And make no mistake; it’s difficult to follow in Jesuit footsteps. Case in point: when the great Prep fire happened in the 1960s, then-Principal Father Joe Ayd, SJ went running into the fire to rescue the Blessed Sacrament from the Prep Chapel. This man had devoted his entire life to the Prep mission, his entire calling was St. Joseph’s Prep.
Who of us here would be willing to rush into a burning Prep today to rescue something precious for fear it be lost forever?
I was fortunate to attend the Communion Breakfast Sunday at St. Joseph's Preparatory School and while all the speeches were good -- the one given by Tony Braithwaite, in both content and delivery, was one of the finest I've ever heard on Jesuit education. Beware the speech is Prep-centric -- after all the audience consisted of students and alumni from the school. But a speech we can all take something from. A few highlights follow. For the complete text click The Brown Note: Tony Braithwaite's Call to Arms. Special thanks to Bill Avington and Howie Brown for the link.
I forwarded a copy to Charlie Currie, SJ, president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities. The good Father has been a fan since Tony was at Georgetown, and it's easy to see why. If he's half as good at acting as he is at speech writing he is worth the ticket price.
Where did that charism come from? Well, for years that charism was fostered at the Prep dominantly by, of course, the Jesuits. Ah the Jesuits. The best there is. The creme de le creme of the church, once called by Time Magazine as, “the bad boys of Rome.” There’s a famous saying that goes, “You can always tell a Jesuit. You just can’t tell him much.” The Prep Jesuits were giants of education who were grossly over qualified to be high school teachers but - lucky for us! - found themselves doing just that.
The Prep Jesuits were men who would have been titans of industry, politics,business, medicine, law, the arts, etc. but whose calling intuitively recognized the utter importance and absolute opportunity in teaching men in their teen age years - instilling their charism to young men at a time in their lives when it would be most likely to stick.
This is part and parcel of a Jesuit philosophy called, “cura personalis.” It translates into care of the individual person.” The Jesuits believed that in order for education to really flourish, their students must be deeply known for who they are as individuals. And in order to do this, the Jesuits helped us to first figure out who we were as individuals. They talked to us, they believed in us, the mentored us, and as such they knew
In 1988 one of these greats, former Prep Chaplain Father Joe Michini, kicked the Prep up a notch from its already high pedestal when he brought an unknown Retreat called Kairos to the school. Mine was the first senior class to go on Kairos. In fact I am still wearing my Kairos pin on my lapel today.
For the uninformed: Kairos is a deeply impactful spiritual retreat, rooted in the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius, which provides the students a 4-day off-campus experience to strengthen their relationship to God, to self, and to others. Right from the get go in 1988, Kairos’ impact at the school was unmistakable. It’s been a big hit here for twenty years.