First, it is well to remark two things: the first is that love ought to be put more in deeds than in words. The second, love consists in interchange between the two parties; that is to say in the lover's giving and communicating to the beloved what he has or out of what he has or can; and so, on the contrary, the beloved to the lover. So that if one has knowledge, he gives to the one who has it not. The same of honors, of riches; and so the one to the other.
From the Contemplatio ad Amorem Dei
The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola
As many of you know, over the past year I have traveled quite literally all over the world on behalf of Georgetown Prep – Hong Kong, Lexington, Beijing, Los Angeles, Seoul, Taipei, Panama, New York, San Francisco, Louisville, Miami, Boston, Phoenix, Mexico City, Atlanta – and I will travel farther still in the course of this coming year and beyond. A friend remarks that it is a good thing I like traveling; actually, I don't, but it is one of the things one does in my job. Besides, the rewards are great: I have met people from all over the world, from all over the States, from all over the Washington Metro area, many of whom have told me what an impact Prep has had on their lives. Alumni and parents alike have struggled to tell me, sometimes in broken English, how Prep has made a difference for them.
Even here at home I experience this: listening at the Kairos closing ceremony, at our Convocation talks on Apostleship this fall, to the witness of two students who spoke at the launch of our For the Greater Glory Campaign, in the daily conversations I have with faculty and staff and students. Again and again I hear of an impact – a profound impact – that people have experienced through the good work of this school.
What a gift! To know that the institution you serve, and that the people you serve with, have benefited so many! I feel like the heir to a great fortune as I listen to the treasure trove of stories. I can only be grateful. And I know that my own gratitude in this second year of my tenure is but a pale reflection of the gratitude so many feel for this place.
But here I find myself reminded of something deep in our Jesuit heritage, deep in the Gospels themselves: to feel grateful is good, but the far greater and more necessary task is to live gratefully.
And that strikes me as important, maybe even critical, in an age when many treat the abundant gifts of nature and of community and of love and of life itself as rights rather than gifts. Our Ignatian heritage asks us to witness precisely to the incredible bounty that God bestows on us in all His gifts and to His presence therein: in the triumphs, but also in the trials; in the love of those whom we cherish, and also in those who do not cherish us; in the beauty of nature, but also in its need for our care; in the plenty, but also in the dearth; in the affirmations, but also in the challenges. We are asked to be grateful and to live gratefully as Jesus did, who on the night before he died gave thanks for the life he had been given, for the work that had been entrusted to him, and for the friends who had accompanied him along the journey. It is worth remembering his words that night: "There is no greater love" – no greater gratitude – "than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends" (John 15:13).
So that is my challenge to myself these days, and a challenge I share with the Prep Community. We have been given so much that we might well recall another saying of Jesus: "Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more" (Luke 12:48). We do not have to wait for it to be required or demanded, however: we have the opportunity each day to respond to God's bounty with our gratitude, growing in our awareness of and sharing each day of the many gifts we have been given.
May every day be our Thanksgiving.
With my deepest gratitude to all the members of the Prep community and my best wishes to you and your families in these great days of our national feast,
Sincerely in Christ,
Rev. James R. Van Dyke, S.J.