Moments that move the soul

If I were to describe the month of May in a single word it would be ‘moving’, and there are quite naturally several converging experiences occurring at this very moment which incite this ‘moving’ sentiment. 

And what I mean by ‘moving’ is multifaceted: the soul is moved by culminating experiences marking both the end and beginning of a new phase in life; the soul is moved by the relationships which marked our daily existence together for a substantial period of time, yet no longer the same; the soul is moved by seeing God’s children grapple with their existence and then share an original response. 

It is impossible not to be moved when observing these events. 

For me, it started this morning with my daily praying of the lectionary: 

“They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they remained silent. For they had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest. Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Taking a child, he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.” (Mark 9: 35-37)

This moved me to reflect upon what it means to be childlike. One of our faculty members posed a question along these lines during our senior thesis presentations. The teacher asked a senior presenter in front of the entire junior high and high school: “How can we live this childlike disposition in a concrete way (not the exact wording but I hope I captured it well enough)?”

That is one of life’s greatest lessons and mysteries: How do I live like a child when I am an adult? 

The Class of 2024 is processing that question more directly than most at this moment. I figured it might be fitting to share some of those responses with all of you. These are evidence of what makes our school what it is. We are here for something that is ever ancient, ever new. Something that transcends and binds all of us to something beyond ourselves. And we should all be moved at the core of our being. Here are excerpts from the senior theses: 

“A man’s free will is set free from the impediments of temptation and desire when he participates in the act of realization which God created him with. This does not mean that once a man knows God is calling him to Himself, he will never sin again. Rather this means that once a man has realized his purpose, he is able to perpetually strive for it. He is able to understand the truth behind every desire and temptation. He can turn from himself and his own silly miseries. He can direct his newfound freedom, intellect, and will outwards to others in the gift of self. The act of self realization teaches man that there is something much greater than his vice and his original sin. It is a great task God has given us to arise above our inclinations. However, we are properly equipped for this task, this life, and every dangerous novelty it comes with because of the gift of self realization. A man can accomplish this task when he pauses, looks at all God created, wonders at it, and comes to understand the why. Free will makes a mess of humanity, yes; but when free will rises above its faults and fears and heads towards freedom, it gives man something no other living thing has: communion with God.”

“Tolkien also points out what we need in order to deepen our friendship and our love for one another, and that is the Eucharist.  As Frodo and Sam push on through Mordor they have no food but the Elven waybread they were given at Lothlorien: “the lembas had a virtue without which they would long ago lain down to die…It did not satisfy desire…And yet this waybread of the Elves had a potency that increased as travelers relied on it alone and did not mingle it with other foods.  It fed the will, and it gave strength to endure, and to master sinew and limb beyond the measure of mortal kind” (The Return of The King, 936).  This Elven bread is food that does not satisfy the body, but it feeds the soul and allows them to travel farther than they ever could on their own.”

“This idea of free will is extremely important, not only for understanding damnation, but the concept of evil itself. Suffering isn’t something that God inflicts on us, it is something God allows us to inflict upon ourselves. We have the choice between right and wrong, good and bad; we can’t have one without the other. So because we are given the ability to choose the good on earth, and finally to be with God, there must also be the ability to choose the bad, and in turn, to suffer. God can’t be blamed for the suffering on earth: whether it’s violence, directly caused by people, or something more natural, originating from the fall of man. This ties in to the common theme of pride we see in Lewis’s characters.”

“Faith is a gift given to us by God that can only be uncovered through reason. We follow our reason to receive a goal which is faith and by way of reason our end goal is the reward of eternal salvation. Pope John Paul II tells us that “faith exists not to abolish reasons of autonomy nor to reduce its scope for action. But solely to bring the human beings to understand that in these events it is the God of Israel who acts” (Fides et Ratio, 29). Faith can not be brought to action without reason’s support.”

“It is important to specify why God is drawn to the weakest. This is precisely addressed when St. Paul explains how he is more afflicted with temptation to sin the more he receives “the abundance of revelations.” He calls the temptation “a thorn in his side”, and begs the Lord to be rid of it when God replies, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). It is “weakness” then, which Paul suddenly boasts about because then he is stronger in Christ. There are varying forms of weakness just as there are of power. Weakness includes any mental, physical, or spiritual infirmity which can affect how we live, think, act, choose, or function. The primary result of all weakness is pain. We suffer from our weaknesses and we try to run from them. However, there is no way around them but through them, and that begins by acknowledging our utter depravity. That is the fascinating truth in the difference between the sinner who is utterly estranged from God and the sinner who is submerged in the mercy of God. One is fixed on himself, and one looks away from himself, but both are utterly weak. The acknowledgement and acceptance of weakness allows room so God can act, and that action becomes beautiful.”

Please join me in praying for the Class of 2024. I am proud of all of you and will remain eternally grateful for the gift of being with you for all this time!