They Came for a Visit—Not to Stay

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Friday morning, 7 April 2017)

Let us remember that we are in the Holy presence of God

“If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority”.  John 7:17

Today, the Catholic Church celebrates the feast day of our Founder, St. John Baptist de La Salle, the patron saint of Catholic Education.  The Institute that he founded in Reims, France in the late 17th Century, The Brothers of the Christian Schools, is now assisted by more than 100,000 lay colleagues and teaches over 1,000,000 students in 80 countries in the world today.

As a lay colleague in this shared mission, I am often amazed to be part of such a significant global movement.  I am humbled to offer some words of reflection on our Founder’s feast day.

When I began to reflect on what I might say, inspiration came from an unusual place.  On the side of the glass milk bottle we have delivered to our house it says, “They came for a visit not to stay.”  This saying is true of all of us as we were sent by God to visit during our human existence and then return to God.  The question then becomes “What do we do on our visit?”

St. John Baptist de La Salle was a man who continually prayed to God to answer that question in his life, i.e. what God wished him do on his earthly visit.  The answer was not easy for him as it moved him out of a comfortable and privileged life and would win him some true “Brothers” and some serious opposition.

The answer for him came in two parts.  The first part was most likely obvious to a man who felt a call to the priesthood at an early age.  The idea that God’s salvation is the greatest gift that anyone can ever receive would be clear to him.  The second, that a human and Christian education was essential for the young men entrusted to his care, most especially the poor and marginalized, came to him gradually and led him to commit more and more of himself to what became his life’s endeavor.

This idea that education can lead to salvation was not universally accepted and many in power in De La Salle’s time and even some in power now deny education to some for their own selfish ends.

Early in his priesthood De La Salle was invited to assist in opening a school for the poor boys of his hometown— Reims, France.  As he came to see what was needed in the schools, he also came to see that these young boys had very little understanding of God’s love in their lives.  He saw that they either had very busy and absentee parents or no parents, and thus they were unable to provide the time and education for their children necessary to understand God’s salvation.  Thus, he came to see that a truly Christian school must teach skills that allow students to obtain meaningful work and provide the students the time for the prayer and reflection needed to ascertain God’s plan for salvation.  So, De La Salle focused his schools on places where practical skills were taught and prayer was constant.

This pragmatic approach to education led him to become a true innovator in his educational approach.  Yet, perhaps the most important element of his method is that he knew he could not do it alone.  He knew he needed other men to be his “Brothers” in his work.  He also truly understood that the work he was embarking on was not his own but God’s work.

Truly this was a man who made the best of his visit.  He poured himself into God’s work.  And even though the work was not always easy and the path not always clear St. John Baptist de La Salle and his Brothers trusted the will of God and have driven forth this mission that continues 298 year past the end of his own life.

We at La Salle are able to see his work in action and reminders about his life are ever present.  My favorite reminder is in the cafeteria where his last words are written in the center of the cafeteria— “In all things, I adore the will of God in my regard.”

Let us pray…

Loving God, let us be inspired to make the most of our visit here on earth.   Let us listen to your will in our lives and have the courage to live it.  Amen.

St. John Baptist de La Salle … pray for us.

Live Jesus in our hearts … forever!

Timothy Donovan–Social Studies Teacher

The Conscience of a Generation

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Tuesday morning, 4 April 2017)

Good morning, La Salle!

Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.

Today, April 4th 2017, marks the 49th anniversary of the death of civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King was the conscience of his generation.  He gazed on the great wall of segregation and saw that the power of love could bring it down.  From the pain and exhaustion of his fight to free all people from the bondage of separation and injustice, he wrung his eloquent statement of his dream of what America could be.  He helped us overcome our ignorance of one another. He spoke out against war he felt unjust, as he had spoken out against laws that were unfair.  He made our nation stronger because he made it better. He continued to his last days to strive for a world where the poorest and humblest among us could enjoy the fulfillment of the promises of our founding fathers. His life informed us, his dreams sustain us yet.

