The Storms of Life

(Prayer offered over the Public Address system for the La Salle educational community on Friday morning, 11 April 2014)

Let us pause for a moment and remember that we are in God’s holy presence.

Projected on the screen in your classroom is an image of Rembrandt’s painting, The Storm on the Sea of Galilee. It was painted in 1633 and was inspired by this scene from Mark’s gospel:


That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”  Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

I love the image of the boat at sea as a metaphor for our life’s journey or even our faith journey. Sometimes the wind is at our back and we experience smooth sailing…sometimes the wind dies down and we just sit there bobbing up and down, nothing new under the sun…and sometimes a storm comes that tosses us back and forth on the waves, making us anxious and scared and sick to our stomach. Like the image of the cross used by Br. Fred in yesterday’s prayer, we never know what challenges we will meet at sea – the question is how we will handle the storms when they inevitably come.

The coolest part of this painting is that there are actually thirteen people in the boat, besides Jesus. Since he had only twelve apostles, who is the thirteenth person? Rembrandt is known to have painted himself somewhere in his paintings from time to time, so maybe he is the mysterious thirteenth person. Or, maybe that thirteenth person is you. Look at the people on the ship and all their different reactions to what is happening.  Which one is you?

One disciple sits in the bow of the ship, at the top of the painting, trimming the front sail. Three more gather around the mast working frantically to fix the main sail. A fourth is at the very back of the ship, holding the tiller and trying to steer the ship through the storm. Could that one be Peter, the leader? These five disciples are focused on doing everything in their power to fix the problem.

On the left side a disciple is hanging onto a guy wire for dear life as the wave pounds in to him. On the right side another disciple looks with dread at the wave and his vulnerable friend. On the bottom left a third disciple leans overboard to vomit. For these three men it looks like the storm is just too much to handle. They are overwhelmed and scared.


Right in front of Jesus are two men who look as if they are angry – they don’t understand how Jesus could be sleeping and not doing anything to help. You can imagine them screaming, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

In the middle of the painting at the bottom of the boat, a man in a blue shirt is holding a guy wire and staring out to sea. It actually looks like he’s staring at us. Maybe looking for another ship, for someone, anyone to help. To his left is a mysterious man in white with his back to us. Is he just accepting his fate? Sitting there and taking whatever hand fate deals him? The events around him seem to have paralyzed him.

Doing everything within your power or feeling overwhelmed or looking outward for an outside savior or just feeling paralyzed. I think I’ve felt like each of those twelve disciples at some point in my life.

Finally, there is a disciple at Jesus’ feet, the thirteenth man, sitting in the boat and looking at him. This disciple is the only one in the painting with a halo. He has put his trust in Jesus in the midst of the terrible storm.

Jesus got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Let us pray.

Father, you never promised that life would be without storms. But you did promise that you’d be there in the boat with us when life’s storms strike. Bless us with the strength and faith and desire to remain focused on you during these times.


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

Live Jesus in our hearts…forever.

Matthew Daly (Coordinator of Campus Ministry)

Adapted from Bill Gaultiere (

To Do The Right Thing

(Prayer offered over the Public Address system for the La Salle educational community on Thursday morning, 3 April 2014)

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

Over the course of the past few days and weeks, we have been reminded of how important it is to do the right thing in all situations.  To keep others in mind.  To own your decisions and take responsibility for your actions.

What does that mean… the “right thing”?  Outside of our religious texts, there is no playbook for life to refer to.   I like to think “the right things” are the decisions we make in life when we have others in mind.  You see, we are so wrapped up in our daily lives and struggles that we oftentimes lose perspective on what it really means to empathize with others.  It is a natural human instinct to be concerned with our own problems first, but instinct isn’t always our best compass.


Last Wednesday, Boston Firefighters Michael Kennedy and Lt. Edward Walsh lost their lives in a fire that also injured dozens more.  These firefighters, along with every other police, fire, EMT, and military service person, deal with these dangers on a daily basis.  For whom?  Themselves?  Certainly not.  We may not hear of it, but life and death instances occur all the time.   They don’t run around looking for praise, they don’t need recognition for their acts.  None of them would expect a prayer like this to center or focus on their lives, as they are simply doing what they chose, and love, to do.

Instinct.  Our instinct in all of these situations is to run.  Run from the crime, run from the fire.  It is a natural animal instinct to flee from danger.  But not these people.  When everyone else runs away, they run towards the danger, not for themselves, but for the betterment of others.   They knowingly insert themselves into lethal situations to save others.  Is there a more self_less act – dying for strangers?

Boston Brownstone Fire Funeral

Father John Unni, in speaking to the crowd and directly to children of Lt. Walsh, reminded them of his heroic nature, and told us all to take inspiration.

Surely this is an extreme example of selflessness.  While it is true that few of us will ever be forced to make decisions in such dire circumstance, there are things we can do to take inspiration from this.  Things we can do in our daily lives to live with a modicum of selflessness in a similar way as Mr. Walsh and Mr. Kennedy.


Do we give our time to others in need?  Be it poverty or helplessness?

Do we treat family, parents, teachers, and peers with the respect and dignity they deserve?

Do we resist instinct to stereotype others and act on those stereotypes?

Do we stand up for people who feel powerless, be it a schoolyard bullying situation or those who don’t have a voice in society?  Or do we instinctually stay quiet, avoiding conflict?

 Let us pray—

Loving God, we pray for the strength to resist our instincts in situations where it puts us at odds with what is “right.”  May we have the knowledge and foresight to identify what the right thing is, and may we take inspiration from the selfless acts of others who have come before us.



Saint John Baptist de La Salle.  Pray for us

Live Jesus in Our Hearts.   Forever

Thomas Pacia (Chairperson of the Social Studies Department)