Imagine that You Hated Mathematics

(Prayer offered over the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Thursday morning, 15 October 2015)

Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God. (sung by a group of students)

Near the beginning of this school year, during my period E class, the mention of Boston University elicited a flood of memories from my very early childhood, when my father would take me to classes with him at BU. I shared a couple of those with the class. Since then other childhood memories have flooded my senior-citizen brain. Like walking up to Robert Amitrano’s house to watch Saturday morning cartoons, because we never had a TV in our house. And then I recalled watching TV at my grandparents’ house – in particular watching a certain bishop talk about prayer, and faith, and life.


His name was Fulton Sheen. He was Bishop of Rochester, NY, and a master communicator. Each week, for an hour, I think, he would keep our attention with the aid only of a blackboard, which would be wiped clean – off camera – by certain “angels.” No videos or power-points, or even colors other than black-and-white. It was a very different age.

Later in my life Bishop Sheen would play a different role when he baptized and confirmed my wife soon after we were married.

One message from the Bishop sticks in my mind to this very day. I will try to paraphrase. His opening sentence will be hard for us here at La Salle to comprehend. He said, “Imagine that you hated mathematics.” I know that sounds crazy, but bear with me. The good bishop said, “Imagine that you hated mathematics and that all around you were fractions and numerical operations and roots and logarithms. That would be hell for you.” His point, of course, was, and is, that we are entirely capable of creating our own hell by hatred. And isn’t that so true? We can become miserable and evil by feeding our hatreds. And it is so very easy to hate what is different or foreign or threatening. To hate Muslims, illegal immigrants, panhandlers, Iran, liberals, conservatives, gang members, even Roger Goodell.


Of course, the flip side of Bishop Sheen’s point is that through love we move away from hell, toward heaven, bringing God’s Kingdom to His material creation. This is exactly the message Pope Francis brings us day after day. Love brings heaven – not just in an afterlife – but right here, right now.


Let us work hard to turn our hatreds to love, to look with fresh eyes and new hearts at what is difficult and uncomfortable, to talk with our enemies, to follow that invitation of Jesus to the rich young man.

Let us pray.
O God, source of all that is good, you know well our sins and our weaknesses, and you love for us still abounds beyond all telling. Your son told us to love our enemies, to do good to those who harm us. That is so hard, Lord. But we will work on our hatreds, on our judgments, toward a love for all, even those logarithms.

St. John Baptist de La Salle, pray for us.
Live, Jesus, in our hearts. Forever.

Michael McNamara–Mathematics Teacher