A New Standard for Greatness

(Prayer offered over the Public Address system for the La Salle Academy community on Monday morning, 17 March 2014)

Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.  (Sung by a small chorus of students)

I am a husband, a father, and – praise be to God – a grandfather.  I think often , very often, about this family that embraces and delights me.  To tell you the truth, though, because I am also a teacher, I think just as often about my students.

Sometimes those thoughts are frustrations, when a class is not working hard enough.  The voices you have just heard might know something about that.  Sometimes I even worry about a student working too hard.  Often I am just in awe of my students’ brilliance, or resilience, or just plain goodness.

Because I have all these concerns, Mr. Kavanagh’s reflection, a week or two ago, struck a chord in me.  Teaching is an act of faith he said.  And learning is an act of faith.  Believe it when I tell you that I have faith that when my students learn about mathematics – say logarithms – the things that happen in their brains will help them grow, help them be healthier, more whole, yes holier.  And when they say faith is a leap, I get it!

leap of faith

But by my own very basic standards, and by the standards of Jesus, or John Baptist de la Salle, learning logarithms will not suffice to make anyone great.

I will paraphrase a talk by Martin Luther King, Jr.


If I want to be successful, that is good.  If I want to be famous, nothing wrong with that – though it might be dangerous.  But if I want to be great, Jesus has given us a remarkable new standard for greatness:  I and you must serve our neighbor.  We don’t have to use logarithms!  We don’t have to make the subject and verb agree!  We don’t have to master the ideal gas laws.  We have to serve.    A wonderful thing about this new standard is that we can ALL do it!  We do not have to be a pope or a priest.  We do not have to have a college degree.  We do not have to be in .1 classes.  We have to serve.  We do not have to go to an Ivy League school, or even make the honor roll.  We have to love God by serving the least of our brothers, by bringing love to this broken world.

I know well that you know what I mean.  So let us find ways to serve.  Let us speak to a lonely classmate today.  Let us dig deeper to make a donation to the Rice Bowl collection.  Let us all find the needs of those least among us, and then find ways to serve those needs.  Let us take advantage of the varied and rich opportunities that this school offers to serve, to become great in the only way that matters, in the eyes of our God.


Let us pray,

We thank you, brother Jesus, for your new standard of greatness.  But we are sometimes intimidated by the courage it takes to serve others, to place others’ needs before our own.  May each of us be aware of your accompaniment, your very real grace, as we try to serve the least of your sisters and brothers.

St. John Baptist de la Salle, pray for us.  St. Patrick, pray for us.

Live, Jesus, in our hearts,  Forever!

Afternoon reflection.

How did I do at serving others today?  Or was today just all about me?

As I leave school for home or for other activities, how will I serve?  How will I help my family, my neighbors, my friends?  How will I try to make others the center of my world?


Michael McNamara (Teacher of Mathematics)

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