Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Thomas Pierog

11/20/2012 (2 years ago)

Prodigal Dumb Ox (prodigal-dumb-ox.blogspot.com/)

Brother Vinnie's lessons in praying and being thankful.

It was a warm September morning. I was a 14 year old kid who had gone to public schools his whole life, and I was about to have my first religion class at Central Catholic High School. I was nervous because I was a freshman, I was over dressed because I'd never had a dress code for school before, and I had no idea what to expect. I walked into the room and there was....Yoda.

We are called to make every day Thanksgiving.

We are called to make every day Thanksgiving.

Highlights

By Thomas Pierog

Prodigal Dumb Ox (prodigal-dumb-ox.blogspot.com/)

11/20/2012 (2 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: prayer, school, thanksgiving, lepers, yoda, brother, vincent, vinnie,


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Okay, so it wasn't REALLY Yoda, but he certainly looked like Yoda. His name was Brother Vinnie. Or, as he occasionally reminded us, Brother Conan (as in 'The Barbarian') Vincent Dinnean. He was roughly 4 feet tall, with an under bite that made him look a bit like a bulldog, and ears that were a little pointy, like Yoda. And to us young boys, just entering adolescence, he very well seemed to be roughly 800 to 900 years old.

Brother Vinnie had been at Central Catholic for a long time and had served in many capacities. At that time, aside from his duties of teaching us the basics of catechism, he monitored attendance. He had been doing this for a long time and had a couple of interesting stories about excuses for tardiness so outlandish that he had approved them on the basis of their creativity alone. His attendance duties added to the enigma of Brother Vinnie as well. You see, Brother's cassock was just long enough that when he walked, it brushed along the ground and you couldn't see his feet, creating the illusion that he was floating down the hallway collecting the classroom attendance sheets. Now that I think of it, to this day, I cannot say with 100% certainty that he was NOT floating down those hallways.

I remember Brother telling us some of his cautionary tales. For example, during a discussion about ordering our class rings, Brother told us of one evening a few years before, that he had gone to a grocery store dressed in his cassock. The young lady ringing out his purchase asked him if he was from 'Central', and when he told her he was, she said, "Oh, I have one of those!", and proceeded to pull out a keyring with the 'spoils' of relationships with several boyfriends' class rings from various local high schools. The message was clear. Your class ring belongs to you. If you want to keep it for posterity, do not risk making it part of some girl's collection. Although, in the battle between Brother Vinnie's advice and common sense verses hormones in a 14 or 15 year old boy, the deck is most definitely stacked, so I suspect some of my classmates now wonder where that damn ring went.

I think that all of us managed to develop an affection for Brother Vinnie. First of all we appreciated his teaching style by which he would give us a list of questions and answers, and then a week or two later give us a test, which was basically him, in the front of the room, asking those questions in the same order and having us write down the answers. But more importantly than that, we could tell that there was not a mean bone in his body.

This man who had inadvertently chosen a name during his ordination that would become inextricably linked with a fictional 'Barbarian', had struck a balance between an easy-going authority and a keen sense of humor. I think he truly saw each of us boys as having great potential that he did not want us to squander and he did not want to crush. Some of that may be a nostalgic revision of Brother Vinnie, or maybe I'm starting to realize what it was. As I work my way closer to Yoda age and look at the upcoming generations of young men, I feel like I see that promise and I hope that they don't squander it, despite being in a world encouraging them to do so at every turn.

There are two stories that Brother Vinnie told us that strike me more poignantly as I grow older and since I returned to the faith. The first was a story he told us about a time, many years before, when Central Catholic hired a teacher who was Jewish. I have never understood why some Christian denominations have issues with people of the Jewish faith. I particularly do not understand why Catholics would have an issue with them, but apparently, they did. Because when Central hired their first Jewish teacher, there was an uproar and they received quite a bit of less than enthusiastic feedback from concerned parents.

One of these parents found Brother Vinnie in the office and started to express his displeasure. Brother Vinnie, who was never wanting for 'chutzpah', was totally frustrated with these complaints and told the parent, and I paraphrase, that, 'all comments regarding this situation were now to be directed to the Jewish lady on the front lawn', and gestured out the window to the statue of our Blessed Mother. The parent reluctantly retreated.

The second story has had a profound impact on something I do every day. Once, in a discussion about prayer, Brother talked about how he remembered during World War II, the churches were full of people praying for the end of the war. Then, when the war ended, the streets were flooded with people celebrating, but the churches were empty. It reminds me now, of the gospel story from last Wednesday's readings,where Jesus heals the ten lepers and only one comes back to give thanks. Though many came to God when they wanted something, no one came back to Him in thanksgiving. This has shaped my prayer life such that, every time I pray I start by thanking God for the gifts He has given to me.

Now let's face it, sometimes life is difficult, you can feel overwhelmed, like you've had too much piled up on your plate. Sometimes it seems like you have nothing to be thankful for. At times like that, however, if you start prayer with thanksgiving, it can focus you on the fact that when you think you have nothing to be thankful for... you're just plain wrong.

