Friday, November 27, 2009

Some of the present and former students at SJP, rugby players all.
For the love of the game and of their recently deceased colleague, Josias Sterling, they gathered in Fairmount Park on a blustery Thanksgiving Friday. The gathering honored Josias and is raising money in his memory to provide swimming lessons for kids and to provide help for any Prep rugby player who attends Temple University
The event was organized by Bill and Angela Gregory who coached and mentored Josias. (Bill is kneeling near the center of the front row, in the dark shirt.)
My Prayer
We gather today in a spirit of thanksgiving for God’s glory shown in our brother Josias Sterling during his brief life, a happy life, a life in which a young man fulfilled the hopes and promises suited to his age. We thank God that Josias was a grace for his parents and siblings, for his relatives and friends. We are grateful that God saw fit for Josias to attend St. Joseph’s Prep and Temple University. The emptiness in our hearts caused be his absence reveals to us how eagerly we made a space for him, and tells us how prominent a place he took in his family , among his classmates, on the rugby team, and in the hearts of all who got to know him. His relationship with us is God’s work, letting us know in Josias more about the richness of creation.

So we pray. Dear God, let the memory of this happy young man lift from us the gloom we experience in his physical absence. Help us know that his cheerful, resolute spirit continues to enliven us whenever we who know him gather together. May his spirit help us build on the heroic desires of his own life, help us be men and women for others just as Josias became more each day a man for others.

Yes, Good God, Increase our faith in the saving power of the Lord Jesus who welcomes those who have died into a new heaven and a new earth. When our day comes, give us a place in the new creation so that we may be with our brother Josias in your kingdom. But today on this field, dear God, help us to know that Josias joins us and commits his spirit to bring joy and enthusiasm to our company and our competition.

We ask these things through Christ our Lord.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The renovated spaces in Jesuit Hall include the room that was once the house library for the Jesuit Community. Now the space, The Quinn Room, is used for small receptions and some meetings. It is also a room with some archival material.

Since the room is off the beaten track and not at all youth oriented, it did not occur to us that some of our students would gravitate there after school to hang out and do their homework. We do have a regular student library with computers and other activity. But leave it to the Prep boys to find a comfortable spot and make it their own. The late Henry Quinn must be happy to look down on this room and see our young men working together between intervals of goofing off.

I remember the same atmosphere when I was a Prep student but without the comfortable setting. In the long-gone 17th St. building, we gathered at the base of a stairwell and leaned against corridor walls! And we didn't know what we were missing.

From my office I can see our Prep boys carrying two of the 250 Thanksgiving food baskets that they prepared for the less fortunate, some in our neighborhood. Others, mostly seniors from a group called SOWN (Supportive Older Women's Network, "because no woman should have to age alone") came and picked up their baskets.

Our students fanned out through the neighborhood and delivered many of the baskets and turkeys. Some of our students live within walking distance but most do not know our neighborhood. This gesture is a way of learning from others whose struggles are very different from their own.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A few of the cast members of "Sweeney Todd," the fall production of Prep's "Cape and Sword."



Those first men and women who had an experience of Jesus Christ risen from the dead believed ardently that he would soon return to usher in the kingdom of God. While Jesus had told them that they could not know the day nor the hour, they imagined that there would be little or no delay. Why would the Lord tolerate the persecution of his friends over a long period of time? The early Christians slowly organized as if for a future but no Christians in that era needed to prepare so much for a long future as for the imminent return of their Lord and Savior.

The return of the Lord, of course, would mean damnation for those not among the elect and physical destruction, too, of anything alien to the kingdom. God had promised never to use the flood again to destroy the earth but, as you know from the chorus of Sweeney, it was to be fire the next time. And the early Christians lived with some expectation and fear.
And still we do. And better not to be complacent. Who knows? The world might end even before I come to the final syllable of this sen....tence.

There are times when I have prayed that the Lord Jesus would come quickly. Why would he not? Why would the Lord not join us in our desire to save children who suffer from hunger and lack of love? Why would the Lord not come to save us from our own failures? I do not know the answer that has led to this two millennia delay. This only: I believe that God loves a good story; some say, and not cavalierly, that God creates us in this world with the same hope as authors who let their characters write the authors’ stories. In our lives, it is said, people write the story about themselves. And there have been some splendid stories written in the lives of our fellow human beings in these two millennia.