Forty-nine years ago today, Dr. King lost his life for the cause of equality for all.  Let us pause to remember the great legacy of this man.  We pause to remember how Dr. King’s deep faith called him to his legendary role as a leader to all people.

As you remember this great man, I ask you right now to listen to a prayer that was written by Dr. King himself.

O God, we thank you for the fact that you have inspired men and women in all nations and in all cultures. We call you different names: some call you Allah; some call you Hashem; some call you Jehovah; some call you Brahma; some call you the Unmoved Mover. But we know that these are all names for one and the same God. Grant that we will follow you and become so committed to your way and your kingdom that we will be able to establish in our lives and in this world a brother and sisterhood, that we will be able to establish here a kingdom of understanding, where men and women will live together as brothers and sisters and respect the dignity and worth of every human being. In the name and spirit of Jesus. Amen.” 

Saint John Baptist de La Salle:  Pray for us.

Live Jesus in our hearts: Forever.

James DePasquale–De La Salle Middle School teacher–Spanish*

*drawn from a variety of sources

Touched by Sam’s Eternal Spirit

A Personal Remembrance of Sam Jenkins

Brother Frederick C. Mueller, FSC, Ed.D.

1 April 2017—A Celebration of the Life of Sam Jenkins

It was early in the first semester of the school year, Autumn of 2012—I am not sure of the exact date—but I am sure of the exact spot—a couch in the center lounge of Campus Ministry at La Salle Academy, that I met Sam Jenkins.  I know it was not the first time I had seen him in there as I passed through the space regularly for a few quiet moments in the Blessed Sacrament Meditation Chapel, but I became curious about this young man working diligently by himself on some school work—pen in hand and open book, no cell phone distractions.  In meeting for that first time Sam told me that he had transferred, that he had taken the Sophomore Religion course as a Freshman and that as a Sophomore at La Salle he was doing independent study using the Freshman Religion text.  As the conversation progressed he mentioned that he played hockey—was a goalie—and immediately I realized that I would be spending some time with this young man over the next few years in one of my roles at La Salle—that of Boys’ Hockey moderator.

 

Indeed I did spend time with Sam over those next three years and got to know something about him—how he was really bright (since I never had to call him into my office to talk about poor grades); how he was a young man of many interests—a young Renaissance man—who could move easily from the hockey rink to the Chorus Room as a member of Men’s a-Capella chorus, to the stage as a player in Othello, to the computer lab, to the English classroom and the debate team; how he had a perpetual smile, a cheery word, a firm handshake every time we greeted each other (sometimes a few times a day) as I engaged in my ministry of the hallways being present before and after school and between classes.

 

However, what I treasure more than knowing about Sam was coming to know Sam.  I discovered a young man who was comfortable in his own skin (on dress down days when students could be out of dress code, Sam would invariably appear in brightly colored or pastel shorts and shirts or with lounge pants with little boats or watermelons on them—a declaration by Sam of his individuality).  I discovered a young man of great loyalty and fidelity—never the starting goalie, Sam never complained about being a back-up or a 3rd or 4th string goalie; he was at every practice whether early in the morning or late in the evening doing what his coach asked him to and filling in whenever or wherever needed; even during his Senior year he was at almost every game and frequently in the locker room cheering his team mates on as they won the State Hockey Championship.  I discovered a young man who valued community—be it his family community so clear in his pride in his younger sister coming to La Salle or the school community itself.  One day early in the second semester of his Senior year he appeared at my office door (a frequent occurrence) and sat across from me excited to share with me the news of his choice of college—a massive search and plenty of open doors for him.  He proudly said, “I found a place like La Salle—small, a real community, a place where I feel I can belong—Swarthmore.”  And at Swarthmore he did indeed find a community where he could both fit in and be himself.  And finally, I discovered a young man of profound depth, great sensitivity, and deepening spirituality.  Later in that second semester of his Senior Year Sam came up to me in the corridor and announced, “I am thinking about becoming a monk!”  Quickly in my mind I am thinking—a Brother?  A Trappist monk?  He must have seen the pensive look on my face and said, “A Buddhist monk!”  I am sure he saw surprise flash on my face but the conversation ended there and he went on and I thought—how appropriate!  Sam loved the outdoors; he was an environmentalist.  Sam also loved the big questions.  Buddhism, which he was studying that semester, was a way for him to join in an organic whole the outside world and the inside world.  I never saw him in a saffron robe but it would not have been far-fetched.

