would have realized that, because, after all, I continued to come across THAT VERY PASSAGE!!! And ignored it. I couldn't buy a clue, even one hitting me across the nose with a Bible!

Bethski ~ Yeah, Adoration is awesome...I can't fathom why more people don't stop in for even a quick "hello" when they come to the church for something. topic. Nothing can calm me like some time at the feet of Jesus himself.

Kiwi ~ Please give us some advice on teaching from your experience...what to do, what not to do. I'm thinking that there's a lot of people who can use this advice. :-) Me, especially. :-)

Potamiaena ~ Good luck on your talk...sounds like an interesting one. Can you tell us more about what you mean about the "Catholic World Wide Web"? (I hope you come back and read this...)

Jennifer ~ Thanks for the hope. I have to go back in front of the class next week, and that'll be hard having crashed so hard last night! At least they're good people; far too polite to throw things at me! :-) I really feel for those teachers you experienced...suddenly I understand! Nothing like a poor speech which was very carefully prepared to remind us who's in charge, though. And God is so glorified in that way, as you've testified.

To All: My lesson was basically my post on Cana, but with more detail. I should have eliminated the detail, and remembered that I'm better at writing than speaking extemporaneously from an outline. I almost think that if I had gone up there with just the scripture, I might have done better. On New Year's Eve, someone prompted me to talk about it, and the entire room was at attention, asking for more info. Maybe I should have taken that hint..because in that moment, no notes, attention of about 10 people on me very suddenly, and I answered. Or rather, God answered.

Funny how that works.

Anonymous said...

Adoro - that last paragraph...the story of my life. Glad it's not just me!

Anonymous said...

Adoro.... as far as teaching goes... you just have to get out there and do it. And sometimes things don't go as you wish and you just have to get over it, and get on with it! I think now that I have been teaching for 20+ years, I have learned to change something more quickly if it is obviously not working.

Anonymous said...


I just wanted to say thank you for that post. I see many parallels in what you said about yourself and me. I have been doing ministry in my parish through Life Teen the past few years, and I noticed when I first gave talks I did everything you talk about, I would go to adoration and work on my talks there, I would bring papers up with me. I would have outlines, and hoopla and all this and that.

Then one day I was on retreat and sick and had forgotten my outlines and everything at home. I could hardly even talk, was running a fever probably, and felt like I had the oncoming flu, so I was put into a position where I had no where to turn but to the Holy Spirit. It was absolutely one of the best talks ever given from my mouth, and not a single word belonged to me.

At times I still find pride creeping back in, and the desire to go back to big outlines, and using my own intellect and research and all these things, but I find that the talks that have the most meaning to the audience simply come from having a topic, 3 main points, a scripture and ccc reference to the main point, and a prayer of surrender to the holy spirit asking he to use my mouth as he see's fit.

I pray that we both continue to rely on Jesus and the Holy Spirit to do his work, and allow us to only be the moving lips.

May God Bless you in your teaching,