College Chaplain Reflection – December 1, 2016
November 30, 2016
Br Breach once taught us a simple little prayer (and then repeated the lesson several times). It was to repeat the names -Jesus, Mary and Joseph- again and again, calling on the names with love and affection. It was a prayer, he told us, that could be used anywhere; while we were walking the dog, riding our bike, waiting for the bus-¦ the last suggestion was planted as an opportunity to tell us (once more) a funny story he was very proud of. A boy once reported back to him that he had been following his advice while waiting for a bus. On boarding and being asked where he was going he answered straight back, -Jesus, Mary and Joseph.-
If we think about it, what are invariably the first words we learn to savor as a child? Names. And what are the last words we wish to speak and hear when our life comes to its end? Names, spoken with gentleness and care. To call on someone’s name is a powerful thing. To be given someone’s name is the first step in a relationship with them. Even when someone can’t speak for themselves, we still call them by name and by doing so recognise their dignity and establish our bond with them.
The prayer is a powerful one because it draws on the tremendous power of names. By naming the Holy Family, we find our home in their embrace. And finding our home in them means recognising Christ as God here present among us, revealing to us the Father’s love and salvation, and Mary and Joseph as our highest models of mankind’s response to that great Mystery.
Perhaps that simple prayer can be one we take up during Advent to help prepare ourselves for Christmas. What better way to gain entry to the peace and joy of that stable scene than to call on the names of the Family who reside there? But even more generally I sincerely believe that prayer, simple though it is, holds for us the true key to who we are as a Catholic school and what we are trying to achieve.
Let’s put it this way. If our students are formed to be men who instinctively call on our Lord’s name with love, then we have done our job. No matter where they go or what they face, they can face it together with our Lord. Whether they are a surgeon with someone’s life in their delicate hands or in prison for aggravated assault, whether they are up again at 2am in the morning to settle a crying baby, or standing by that child’s graveside-¦ if they can call on our Lord’s name they can face it with him and are never alone.
On the other hand, if they have not learnt to call on our Lord’s name, then quite frankly no touchstones or identity project will be able to help them and we have failed in our duty. We have simply left them to face life alone until one day, we hope and pray, they are lead to call on our Lord’s name by someone else; by the theatre nurse who stands next to them, by their cellmate who has undergone a sincere conversion, by their mother as she tries to support her son first in the struggles of fatherhood and then in his grief.
There is a reason our school takes the name of a saint. There is an even greater reason why we begin every day with the sign of the Cross. By doing so we locate our days, indeed our lives, in the name of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Names are the indispensable foundations of a living relationship and all that such relationships entail; commitment, growth, empowerment, joy, communion, love-¦ to call on someone’s name is at the beginning of it all. If I could be granted just one prayer by our Lord, it would be this; that our boys might hold our Lord’s name in their hearts and never fear to call on it with love.
Jesus, I trust in you. Mary Help of Christians, pray for us. St Joseph, pray for us. St Patrick, pray for us. Blessed Edmund Rice, pray for us. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.