The Smell of the Sheep

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Monday morning, 27 April 2015)

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome back from Spring Break!!
Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.

I don’t know about you, but I know very little about sheep and shepherds—not my experience! However, I did a little research over the past week (Google, not firsthand research) and I discovered that the shepherd in the Near East, places like Palestine and Lebanon, is so keenly aware of each of his sheep that he often doesn’t even need to count them. He is able to feel the absence of any one of his sheep. When a shepherd of Lebanon was asked how he could keep track of his sheep if he didn’t count them, he replied: “If you were to put a cloth over my eyes, and bring me any sheep and only let me put my hands on its face, I could tell in a moment if it was mine or not.” These shepherds really know their sheep individually and often name them. In addition, the shepherd never forcibly drives them as one does cattle, but leads them instead. This does not mean that he is always in front of them; he may walk by their side or sometimes follow behind. And one last fact: Often flocks are mixed while being watered at the well or near a stream. No attempt is made to separate the sheep; when it is time to leave, one shepherd after another will stand up and call out: “Tahhoo! Tahhoo!” or a similar call and the sheep will lift their heads, and after a scramble, each one will begin following its own master.


So, Brother,—What’s all this stuff about sheep and shepherds? Yesterday, the Church celebrated what is called “Good Shepherd Sunday” during which the Gospel reading has Jesus proclaiming: “I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” Jesus was not talking off the top of his head or exaggerating—he knew something about sheep and shepherds of his time. O!—shepherds were not the most well-accepted or well-respected of his society; they ranked somewhere with the sinners and tax collectors and prostitutes, but aren’t those the people that Jesus hung out with! Often the shepherd in the family was the youngest son (not trustworthy enough to take over the farm) and the shepherd was, by his very nature, a vagabond, a wanderer—the shepherd was homeless, the shepherd was a migrant worker. And Jesus calls himself a “Good Shepherd”!

Good Shepherd

One of Pope Francis’ most quoted lines is that the shepherd must smell of the sheep—the shepherd has to be among the sheep, feeding, nursing, holding, comforting. The Pope is speaking those words first of all to bishops and priests, to leaders in the Church—he is telling them to be a good shepherd in the Church you must be among the people, you must have the mud of their existence on the soles of your shoes (he used to check the soles of the shoes of the young priests he was in charge of to see if they were doing their jobs).


However, these words do not only pertain to Father Najim or to the Brothers or to the school administrators or to the teachers—those with authority. More than that— these words: Be a good shepherd and the smell of the sheep, these words apply to all of us.

Each of us is called to ministry, to service and that call means that we need to know and care for those we are called to serve, to care for them in such a way that we can feel their presence or absence and that they can recognize our voice and respond. That call to ministry and service means that we get involved, get our hands and feet dirty, and not just mutter a few kind words, throw out some money, or even say, “I’ll pray for you” out of politeness.

Last week a number of our community—teachers and students—had an opportunity to learn a bit more about shepherding. There were Mission Service trips to New Orleans


and to the Mexican/USA border near Tucson


and to the Blackfeet Native American reservation.


However, even those who were not on distant Mission Service trips might have had the opportunity to be of service, to be a good shepherd—sorting donations for new Moms at Gabriel’s Closet in Pawtucket or feeding the homeless at Amos House in Providence or serving meals to the hungry at the St. Patrick’s, Providence, Kitchen or maybe babysitting a younger brother or sister instead of being with friends, or visiting an elderly grandparent instead of going to the Mall, or spending time with someone not on the top of your popularity list instead of hanging out with the in-crowd.

Over the next few days let’s listen attentively to Morning Prayer and hear what our peers tell us about their shepherding experiences or let’s take a few minutes to read their blog entries. Unlike my Google research—they have some firsthand knowledge.