A while ago I checked in with my old Alma mater and found out that Brother Vinnie had passed away in 2007. He was 91. I wasn't surprised , of course, I mean, although he wasn't actually as old as Yoda, he was apparently in his 70's when he taught me and I was in high school.... well..... let's just say it was a while ago. A few years after I graduated, Central Catholic went co-ed, they've expanded and I imagine they are charging a little bit more for tuition these days. I know that there are many beloved teachers there doing a fantastic job, but I just can't help but think it's interesting that the teacher who had an effect on my daily life and spiritual development, turned out to be, Yoda....The Barbarian?

So as we all gather around our tables this Thanksgiving, let's remember to put a bit of that celebratory day into our prayer life every day. As I said, when you think you have absolutely nothing to be thankful for, you're just plain wrong.

And may God bless you, Brother Conan Vincent, in dedicating your life to teaching us, I'm sure I am not the only young man whose life is a little bit better by your example.


---

Blog written by Catholic revert about faith, family and being a husband and father.


Rosaries, Crosses, Prayer Cards and more... by Catholic Shopping .com


Comments


More Living Faith

5 Disney movies you never knew had hidden religious messages Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Disney movies are a well-known and well-loved part of most people's childhood. These stories talk and teach us things, like believing in ourselves and follow our dreams. Recently, the stories inspire courage and kindness, as well as forms of "true love." But viewers ... continue reading


5 excellent tips on how to read the Bible Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Bible is one of the most popular published books ever written in the history of life, but also one of the hardest to read and understand. Unlike most books published today, the Bible contains a lot of statements that are full of dates, metaphors and written to ... continue reading


Unholy political positions in the Holy Land Watch

Image of

By Tony Magliano

As the minds and hearts of Christians throughout the world focus on the suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus, we naturally think of the Holy Land. Throughout much of history, in the land where the world's savior taught human beings to love one another as ... continue reading


200 Christian teachers denied day off for Good Friday Watch

Image of The 2014-2015 school years are the first time in recent memory that officials scheduled classes during both Good Friday and the Jewish holidays.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A Rhode Island school district is being sued over the claim that 200 Christian teachers were denied requests to take Good Friday off from work. The teacher's union claims that the decision denies educators the two religious days that they are afforded in their ... continue reading


For the first time in over 150 years -- Blood of St. Januarius liquefies during Francis' visit to Naples Watch

Image of According to legend, Januarius was allegedly born in Benevento to a rich patrician family that traced its descent to the Caudini tribe of the Samnites.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

For the first time in over 150 years, the blood of St. Januarius liquefied in the presence of a pope this past weekend. The phenomenon occurred when Pope Francis visited Naples this past weekend. It was the first time the blood liquefied in the presence of a ... continue reading


Church to Canonize Mom and Dad of St Therese, Show the Holiness of Christian Marriage Watch

Image of Pictured: Louis and Zelie Martin, the Mom and Dad of St Therese
For those called to live their Christian life in a consecrated Christian marriage, it is in the domestic church where progress in the spiritual life finds its raw material. The question we face every day becomes whether we live Christian marriage and family as a Christian vocation by responding to grace.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Louis and Zelie married in France in 1858. They had nine children. Five entered a consecrated or religious life in the Church. We have 218 letters which were written by Zelie.  They record the naturally supernatural pattern of a very real, human and devout ... continue reading


Drinking the Chalice of the Lord: Facing Suffering, Struggle and Failure Watch

Image of All of those who bear the name Christian are invited to follow the path of Jesus' struggle, to walk along with Him on the way of His rejection. We too are invited to climb the mountain of His great saving act of unmerited selfless Divine love. Golgotha beckons.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

James was the son of Zebedee and brother of John. From faithful stock, we see in this encounter that some forms of zeal may indeed be genetic. In fact, the zeal in both of these brothers caused the Lord to name them the Sons of Thunder.(Mk 3:14-17) However, human ... continue reading


7 endangering myths Christians believe about other Christians Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Disheartening isn't it? But it has been observed that Christians are divided among themselves. This is not what God wanted, as expressed by the writings in the Scriptures. However, there are some issues between the believers that makes them not united as they should ... continue reading


Josephs Way: Joseph, Husband of Mary, Model for Christian Men Watch

Image of The Dream of Joseph led to the response of a life given over to God

By Deacon Keith Fournier

In an age that has lost its way, because it has succumbed to the selfish pursuit of illusory pleasure, Joseph needs to be lifted up as a model for men who truly want to follow Jesus Christ. It is time for Christian men to follow his example, and become men again. ... continue reading


Pope tells Nigeria's bishops to form united front against terror group Boko Haram Watch

Image of In addition to addressing various issues, the Pope praised Nigeria, with a population of more than 170 million people, and has experienced strong economic growth.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

As the emerging African economic powerhouse of Nigeria takes to the polls, Pope Francis, in a stirring message, has urged the country's bishops to build a united front against the Boko Haram terrorist group. Pope Francis' comments came in a letter to the ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ezekiel 37:21-28
21 say, "The Lord Yahweh says this: I shall take the ... Read More

Psalm, Jeremiah 31:10, 11-12, 13
10 Listen, nations, to the word of Yahweh. On the ... Read More

Gospel, John 11:45-57
45 Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for March 28th, 2015 Image

St. Venturino of Bergamo
March 28: Dominican preacher and missionary crusader. A native of Bergamo, ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter