“Holy Spirit burning bright, help me get these answers right.”
During his homily at the Senior Class Mass of the Holy Spirit last Friday Fr. Raymond Guiao ’82 recounted this brief pre-exam prayer from his high school days. Despite the fact that he was not complimenting his adolescent understanding of the Holy Spirit I am pretty sure that he taught the Class of 2021 a prayer that they will probably memorize and use – hopefully only after a period of intense study.
What Fr. Guiao was trying to impress upon our seniors was that the Holy Spirit is not some sort magic spirit to whom we call in a rhyming incantation in order to get what we want. His mantra was, instead: “It’s not all about me.” A great message for us all, but one that hits at the heart of what we expect from our seniors as they both lead the student body as well as prepare to leave us for their next stage in life.
On March 12 when we walked out of classrooms for the last time, not knowing that it was the last time, none of us could have imagined the road ahead. In a sense, that brought each of us to the stark reality that we tend to ignore as we go through our daily routine: We have no idea what will happen next in life. And for our seniors from last year, there was no way for them to know that there would be no prom and that graduation would be held at the end of July – fittingly, on the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola – on Wasmer Field.
For this year’s senior class that same scenario is all too real and possible – maybe probable. But, since we have no idea what will happen next in life, we can’t be sure of how things will play out. And that is why it is so important to allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives. The Holy Spirit leads us to a vision of life where we are confronted with the realization that “it’s not all about me” and He does so on a daily basis.
Fr. Guiao spoke to the seniors about Jim Skerl ’74 and his impact on how we see service at Saint Ignatius. He spoke of Jim’s founding of the Saint Joseph of Arimathea Pallbearer Ministry and the Saint Benedict Joseph Labre Ministry to the Homeless. Here, as well as in Jim’s work with Friends with L’Arche, we see how the Holy Spirit can literally be a fire lit in the lives of those willing to invite Him in.
Like the Beacons of Gondor in The Lord of the Rings, the fire of the Holy Spirit calls others to join in and be kindled as well. These ministries that Jim started live on at Saint Ignatius and they have also spread to other high schools and even to college campuses. This is a tremendous reminder to the seniors that the example they leave with their younger Ignatius brothers will have an impact after they are gone, and that they have a duty to continue tending to the flame when they leave and encounter new situations.
For our seniors, embarking on their final year of high school during a time of such uncertainty can be a daunting and frightening experience. As followers of Jesus, we are called to live not in fear, but in love – as St. John noted, “There is no fear in love, for perfect love drives out fear.” As the Apostles hiding in fear in the Upper Room were transformed forever by the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, so must we be changed through putting our trust in that same Spirit.
Fr. Guiao called each of us to see the Holy Spirit not as “an agent that helps us be successes in the eyes of the world. No, the Holy Spirit is what the Lord breathes into you and me…to help us grow to be the selfless, generous, loving people that He created us to be. To be a light – His light – in a dark and broken world.”
He concluded by offering a similar, yet quite different, version of his high school prayer, and in doing so commissioned not only the seniors, but all of us, to bring to the world a light and a love that casts out darkness and fear:
“Holy Spirit burning bright, help me be, for others, Your light.”