Good Shepherd--1 sheep

Let us pray:
You, Lord, are my Shepherd. When my own shepherding wears me down, when I am unable to respond to some of the needs of my sheep, you are there for me. You lead me to green pastures to find some rest; you bring me to cool waters. Most of all, you remind me that, as my Good Shepherd, you love me unconditionally and will seek me out no matter how many times I stray away. Though I walk in the valley of darkness I fear no evil for you are always at my side to give me comfort. AMEN.

Saint John Baptist de La Salle…pray for us.
Live Jesus in our hearts…forever.

Brother Frederick Mueller, FSC

The Importance of Remembering

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Thursday morning, 16 April 2015)

Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of G-d

Today is a solemn day for Jews across the globe. We are observing Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, to commemorate the 6 million Jews, Catholics, Gays, and Gypsies killed by the Nazi regime during World War II. This morning, in Israel, at 10am a siren will sound and no matter where its citizens are, whether driving down the highway, walking, in school, or shopping at the market, everyone will stop what they are doing and stand in quiet remembrance and reflection for one minute to honor those that lost their lives in the Nazi’s senseless acts of violence and terror. While Jews across the world recognize this day in many ways, the overwhelming theme that runs through all observances is the importance of remembering, recalling the victims of this catastrophe, and insuring that such a tragedy never happens again. The Shoah, or Holocaust, posed an enormous challenge to Judaism and raised many questions: Can one be a believing Jew after the Holocaust? Where was God? How can one have faith in humanity? Facing this event in history, does it really matter if one practices Judaism? Jewish theologians and laity have struggled with these questions for decades. The very fact that Jews still identify as Jewish, practice their religion, and have embraced the observance of Yom HaShoah answers some of the questions raised by the Holocaust.

Yom HaShoah

But many questions remain. It was very encouraging earlier this week to hear Pope Francis stand up and courageously equate the fate of the Armenians who suffered mass killings of its people with the genocides orchestrated by the Nazis and the Soviets under Stalin. Pope Francis said it is a duty of everyone not to forget the “senseless slaughter” of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks from 1915 to 1923 and that concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it. It is this last statement by the Pope that particularly resonates strongly with my family this year as we observe Yom HaShoah.


Like countless Armenian and Jewish families, the effects of genocide are both subtle and inter-generational in their psychological and emotional impact on survivors and their descendants. Sitting around the passover seder table two weeks ago I was astonished to hear from my mother that she just recently learned the fate of her grandmother, my great-grandmother Jenny Wolff. We had always been told that in 1941, when Jenny went to get her papers in Cologne, Germany to emigrate to America she was taken into custody by police, shipped alone to the Polish ghetto in Ludz, and after that we never knew. We could only assume she died at a concentration camp. It was only last year that the German government finally released historical and detailed data they kept about so many that they killed; and, we learned that on October 30, 1941 Jenny was taken to the Rumbula forests of Riga, Latvia and was shot after digging her own grave. Despite the shock of learning this truth, after 7 decades, our family was finally able to put closure on this chapter of our lives.


This is why we observe Yom HaShoah and pause to remember. It is why we pause here at La Salle every morning and before every class to remember we are in the presence of G-d. So this morning we will observe Yom HaShoah together. At 10am a series of bells will ring over the loud-speaker and, for its brief duration, we will pause in silent reflection in honor of my great-grandmother Jenny Wolff, and all the innocent people, of all races and creeds who have lost their lives due to war and genocide.


Let us Pray:
Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all the suffering they have inflicted upon us. Remember rather the fruits we have brought, thanks to this suffering: our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, the courage, the generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown out of this. And when they come to judgment, let all the fruits we have borne be their forgiveness.


St. John Baptist de La Salle: Pray for us

Live Jesus in our Hearts: Forever

Gregg DeMaria–Academic Resource Center

Jubilee Year of Mercy


At 5.30 p.m. (Rome time), Saturday 11 April, the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday, in St. Peter’s Basilica, the Pope officially convoked the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy with the publication of the Bull of Indiction, “Misericordiae vultus” (“The Face of Mercy”). The Jubilee Bull, aside from indicating the duration, opening and closing dates, and the main ways in which the Holy Year will unfold, constitutes the basic document for understanding the spirit in which it was convoked, as well as Pope Francis’ intentions and the fruit he hopes the Year will bear.

