It seemed strange to be at the opening faculty meeting on the second Monday of August. When we get to the Tuesday after Labor Day – the traditional beginning of the school year – we will be one-third of the way through the first quarter.
Yet, all despondent thoughts of the truncated summer fading in the rear view mirror are brushed aside once the bell rings and class begins – everyone is happy to be back, and the excitement of a new year is palpable throughout the campus. From the most nervous of freshmen through to the most seasoned of veteran teachers (yes, Mr. Pasko, that means you) all are poised and ready for the 132nd year of that venerable institution once known as St. Ignatius College.
The campus is awash in blue blazers as fifteen hundred bodies converge upon the Father Sullivan Gymnasium for Mass celebrating the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, presided over by our newest Jesuit priest-alumnus, Fr. Andrij Hlabse ’02. It is fitting that we begin with Mass on this day as we recall not only the fact that Mary is the Patroness of the Society of Jesus but also that our chapel bears her name under the mantle of her glorious Assumption into heaven.
Today’s magnificent feast brings to the forefront of our minds this singular event, the act whereby the Blessed Mother, at the conclusion of her earthly life, was drawn up into her heavenly reward by our loving and gracious God. Through the grace inherent in her Son’s all-encompassing sacrifice on the Cross we are given the hope that once we have completed our work – work that, unlike hers, must include reparation for our wanderings from the true, the good and the beautiful – we may be brought to the same eternal and beatific state.
Our communal participation in this holy day of obligation Mass sets the tone not only for the first day of school but for every day between now and Sunday, May 26, when the Class of 2019 says farewell to Saint Ignatius at graduation. Our context is one that mirrors that of the Blessed Mother as we do our best to imitate her words to the Archangel Gabriel at the Annunciation: “May it be done to me according to your word.”
The profound humility inherent in this statement, especially when prefaced with “I am the handmade of the Lord,” sets a very high bar for all who will follow in the footsteps of this first and most perfect Catholic. It is with very good cause that Pope Francis, in his most recent apostolic exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate, refers to Our Lady as “the saint among the saints, blessed above all others.”
The Holy Father also notes that “she lived the Beatitudes of Jesus as none other.” There are several ways for a school to define a successful year – state titles, national merit scholars, extracurricular awards, but none of them could compare to a year when the entire school community strove to live out the Beatitudes of Jesus “as none other” in imitation of the Blessed Mother.
May our prayer today be that this school year will find the Saint Ignatius community to be open to the same humility that enabled Mary to say yes to the call of God and that we might have the grace to live the Beatitudes of Jesus as she did. If we can accomplish this one goal, then everything else will take care of itself and our year – according to the standard set by Our Lady – will indeed be an unqualified success.