It's hard to believe that it's already Thursday. Fortunately for me and, certainly, the students at U of D Jesuit, today is the last day of classes this week. In keeping with tradition, tomorrow morning our entire school will gather to celebrate the Mass of the Holy Spirit where we pray that God's Spirit be with us this year.
This has been, arguably, one of the more exciting weeks in my life. I have woken up every morning excited and I've gone to bed each night exhausted. From explaining to freshmen what it means to "Fight and Not to Heed the Wounds" (from the Prayer for Generosity) to discussing with seniors just what it is that Simone Weil means by the word attention, I feel like I've been running full-speed throughout the week. I went to bed last night with an awful sore throat...a reminder, perhaps, that I had talked too much over the course of three days! Upon awakening this morning, however, I was glad to discover that the soreness had abated.
One of the great graces of my schedule is that I have a planning period immediately before two of my classes and then one before my final two classes for the day. What this has allowed me to do is to spend 10 minutes in prayer before my students arrive. I sometimes have a hard time remembering names, but in those moments before the classes start I pray with my seating charts, asking that God give me the grace and strength to help in the formation of their hearts and minds. I pray, too, that God be with each student during the day. I remember how hard the transition to high school was for me, so I pray in a special way that my freshmen experience in a special way the nearness of God.
Perhaps it is because of the patten of praying-through-the-day that I've really found a special love for teaching the sophomore-level New Testament course. I think that, sometimes, teachers are tempted to treat the New Testament as simply another book, just as a piece of literature. To be sure, this is appropriate for certain scholars. But in the context of a Jesuit school, I think it especially important to invite students to reflect on the question that Jesus poses to each one of us in faith: "Who do you say that I am?" Before each sophomore class, I pray that I be a good steward of the Gospel so that each student has the opportunity to come to know and love Jesus more deeply.
In a word, while there's a part of me that wants the young men to know about Tacitus and all the names of the 27 books of the New Testament, my ultimate goal is to help the students to (1) love theology (2) come to know and to love Jesus Christ more deeply so that (3) each one can commit himself to being a disciple and an faithful and active member of the Church.
Had you asked me last year at this time where I imagined myself for Regency, I would have said that I'd be at a college. I'm glad that I did not get what I then wanted! I do not know that in a college classroom I would be able to share with my students why Jesus Christ is the love of my life or if I could as easily encourage them to think about who Jesus is for them. Perhaps some college teachers can do this - Father Gray and Father Fiore were supremely gifted in this - but I don't know that I'm quite capable of doing so...at least not yet. So I am glad to be with these kids, seeing them in the hallways, having them in class, encouraging them at practice and at games, making them clean up after themselves at lunch. In all of these encounters, I hope to embody for them the very special way of discipleship that is religious life in a manner that makes it attractive to them. Good vocation promotion doesn't depend on slick ads or videos, although those are extremely helpful! I think good vocation promotion is rooted in our willingness to live out our vocations with joy and vivacity, showing to those around us our enthusiasm for having found the 'pearl of great price' and inviting others to seek this treasure as well.
As the school year "officially" kicks off tomorrow, please pray for my students and for all students this year. May the Holy Spirit enkindle their hearts a flame that sets all that they do - whether inside or outside of the classroom - aflame for the Greater Glory of God.