I woke up especially early this morning - around 4:30 am - with a lot of nervous excitement: today is Freshmen/Sophomore orientation. This is the day when the U of D Jesuit community greets its newest high school students, introduces them to the school and its culture, and then hosts a picnic (I'm one of the organizers and grill-masters) for them.
With a cup of coffee at my side, I prayed looking out at the rising sun and felt a great sense of gratitude for this opportunity to teach another class of students. This is going to be a wild year for, in addition to my duties as moderator of the Student Senate, I have three course preparations (Latin I, Christology, and Philosophy). In my weak moments, I feel great fear but even when overwhelmed, I cannot help but feel that this is how Jesus has invited me to participate in building the Kingdom...at least this year! For the joy that this brings to my heart, I cannot but be grateful.
Orientation day provides an opportunity to show students a direction, to inculcate a sense of the school's culture and way of doing business. Part of my prayer this morning called me to reflect on this as an important aspect of my own sense of vocation: I feel called not to build God's Kingdom on my own but, rather, to dedicate myself to discerning God's movements so that I can help bring other people to the joy and love that I have found in serving the Crucified One.
It's on days like today that I wish I could allow others to experience the joy I know as a member of the Society of Jesus. As a young person, I knew only that I wanted to be joyful when I grew up: riches and honors weren't nearly as attractive as the sense that I wanted to feel joy and excitement with life. By God's grace, I find myself on the cusp of another school year where I will get to bring the Gospel, in deed and in word, to U of D Jesuit. While some bemoan the poor catechesis of this generation, I take it as a special opportunity to bring to them a non-idolatrous, exciting, and somewhat fun idea of who God is, who Jesus is, and what role each of these young men can play in developing a faith life. I might not be as strident as some would like, but I think sincerity and a good sense of humor go a long way in offering the Gospel to others.
Please say a prayer as we embark on a new year. I remember how nervous I was, 17 years ago, when I was a freshmen and I hope that I can be a comforting presence to the nerves of those students who feel overwhelmed by the transition to high school. Pray, too, that our school's mission to form the hearts and minds of young men always remember that we do this not for success in college admissions but, always, for the greater glory of God.