For the proclamation, the Holy Father, accompanied by the cardinals,  proceeded to the entrance of the Vatican Basilica. At the side of the Holy Door the Bull of Indiction was handed to the four cardinal archpriests of the papal basilicas of Rome: Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of the Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican; Cardinal Agostino Vallini, archpriest of the Basilica of St. John Lateran; Cardinal James Michael Harvey, St. Paul Outside-the-Walls; and Cardinal Santos Abril y Castello, archpriest of the Basilica of St. Mary Major.


Ed Sirois (La Salle Academy Religion Teacher) explains the significance of this Extraordinary Jubilee Year in his video.

Jesus Alive in Our Midst

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Friday morning, 10 April 2015)

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

Happy Easter Friday. Yes, that right. Today is the first Friday in the Easter SEASON. That is why if you pass by Brother Fred’s office on the second floor, he has a Happy Easter sign on his office door. You see, for the Church, Easter is not a single day but an entire liturgical season. Perhaps that is because as human beings we need more than one chance to see the Risen Jesus. In fact, in the gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John, Jesus appears a MULTITUDE of times—to Mary, to the disciples, to doubting Thomas. It is not always easy to see the Risen Jesus clearly.


I myself experienced this on Holy Thursday. As I was getting ready to leave for church with my children, I got a phone call from an elderly neighbor down the road. When I saw her number come up on caller ID, I was tempted to let it go to voice-mail. You see, my neighbor is old. She lives alone and tells the same stories over and over. This day, her power had gone out and she needed someone to check the circuit breakers in her basement. I went over to her house and told my kids to get in the car and wait for me so we could go to church. Long story short, I checked a couple of switches and we got the power back on, but ten minutes turned to twenty which turned to thirty. I’m ashamed to say, but I felt myself become annoyed, frustrated, and impatient. By the time I returned home, my kids were back in the house and we had all missed church. I was more than a little bit irritated. It was one of my favorite days of the year to participate in the liturgy–Holy Thursday. Again, I’m ashamed to admit, but it only clicked for me when my nine year old in her eternal wisdom reminded me that I was literally helping a neighbor in need. Yes. Religion teacher and former campus minister. Schooled in faith and Easter hope by a child.


Some of us need many attempts to see the Risen Jesus.

Let us pray:
God of love and mercy,
You do not abandon us even for a second.
Though we make mistakes, lose our way, disappoint others, become wrapped up in our own importance, your grace is boundless.
Help us today and every day to see your Son, our Savior Jesus alive in our midst.
And if we fail, give us many chances.


St. John Baptist de La Salle: Pray for us
Live Jesus in our Hearts: Forever.

Christine Estes–Religion Department Chairperson

Teaching as Modeling

(Prayer offered for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Wednesday morning, 8 April 2015)

Let us pause and remember we are in God’s holy presence.


Projected on the screen in front of you is one of my favorites. It is called “The Banjo Lesson,” and it was painted by Henry Ossawa Tanner in 1893. Tanner was an African-American gentleman born in 1859. He spent most of his professional life studying and painting in Paris, but this, his most famous work, was painted on a return trip to Philadelphia.

What we see is an old man teaching a young boy to play the banjo. Maybe it’s a grandpa and grandson. What I love about the painting is the WAY the grandfather is teaching. There is no textbook. There is no PowerPoint. He is not scolding the young musician as he struggles to play. The grandson is standing up between the grandfather’s knees, the grandfather sitting on a stool and playing the chords while his grandson learns to strum. Granddad is empowering him, letting him think he is playing, which he is, while the grandpa takes care of the rest. Step by step, for many more hours than this painting could possibly show, grandpa shares his passion with his grandson. And that is teaching at hits best.

