At the end of August my Professional Learning Community conducted our first video chat. Through the wonders of the interwebs, it was delightful to see the smiling faces of our small group of Remick Leaders, now scattered across the nation. Mike Zelenka, a great principal at Incarnation Catholic School in Tampa, FL, thoughtfully led our meeting and reflected on his own experience of coming to Notre Dame for a couple days this summer. Mike spent time in classes and said the conversations about “root beliefs” got him thinking about his own root beliefs. He listed and explained some of the ones he came up with.
Lemme just tell you, they are really good.
There was one in particular that really reverberated in my heart and soul. Like all great root beliefs, it’s brief but meaningful and punchy. It’s simply: “We can do hard things.” Mike wants his school community to realize that difficult work is possible—and indeed necessary—for growth and learning. This stuck with me as I turned in my dissertation (thank God!) and then defended it (thank God for your prayers!). I kept coming back to this phrase as a mantra of encouragement and perseverance.
I was also reminded of this root belief as we celebrated some wonderful feast days recently: the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and Our Lady of Sorrows, the Patroness of the Congregation of Holy Cross. These great feast days are important reminders to us that Jesus Christ witnessed to a pattern of living for his disciples that we call the Paschal Mystery: life, death, resurrection. We who call ourselves Christians (or “other Christs”) are invited into that same pattern of living. We know that living out our Catholic faith and being a Catholic school leader will involve no small amount of witnessing and suffering.
Perhaps at the beginning of this school year, you have already had your fill of the “cross” part of the paschal mystery and are waiting for the “resurrection” part! If so, take courage and have faith. We can do hard things because we have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit. If it were just us alone doing these things, we would likely all be in big trouble. Thank God we are a part of something much bigger than us: the mission of the Church to teach and sanctify in preparing students for college and heaven. The Constitutions of the Congregation of Holy Cross (the words that guide the religious life of Holy Cross priests and brothers) have these words of faith and encouragement in reflecting on the cross:
Whether it be unfair treatment, fatigue or frustration at work, a lapse of health, tasks beyond talents, seasons of loneliness, bleakness in prayer, the aloofness of friends; or whether it be the sadness of our having inflicted any of this on others … there will be dying to do on our way to the Father.
But we do not grieve as men without hope, for Christ the Lord has risen to die no more. He has taken us into the mystery and the grace of this life that springs up from death. If we, like Him encounter and accept suffering in our discipleship, we will move without awkwardness among others who suffer. We must be men with hope to bring. There is no failure the Lord’s love cannot reverse, no humiliation He cannot exchange for blessing, no anger He cannot dissolve, no routine He cannot transfigure. All is swallowed up in victory. He has nothing but gifts to offer. It remains only for us to find how even the cross can be borne as a gift.
May these days be filled with hope and joy for each of you, knowing that with faith in Christ, we can do hard work.