The life stories of so many just since my own birth support the notion that maybe, just maybe, despite the genocides and the tsunamis and the random brutality and the plagues of illness, we human beings are working out a redemption of some consequence in tandem with the Lord Jesus. We have reason to be astounded at so many of the redemptive stories of our brothers and sisters in recent decades. The stories of the stars of the civil rights movement in our own country, for example! So many stars but I have a favorite: Rosa Parks. No one could deny that this dignified woman, a dedicated teacher of the young in her church, deserved to sit on a bus wherever she wanted to sit. If the Lord Jesus had come to end the world before Rosa was born, God even in the divine person would have felt a void in the divine heart where she belonged.

Make a list of like persons of the past century: Anne Frank, Nelson Mandela, Dorothy Day, Oscar Romero, Mahatma Gandhi. And on and on. God surely has some purpose in raising up men and women like them. They would not have lived their heroic lives if the world had ended in 1900. God could put an end to this world and to our suffering but the cost may be too great, too great for God who doesn’t want a good book to end.

We may be reluctant to put aside a desire for the end of the world and its suffering. We must, however, surrender ourselves to God’s mysterious plan. Right here in front of me I see a good reason, too, for hope in an immediate future. You who are involved in the Cape and Sword know about stories. You study and recreate stories. You learn to love not only the technique of music and motion, but also the beneficial power of a story to move hearts and free them for what is good. Surely the God who loves you wants you, with good reason, to finish writing the best of your stories, the masterpieces of your own lives. Give us time, Good Lord, to finish our work.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

This gathering and cake were a surprise since my birthday year is nothing special at all. A cake with the Prep seal on it was above and beyond.
I told those gathered that I wonder now why it took me a few months to decide to apply for this job. Working with those pictured encourages me day after day.
And I retold the story of Andrew encouraging this old man (see entry of October 24).

Sunday, November 01, 2009

(photos to follow)

Speech at Open House November 1, 2009

The saints in heaven are on my mind today because today we celebrate in our Catholic tradition All Saints Day. Recently Mitch Album who wrote the popular book “Five People You Meet in Heaven” gave a talk here at St. Joseph’s Prep. In his book a dead man meets people in heaven, people he does not necessarily expect to meet, who so engage him as to give him an understanding of his life. The point of the book, of course, encourages us to search for the meaning of our lives right now. Why wait until we get to heaven?

Why postpone understanding ourselves until we meet some relative or friend or some famous saint in heaven when today there is such a wealth of understanding available in our living experience? The 400 plus Jesuit high schools around the world just like St. Joseph’s Prep embrace the mission of so interacting with students as to open their hearts and minds to self-understanding. We know that only with such understanding can any of us make a positive difference in the lives of others.

Here at SJP every day I observe such interactions. Indeed I myself was a subject in such interactions fifty years ago when I was a student. I had to study, of course: Latin, History, Trig etc. In my mind’s eye, though, no particular chalk board lesson or lecture or sports event remains so strongly in my memory. But certain interactions with teachers and mentors and coaches remain as if they happened yesterday. In a particular class -- I still cringe when I remember it-- I disrespected one of my lay teachers. I cooled my embarrassed heels in jug for three days. In another class I made a flip answer to his question and Father Convery launched into a fifteen-minute lecture warning us about the arrogance and cynicism that he perceived in my classmates and me. There were happy more affirming moments, too, as when a teacher called me to the front of the room after class and asked me quietly why I was having a bad day or when with others in the class I joined in collecting some funds and buying an end-of-the-year present and giving this class present to our esteemed math teacher, Earl Hart. All these interactions helped me understand who I am. As a footnote to the last, it meant a lot to me when in this church in the summer of 2008 I celebrated Mr. Hart’s funeral Mass as one of my first duties as president.

I know for a fact that not a day goes by without countless such memorable interactions taking place in Jesuit high schools everywhere in the world. They are the essence of what we mean when we talk about the personal care of the student. It is my privilege to observe such interactions here at the Prep and to know that each one offers a memorable vision of hope and understanding to our students.

So I say to you young men here. Thanks be to God. The saints are an encouragement to us. Study them. Look forward to meeting them in heaven. But you don’t need to wait until heaven to meet the five people who will help you find the meaning of your life. You can find at the Prep among the adults and also among your classmates those five and more.

God bless you.