We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
The Holy Spirit of the Nicene Creed feels too abstract for me. Unlike the Holy Spirit, Jesus and God the Father are real and even personal to me. But in the twenty months since my retirement from a very satisfying career as a math teacher, I have had the time to allow a sense of gratitude to well up inside me. This gratitude is helping me better understand the role of the Holy Spirit.
I went into teaching for the wrong reasons. We were a young family with two children and were finding it difficult to live on one income. As we examined options, it seemed to me that teaching would be “easy,” what with those many vacations and summers off. So, while our younger child was a toddler, I enrolled in a certification program at UNO. And while teacher salaries are far from generous, they would be an improvement over what I had been making as a research technician at Tulane Medical School.
Although certified as a science teacher, I was hired to teach math at St. George’s. New teachers are like new parents: they flounder. Just as parenting encompasses so much more than keeping children fed and clean, teaching goes way beyond imparting information. Whether she knew I was lost or not, an experienced educator sought me out to be an extra pair of hands in first grade math lab groups two afternoons a week. As we planned hands-on teaching activities, this remarkable educator, Brucie Rafferty, imparted her teaching philosophy to me. It was an expansive one: she believed all children had intellectual gifts that need to be nurtured by creating fun and challenging lessons. She also taught me that along with teaching the skills and procedures of math it was essential to incorporate the big ideas that connect mathematics to history, philosophy, and science. Most of all, she taught me to respect individual children’s capacity to learn at their own rates and in their own ways. Brucie became the Holy Spirit for me. She inspired me and gave me a vision. This vision made it easier to plan instruction and to interact with children whether they were excelling or struggling. She made me fall in love with teaching.
Years later I met another mentor who helped to educate me in the ways of the Holy Spirit. I met Margaret Wall in our Faith and Fiction group in the 1990s. She had used her master’s degree training in physical education to organize volleyball teams and Girls Scout troops for young women in the St. Thomas Housing Project. Hearing her stories of the fun she had with her campers has helped me better understand the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
I needed the mentoring of these two brilliant women to help me connect the inspiration of the Holy Spirit into actions I could take in my own life. I am so grateful to have had them in my life and for their helping me find the inspiration I needed to work hard and enjoy my teaching career.
Musical Reflection - Guitar Duo KM - Concerto BWV 972, I. Allegro, J.S. Bach
Holy Spirit, lead me, teach me, breathe in me. Be my advocate and my inspiration today and always. Amen.