Last month was a heady time for the gentlemen of Rhetoric as they made the rounds of life in Clongowes for one last time in a series of ‘lasts’ – including the traditional fancy dress. The ‘second last’ Morning Prayer of the year took place on Thursday (May 26th) and the Assistant Headmaster, Mr Martin Wallace took the opportunity to reflect on the significance of the event for these departing students now and in the future…
These days will never come again
‘This day will never come again’ is a statement often used by my cousin when he wants to prolong an enjoyable social occasion by having another drink. ‘This day will never come again”. It is like the exhortation to seize the day – carpe diem – make the most of the moment – take your mind out of the past or the future and live the present.
It is a particularly apt thought for today and this week. Although school will continue for most of you until the end of next week – until near the end of June for those taking public exams – this gathering of the Clongowes community will soon be a thing of the past tomorrow is our last morning prayer for this academic year. In the autumn, Rhetoric will have moved on and will be anticipating a whole new beginning in their lives, a new cohort of Elements students will be standing in front of us and all of you will be changed, older, experiencing a new challenge. Perhaps not on the scale of those in Rhetoric, but a changed world nevertheless.
In seizing this moment we relish it, we express our gratitude for it and our appreciation of all those moments that led to this one. Rhetoric will feel a strong sense of nostalgia and some sentimentality during these days and fellows, who were tearing their hair out to get out of this place, may begin to feel teary-eyed at the prospect of leaving. The ‘this-is-the-last-time-I-will’ mindset has probably kicked in already. This is the last time I will have English class with Mr. Conry; this is the last declamation with Mr. Kelly; this is the last Morning Prayer. There is an implicit recognition of value in such feelings; it is like the gathering up of one’s precious possessions so that one can bring them away – storing them in the momory to be revisited and cherished anew.
I hope that Morning Prayer as an occasion is one of those precious possessions. I happen to think that it is a special occasion every day – whether the person at the podium has some startling insight or a mundane and familiar reflection – there is something about this shared moment together that is special. At the core of it is our diverse experience of spirituality, our own unique way of expressing our relationship with what we awkwardly, complicatedly call God. One of the reasons that God can be complicated is that we look to communicate with or understand him outside the realm of our reality – in heaven – outside the universe – outside what we know.
Finding God in all things
What I like about morning prayer is that we look for him here among us – between us in the reality of our lives the Kingdom of God is not some fantasy in a story book – it is the reality that we are called to build here in our community. St. Ignatius put great emphasis on this when he urged us to find God in all things – a mystery deserving of our contemplation. And when you, Rhetoric 2016, scatter to the four corners, you are called to build that reality, and the question for you is this: where will you look for inspiration and nourishment; will you have a daily reminder of what we are about when we gather here each day?
So we pray this morning for the whole school community – but for Rhetoric in particular as they take their leave – slowly – during these days. When they come back from a week of study, they will not be returning to the Clongowes they know; it will be a much quieter place, with very few people around and they will be preoccupied and determined and absorbed.
There is a monument to St. Brendan close to Brandon Creek in Kerry, where he reputedly set out on a journey that brought him to America. The inscription on the the monument reads:
ná ligimís ár maidí le sruth
(let’s not let go of the oars!)
As Rhetoric set sail on their lives we pray that they will hold tight to the oars of their faith and hope that they will bring with them the precious gifts they received at Morning Prayer over the past six years.
Mr Martin Wallace, Assistant Headmaster