 

Over the past year and one half that he has been away in college his frequent return visits (three times over the most recent Christmas break) revealed to me that Sam was continuing to grow—as someone secure in who he was, as a loyal and faithful friend, as a person who treasured family and community, and as a young man who had not lost his gift of deep reflection.

 

La Salle Academy will miss Sam—La Salle is more than bricks and mortar, more than alums returning to reunions; and, Sam will continue to be remembered as a treasured member of our Lasallian Family.  The Boys’ Hockey Program will miss Sam—forever he is a part of that team that broke the 38 year drought and that will never be forgotten!  And I will miss Sam and his on-going friendship.  Sam may be gone but there is a part of me that will continue to be touched by Sam’s eternal spirit.

 

I won’t say “Sam, rest in peace”—much too passive for Sam.  Rather, “Sam, continue to live—now and forever in the loving presence of that God whom you sought.”

Lend Our Hands

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Thursday morning, 30 March 2017)

Let us remember, that we are in the holy presence of God.

In my classroom there is a statue of the Blessed Mother Mary that I’ve had for a couple of decades that my students have probably seen. Sometimes when writing on the board, it falls off. One time when it fell about 10 years ago I looked at it and the hands were missing! I looked all over the floor and couldn’t find them. It struck me at that moment that I was getting a message from God and His Mother that my students and I were supposed to be those hands –doing God’s work in the world. I know that sounds corny, but I have definitely seen students acting as the hands of God’s work on Earth.

It’s evident in all of the service organizations, but one can also use any moment of any day to be God’s hands in the world. As it says in the 1st letter of Peter, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”

A good example of this is a story that my son sent me about Je’rod Cherry, former safety for the Patriots. He happened to be at a youth event with his wife and saw a movie about an underprivileged boy who was on the verge of starvation and it struck him hard that he was throwing food away while children just like his own four were struggling to live. Je’rod had become a special-teams player for the Patriots in 2001, just in time to win three rings in four years and, ultimately, to show up at that conference and declare himself ready to do something useful with the most important ring to him – the 2001 ring. He had no clue he was walking into a day that would inspire him to raffle his ring to protect two dozen orphans in Thailand from the scourge of extreme poverty, drugs, sex trafficking and childhoods without an education, as well as helping other children in Kenya, as we are doing with the Rice Bowl.

None of us has a Super Bowl ring to donate, but we all get opportunities to do selfless acts and to do something really worthwhile in our lives. God guides us to be in just the right place at the right time- but we have to take the first step to agree to be the hands of Christ and His Mother, Mary, in the world.

Let us pray.

Lord, help us to feel the pain of those in poverty so that we can rise to a life of joy-filled, unselfish service. In Acts 20 vs. 35 it says “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak, and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Let’s get going-it’s time to lend our hands!

St. John Baptist de La Salle, pray for us.

Live, Jesus, in our hearts, forever.

Leslie Martinelli–Science Teacher

“A Lamp to My Feet—A Light unto My Path”

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Tuesday morning, 28 March 2017)

Let us remember that we are in the Holy Presence of a Loving God…

 

Your Word is a lamp to my feet, O God,

And a Light unto my path…

This verse from Sacred Scripture (a line from the longest psalm in the Bible, Psalm 119:105,) has resonated with me for quite some time and will serve as my theme for this morning’s prayer.

