Saint Ignatius High School

Thoughts From the Tower

The new weekly blog from Theology teacher Jim Brennan '85, Thoughts from the Tower, brings faith, the Gospels, Catholicism, family, and life at Saint Ignatius High School together in thoughtful and interesting posts.

It was 34 years ago this week that I woke up, went into my bathroom, brushed my teeth, threw up, took a shower, got dressed, threw up again, brushed my teeth…again…and got into the car to drive to Saint Ignatius for my first day as a teacher.

My brother Patrick and his grade school classmate, John Paul Lucci, were in the car with me. We were all just a bit terrified: them because they were starting at a new school, and me because I was daring to follow in the footsteps of Mike Pennock, ’64, Jim Skerl, ’74, and Tom Healey, ’77.

As I sit at my keyboard, I am experiencing that same sensation.

For the past eight years, readers have been inspired, educated, and informed by the thoughts of the great Tom Healey. Honoring one of the dreams of Jim Skerl, to provide a means of continuing to instruct our alumni and friends in matters of the Faith, Tom interpreted movements in society and history, events here at school, and the lives of his Ignatian brothers and sisters through the lens of Christ. He did so magnificently.

Stepping away from blogging to serve the school in a myriad of other ways, Tom has handed over the proverbial torch to me.

As the deadline for this article looms, my pulse and blood pressure are rising, and I feel the weight of living up to the almost impossible standard set by Tom Healey. I draw comfort from the words of British essayist G.K. Chesterton, who once quipped, “If something is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.”

Typical of Chesterton, he took a well-known aphorism—in this case, the phrase “If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well”-- and turned it on its ear. Of course, activities should be done well. But Chesterton realized that for many of us, fear of not doing things perfectly can paralyze us and, as a result, prevent us from doing those very things that need to be done.

Chesterton focused on the first—and most important—part of that statement: that there are things worth doing. My children need to be fed; the laundry needs to be folded; I need to exercise more. And these should be done well. But if the pancakes aren’t made ‘like Mom does,’ the fitted sheets look more like a ball than proper linens, or if I come up 1,500 short of my 10,000 steps one day, so be it. I’ll get it ‘right’ next time.

This is never more true than when we follow Peter’s call to ‘always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.’ (1 Peter 3:15). Sharing the good news of our faith in Christ, the “reason for our hope,” with a broken, hurting world is more important now than perhaps any time in our history. It is the task to which we have been called by virtue of our baptisms.

Many of us are reluctant to share our faith with others. We live in a society that is often, at best, merely tolerant of religious faith and consequently calls us to compartmentalize it into something we do on a Sunday morning. We fear coming across as ‘preachy,’ ‘self-righteous,’ or ‘too religious.’

So did our ancestors in the faith as they huddled in the Upper Room following Jesus’ Ascension but overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. Given His gifts of wisdom, understanding, right judgment, and fortitude, they were empowered to overcome these fears and share Christ with others. 

We Catholics have been given those same gifts in our baptisms and confirmations and have been commissioned by Christ to ‘teach [the nations] all that [He] commanded.’ (Mt. 28: 19). As Peter exhorts us, we should do that ‘with gentleness and reverence’ (1 Peter 3:16), respectful of those with whom we speak.

Like in a blog from a teacher at an unnamed Jesuit school in Cleveland.

Even if it’s done badly.

A.M.D.G. / B.V.M.H.