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  • Writer's pictureFr. Austin

Baccalaureate, Brotherhood, and Belonging

“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

These words of the Prophet Jeremiah that we hear today were spoken to the people of Israel in a time of trial, a time of difficulty. The people were exiled in Babylon – away from what was familiar and safe. Probably a lot like where we all were four years ago, when quarantines kept us away from school, loved ones, celebrations, and even church. That was the environment where you began your journey of high school. These words of Jeremiah could just as easily have been spoken to you and me then.

In the midst of that trial, you found yourselves at Calvert Hall: experiencing what we called “hybrid learning,” rotating days in school and online at home, coming back to open air spaces with lawn chairs and hammocks, and hand sanitizer – so much hand sanitizer. Many of you stuck with whatever you could find that was familiar – your “tribes,” like sports teammates, friends from your former schools, and people from your neighborhoods. That was your “safe space,” but it didn’t do much to draw you out of yourselves and into the larger world that you know now.

In your four years at Calvert Hall, a lot has changed for you; you have changed. You learned the value of community and relationships – beyond just seeing people’s eyes above the ubiquitous masks. You talked with others – even those whom you did not know yet. You looked up from your devices. You learned the value of “being there,” of being in person.”

You lost a fascination with the past and what was “safe,” and your turned outward – toward other people and, most importantly, toward that “future with hope” that God promises. That is a future that can only be embraced when you trust God and let go of where you felt sheltered, familiar, and safe. That is the journey of growing up, the journey of maturity. It’s what makes a boy a man.

Today, as your graduate, you are no longer individual squares on a Zoom meeting or online class. You are no longer one from here and one from there. You sought a place to belong, and you have found it. It will always be so.  You are Hallmen – a brotherhood that you have forged here, among these men with whom you graduate.

Don’t fall into the danger of only identifying with people like you – it will lead not to unity and “belonging” but rather to deeper division and even hatred and violence. The identity politics that continue to play out in our society and our world too often devalue other people – rob them of their personhood so that we cannot even be “in person” with them.  This is not the way that we have learned – it is not the way in which we walk. Jesus tells us that this way is one that He walks with us; it is a way that He chooses to offer and that He chooses to bless with His presence.  He is with us always, to the end of the age.

This brotherhood that you have established is one of gratitude, optimism, and commitment. You have big dreams (and perhaps, some big fears). However, you have been promised hope, and you know where your hope comes from, and you know that this hope does not disappoint us, because it is anchored in Christ. Never forget the lessons that you have learned – lessons that are uniquely yours because they were learned here, in this time, by you.

We all want belonging and thank God you have found belonging here at Calvert Hall.  Looking forward, perhaps you are apprehensive about finding that same belonging.  Maybe you will feel tempted to stick to what is “safe.” However, that is not what brought you to where you are now!  In the Star Wars film “The Force Awakens,” the wise character, Maz Kanata, tells the young heroine, “The belonging you seek is not behind you – it’s ahead.” It could just as easily be said to be around you, right now, with your brothers, your families, your community. And in our midst at this moment as well is Jesus. It is Christ, who is the heart and motivation for what the Christian Brothers and the faculty here at the Hall do; who will walk with you and strengthen your steps, even when you don’t know where the next step will take you. He is the one who promised you that future full of hope in the middle of a global pandemic; He is the one who accompanied you these past four years and showed you how to accompany one another; and HE is the one who goes forth with you from this place into that great future that we all look forward to seeing with you.

Surely, God says, I know the plans I have for you. Jesus is certain about the promise that He extends to you today. We look forward to watching you each embrace it; all of us: your faculty, your family, your brothers. This is the belonging that you have found and forged here. This is the Class of 2024.

Live Jesus in our hearts!


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