Yesterday we celebrated the Feast of St. John Baptist de La Salle, a master teacher in his own right. I like to think that De La Salle would have appreciated this painting and spent hours meditating upon it.


For our purposes this morning, I want to take a moment to reflect specifically on grandpa’s style of teaching. Have we ever had a teacher show this much patience, this much care in teaching you a lesson? What people in your life have taught by showing and doing in tandem, by modeling a behavior for you? Who taught you what it means to be a good person? Who taught you how to show compassion to those in need? Who taught you to pray? Who taught you to love? My guess is it wasn’t in a book or lecture but in Word made flesh, like this old man teaching the banjo to his grandson.


Let us pray.
Heavenly Father, thank you for John Baptist de La Salle and all the teachers in our lives who have showed us what to do and how to do it in word and deed, modeling lives of discipleship for us to imitate.
St. John Baptist de La Salle…pray for us.
Live Jesus in our hearts…forever.
Matt Daly–Director of Campus Ministry

Morning Has Broken


Night has ended…

Light shines through the darkness…

The stone is rolled away…

Morning has broken…

Alleluia is our song!

“Let Him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us, be a crimson-cresseted east.” (Gerard Manley Hopkins)


The Challenge of the Kingdom of God

(Introduction to the Faculty and Staff Prayer Service for Holy Week on Wednesday afternoon, 1 April 2015)

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

The Stations of the Cross are a treasured prayer for the Christian community, for they remind us of the last hours of Jesus, his final journey. However, this “way of the Cross” is more than simply a memory. It is and can be a retelling of our own personal journeys and, in fact, the journey that must be taken by this institution, La Salle Academy.


In this “Busted Halo” re-telling, we discover that these last hours in the life of Jesus reveal the consequences of his vision, his narrative, his new story of a radically different world, “The Kingdom of God.” It is a world that challenges the suppositions of both the past and the present that violence triumphs over peace, that hoarding triumphs over sharing, that death triumphs over life. It is a vision over which Jesus would not compromise, for which he would be pushed aside, ignored, walked over—for which he would fall three times. It is a Kingdom that presents itself as friend helping friend in need; a Kingdom in which we put others before ourselves, we forgive instead of exacting revenge, we put a priority on the poor. And it is a Kingdom that has been entrusted to us, even as the bruised and bloodied body of Jesus was entrusted to his mother.

mary and jesus

Thus, if La Salle Academy is to be a place that has the vision of Jesus, that tells the narrative of a world that can be better than it is, that promotes the Kingdom of God over the kingdoms of men, we too must be ready to walk our own path of challenges and trials and sorrows. In our school-wide and classroom prayer and in our instruction and in our modelling and in the experiences we create for our students, we need to stand with those who advocate for social justice, who are the truth tellers; we need to remind ourselves and our students that for this vision, we Kingdom builders might be ridiculed, laughed at, called “dreamers” or “traitors” or “do-gooders.”


We may be tempted to avoid the pain of another—a friend, a co-worker; the hungry and the homeless of McAuley House; the aborted child; the neglected kids of Smith Hill Day Care; the developmentally different children of Meeting Street School; the people of Camden and the Blackfeet Indian reservation; the immigrants of Apopka and the border near Tucson; the children of the St. Jean Baptiste de La Salle School in Haiti and the students of Rongai.


We may be challenged by popular culture and business and governmental policies as we teach that, in this Kingdom, we protect the weak, that we turn the other cheek, that we feed the hungry, that we place the poor in front of the wealthy. And if and when we find ourselves working against the Kingdom instead of for it, and if and when we experience the cold and darkness of the tomb—our failures and our doubts and our frustrations; it is then, it is then that we turn in faith, as Jesus did, to our God who always forgives, who never leaves us, who turns the Cross from an instrument of defeat to one of triumph.


Yes, this way of the cross is our way and it is the way that we must point out to our students. Here at La Salle Academy we are not only educating our students; we are making them “Builders of the Kingdom of God.”

download Stations of the Cross

Brother Frederick Mueller, FSC