March 29

Jesus Christ Superstar is the music of the springtime of my childhood. I remember the album; its brown cover, containing two records that were tucked away in my Dad’s record collection. It came out on Palm Sunday and played all week long. The voices of that original cast are as familiar to me as the voices of some of my family members. For me, the musical encompasses the Easter season that both of my parents emphasized all throughout my formative years. My mother would tell us the story of Palm Sunday—reading aloud the Gospel before we went to church to hear it. And when we returned, my father would bring that story to life in our living room; sharing Webber and Rice’s lyrics and music with my brothers and I, the more modern words accompanied by the rock riffs spinning around us all during Holy Week. It was through this mix of Bible stories and rock music that we knew what Jesus and his apostles felt, we knew the sting of Judas’ betrayal and why he ended his life, we knew the mockery of Herod and the impassiveness of Pilate…the story of Easter was never more alive than when my mother read it aloud and my father sang it—solo until he taught me, his partner in all things musical, to sing some of the parts. 

It is, without a doubt, my favorite musical; I’ve seen it onstage 5 times, I’ve taught it to my Drama classes, I’ve assigned song work from it, and now, it plays in my house so that my own family can learn the story. When NBC released Jesus Christ Superstar LIVE on Easter Sunday several years ago, I was amazed. The modern staging, the cheering audience, and the incredible cast—well it was just the best production I’d ever seen of it and as I said, I’ve seen many. For me, and it is my hope for the students of Saint Dominic Academy, it truly captured the passion of Jesus’ journey from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. 

When I talked with Avery Williams, the President of our African American Appreciation Club, we both agreed that this production would be meaningful and powerful; a “heavy hitter” to showcase all that our club and our school seeks to teach our students. With its multi racial cast, it sends the message that Jesus truly loves everyone. With its mix of male and female disciples, it showcases the belief every Catholic holds dear to heart; that Jesus embraces all who choose to follow Him. Brandon Victor Dixon’s Judas is brooding and conflicted; caught up in emotion and gossip and fear, like so many of us are today. Alice Cooper’s Herod is mocking and mean—placing keen emphasis on just how cruel people can be to others.

And John Legend’s humanistic portrayal of Jesus, more than any other portrayal I’ve seen, slams home the message that Jesus was a man and he was afraid to die. He was suffering and in pain and doing the very best he could to make the world a better place and still, he felt isolated and alone, with nowhere to turn for comfort. I cannot watch his performance without crying. 

I hope that as our student body views the musical together on Friday, March 26th, the emotions they feel while watching mirror the ones we should all feel when we hear the Gospel readings during Holy Week. It is my hope that seeing this moving and human portrayal of the last days of our Savior truly brings home to everyone’s hearts the sacrifice Jesus made for us all and why Easter, above all else, should be a day where we all give Glory to God. 

Happy Easter!

March 22

My dear readers, you know me well enough after five years to know, if I feel someone else can say it better than I can, then their words take center stage. I’d like to share with you, this beautiful speech given by our Academic Dean, Mrs. Guen Farrales, at our National Honor Society and Math Honor Society Induction Ceremony last week.  As we head into our last week of school before Holy Week and Easter recess, Mrs. Farrales’ powerful words and beautiful faith serve to remind us all that the gifts God has given us, should be used to change the world for the better. 

You may have, at one time or another, heard me refer to SDA as my “little piece of heaven on Earth”, which is why I am speaking to you on my 11th year here, and my 5th as your Academic Dean.  Why you may ask?  It is because here at SDA, we pray.  We put God first.  In fact, prayer is one of the 4 pillars of the Dominican life.

We started this prestigious ceremony with Olivia leading us in prayer asking for the Holy Spirit’s guidance in the performance of your responsibilities as members of the National Honors and the Mu Alpha Theta Math Honors societies.  Let me quote portions of what we asked God for:

…to work together in harmony for the common good

…to listen to one another in a spirit of genuine respect

…to encourage and reverence one another’s unique talents

Ladies, I look at each and every one of you and I can, most proudly, affirm that these attitudes/behavior/manners permeate the walls of SDA.  Your families and the years that you have been with us have inculcated these values in you.

