Another summer of celebrations, graduations, introductions, summer school, and preparation for the new school year has come and gone and on August 21st, 2019, the Jesuit Dallas school community gathered together once again to mark the start of a new school year. Marking the first day of school, Mr. Tom Garrison’ 92, Principal of Jesuit Dallas, kicked off the new school year with the annual Principal’s Prayer Service, gathering the entire student body and faculty together once again to discuss the theme for the new school year, loving, one of the six tenets of the profile of the Jesuit graduate at graduation.
Speaking to everyone from boisterous seniors to anxious freshman and everyone in-between, Mr. Garrison emphasized love and being loving as one of the most simple, yet complex ideas, one that he challenged the entire school community to explore and embrace in all their interactions throughout the 2019-2020 school year.
The kickoff to the new school year will continue on Friday, August 23rd with the school gathering for an assembly before the first all-school mass of the year, the annual Mass of the Holy Spirit, set for Friday, August 30th.
Faculty and students alike gave Garrison high marks.
Deacon Knight remarked, “I felt the boys really gained a better perspective on the ideal of loving and it resonated with them throughout the day. At our EM training one of the boys even reiterated the point about all of us being called to go to the well with one another to help each individual grow in their love and care for one another.”
Mrs. Farrell, English Department Co-chair, reflected, “Mr. Garrison’s call to “meet at the well” resonated with me on many levels, but especially in relation to our students’ journey. They arrive at Jesuit, eager to drink from the well, and it is my responsibility to ensure that the classroom provides a space for them to ponder, reflect and welcome all who enter.”
“Today’s prayer service was a call to action: to be inclusive, to welcome all to the “well” at Jesuit. Mr. Garrison has called upon us all to be agents of inclusion and to make an intentional choice to include, to serve, to welcome,” added Mr Perry, Director of Community Service.
From the student viewpoint, “Mr. Garrison’s speech reminded me about why being a loving person is so important. I viewed his call to action as insightful and necessary for social justice,” remarked Jacob Clarkson ’20.
Junior Joshua Ramos agreed, “Mr. Garrison’s speech was insightful as he went into detail on the “loving” as part of the profile. I’m interested in seeing the future prayer services going into more detail on that aspect. Mr. Garrison’s speech has also made me more interested in this year’s theme and how it’ll be fleshed out.”
Clearly the tone of the year was set, Andrew Allred explained: “It was a warm welcome back to the start of school to witness Mr. Garrison’s speech emphasizing the importance of loving one another in our community.”
It was indeed a tone of reflection for students, too, as Ethan O’Neil ’20 said, “Mr. Garrison’s speech was very influential and informative for the freshman to fully grasp and begin to fulfill the profile of the graduate. He made me think and reconsider all of my relationships in order to better and strengthen them.”
Below is the transcript of Mr. Garrison’s reflection.
When I set out to give this talk, I thought that it would be easy. ‘What could be easier than talking about love?’ I thought. Who doesn’t want to be loved? Who doesn’t know what love feels like? Who doesn’t expect to be loved? This should be simple.
But it has been more difficult for me than I thought, because it is a topic that, when thought too hard about, becomes layered in complexity and nuance – What about loving my enemies? What about loving those who have wronged me? What about loving myself when I am feeling down or unworthy? What about loving complete strangers? Our faith demands a lot from us on the topic of love, and the more I thought about it, the more I dug myself into a hole.
But I should be easier on myself. Love, as I am trying to talk about today, is a gift and an invitation from God…you may have heard at a wedding that ‘it is patient, it is kind, it does not envy or boast, and it is not proud. It also does not dishonor others, nor is it easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs, and it rejoices in the truth. It always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres …’(1 Corinthians 13). In the end, I don’t really need to understand it – I just need to accept that God has given it to me, and to you, and everyone else I will ever encounter, and that it’s really our responsibility to follow His lead, rather than seek to understand.
I wavered between two very different readings for this morning’s prayer service. The first one you have probably heard before. It is Saint Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, chapter twelve: ‘we are many parts, but we are all one body…. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body, that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body, that would not make it any less a part of the body……. if all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.’
I like that, because it reminds us that we are all different, and that when we come together we make up the whole of the body, and any one part of us without the rest of us is incomplete. It’s a nice sentiment for our community as we start the school year.
But really, for my purpose here, the only line that matters, the only message that I want to tie in with the reading that I chose, is the final verse, “Now you are the body of Christ, and individually members of it.” Hold on to that thought – we are the body of Christ. Together. Us. here together, we are the Body of Christ. We are the hands and feet of Christ here on earth. We are His body.
So why the reading that I chose? Why the Samaritan woman at the well? She is there to get water, and she encounters Christ, with whom society might say she should not be associating because he was a Jew, and she a Samaritan. In their conversation that follows, Christ basically tells her that he doesn’t care that she is a Samaritan, in fact, it may be a benefit that she is an outsider because she has a voice among a population where Jesus is not yet being heard. She came to the well for water, and he instead offers her the eternal life that comes from being with Him and His Father. God is sometimes surprising that way.
