Opening Chaplain’s Conference
Sacred Heart Catholic High School
Wednesday, September 5, 2018
Let us pray.
God our Father,
You call all people to hear your word and be taught by the example of Christ your Son.
Bless this new school year.
Give holiness and wisdom to our teachers.
Give prudence and the blessing of good example to our parents.
Give open hearts and minds to our students as all together we strive to do your will in our lives. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.
St. Benedict, pray for us.
Here we are at the beginning of a new school year. Day 2. The excitement is still fresh, or for some of us, perhaps the mourning of a lost summer is fresher. Our seventh graders are still figuring out the routine, wondering “how in the world I am going to use the restroom and get to my next classroom all the way down the hall in three minutes?”
We stand just inside the doorway of this new school year. We stand at the beginning. I would like to reflect a bit this morning on the importance of beginnings. I think that beginnings offer us a unique opportunity, an opportunity that can be easily lost in the hustle and bustle of the school day if we don’t pay attention. Beginnings, especially this beginning of a new school year, offer us an opportunity to pause, to look at where we are now, and to look at where we are going.
What is in store for you this year? How will you have changed by the end of this school year? How will you have grown, or not grown? How will you be different?
Who will you be by the time you graduate from Sacred Heart?
Who do you desire to be? Perhaps more importantly, who does God desire you to be?
I know who God desires you to be.
He desires you to be a saint.
He desires you to be young men and young women of integrity, men and women of character, men and women of virtue.
He wants to set you free from the sins that enslave you.
He wants you to flourish.
He wants you to be joyful, bold, and confident. He wants you to be a leader. He wants you to know what your life is about. He wants you to live fully and to love deeply.
You are called to love. You are called to love with the Heart of God. You are called to love with the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ under whose Lordship we place this school!
Brothers and sisters, that starts here. That starts now. That starts today. At the beginning.
If we do not choose to practice love of God and love of neighbor here, now, today and every day this year, how can we expect to learn it? How can we expect to get where we are going?
The road to Heaven, the road to sainthood, is paved with your choices, your daily choices, your hourly choices, the choices of each moment, to live the great commandments: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31).
All of your actions form the person that you are becoming. Every choice you make has an impact on who you will be. No choice is isolated in itself. Sow an act, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a virtue or vice. Sow a virtue/vice, reap character. Sow character, reap a destiny.
Virtue frees you to become the person you were made to be. Vice enslaves you and prevents you from becoming the person you were made to be.
Allow me to give an example.
Honesty is a virtue. A person with the virtue of honesty makes honest decisions quickly and easily. They do not struggle to tell the truth. It is their default mode of acting. How do you develop the virtue of honesty? By performing repeated acts of honesty. One act of honesty. Another act of honesty. Forms the habit of honesty. More acts of honesty. Virtue of Honesty – a character trait.
Likewise: if you tell a lie, then tell another lie, then tell another lie, pretty soon you develop the habit of lying. Keep doing that, and pretty soon you develop the vice of lying. You now lie promptly, easily, and without thinking. It becomes your default mode of acting. You have developed the vice of lying.
The Lord calls you to become men and women of virtue, men and women of character. In a single word, he calls you to become saint! He wants you to become who He were created to be.
Sacred Heart is more than just a school that forms your mind. Sacred Heart is unique in that it strives to form the whole person. You are here to be formed in mind, body, and soul.
You are formed in body through healthy nutrition, through health and physical education classes, and through various athletics in which you train for and in which you participate.
You are formed in mind through the many classes that you take, classes that give you the basic skills and knowledge that you will use throughout the rest of your life.
You are formed in soul through the many opportunities to grow in your relationship with God and with each other. You are formed in soul by being challenged to grow in virtue, to develop the habits that will help you to become the best person you can be.
How do we go about this?
You are given ample opportunities here to pray. You have Mass on Wednesdays. You have a prayer period every day. You have a chapel upstairs where the Jesus himself is present in the Eucharist. You are given opportunities to lead prayer in your classrooms. Learn to pray.
