Last spring, Rev. James R. Van Dyke, S.J., Prep's president, announced that the theme for the 2019-2020 school year would be Apostles on a Mission. Throughout the school year, we will hold monthly convocations or gatherings during which members of the community will share their own reflections on this theme in the form of a letter to the founder of the Jesuit order, St. Ignatius of Loyola.
Headmaster John Glennon gave the first reflection at the conclusion of the Mass of the Holy Spirit on Friday, August 30.
Headmaster's Post Communion Reflection
Mass of the Holy Spirit
August 30, 2019
Correspondence plays a central role in the Catholic tradition. When we come together for Mass we often read letters from the early fathers of the church – Saints Paul, Peter, and John. Through these letters we come to understand the development of the church in the first century and how God is revealed in his people and their struggles. The early Jesuits including Ignatius himself, Francis Xavier, and others also depended on correspondence to build the Society of Jesus. As their mission spread throughout the world, they used letters not just to maintain friendships but to grow together in service. Traveling across Europe and over oceans to India and China, to the Americas and beyond, they stayed united by communicating with one another and used these exchanges to share their experience and learn from each other long before FaceTime or Skype.
As we come together this morning, I thought it might be appropriate to share with all of you a letter I've written recently. This week, buoyed by back to school enthusiasm, I decided to be so bold as to write my own letter to St. Ignatius himself:
Garret Park Maryland
August 30, 2019
Dear Father Ignatius,
This morning we come together to continue in a tradition that is shared by Jesuit schools around the world and across time. We come together to celebrate the Mass of the Holy Spirit. Now you might be thinking, well that's nice but why are you writing me? Don't you have a faculty to support? Don't you have students to teach? Why are you calling on me?
That is a good question...
I write to invite you into the joy of this celebration. So that you may share in this incredible moment – of welcoming new students, of praying and singing, and of standing together with each other before our God. I write this morning to invite you into the hope of our community as we begin a new school year — our two hundred and thirtieth together. Leading a school with close to 500 students armed with new books and backpacks, new hopes and new fears, new resources and new challenges, I write to give thanks and to let you see that what you started in 1540 continues today.
Why do I write?
I write so you may know us. I write so you may know me. God's love gives us the confidence, the security, to go beyond ourselves, to share with others, and discover who we really are.
I write so that we may know YOU better.
Your thinking about and practice of prayer stands as one of your many contributions to our Church. You push us to think about our relationship with God by reflecting on our experience and the experiences of Jesus. You challenge us to use our imaginations. As I write you this morning, I try to imagine what would you like to hear and how you might you react to what I am saying. Great communicators try to know their audience. This morning I strive to know you. As I imagine a letter to you, I imagine a conversation with you. I create an image of you in my mind. I create an image of the God that created us both.
I write because I imagine you asking me: "So what's new? How's it going?" Well, school's back in session. We are off and running and, as far as I can tell, it's been a pretty smooth start.
As you may know we have been blessed by many resources here at Prep: a beautiful campus, a talented faculty, and a globally diverse student body. We have all that we need, and more, to do our work of helping the young men of Prep discover themselves and their God. We are grateful for these riches but we are also challenged by them. Why have we been given so much when others struggle from day to day with so little? I hope each of us who gathers together today wrestles with that question. Students and teachers and headmasters alike: Why?
In a letter to the community last spring, Fr. Van Dyke posed a possible answer to that question in the "theme" for this school year. Why have we been given all that we have? Because we are called to be apostles on a mission. We are called. We know our students love singing the song at Mass but do we understand and are we inspired by its meaning?
We are called to be part of a unique mission, a Jesuit journey you started close to 500 years ago. We also remember a wider calling that God put forth on the day of creation and that we believe his son called us back to more that 2000 years ago. We are called to be ONE as a people.
When we think of the strength of the Prep brotherhood, we think that we are doing pretty well. However, there is more to unity than brotherhood. We cannot rest on our laurels and let complacency set in. When have we fallen short of that calling? Who have we failed to welcome in? When have we pushed away? When have we been torn apart? Black from white; foreign from domestic; man from woman; rich from poor; student from teacher.
We are apostles on a mission. The dictionary tells us that an apostle is a pioneering advocate; an enthusiastic supporter of an idea or a cause. The idea is to be united in love with all God's people. We are called to come together. We are called, not to solve all the world's problems, but to make an effort and begin this work. We start here today with this community. We are called to build it and to tear down walls between us.
We challenge our students: to be men for and with others; to take the gifts they have been given and share them with others; to have the humility and perspective to recognize and receive the gifts that others have to share with them; to come together and share in the joy of community, of the church, of your love.
Through this year, as we attempt this work and try to understand what it means to be an apostle on a mission. We will challenge a different member of the community each month to write a letter to you that answers the question: what does it mean to be called to be an apostle on a mission? We will share those letters with each other, so that we may remember this calling, so that we may know one another. So that we may know our God.
We are apostles on a mission.
We are grateful for each other's company on this mission.
We are grateful for a chance to know ourselves and our God.
In closing we ask for your blessing.
We ask for you wisdom.
We ask you to teach us to take what we have been given. We ask:
Teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not count the cost;
to fight and not heed the wounds;
to toil and not seek for rest;
to labor and not ask for reward, except to know
that I am doing your will.
St. Ignatius of Loyola
Pray for us.
Yours in hope,
John Glennon Jr.