On the Shoulders of Giants

(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Wednesday morning, 27 March 2019–Grandparents’ Day)

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

“We are standing on the shoulders of giants.”

I like to present this quote to my Senior students each semester as we begin our vocation class. As my Noni, my mother’s mom, would often say, in order to know where you’re going it’s important to know where you’re coming from. What I take from this quote is that no matter who we are, whether a Senior getting ready to graduate, a Freshman finding their place in high school, a teacher, a parent, a coach, or administrator, we all have at least one thing in common, not one of us has gotten to where we are without the love and support of those who came before us. We all have “giants” in our lives who have paved the way for us by sacrificing their time and resources, encouraging us when we need a lift, and inspiring us by their humble faith and work ethic in order that we may realize our God-given potential.

Today is Grandparents’ Day at La Salle. A hearty welcome to all our visitors in the building. In anticipation of this day I have been reflecting on my own grandparents, in particular my Noni. Just last week my Noni celebrated her 91st birthday. Praise God, she still has her mental faculties, which includes her witty sense of humor and a storehouse of practical godly wisdom she has acquired throughout her lifetime. My Noni stands shy of 5 feet tall but believe me, she is a giant. Born in Germany she experienced some dark times to say the least, including living through World War II. In fact, my grandfather was an American soldier and met my Noni during the Allied occupation of Germany following the war. My Noni came to America not knowing much English but she learned through the help and friendship of her mother-in-law, my great-grandmother, who ironically, spoke primarily Italian.

My Noni is a master storyteller. Some of my favorite memories are my conversations with her over the years. She loves to ask me about my children and my students, of whom I’m never hesitant to boast, and she quite often reminds me how she was a bit mischievous in her hayday. She always had a soft spot for the mischievous ones so perhaps that explains her affinity for me. When she tells me stories of her childhood days in Germany when times were much simpler in many ways, to the stories of her raising five children on her own and how much she loved all the neighborhood kids and tight-knit community, she can really paint a picture with words. It’s amazing how much we can learn through story.  After all it’s how we truly get to know and love someone—listening to their story and sharing our own, all the while becoming a part of one another’s story. Sacred Scripture is comprised primarily of stories, stories of faith and hope and God’s love for us, His people. My Noni was always a faithful follower of Jesus as far back as I remember, though I have come to learn that wasn’t always the case in her younger years. Her faith in Jesus is a huge part of the man I am today. She always appreciated me going to Church with her on Sundays when I was young, and I always appreciated the fruit flavor mentos she would always offer me as they helped me through what I often saw then as a long, boring sermon. Despite my lack of understanding of God and Church at the time, I did feel the spirit of a faith community through the people at her humble Baptist Church. And I always felt the love of God through the love I received from my Noni. She always made me feel like I was special, reminded me that God had a plan for me, and her humor, wisdom, encouragement, and example helped me to seek that plan for my life.  My hope and prayer for you all is that you have someone in your life who inspires you to do the same.

Let us pray…

Heavenly Father, thank You for the gift of the giants You put in our lives. Thank You for the parents, grandparents, and loved ones who support us in every way to make it possible for us to achieve our God-given potential. Today let us thank those in our lives who have played an integral role in shaping who we are, and who we are becoming. Grant us the strength to put the values of faith, love, and self-sacrifice that they have modeled for us into action today and everyday. And grant us the time to spend with them and listen to their stories, in order that we may understand more fully where we come from, and in so doing, perhaps gain a better understanding of where we are going.

Saint John Baptist de la Salle…Pray for us.

Live Jesus in our Hearts…Forever.

Anthony Russo–Campus Minister