As members of the NHS and the Math Honors societies, what sets you apart from the rest of your peers?  Is it just your GPAs?  Honestly, for some of you, these three letters may be the most important ones of your academic life.  You have been keeping a close eye on them from the minute you started 9th grade for just that, the honor/honor(s) that come with them and the doors of opportunities that they unlock for you.  Tonight, however, I would like to encourage you to go beyond GPAs, to recognize your scholarship, service, leadership, and character as blessings, and to make these blessings “radiate from you to others”.

You prayed…”May we use the gifts of the Spirit in creative Christian leadership.”

The Bible in James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.”  Ladies, you are here tonight because you have been specially blessed by God, intellectually.  My challenge is for you to season your intelligence with wisdom from on High.  What you know here (in your head), take it down to here( into your hearts).  Then and only then can you effect relevant change in your life and in the lives of people you are bound to touch. Use the gifts and talents you have been blessed with for your good and that of the people around you and, more importantly, for God’s glory.  Let His light shine through you.  As you prayed, “let your blessings radiate from you to others.”

You prayed…”May we respond effectively to the needs of the students in our care.”

There is always a great place to start.  Let me ask you this:  You are big sisters to 9th and 10th graders, right?  When was the last time you have reached out to your little sister?  Meaningful connection is key nowadays, when most communication is virtual and when, and I know this first hand, many people your age are going through mental and emotional challenges.  I can safely say that now, more than ever, we need genuine, heartfelt communication with people within our spheres of influence.  Think about this:  Is there anyone I can reach out to right now whose need, notwithstanding how big or small, I can help meet?  Whose life can I touch and make a difference for?  

To effectively make a difference in someone’s life will require, and again, as you prayed earlier, “approaching your decision making through discernment and prayer.”  Discernment is, simply put, the ability to judge wisely and such wise judgment is made possible through prayer… that constant, genuine, honest-to-goodness communication with God that will enable us to not just survive, but to thrive!

As I conclude, I would like to leave you with this…”Ladies, you are blessed to be a blessing!”  Be just that… for your good and for God’s glory!  

Congratulations and enjoy the rest of the evening!

March 15

Way back in 2002, when I first began teaching British Literature, I always began the year with “Beowulf”. We talked in class about rune letters and the runic alphabet, and I’d have my students memorize The Rune of Saint Patrick. A beautiful and meaningful prayer, it captures the reason we, as Catholics remember and celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day each year. The legend of Saint Patrick tells us that he “drove the snakes out of Ireland” and into the sea. Of course, as we grow older, we know that snakes were a metaphor for evil, darkness, pagan beliefs and that Saint Patrick was credited with bringing the word of God and the message of Jesus’ power to save to the people of Ireland. 

If Saint Patrick were with us today, what would we ask him for protection from? What snakes need to be driven out—from our communities, our schools, our culture, and our country? What message of love and redemption and salvation would he bring into the world as we know it right now? Sadly, we’ll never know for certain what Saint Patrick would have offered protection from if he were here right now. However, as we prepare to celebrate his memory this week, let us take a moment on March 17th to reflect on the words of The Rune of Saint Patrick and to call upon him in prayer. He, like all the saints we venerate in the Catholic Church, are still with us, to provide guidance and love and protection, whenever we lift our voices and hearts in prayer to their memories. 

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day from Saint Dominic Academy!

In this fateful hour
I place all Heaven with its power,
And the sun with its brightness,
And the snow with its whiteness,
And fire with all the strength it hath,
And lightning with its rapid wrath,
And the winds with their swiftness along their path,
And the sea with its deepness,
And the rocks with their steepness,
And the earth with its starkness:
All these I place,
By God’s almighty help and grace,
Between myself and the powers of darkness.

~The Rune of St. Patrick

March 8

I just read the most creative book! It was called The Ghost in Apartment 2R. It’s a book I was “previewing” before I gave it to Abigail to read; wanted to make sure it wasn’t too scary. I sat up two nights to read the 200 pages and I’m looking forward to talking with her about it as she now begins to read it.  We’re a reading house—during Read Across America and always so, I love the onset of March, when the internet is filled with options for children to participate in Read Across America.  

Saint Dominic Academy is hard at work embracing these reading initiatives; our National Honor Society is reading Bedtime  Stories via Zoom all month long, and they also partnered with University Heights Charter School to read to the k-2 students at an assembly. If you follow our Student Council and/or SDA Instagram, you’ll see our faculty taking a few moments to read either their favorite bedtime story from childhood, or an excerpt from one of their current favorite novels.  Our Advancement Office is working to coordinate a small Author’s Panel for our students, one that features alumnae authors and a current student whose work has been published.  A love reading is most certainly being fostered within the Saint Dominic Academy community.

