It seems like today is the 118th day of January. The wintery conditions have hidden from many the fact that the school year is coming to a very swift conclusion – much like a snowball rolling down a hill. For the Class of 2018 there are only 22 school days separating them from that time known as “life after Ignatius.”
It might be the fear inherent in that fact or it might be the incredibly high caliber of student in this Senior Class, but the infamous beast known as “Senior Slump” has yet to rear its ugly head. Over the past two weeks I have called upon my students to be actively involved with our work, and they have done exactly the opposite of what might be expected of young men with one foot out the door.
Our yearly foray into the heart of the Gospel stories has once again brought out the best in the Class of 2018. The most labor intensive of these assignments is the annual event known as Miracle Madness©®. Each student was given a bracket upon which was placed the biblical reference for every one of Jesus’ miracles. Their task was to read each miracle, and, using criteria of their own determination, choose the better miracle of each pair to move on to the next round.
Once this was completed, the brackets for each individual class period were tabulated and a Final Four emerged for each period. At that point students made their case for the winners of the semi-final and final match-ups. If an outsider walked into any of my classes last Thursday they would have been amazed to hear chanting of “DEMON PIGS! DEMON PIGS!” from a number of students who were urging support for the miracle of the Healing of the Gadarene Demoniacs where Jesus drives demons out of two men and into a herd of swine. No Senior Slump here.
With less exuberance, but with the same passion, a number of arguments were made for each of the Final Four miracles, and amidst the usual winners – like the raising of Lazarus from the dead – was a first time winner: the healing of Malchus, the servant of the High Priest, whose ear was cut off by Simon Peter during the arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. The reasoning behind its victory was both sublime and theologically profound. It was argued that other miracles were performed to help those who were friends and believers, yet here Jesus showers His mercy and love on one of the party who were taking Him to His Passion and Death.
That sort of understanding of the core message of the Gospel and the ministry of Jesus was exhibited again this week as students pulled apart the Parable of the Prodigal Son in ways that would make Fathers of the Church like Origen and St. Irenaeus proud. Students brought forth references to things like the story of Joseph from the Old Testament and the Sacrament of Penance, as well as a depiction of the story as a spiritual tug-of-war within the individual human soul where the tendencies of the merciful father, the prodigal son and the aggrieved older brother are all battling each other for supremacy.
At the end of each class I thanked these budding theologians for their thoughtfulness and their commitment to do their best even as the shadow of graduation looms larger and larger. I could not help think of how this commitment to excellence will help them as they pursue their college careers and their lives beyond graduation.
Life is short and to waste one day of it does a disservice to oneself and to the God who grants us each new day. This is a hard lesson to pass on to the young, but for those of us who are a bit older we all tend to have first-hand experience of someone who was cut down in their prime and did not have the luxury of time to waste.
On this day in 1981 my wife Ann, then a junior at John Carroll, lost her mother due to complications from cancer. Carol Geiger was only 45, and left behind four children, aged 10 to 20. The woman who would have been my mother-in-law was, during her working career, prior to the birth of my wife, a brilliant bio-chemist at NASA at a time when the sciences were almost exclusively within the purview of men.
Had she lived to hear me tell these stories of my seniors she would certainly have been proud to know that one of those great students was her grandson, Joey Lamatrice ’18; and our belief in the Resurrection, especially for a woman whose last day with us was on Holy Saturday, leads me to hope and pray that these stories and many more may already be known to her.
Carol Ann Geiger, requiescat in pace.