Christmas Message from Brother James Butler, FSC

Christmas Message from Brother James Butler, FSC

Wishing you and your family joy on Christmas and throughout the coming year.


Dear La Salle College High School Family,

As the Christmases add up in our lives, we probably find ways to distinguish one from another. One might be in the year of the big snowstorm, or that in which temperatures on Christmas Day hit 70 degrees. We might mark them by references to changes in family dynamics, the first with a new daughter-in-law or grandbaby, the first spent without a son and family who have moved to the west coast or a grandparent who has moved beyond places we can find with Google Maps.

For most of us, 2017 will be the first Christmas with Bitcoin, or perhaps more accurately, "Bitcoin consciousness." After all, Bitcoin has been around a while, but it has just drifted into awareness for most of us now that it has come to be traded on the futures markets in a couple of locations and now that its relative value has soared.

What is Bitcoin? Well, it's a cryptocurrency. That's hardly a helpful response. "What's that?" Well, one way of thinking about it is as "limited entries in a database that no one can change without fulfilling specific conditions." Huh? I'd certainly never invest in that. So, try this. Currency is always based on value. First, it was the value of precious metals. Soon it became the value of a central authority, typically a nation state or at least a central bank. With cryptocurrencies, actors have faith in a "consensus network" which agrees that Investor 1 has Bitcoin of n value, some portion of which he is free to transfer to Investor 2 in return for something bearing a mutually agreed upon value.

What? Isn't this supposed to be a Christmas letter? This sounds like one that should come have come out on the 30th anniversary of Black Monday a couple of months ago or one that would be better saved for Black Friday next year. Well, maybe, but don't overlook the connection. What thrills (or frightens depending on perspective) Bitcoin enthusiasts so much is that its value comes from a decentralized consensus network. Instead of trusting the probity of a particular government, investors trust two things: the network and mathematics.

This would be quite the jolly holiday epistle if I started discussing mathematics, so let's focus on that idea of a consensus network. Isn't that fundamentally what we have here at La Salle College High School, regardless of the perspective from which we join the network? Whether our commitment to this school spans four years or 40, belonging here tends to ensure that we emphatically concur that:

  • The potential of young people is not something to take for granted, but something to invest in—whether you are a parent, a teacher, or someone who followed the same path in earlier times;
  • The high school years are among the most influential in a man's life, whether he is going through them right now, or looking back on them from the perspective of 50 years out;
  • That adults who function not as relentless taskmasters, not as reservoirs of erudition, not as chummy avatars of arrested development, but as wise older brothers and sisters, vigilant without being suffocating, prescient about what is to come without defining that future reality, are those best likely to form the character of that Christian gentleman we hold up as an ideal;
  • That gentleness itself, however much it may be devalued in our recent national or global discourse, is a trait to be both respected and nurtured;
  • That advantages, whether intellectual, athletic, economic, social, or psychological, are only given us for the general good, for the creation of community, to advantage the least advantaged, and, ultimately, to build up the Body of Christ;
  • That the people surrounding a student at La Salle are not merely classmates, interchangeable seat-fillers assigned in forty-minute increments over four years. Rather, all are windows opening into the Presence of God, and many are destined to be brothers for life;
  • That life, whether looked at from the perspective of 18 or 81 years, is not best viewed as project to be completed, battle to be won, or trial to be endured, but as Sacrament: a privileged encounter with the living God.

Such values are true throughout the year, of course, but at Christmas, our network focuses on a few other subjects of clear consensus:

  • That God loves us enough to enter into our human reality, not only once for all in Bethlehem, but in the people we encounter and the events we participate in each day, people and events we may only make time to reflect on the significance of in the season of Christmas;
  • That God loves us not based on how we shape up against some "centralized authority" defining the ideal for a married couple, the epitome of family relationships, or even a paragon of fidelity to the Catholic religious life, but just exactly as we are--flawed and bumbling, untidy and short-tempered, resentful and corner-cutting--loves us even while we're scraping the burnt edges of the crescent rolls off into the trash, because "where are you going to find someplace that sells this dough at 3:00 PM on Christmas Day?"
  • That such careful salvage activity speaks not only of a poorly calibrated oven temperature. It speaks of love, love for that smorgasbord of personality quirks you call a family and call to your table this Christmas, the love of the Father who gave us His Son to share our lives and understand our experience, the love of a young woman who responded to the overwhelming and ineffable with the stunningly simple, "Be it done unto me according to your word."

Time will tell whether Bitcoin heralds the dawn of a new economy that some have predicted. Time has shown, however, that nothing in the history of joy compares with the transforming potential brought by that first Christmas day. May such joy be felt in your hearts and those of your families this Christmas morning...and Forever!


Brother James L. Butler, FSC

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