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Brother Domenic on How Best to Use the Time Given to us in the Summer to Learn

Dear Students, Parents & Colleagues:

Fads are about attention. 

Trends are about intention.

Principles are about truth. 

The people of ancient Asia considered it a curse to live in times of confusion. Today, there is little doubt we live in such an age. Truth does not disappear entirely in such a challenging period of history but not unlike the Middle Ages some truths are buried under the dust created in the whirlwind of fads and trends. This is no more evident than in our times as we see and are sometimes constrained under the guise of progressivism and justice to accept things unimaginable to previous generations. As a Christian community, we are called to hang on tightly to revealed truths against the tides of sometimes well-intentioned people and against those whose intentions are much less honourable. 

Fortunately, the summer months provide us with additional time to read and reflect. I have always found the weeks of the summer a good time to read books I haven’t had time for during the busyness of the school year and often go back to books I treasure reading again. 

Many years ago I used to actually send out a summer reading list to students as part of their summer package. I will leave a brief list at the end of this message for students and parents to review. 

For educators, summer is both a time to unwind and re-energize. It should also be a time for study as well as relaxation. Spiritual and professional development should always be an integral part of a Lasallian educator’s and student’s summer programme. Learning should not be limited to the parameters of the school calendar. There are many ways to learn. Extra reading and the ability again to travel are excellent ways. I have found travelling to other destinations an important way to accomplish getting a new perspective on life which is energizing and renewing. De La Salle himself sought to ensure that his Brothers, whose school year was longer than ten months, had some sustained time off to recharge and study.

We are very fortunate that our Saint La Salle wrote extensively for the Brothers. His many letters, his teaching manual “The Twelve Virtues of the Good Master”, “The Conduct of Christian Schools”, “The Rules of Christian Decorum & Civility”, “The Explanation of the Method of Interior Prayer”, “The Duties of a Christian to God” and  “The Meditations for the Time of Retreat” are among the best known. They constitute an indispensable body of works with which all educators in Lasallian institutions should be familiar. They are not simply of historical import but contain elements of what the Christian school is intended to be – a means of salvation. You may find them of interest. They are not quaint glimpses although they do give a good picture of life at the time and how the schools evolved. You may find them of interest. 

Naturally, the best source of refuelling our commitment to be a member of a faith community, not only a school, is to do some daily reading of Sacred Scripture and, when possible, more time spent in prayer.

A few books I will read once again are Bad Religion by Ross Douthat, A Church in Crisis by Ralph Martin and Light of the World by Benedict XIII. 

Lest you think this is the only kind of reading I do, I will go to my personal library where many books on language and books in other languages await. I enjoy sports biographies and murder mysteries. 

Here are a few books students may wish to explore either in hard copy or on tablets this summer.  

  • Brave New World (SS)
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (SS & JS)  
  • The House with Chicken Legs (SS & JS)
  • Robinson Crusoe (SS & JS)
  • The Iliad (SS)
  • Great Expectations (SS) 
  • Crime & Punishment (SS)
  • 1984 (SS)
  • The Hockey Sweater (JS)
  • Rich Dad, Poor Dad (SS)
  • The Last Beekeeper (JS)
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society (JS)

SS – Senior School Level; JS – Junior School Level  

Young people, perhaps older people as well, need to remember that when we nourish our souls and minds with good literature we grow in virtue. A relaxed and focussed mind gives us the strength to face the challenges of the day. When we are calm in heart, we are less confused. When we grow in virtue, we are less subject to fall for fads, which are really lies, and trends, which are often fleeting. Good nourishment gives us the strength to recognize truth and hold on to it. 

In matters of style, swim with the current. In matters of principles, stand like a rock. – Thomas Jefferson

Blessings to all this summer,

Brother Domenic, fsc