A Message from Brother James
Dear La Salle College High School Family,
One of the great things about being a Catholic is participating in such a rich tradition. Apart from core beliefs like the Trinity, the Eucharist, the Incarnation and Resurrection, many strands of devotion and practice endure that you can adopt or eschew depending on your appetite for them (not unlike the expensive sides on a swanky steakhouse menu). "No substitutions" is not a warning those who dine at our table regularly hear.
One such devotion most 21st century people would leave off the plate is the Holy House of Loreto. Angels supposedly flew the Blessed Mother's home from Palestine to Italy, where it was given a Property Brothers-worthy upgrade and became a blessing to the local tourist trade. In 2022, most of us would give this one a pass. Not so before global air traffic management became a thing. Loreto Chapels popped up all over Europe, particularly in the former Holy Roman Empire. Prague has a famous knock-off, the Loreta. So does Santa Fe, access to its choir loft gained from a spiral staircase fabricated by an itinerant carpenter, allegedly St. Joseph in disguise. The physics allowing it to stand without support is undeniably mysterious. Closer to the original, a chapel in Vienna's Augustinian Church, though relocated and demystified by the enlightened Emperor Joseph II, still honors the world's first mobile home.
Pre- and post-Enlightenment, this chapel served another purpose besides perpetuating the legend of the Holy House. It was also DieHerzgruft, the repository for 54 urns containing the hearts of members of the Habsburg dynasty (The Capuchins down the street get their bodies). The doors of that Loreto Chapel are opened after noon Mass on certain Sundays, so the curious can view this somewhat bizarre cardiac collection (Been there, done that.).
The hearts of the last Imperial couple are missing, however. The Emperor Karl lost his throne during the First World War and died in exile on Madeira in 1922. His wife Zita, pregnant with their eighth child when he died, mourned him for 67 years, wearing only black until she herself died in 1989. Karl's body was left behind on the island of his exile. Much was forgiven by the time Zita died in Switzerland, however, and she was granted a state funeral at the cathedral in Vienna with burial among their ancestors in the vault of the Capuchin Church.
Karl and Zita's hearts are reunited today, though, enshrined together in the Loreto Chapel of a Benedictine monastery in Switzerland. On the wall near the reliquary is a plaque with the motto Zita adopted around the time she married in 1911, "Plus pour vous que pour moi": more for you than for me.
During her 10 ½-year marriage and much longer widowhood, it was a motto Zita lived by, especially while raising eight children in circumstances that required penny-pinching (at least by imperial standards). In fact, it may be a little frustrating that Karl, who checked out rather early and about whom charitable historic judgment grudgingly concludes, "he meant well," is now beatified by the Catholic Church. Zita, however, who struggled heroically, displaced by two World Wars, denied a return to Austria for her eldest daughter's funeral in 1971, still languishes in an earlier stage of the saint-making process.
More for you than for me. It may well be seen as the motto on which this season is built, the aspiration on which La Salle is built. It is easy to find exemplars of this ideal all around us at this time of year. Notice the mother who works herself to exhaustion, first shopping and decorating, then wrapping and cooking, remembering everyone's wish list and holiday favorites, gushing over the $25 donation her trendy Fairmountaineer millennial son made in her name to an animal rights organization in lieu of a gift. Then see the widowed grandfather. He'd much rather be alone with his memories than experience painful reminders of who's not by his side at the holiday table, but he puts his game face on for the sake of the kids and grandkids, taking his place on the loveseat by the tree, the vacancy all too poignantly obvious. Perhaps consider the youngest, a freshman. He's not so young that he doesn't see how the whole household's been turned topsy-turvy by his out-of-control older brother, time for mistletoe and holly turned into talk of therapy and rehab, that perfect Christmas his mother usually delivers for him now rather slapdash and frazzled, but his response grateful and encouraging, nevertheless. Even take note of your divorced sister's first serious romantic interest in more than a decade. He'd clearly rather enjoy Christmas dinner with the Salvation Army than endure the scrutiny of three generations of your family, but he does it for her.
More for you than for me. It's the ideal on which La Salle was built, the foundation on which the school has stood for 164 years. It was personified in the first Brothers, hardly more than teenagers themselves, their school in West Kensington motivating and equipping boys for a better life than the hardscrabble ones their faithers knew, the conditions often leading to the Brothers' own deaths from tuberculosis before their fortieth birthday. Many alumni mothers tacitly adopted this motto, their selflessness still reverenced by their octogenarian sons, as they went back to work in defiance of the societal norms of the 1950s so their boys could have a superior private Catholic education, one that cost a couple hundred dollars. This calling is epitomized in our teachers, those who give up unscheduled periods they could spend planning or correcting to assist a struggling student who just doesn't get it, those who coach from three in the afternoon till nine at night. Probably getting supplementary recompense for their efforts at less than Burger King standard when all is said and done, these mentors sacrifice for the chance to see a young man do more than he thought he could and then go farther, academically, athletically, musically. We find it fulfilled in the example of speech and debate coaches who spend weekend after weekend on the road and in the work of the David Program teachers as they notch up small victories in the battle to convince a young man that he can learn how to learn, that his abilities combined with faith in himself will overshadow anything educational psychologists label a "difference." This motto is lived when senior captains notice a freshman, possibly "on the spectrum," not a part of his ninth-grade teammates post-workout camaraderie and banter. Through modeling here and a subtle nudge there, they get his classmates to include him, make him feel a part of things. I see it personally when college students graciously postpone studying for a mid-term exam for two hours on a Sunday night, heeding a motherly reminder, "Brother James drove all that way to see you."
More for you than for me: this must have been what was on God's mind when he looked at his fondest and most unpredictable creation—us--and decided his Son could become one of us, sharing our experiences and shouldering our burdens. It's not a bad paraphrase of what Mary meant when she answered the Angel Gabriel's daunting request with the words, "be it done unto me according to thy word."
More for you than for me: let our prayer for each other this Christmas as members of the La Salle family be that we are inspired to live more in accord with Zita's motto each day of 2023 and beyond. If we do so, we can be confident when we pray, "Live Jesus in our Hearts, Forever," that this aspiration is becoming reality.
Brother James L. Butler, FSC
La Salle College High School