October 2007 - Volume 12, Issue 3


By Rev. Mark Connolly

Photo of a smiling boy holding color Autumn leaves in front of a portion of his faceA few years before he died, Archbishop Fulton Sheen gave a talk to a group of Catholic priests. And the talk was on the subject of attitude. He believed as all of us believed that the word attitude is an umbrella word, it pertains to civility, it pertains to courtesy, it pertains to basic concern for another. When you look today at how people are driving right in our own neighborhood, you know there is a lack of civility about their fellow driver and there is always the assurance on their part that if there is an accident it's your fault, not theirs.

Bishop Fulton Sheen in giving this talk used an example. The example was basically this. He said, "suppose you wake up tomorrow morning and you look at the window and it is raining and sleeting and loads of snow and you are hearing about hurricane warnings and tornado warnings that might be around the corner. You can look out through your window and you can see the horrible wintry elements and you can say, "Good God Morning". Or, as he said, if your attitude is controlled, if there is a degree of peace of mind in your heart, if there is the realization that this too will pass, you can utter the same three words, "Good Morning God". It all depends on your attitude.

Attitude oftentimes indicates behavior. Attitude is deeply connected with the degree of happiness that you have in life. Attitude is outlook. Attitude is values. Attitude is principle. When Abraham Lincoln, during the Civil War, talked to the soldiers who had experienced great set backs during the war, the one theme he repeated to them was the theme - even amidst all of this trouble you are as happy as you make up your mind to be. Your attitude tells us if you control your moods or your moods control you. How often, for example, have you been in your own home when someone breaks the serenity and tranquility of your home by an explosive volatile outburst? When we analyze the adults today who show these explosive mannerisms or tempers, it does not take too long a time to go back into their life style and find out that the man who throws the temper today is the person who got away with throwing tantrums yesterday. Your attitude controls your outlook. Your attitude helps your behavior.

I noticed the other day this is the time of year when so many children are going back to school. Everyone is making sure they have the right clothes and right books and right amount of money to start their academic careers. Doesn't it seem strange when you think of it, many of the youngsters in their area will go into different high schools and as soon as they get into school they will go through metal detectors, all sorts of security, all sorts of cameras, just to make sure that violence, if it surfaces, will be checked. Go back into your own childhood and consider yourself at the same age that you are sending your children this year to school. Doesn't it seem strange that we can look back to that time in our life when many of the schools were not as palatial, there was no such thing as security guards or security cameras, no such thing as a metal detector, yet it was a rare experience for any sort of classroom explosion to take place because of someone whose attitude got out of control and threw a tantrum. Doesn't it seem strange to you that in the ten biggest cities in our country, 30% to 50% of the students in high school do not graduate? When you look at the New York school system, about 49% of those in high school will not graduate from high school. It is not all just academics. Oftentimes it's that children have attitudes they bring into schools, oftentimes propagating the violence they see in their own home, or with the associates that come from dysfunctional homes. What eventually happens those same children from those violent homes, from those dysfunctional homes, are put into the same classrooms as your children.

Now we know that there is so much dysfunction around it is easy to understand why so many explosions take place in the classroom. Without the right attitude your child or another child who goes to the same classroom without the right attitude their classroom will be one of trouble.

William James, the great psychologist from Harvard once said, "if you want alter your life, alter your attitude". Carl Jung of Switzerland hand a similar statement when he said, "I have been a practicing psychologist for over 30 years and the vast majority of my clients would never have had to enter my office door if they practiced the teachings of their religious founders". Our founder was Jesus Christ. He knew what was ahead of him concerning pain and suffering. He knew He would be going through a scourging, a crowning and a crucifixion. His attitude was to help the sick, to restore sight to the blind, give health to the lepers. That is the kind of attitude each one of us has to cultivate on a daily basis if our society is to have peace, our homes are to have peace, our classrooms to have peace.

You cannot expect a teacher with 30 or 40 pupils, handling 30 or 40 different personalities to make up for the deficiencies of the home life of many of the children whom they teach. You and I in our own homes have to form the attitude of the children that God has entrusted to our care. We must teach them to develop the attitude of Christ. We must teach them to bring that attitude not only into their own lives, but into their own classrooms, into their own homes. No home, no individual, will experience the peace Christ has in mind when He said, "my peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you". That is only going to be experienced by us when we develop the right attitude of life.