As we embark on this Lenten journey, I thought I would share how I am challenging myself to grow closer to Jesus during this Lenten season.

During February break I started to contemplate how I can grow closer to God this Lenten season.  I knew I wanted to pray more, sin less, and do more for others, but I wasn’t sure how that would look.  I stumbled upon an App called the Bible Project.  I had used some videos from this ministry before when teaching Scripture classes but as I was exploring the website more in depth, I noticed that they offered a reading plan to read through the entire Bible in one year’s time.  While this is a challenge that extends far beyond the 40 days of Lent, I thought it would be a great way to immerse myself in God’s Word every day.  I experience God’s Word in Mass and certainly in our daily routine here at La Salle, but I wanted a way to connect with God more deeply and more intimately, through His Word, and this particular plan offered me a structured method to do so.  I started this daily reading plan which incorporates short videos that are engaging and informative, a couple chapters to read, and one psalm each day upon which to meditate. I already feel a shift in my attitude and outlook.  And after all, that’s what Lent is all about—a season to remind me of what’s truly important, my relationship with Jesus.  God’s word is a lamp to my feet, reminding me to put one foot in front of the other, one day at a time, in loving trust of His plan for me.  Throughout my life, God has demonstrated His boundless mercy, His unwavering faithfulness, and His amazing love for me.  Spending time with Scripture each day reminds me of how blessed I truly am, and helps me to see the world from His perspective.  God’s Word reminds me that just like God had a plan for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, He also has a plan for me. Despite my limitations, flaws, and imperfections (of which there are plenty I can assure you), I am, as we all are, a part of something greater than ourselves, God’s story…And ultimately that’s what Sacred Scripture is, God’s story.  And it is a love story. In my humble opinion, it is the greatest love story one could hope to be true.  So while this particular Bible Project App and reading plan is something that is working for me, I pray and hope that you find a way that works for you to connect with God more deeply this Lenten season.  God is not limited by space or time, so it is never too late (or too early for that matter) to take advantage of an opportunity like Lent to grow in our faith.

Let us pray…

Dear God, thank You for this Lenten opportunity that You provide us with to know You, to love You, and to serve You better.

Thank You for Your Church that gives us these Holy Seasons to prepare our hearts and our minds and our spirits, to receive Your abundant grace which you lavish upon us.

May Your Word guide our feet and light our path always, Amen.

Saint John Baptist de La Salle…Pray for us.

Live Jesus in our Hearts…Forever.

Anthony Russo–Member of the Campus Ministry team

The Walking In Between

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Tuesday, 21 March 2017)

Let us remember we are in the holy presence of a loving God

Any person who knows me or was ever forced to spend anywhere from 3-7 minutes in my presence knows I sing and dance ALL the time. I’m not a good singer by any stretch of the imagination but I am very fascinated by lyrics and trying to decipher what they mean. My favorite singer is a man by the name of Ben Rector. I had not heard a single word about him until my sophomore year, when the alphabetizing gods aligned and Mr. Ricci unknowingly sat me next to my good friend Jared for World History class. After spending many days talking about Ben’s greatness, he suggested I go home and add him to my Spotify immediately. As I browsed his music, I came to a song titled “I like you.”  It was in this song that I found the quote that now hangs above my bed. It reads, “Life is not the mountain tops, it’s the walking in between.”

And I know that this may seem like a simple message but to me it resonated more deeply. You see this quote will mean something exceptionally different for every person in this building. All of our mountain tops may be similar: graduations, birthdays, state championships. These are the “big” things in life, the ones we tend to remember and reflect on. We often spend so much of our time and energy focusing on these mountain tops that we forget all about the best part: the walking in between, the common day to day efforts that eventually lead us to our goals.