I tend to overthink these things, so I’ll try to cut through it all to the salient points. The woman is thirsty, so she goes to the well to find something to drink. Jesus is probably thirsty as well, so he goes to the well. Or, and this is more likely, Jesus knows that the well will be a good place to go if he wants to meet people. Everybody eventually goes to the well – even if society says that they have to go at different times – they eventually go. Every single one of us in this room knows what it is like to feel thirsty. Every single one of us in this room needs to drink water to survive. It is a truism of our humanity that we cannot survive without water. Jesus knows this, so he uses it to serve his need to get in front of people. Jesus gets in front of people.
Upon arriving at the well, the woman encounters Christ who offers her something much, much greater than a way to quench her thirst. He offers her eternal life with Him and his Father. In going to the well that day, she finds God, and he invites her in to a life-long relationship with Him.
What if Jesuit is like the well? Every single one of us needs what Jesuit has to offer. In its simplest terms, you need an education. If you intend to move on into college some day, you need to get through high school. You could come here, or you could go elsewhere to accomplish that, but you have come here. For the adults it is similar. We need jobs. We need a place to work. We could work at other schools, or we could work outside of education, doing something completely different. But instead we come here every day.
At the heart of things, Jesuit offers us something that we need: A place to go to school, and a place to work. There are many wells that you could go to to get a drink of water.
But I am here this morning to argue that we are also offered something much, much greater here. We are invited into a communion with Christ…. We are invited to be his hands, and his feet, and his body here on earth. So, together, we form the community with Christ that is the well that we all need to drink from in order to be made whole with God.
So that’s the image that I would like for you to take away from this prayer service today: Jesuit is the well. We all have to go to some well – but we have come to this well. We have come to this well for a variety of reasons, and for whatever those reasons are or were, we have each encountered something here – and that is an invitation to drink from the water that is provided here and strengthen our relationships with Christ and with one another.
But sometimes it is difficult to do what we know we need to do. Sometimes life just gets in the way, and we don’t do what is good for us. We need help. We need strength. We need reminders of what we are about and why we are about these things.
For our purposes here, Jesuit has provided us with the Profile of the Graduate at Graduation. And in that profile, we are given some pretty concise, concrete ways to practice being as we go through our time here. We are reminded to be:
Open to Growth
Committed to Social Justice
I’d argue that the first three could and should be found in any school in the world. We go to school to learn, it is easier to learn if we are healthy, and learning challenges us to grow out of our old beliefs. In fact, this summer I did some research on things that other schools put in their profiles, and after compiling profiles from fifteen different schools, here are some of the things that I found:
Other schools expect their graduates to be:
- Communicative, problem solving, innovative, practicing good citizenship, resilient, adaptable, collaborative, inclusive, competent, responsible, creative, goal-directed, has integrity, is self-aware, is reliable, is ethical, is healthy, is culturally aware, is empathetic, is computer literate, is curious….
Those are all a little bit like our first three: Intellectually Competent, Physically Fit, and Open to Growth, But it is the last three: Religious, Committed to Social Justice, and Loving, that provide us with a road map of how to do the first three in a manner which is aligned with who we say we are here at Jesuit. This is a manner which is in close alignment with the invitation to be one with Christ.
Of all of the profiles that I found, I never found the one word that we’ve chosen for our theme this year. Except for other Jesuit schools (who all generally share the same, or a very similar profile), I could not find any other school that had ‘Loving’ as a tenet of their profile.
Why not? Why wouldn’t other schools hope that their students would come out at the end identified as ‘loving’ individuals? Why do so many of their words dance around the topic? It’s almost as if they are afraid to come out and say it.
So, my purpose today is quite simply to point out to you the fact that one of the six things that you agreed to strive to be when you applied to come to Jesuit, is ‘Loving’.
We could have chosen any other word – but we chose ‘Loving.’
So I’ll conclude this with a call to action, a challenge and an invitation to all of you.
Your call to action is simple: Be Loving.
Be like Paul said to the people of Corinth: Be patient, kind, and do not be envious or boastful. Do not be proud and do not dishonor others. Do not be easily angered and do not keep record of wrongs. Rejoice in the truth. Always Hope, and always persevere.
Be like your peers and teachers said in the video: Be encouraging, be empathetic, be compassionate, be selfless, be supportive, be inclusive, be a good friend. Listen to others and show them respect. Share authentic interactions with each other. Realize that the people God places in your lives are there for you to love. Be grateful. Be the force that brings people together here today. Be brothers and sisters to each other.
Now, your challenge:
If love ought to manifest itself in deeds more than words, then I want all of you to see yourselves as active protectors of the Well that is Jesuit. And when I say ‘protectors’ I do not mean that your purpose is to keep people from this place, but instead, as protectors at the well, it is your duty to shelter everyone who comes here. It is your duty to make sure that nobody is excluded. It is your duty to make sure that anyone who would try to stop someone from drinking at the well is challenged and sent away. Challenge anyone who would poison the well by spreading anger or hatred or prejudice. Challenge those who would make anyone who comes to the well feel inferior or somehow lesser than everyone else. In short – be like Jesus – invite everyone to the well and then fight to make sure that everyone has access and everyone feels welcome. Be protectors at the well.
And finally, your invitation:
If you ever find yourself feeling lonely or sad or isolated – come to the well – find comfort here.
If you encounter someone who is lost or lonely or isolated or sad – invite that person to the well, and be an active participant in helping them find a connection here. And, finally, as you grow here and gain strength in your convictions, prepare to take the water from the well out into the world.
Thank you for your attention this morning. You are all in my prayers as you begin the school year.