I hope that the March Break that we are finishing in April this year has been an occasion for you to find a little time to enjoy a change of pace. Sadly, we will be unable to return to in-person learning when classes resume on Monday. We have been through this before, but it doesn’t seem to be much of a consolation facing this reality once more. I am confident that your teachers will do their best to provide engaging and meaningful instruction. I know I am finding it a challenge to sort things out in my own mind, so I can only imagine what it must be like for young people, especially the youngest ones. I can only suggest that you try to keep yourself busy and that you take some time away from your computer screens to occupy your time in other healthy ways.
As we try to cope with the ongoing situation we have been living through for over a year, it appears we are not close yet to seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. The situation is discouraging. Each day seems to bring another wrinkle. However, it is also true that the pandemic has provided an opportunity to assess our blessings and our challenges from different perspectives. It remains true, in my view, at least, that for a generation completely unprepared for any adversity, the current anxiety we, each to differing degrees, are experiencing is more the result of how we approach life than the many inconveniences we have had to endure these many months. I know young people don’t like hearing that previous generations had it much tougher than you, so I will not belabour the point. Suffice to state, the abundance we have all inherited from other generations, if we want to be honest, has often been squandered and spoiled a lot by my generation and those younger than mine. Although I do not subscribe to the apocalyptic interpretations some would like to ascribe to our time, it is worth deliberating on how we will be judged by the decisions we make today and our attitudes. Schools should play an important role helping parents in sorting out the increasingly bewildering world in which we as believers find ourselves apart. Students, too, exercise a role as you can be a source of great hope. Young people have an instinctive capacity to want to be good if only adults would do a better and clearer job of explaining why it is important to be good and that all goodness ultimately begins and ends with God. I have asked your teachers to think about the following questions, and I challenge you to do the same.
What will be left of sound education; observant religious worship; a renewed family unit; freedom of speech; a sense of duty; good manners and Christian decorum? In a Catholic school, which is the extension of the universal Church, we are each in our own way responsible for our emotional and spiritual wellbeing and for our growth in faith. We should be careful to avoid forming our consciences by relying too heavily on the media and pop culture. Good literature and fine arts, music and engaging hobbies can help us build up an informed conscience when we combine these good things with honest prayer and recognising the presence of God around us, in us, and in others. I used to tell students that if all they ever read was Holy Scripture and Shakespeare, when combined with playing cards, without cheating, you were well-positioned to face life and its realities.
One of the most important contributions Saint de La Salle made to education was his belief that the school is a means of salvation for the young. It is in the school that we begin our journey to sanctification. Our failures and shortcomings do not excuse us from attempting to become more faithful. In the end, we all suffer from hypocrisy of some kind, so we need to be careful when seeking the speck in our neighbour’s eye and missing the log in our own. I have always maintained that the De La Salle student should be solid in faith but in a way that is not boastful or presumptuous.
In the remaining weeks of this school year, in person or online, I know that you will dig down deep to find the energy and determination to do as well as you can. That is what we do here, both students and staff. Things are not perfect, and the situation we are in is hardly what we would all want to see. But this is a graced time for those of a generous spirit and a selfless attitude. It is a challenge to be patient, but this is arguably the virtue we lack the most.
Know that I do keep your intentions of good physical, emotional and spiritual health in my poor prayers. May our Lord deliver us from too much anxiety about the future, useless preoccupation with the past, self-seeking in the present and a more genuine belief in his love and presence today. May our Lady, Help of Christians, grant us her special protection.
Brother Domenic, fsc