Seniors graduating this year, think of the people who helped you achieve your goals, your big things. Think about all the work, the perseverance and the joy that went into making it to the mountaintops. This is where the real beauty of it all lies. Every person needs a cause in order to produce any type of effect on the world.  We all need a reason for being and I certainly have found that reason through La Salle and everything that I’ve learned here. Looking across the caf I’m taken aback by the things that people in this building have taught me, whether it be that you gave me an extra pencil (my loyal locker neighbors) or you gave me the best friendship I have ever had.  So to those friends in homeroom listening right now, I want to thank you.  I, like any human, tend to mess up a lot. If it weren’t for this messing up or the people helping me through it each day, each year then I certainly wouldn’t be where I am.

Those who helped likely forgot that they even did these things, or were so impactful. There are underclassmen who have taught me the importance of pancake art and spike ball. There are teachers who have stayed after with me, responded to my confusing emails and done everything in their power to make sure I reach my goals.  These are the things I’m most thankful for.

I challenge each one of you to think of all the little, often overlooked things you cherish from a friend, teacher, family member or whoever has been there for you on a random Tuesday when you need it most. These are the people who will be there to see you walk across that stage and onto your next trail.

I also challenge you to think of the little ways in which you can help others reach their next mountain top. It is those who endure the walking in between with us that will stand proudly with us at the top of mountain and smile.

Let us Pray.

Lord, remind us to embrace even the most typical of days and encourage us to find the strength within ourselves and each other as we make our own respective journeys up the mountaintops. May the walking in between be ever so lovely.

 

Saint John Baptist de La Salle…Pray for us!

Live Jesus in our hearts. Forever!

Abby Almonte–Class of 2017

A Prayer on Saint Patrick’s Day

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Friday morning, 17 March 2017)

Justin: Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God…

 

Justin: If you know anything about Mrs. Weber, you know that she always likes to start class with a quote. So, it would only be fitting to begin today at La Salle the same way, with a quote from Saint Patrick.

Mrs. Weber:  “I know for certain, that before I was humbled I was like a stone lying in deep mire, and he that is mighty came and in his mercy raised me up and, indeed, lifted me high up and placed me on top of the wall. And from there I ought to shout out in gratitude to the Lord for his great favors in this world and for ever, that the mind of man cannot measure.”

Justin:  Let us pray.  Dear Lord, may we always recognize, and give thanks for your presence in all that lifts us up, and allows us to see.  May we see your light in others, and may we never forget that we can be the light that they see.  May we feel you in someone’s smile, the sun that lights our days, the laughter of our friends, the feeling of family – in every sense of the word, in everything  that your love enables us to know, and all that we cannot even imagine.   Amen.

 

Saint John Baptist de La Salle….pray for us.

Live Jesus in our hearts….forever.

Jessica Weber–Spanish Teacher AND Justin Gervais–Class of 2018

Open Our Hearts (and Our Pocketbooks)

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Thursday, 16 March 2017)

Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of a loving God …

 

Take a second to think about your day yesterday. What did you do? (pause) Where did you go? (pause)

Yesterday after a few after-school errands with Mrs. da Silva, we drove home in our car and walked into our house. I sat down on our couch to relax for a few minutes after what seemed like a long and tiring day. Around 8 o’clock I ate my leftovers from a local restaurant – delicious short rib pie with potatoes and carrots. We watched a few episodes of a TV drama set in medieval England. After more episodes than I am proud to admit, I got ready for bed and drifted off to sleep with the sounds of our central heating system making noise as it heated the house. Does this routine sound familiar to you? I’ll bet that most of us had a similar afternoon and evening yesterday (hopefully with less Netflix binge-watching).

