For this momentary light affliction
is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,
as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen;
for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal. - 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
I think there is one obvious place to start and I do not pretend to really capture in words how much this means, but thank you. Thank you for your patience, prayer, and support. This has not been the best week, and most certainly not the best year.
Our school saw four souls leave this world in the last two weeks. These are things you can’t make up: two graduates from the Class of 2020 lose their fathers in the same night. A beloved prayer warrior from St. Patrick’s parish, and godmother to my own daughter Jubilee. While I was covering for Mrs. Sweet in Catechesis II last Friday, I received notice that our former custodian Nicole Hale passed into eternal life that morning. It should also be noted that two of our current students already lost a father this year. When it became apparent that the cancer would initiate his entrance into eternal life, that father asked me a question which honestly still haunts me because I do not know why he even asked me. "What do I do with my children?" I can still hear his voice while I stood in my garage that day.
Our school community has certainly come together, plenty of people are making serious sacrifices and even more serious decisions, and I have to say I am not surprised in the least.
It is odd how I find myself entering the process of processing these moments in time. It brings me back to my own high school experience: I went to over ten funerals in a period of twenty four months. There were relatives, parents of teammates, and classmates; two of them (one parent and one classmate) was to suicide. Maybe not the best coping strategy, I am honestly listening to the same songs as I did back then (don’t ask me what type of music!).
I find myself relying on the faith and words of others.
Fr. Michael Sartori preached the most vivid and complete picture of authentic Christian joy this past Gaudete Sunday. I am sure he won’t mind me stealing his thunder: “Authentic joy is grace recognized, received, and returned.” We have to see it even when it is hard to locate. We have to receive it even when it would be easier not to. And unless we return it to where it came from, we cannot bring it to fruition. So often we can do one or two elements of this process, but we struggle to do all three.
Moving on the upward now, it was a real grace for me when I heard that Pope Francis declared a Year of St. Joseph on December 8th. I thought to myself, there is the solution.
If ever there was a saint for all occasions, it is St. Joseph. Patron of our school, patron of fathers, patron of the dying, patron of the family, patron of laborers, patron of our diocese, and patron of our universal Church. After all, the very word patron is derived from the Latin pater, meaning “father”.
“Saint Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation.”
“Often in life, things happen whose meaning we do not understand. Our first reaction is frequently one of disappointment and rebellion. Joseph set aside his own ideas in order to accept the course of events and, mysterious as they seemed, to embrace them, take responsibility for them and make them part of his own history. Unless we are reconciled with our own history, we will be unable to take a single step forward, for we will always remain hostage to our expectations and the disappointments that follow.”
“Joseph found happiness not in mere self-sacrifice but in self-gift. In him, we never see frustration but only trust. His patient silence was the prelude to concrete expressions of trust. Our world today needs fathers. It has no use for tyrants who would domineer others as a means of compensating for their own needs. It rejects those who confuse authority with authoritarianism, service with servility, discussion with oppression, charity with a welfare mentality, power with destruction. Every true vocation is born of the gift of oneself, which is the fruit of mature sacrifice.”
Mrs. Sweet and I spent some time discussing those excerpts from the apostolic letter, and if you want to be inspired, I suggest listening to her comments about acceptance.
St. Joseph teaches me that God’s providential hand is always shaping our experience, and if we allow ourselves to look for his hand, we can be the recipient of the same strength of faith that is received by all our departed loved ones. Listening to Mrs. Puksta comfort the afflicted with her own account of her husband's recent passing confirmed for me that our souls are connected to those in purgatory and heaven, and I trust her experience much more than mine.
I was recently introduced to this analogy that really resonates. There is something superior to unwrapping a gift. The mystery is matched by a fervor to reveal. And then, the content of the gift combined with the experience of the gift-opener together bring meaning to the moment.
It is kind of like our whole formation in the faith and education in humanity. What we teach matters but also how we teach matters. The content of the subject or object discussed is internalized only to the extent that the learner experiences what is learned in a meaningful way.
Death. Birth. Sacraments. Christmas. The classroom.
In all these ordinary moments, the content of the faith and experience of the faith are made known. We need both to make it stick and to make it through.
The faith of this community inspires. Thank you for giving me that.
-Derek Tremblay, Headmaster