For me, reading is almost as essential as breathing; I am always in the middle of at least two books ( one fiction, one non-fiction), plus I re-read every book that Abigail is reading or that, in years past, I was teaching for a class. My Kindle travels everywhere with me and one of my favorite questions to ask family when I see them is “ What are you reading?”  I’m never without a “recommendation” for others, no matter what genre someone likes and I have had friends reach out to me, saying “ Can you recommend something for ______________; he/she just doesn’t like reading.” I’m always happy to suggest a long list of titles, because not like reading is such a foreign concept to me.  However, I am aware that not everyone is as avid a reader as I am and so, in honor of Read Across America, I thought I’d just give a few suggestions to the young women of SDA ( and to anyone else looking for a good book), as to some of my favorite stories to curl up with.  As the winds of March blow and the evenings are blustery, instead of binge watching Netflix, maybe try one of these instead. 

For Horror Fans:

Bag of Bones – Stephen King

The Haunting of Hill House  Shirley Jackson

The Historian Elizabeth Kostova*

For Fantasy Fanatics:

The Lord of the Rings trilogy- J.R. R. Tolkein

The Harry Potter Series – J.K. Rowling*

Historical Fiction:

Beloved- Toni Morrison 

The Color Purple- Alice Walker 

The Little House Series- Laura Ingalls Wilder *

Romance:

The Bridges of Madison County– Robert James Waller

Message in a Bottle– Nicholas Sparks

The Blue Bistro– Elin Hilderbrand *

Waiting To Exhale – Terry McMillan

The Wedding– Dorothy West 

Mystery/Thriller:

Anything by Agatha  Christie!

The Thirteenth Tale– Diane Setterfield

The Lost Symbol- Dan Brown 

Rebecca- Daphne du Maurier *

Non Fiction:

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil- Jon Berendt *

Three Weeks with My Brother- Nicholas Sparks

Into Thin Air– Jon Krakauer 

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings– Maya Angelou 

The Sunflower– Simon Wisenthal 

And my lists could go on and on and on…this is just a short compiling of some of the hundreds of books I’d happily recommend to anyone at SDA ( or elsewhere) who asked me for a recommendation. I’m placing a * next to my favorite in each category and I do hope, during March and onward, if you choose to read any of the works I recommend, you email me. The one thing more fun than reading is talking about and sometimes tearing apart, books with another fellow reader!

March 1

“Daffodils, that come before the swallow dares, and take the winds of March with beauty… ~The Winter’s Tale | William Shakespeare.

This quote was hanging in my home all throughout my childhood. Long before I studied The Winter’s Tale as an undergraduate literature major, I carried this quote with me and it came to mind yearly at just about this time. While the snow around us melts into puddles that run down the streets, if you look here and there over the next few weeks, you’ll see the buds of daffodils, of crocuses, and the first froth of that lemon yellow forsythia emerging from the depths of winter. March can be a long month, no doubt about that, but if we learn to look for the first signs of spring under the sometimes windy and blustery March skies, we can see the promise of new life at Easter all throughout nature.

So too, do our hearts and souls need to dust off the snow and sleet that have them covered; perhaps covered for longer than just this winter season. The Lenten season is all about repentance, seeking forgiveness, and celebrating once again our personal relationship with God. I would venture to say, from last March until now, our personal relationship with God may have grown even deeper and stronger; isolated from so many, we needed to call on His strength more and more often, leaning on our faith, perhaps much more than we’ve done so in past Lenten seasons. 

Let us not, as more and more “signs of life” emerge this spring both in the world that surrounds us and in our own expanding social circles, forget the One who was with us, who carried us from March of last year until now. This Lenten season, while each of us has something to repent for in the quiet of our souls, our reflections daily should take us to a place of thanks, for the solace and comfort God provided us this past year. All this month, as we draw closer and closer to Holy Week, let us each try to set time aside daily, to stop and look for the signs of spring that God sends into our lives, and let us remember to pause and say Thank You…for without His love, nothing else could possibly sustain us all “winter” long.

Wishing you a peaceful Lenten season and a beautiful path to spring.