Despite the stop and start and stop again nature of spring in Cleveland, at Saint Ignatius the time of transition and the transition of time travel at the same speed every April and May. Seniors have one foot out the door, while Juniors have one foot in the Senior Lounge.
This year two markers of this unchanging process of change are happening on the same day, Friday, April 29. The Seniors will be decked out in sartorial splendor as they proudly announce the next stage in their educational journey by wearing a shirt bearing the name of their choice of college or university. The College Counseling Department, most ably led by Mrs. Linda Gabor, will host a festive luncheon, complete with photo booth and a lot of proud and smiling faces to photograph.
Earlier that day in a ceremony to take place in the Breen Center, 58 Juniors will be inducted into the National Honor Society. These young men have been singled out for their efforts in the areas of scholarship, leadership, service, and character. This induction is their first step towards becoming the leaders of a Senior Class for which we all have very high hopes.
Because of all of the pandemic related interruptions to business as usual over the past several school years it is a great joy to be able to celebrate these events in a way befitting their importance to our students, their families, and the entire Saint Ignatius community. I can’t help but be reminded of the line “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone,” from the song “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell. Things we took for granted as a part of the yearly cycle of events now have a renewed importance because of how much they were missed.
It is a lesson for all who are willing to learn it - the many gifts of life can be taken away in an instant, sometimes never to return, and so we need to never forget to “know what we’ve got.” The time spent in high school is quite brief when compared with a lifetime, yet they are years that, for good or for bad, are among the most influential. Each of the four years has its own “feel”, its own mystique, and one is best served by leaning into that particular span of time rather than looking to what comes ahead.
For the Classes of 2023, 2024, and 2025, there is another year at Ignatius on the horizon. But as the flowers begin to bloom and the winter wind becomes a spring breeze there is still time to bask in the 2021-2022 school year and to remember “what we’ve got” before it ends: academic goals accomplished, friendship fostered, events attended, and the joys and sorrows of life experienced.
But for the Seniors, once they sing the Alma Mater at Public Hall on May 29th they will never assemble as an entire class again. For them the sands of time are almost drained from their Ignatian hourglasses and they need not so much to seize the day, but to redeem the time.
St. Paul exhorts us to do just that, understanding that seizing the day can take on negative and self-indulgent directions whereas redeeming the time is, by its nature, Christocentric and is necessarily tied to the one who is the Redeemer of time.
Teaching in a high school forces one to take note of the cycle of life, albeit a truncated four-year cycle, but a cycle of life nevertheless. We can all learn from this, and it may even be helpful to align the four years of high school with the phases of our lives. What “year” are we in right now? Are we redeeming our time as Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors, or Seniors in life?
Too often we merely abide the time or even waste it, rather than redeem it, and then it is gone. The image used by Joni Mitchell seems quite fitting for this way of going through life as she mourns the lost joys of her youth: “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” Let us always strive to redeem our time, every stage of it, so that when we “graduate” there will be no more parking lot, only Paradise.