Why I’m Writing Father and Captain

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once explained that to experience true freedom, a Christian must obey the commandments and beatitudes, just as pilots must obey the laws of gravity, physics, and aerodynamics.

Now, as a part-time catechist, I constantly look for unique, entertaining ways to inspire my confirmation class. Believe me, it’s tough to compete with iPad, iPhone, Facebook, Twitter, X-Box, Wii and Hunger Games on Sunday mornings, dear reader. But at 02:00 this morning, I had an AH-HA moment of saintly proportions based on Archbishop Sheen’s pilot-Christian metaphor—A CLASS PROJECT.

I sprang out of bed, ensconced myself in my basement office/lair, and designed a handout with the 10 commandments and beatitudes on one side, and a template for folding a paper airplane on the other. On the port wing was printed “Commandments and Beatitudes: Freedom to Fly!” On the starboard wing was printed “Captain _________”, where each student was to write his pilot’s nickname such as “Ace”, “Lightning”, “Spitfire”, whatever. By 05:00, I had a working model. (Email to me at PJBAUM@pjbaum.com and I’ll send you an Adobe PDF copy on request.) By 05:30, I had printed 40 copies. You should have seen the pride with which I carried myself up to the kitchen. I fairly gloated over breakfast. This was going to be great!

10:15. Like victorious St. George having slain this week’s dragon I strutted into the classroom. Teresa, my young fellow teacher, recognized the exuberant look on my face. “Oh no,” she sighed. “What have you done this time? Not another one of your projects.”

“No, no, it won’t be like the other ones. This is a really good idea. Honest,” I said. With a skeptical glance and a sigh, this time of resignation, she relented, telling me that it would have to wait until the end of class.

Oh, the anticipation. Teresa adeptly drilled the students on the 10 commandments and the 8 beatitudes. She explained how to consider them when examining your conscience before the Sacrament of Reconciliation. But for me, each second was a little eternity. When would it be project time? Oh, please!

Finally Teresa announced, “Now we’ll turn it over to Mr. Baum,” after which she said a silent prayer, I think. I handed out the commandment-beatitude-airplane templates to the students, expounded upon Archbishop Sheen’s metaphor, told them to fold their airplanes, and that we would fly them in unison at the end of class. Then mayhem.

Not a professional teacher (may God bless every one of you), I hadn’t considered the fact that students might have different  levels of paper airplane building skills. Some of the boys finished in 37 seconds. One boy took a minute, folding a sophisticated model of his own design, and proudly presented it to me as a Harrier Jump Jet. Then he built another one: An F-105 Thunderchief. Then 7 girls raised their hands for help. In panic, I forgot how to fold the airplane and had to think for a minute. By that time the classroom swarmed with aircraft, some of which appeared to fly in formation. Others strafed me mercilessly.

When the Jump-Jet landed on my head, my failure was complete. Teresa called the students to attention. We prayed and dismissed the class. Teresa, a generous Christian woman, said not a word.

Fulton J. Sheen I am not.

Some of us are teachers by nature. Frankly, the art eludes me. My job, I think, is to stay with my core talent of writing; to bring a series of adventure books to young Catholics—a series that highlights bold Christians living their lives for the Father, in the Spirit, through Jesus Christ.

I’m currently writing a series of adventure novels, the first of which is entitled Father and Captain. It will be published in October, 2012. If you register for updates over there on the right, I’ll send you an email when Father and Captain arrives in paperback, Kindle, Nook, and other electronic editions.

In the meantime, I’ll keep a lower profile in the classroom. My propane tongues-of-fire concept is definitely out.

All for Christ.

PJ Baum