For the students, faculty, and staff of the Rongai Agricultural and Technical Secondary School, our twin school in Rongai, Kenya, however, that routine went a little differently. After an eight-hour day full of academics, including agricultural and manual skills-based classes, they set out for an hour or two in the fields to plow, seed, weed, and harvest as well as to care for their chickens, pigs, and cows. They then had two hours of free time to play sports and eat dinner before attending remedial classes for an hour and personal study time for an hour and a half. At 9:30 p.m. they gathered for prayer and then hit their net-covered bunk beds in their dorms at 10 p.m. As we speak, they are following the same routine right now. I’ll bet that very few, if any of us, could say that our day yesterday went anything like the day our brothers and sisters in Rongai experienced.

Although the “live off the land” nature of their lives may sound attractive, there are many aspects of their lives that do not. Most of the students of Rongai Agri and Tech School come from very poor and single-parent families. It is almost impossible for them to afford an education. Donations provide for scholarships, supplies, salaries, and much more. Currently, the school is in need of funds to repair the floor of the school, to buy new computers and classroom furniture, and to pay for a school bus to bring students to outside activities. For most of the students at our twin school in Rongai, Kenya, an education is their only way out of extreme poverty. And their only way to get an education is through generous donations of money and resources. This is where you come in …

All of the proceeds from tomorrow’s dress down day go to the Rongai Agricultural and Technical Secondary School. You are asked to make a minimum donation of $5, but please consider donating more to help our fellow Lasallians in Rongai, Kenya to thrive and not just survive. My challenge to you today and tomorrow is two-fold: Number one: donate what you can financially in homeroom tomorrow and Number two: really read the signs posted around the building today to give yourself some idea of what life in Kenya is like.

Let us pray …

Lord God, you have given us all that we have and call our own so that we can use it all for the good of those around us. We thank you for the great gift of our twin school in Rongai, Kenya. Inspire us to open our hearts to our fellow Lasallians in need and to contribute generously to tomorrow’s dress down day collection. Shower down your blessings upon the students, staff, and faculty of the Rongai Agricultural and Technical Secondary School and upon our community here at La Salle Academy. We ask these things through Christ the Lord.  Amen.

St. John Baptist de La Salle … pray for us.

Live Jesus in our Hearts … forever.

Charles da Silva–Religion Teacher

This Is The Moment

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Monday, 13 March 2017)

Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.

Anyone who has class with Mr. Tanski knows that he often offers a riddle as a bonus at the end of a quiz. He used a particular riddle that stuck with me. It goes like this, “I never was, am always to be. No one ever saw me, nor ever will. And yet I am the confidence of all who live and breathe on this terrestrial ball. What am I?”  Give up? The answer is “tomorrow” or “the future.” Let me just repeat one part. “I am the confidence of all who live and breathe on this terrestrial ball. ” That part of the riddle made me think. We all really do put so much confidence into the future. We rely on the future.

It seems as though we are always preparing for something. We consume ourselves in the future, planning out our days and weeks, getting ready for tests and quizzes, college, dreaming about what will come to us in days that are not today.

Look around at everyone sitting in homeroom with you. These people, this classroom… This is a moment. There will never be another just like it. Take it in, because it’s already gone.

Moments are passing by us like speeding cars, and it’s rare that we notice it. In all of our stress about the future, we tend to forget about right now. There is no better time than right now to do the things we want to do: to better ourselves, to do something out of our comfort zones, to stop procrastinating. We all know that thinking and planning for the future is important. But in light of this, we have become so reliant on tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day. That can become an endless cycle. If we dream about tomorrow bringing great things and don’t do anything today to make them happen, we set ourselves up for disappointment, once we realize that we missed our chance yesterday. So, I challenge you to live in the moment today. Appreciate things now. Do things now. Because in reality, God gives us the present. What we do with it now becomes the future.

Let us pray.

Heavenly Father,

Please give us the wisdom to recognize that every moment is a gift from you. We ask you for the motivation and courage to live each of our moments in your service.  Amen.

St. John Baptist de La Salle, Pray for us.

Live, Jesus, in our hearts, Forever.

 

Carpe Diem, La Salle!

Katherine Kerr–Class of 2019