College Chaplain Reflection – June 9, 2016

June 8, 2016

Sharing of times when it worked

We are fast coming towards the end of term now-¦ but who is counting?

Our staff will have a few formation days during the first week of the holidays. Unfortunately I won’t able to join them as I will be away. There is one activity in particular that I think the staff can look forward to. As I will miss it on the day I thought I’d get in early.

The staff will each share a story of a time they found everything -‘worked’ at St Pat’s; a moment that affirmed the purpose of the College and the value of what we try and do. In other words, a story we hold on to that encourages and strengthens us in what we do. I’ve been blessed to have quite a number of such experiences here as chaplain. The story I want to share though comes from my time as a student, and it is not so much of an event as of a relationship.

My dad began his time at St Patrick’s working as a Boarding House Master. Our family therefore lived over in McCunnie House for seven years. After a little while a weekly routine took hold whereby one of the Christian Brothers, Br Breach, would hobble over on a Wednesday afternoon to visit our family.

On a typical visit he would teach us some magic tricks and have us practice our public speaking over tea. But what we did in a sense wasn’t so important. It was his character that left the deepest impression. Br Breach was a kind and gentle man. He always had a good word to say. He showed an interest in what we were doing and encouraged us in our aspirations.

He perhaps belonged to the old school in his subtle preference for certain vocations (priest, doctor, lawyer then maybe teacher seemed to be the order), and yet he would also tell us enthusiastically of how he had run into so-and-so lately who had taken up an apprenticeship and was the model of a fine young man (who after a little inquiring we found the man was now a father already into his late forties with an established business-¦ but I suppose -‘young’ is a relative term).

He was entirely consistent in this because his ultimate valuation of life was not the money someone made or the notoriety they had attracted. It was quite simply the degree to which they had lived for love. Like any teacher he spoke fondly of the examples of great ability and brilliance he had encountered over his years. As a teacher of life though, his reserved his true passion for the virtues that would build us up. Sacrifice, faithfulness, generosity, wisdom, perseverance, courage-¦ these would count far more in a man than any aptitude or talent.

Like a true teacher, he could consistently teach to this end because he modelled it in his own life. The same virtues he preached enthusiastically he also lived out faithfully. And because he did so, because he could model virtue for my family and me, his life lesson became compelling. I could recognise before me a good man, who was also a man of great peace and joy. And from a very young age I looked at him and thought to myself, -I want to be just like him.-

But even this was not the greatest gift Br Breach left us with. His example was certainly life-giving, but he counted all his own efforts as nothing. He pointed us on rather to the source of everything in his life. He pointed us on to the Heart of Jesus. And I can tell you, that has been the most valuable lesson I have ever been taught.