The following blog originally appeared in the January 26th Catholic School Matters newsletter.
Have you ever taught with a veteran, popular teacher who talked about working on a book for years? Usually nothing comes of it. But Mr. Mike Quillin has (finally!) published his book, The Way of Fuzzy Faith, after a lifetime of teaching English and theology in Catholic schools. I’m so happy for him but I’m also happy for all of us because learning from our elders could benefit all our schools.
In last week’s blog, I talked about Deal & Peterson’s Shaping School Culture. They certainly encourage learning from our heroes and elders. “A learning organization is one that mines past and present experiences for important lessons and principles, for stories and legends that can energize current efforts,” they write on page 57. Quillin has a lifetime of important lessons, principles, and stories.
In chapter 40, for example, Quillin relates his “Test Prayer,” where he goes up and down the rows of students while they furiously complete their tests and prays for each one individually. “It is a great way for me to see each student as she is, a unique wonderful individual, not simply a member of the class. Teaching each day one is struck by individual students for good or bad reasons, but there isn’t the time to savor each student as a person,” he writes.
Quillin believes that faith is fuzzy and there are no clear answers. The book is a collection of essays, some of them discussing theological controversies, some of them about books of the bible, some of them about teaching, others about religious practice, with the common thread his faith. You might not agree with all his conclusions but following his arguments is worth your time.
Speaking of time, Quillin has a motto about life that serves as the simplest of his prayers: “This is it. Right now. Right here.” It serves as a centering prayer and a reminder that this is who we are, where we are, and when we are. We often want to be somewhere or someone else, but Quillin reminds us that this is it. He delivers elder wisdom.
After all, we often hear from teachers and administrators in Catholic schools wishing their situations were different—more students, perhaps, or better attendance at Mass, or a better financial situation. Quillin reminds us this is our life, this is our calling. Quillin stayed. He kept teaching in Catholic schools, he kept going to Mass every Sunday. Why? The book is his testimony.
It’s a short (157 pages) and cheap ($10) investment that will yield insight and appreciation into our Catholic school culture.