Happy Thanksgiving - A Message from Brother James Butler, FSC
Dear La Salle Family:
It is not uncommon in recent times to hear comments about how the transitional seasons of the year are disappearing: "One week it's 40 degrees, the next it's 85. No spring at all. From winter right into summer." Similar comments are made about fall, of course—the lack of rich color, warm temperatures until Halloween; then, suddenly, the deep freeze arrives.
Although unheralded bitter cold did shock us in the first week of November, this axiom of folk meteorology has proven false in at least one respect: the state of the leaves on the trees. They seem to have been falling forever. Here on La Salle's campus, the trees in the student parking lot started to take an autumnal turn not long after Labor Day. Now, the arrival of Thanksgiving finds some trees bare; others hold on to crisp brown foliage rustling in the brisker breezes of late November. Turn around, though, and you'll discover a small copse of deciduous trees where the leaves, encouraged by unusual sunshine and warmth, have yet to change. Their verdure still challenges the evergreens and holly outside my office window.
The leaves seem a bit dilatory regarding their autumnal business this year. By such measure, it has been a long fall. This fact put me in mind of a piece of reflective writing—near enough to poetry—composed by the 20th century French paleontologist and theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. He advises:
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are, quite naturally,
Impatient in everything to reach the end without delay....
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown,
And yet it is the law of all progress
That it is made by passing through some stages of instability...
And that may take a very long time.
It is not improbable that plentiful examples of "the slow work of God" are gathered in your home or family destination this holiday weekend. Untidy freshman boys upsetting the gravy boat; senior sisters clearly more into texting other similarly forlorn Mounties or Gwynedd Girls about the absurdity of all these goings on than impressed by your surgically precise carving skills or that pie crust you made from scratch this year. The return of prodigal college boys who seemingly delight in bringing all the boorishness of that Neanderthal frat house to your Marie Antoinette dining room set, making visions of guillotines dance in your head. Your sister-in-law yanking away plates like she had another seating scheduled in 20 minutes. Add in elders who act like they're still in charge of this annual ritual (after you suffered in the gracious guest's stoical silence throughout the preceding quarter-century) and the desperate vigilance expended in ensuring that no topic of table conversation introduced could ever segue into politics—this year above all years....
Well, you get it. God's work in all this does indeed appear slower than the reconstruction of that quaint little Valley Green Bridge in Whitemarsh. But He is at work. At work in the people and events of our lives, all our relationships, especially those of family at this special and particularly complex time of year. Especially in the young men served by La Salle College High School, an instrument of God's love fine-tuned to sound precisely the right notes for one of life's more crucial and most vexing "intermediate stages." And those are things worth giving thanks for at any time, but particularly now.
Shortly we will enter the liturgical season of Advent, the Church's slow season of moving towards fulfilment in hope. As we do so, let us share in these final words of Teilhard de Chardin, words read as a blessing on the young men of La Salle, on our young alumni, on all young people whose care is close to our hearts and minds, and on any among us who find themselves engaged in the hard work of "becoming" as this year 2017 drifts in increasing still darkness towards its eventual end:
Your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don't try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.
Thanksgiving blessings to you and all those you love from alma mater, La Salle College High School, surely a privileged vehicle for God's grace to transform human circumstances, slowly leading so many of us to arrive at destinations for which we once thought no map could be found.
Brother James L. Butler, FSC