Prayer is a relationship. If you are going to learn to love God and to love others with the heart of God, you must learn to pray. You must encounter the living God. This requires something of you. You have to give yourself to prayer. You must give yourself fully to prayer and seek to praise God, to thank God, to ask God for what you and for what others need with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. You cannot learn to pray if you simply stand on the sidelines with everyone else. You have to get in the game. So often we end up just going through the motions when it comes to prayer. We mumble the response and we don’t put our hearts into it. Brothers and sisters, going through the motions, or just “being here” while prayer is going on, is not prayer. It is a waste of your time.
Learn to pray more this year. Seek to deepen your relationship with God. Even on days when you don’t feel like it, especially on days when you don’t feel like it, choose to show up. As Brooks Bollinger said yesterday: “Have the courage to show up.” Show up with more than your body, show up with your mind and soul as well. Think about what you are doing and saying. If you are present in body but absent in mind and soul during prayer, you are forming your heart toward the vices of ingratitude, selfishness, and irreverence. When you are present in mind and spirit to prayer, when you put your heart into it, when you lift your voice and speak the responses boldly and loudly, when you sing out in order to praise God instead of mumbling along with the crowd, the Lord forms you in the virtues of gratitude and reverence. You begin to flourish and the Lord forms your heart to become a person with magnanimity, that is, a person with greatness of soul.
Pray this year.
Study diligently in your classes, yes. But also study your own spiritual life. Which vices and habits of sin do you need to overcome? Study how you can do that. Which virtues and good habits do you need to develop? Study how you can do that. Study how others have done that by reading up on the lives of the saints and on spiritual books that inspire your heart to strive after virtue.
This year, in the high school chapel, we will have a small library of books that I have selected that will help you grow spiritually. Spend some time reading them. You don’t have to spend a lot of time – spend 10 minutes a day. Take a book to your study hall. Take a book into adoration.
This year, we will continue to have priests available each week for spiritual direction and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The schedule for each week (including which priest will be available) is posted outside of the High School Chapel. Priests will be available on Wednesdays over lunch, and on Thursdays during your study hall periods in 7th, 8th, and 9th period.
I cannot stress enough the importance of going to a confession on a regular basis. If you struggle with habits of sin in your life, you need to be going to confession regularly. Not only does the Lord forgive your sins, but he also gives you the grace to fight temptations and to overcome them. He will set you free. MAKE USE OF THIS SACRAMENT. Stop compromising with sin in your life. Each time that you give in to acts of sin, you are forming your heart in vice and are enslaving yourself to sin – you are preventing yourself from becoming the person that your future husband, wife, and kids will need you to be. You are preventing yourself from becoming the priest or religious or single person that the Church needs you to be.
You can come to the chapel during these times for spiritual direction from a priest. What is spiritual direction? It is a place where you can have a conversation with a priest. What could you talk about? You can talk about things like: Questions of faith, struggles in faith, doubts in your faith, struggles with chastity or pornography, relationship issues. You can talk about your prayer life and what God might be calling you to do in a situation that you find yourself in. You can talk about how prayer is dry and doesn’t seem to be working for you, and the priest can help you to find a way to pray that works for you. Spiritual Direction is a place where you can speak one-on-one with a priest about your own faith journey. This is an incredible opportunity that most people do not have. Again, MAKE USE OF IT!
“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Imitate him. Serve your teachers and your classmates. Go beyond the bare minimum of what is asked of you by your commitment hours. Be like Mary and say “yes” when something is asked of you, instead of looking for a way out. God does incredible things when we simply say “yes”. When Mary said “yes” to the angel Gabriel, God brought about the salvation of the world. God will do great things when you say “yes”, too.
Go outside of yourself. Ask others how they are doing. When others ask you, instead of complaining, look for the blessings. Count your blessings, as Brooks encouraged you to do yesterday. Cultivate the virtue of gratitude. Your attitude has an impact on everyone around you. Build them up. Curb gossip and negativity. Serve your brothers and sisters by being committed to making their day better.
Pray, study, serve.
Your high school years are your training years. The boy or girl you choose to be today will determine the man or woman you become tomorrow. The virtues that you cultivate (or fail to cultivate) today will form the man or woman that you will be tomorrow. Sacred Heart provides the best environment possible to help you to become men and women of virtue. But you have to make use of it. Don’t waste this opportunity. Make the most of it.
 Adapted from Sacerdos in Aeternum: Prayers and Blessings for Priests (Second Edition), edited by Denis Robinson, OSB (St. Meinrad, IN: Abbey Press, 2014), page. 103.