The word gratitude is one I am hearing a lot lately. Many theorists suggest that to be truly happy and complete we should all adopt an attitude of gratitude in our daily lives. There are many theories on how we can assume this attitude in the everyday. One such theory suggests that we wake up each morning and think of 10 things we are grateful for in our lives. This is not a particularly new concept. In fact, I think my grandma used to say it another way – “Count your blessings Mark!” the origins of which are found in the Psalm 103 –
“Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:” – Psalm 103:1-2.
As a young boy growing up in Templestowe the 1970s, I would often pass the Templestowe Cenotaph on my way to the shops. Sometimes I would stop and read the names on this granite monument, other times I would just pass on by. I remember one day as I passed the cenotaph I noticed bunches of flowers at it’s base. I wondered what they were doing there and who may have placed them. Then I remembered that we had recently had a day off school for ANZAC Day but there was no ceremony at school and a seeming lack of interest from the broader local community. Fast forward about 50 years and on ANZAC Day 2023, I again stop by the cenotaph in Templestowe, this time surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of people, young and old, men, women and children, returned service personnel, families and friends. Instead of a couple of bunches of flowers, many came forward and bowing respectfully offered up beautiful floral tributes which covered the entire base of the monument. The students from Whitefriars were there in force too with the Whitefriars concert band and chair led by Mr Nick Fitter and Mr Matthew Frampton providing a moving hymn to the fallen and a rousing rendition of Advance Australia Fair. Our Student Leaders offered prayers and relfections also.
Today our school community came together to celebrate our annual Easter Liturgy. I can think of no better way to conclude what has been a most positive and uplifting term 1 at Whitefriars. The resurrection story is one of new life and new hope. This is precisely how I have felt being here at Whitefriars this term.
The season of Lent is a very significant time in our Church Calendar. It is a time to take stock of ourselves, and equally importantly, it is a time to reflect on our relationship with God and with others. I ask myself during this time…
Do I have a gracious and patient attitude with the people in my life? Do I look for the best in others, or do I have a judgmental attitude? Do I have a thankful heart or am I constantly complaining about situations and people in my life? Do I speak up for the less fortunate, or do I remain silent and inactive? I find these questions tough and challenging. I know that if I were to answer these questions with a truthful heart I would be found wanting. But that shouldn’t stop me from trying and failing and trying again. To me, that’s what lent is all about. Trying, failing and trying again.
One of the hardest words to define is success, let alone measure it – and in education it is particularly difficult. Is it about letter grades or percentages, or it is ATAR scores or NAPLAN results? I think we would all agree, as important as these measures are, they are fleeting snapshots rather than the complete picture of success.
One of the three tenets of the Carmelite charism is Community, (the other two being Contemplation and Service). When I hear this word, my mind is drawn to the idea of people being together, living together as part of a larger society. However, there is a crucial element missing from this flimsy definition, and that is that, in my opinion, a community should share a common characteristic, interest or belief. This is the glue that holds a community together and gives them purpose, otherwise it is just a group of people who live/work/study in close proximity to each other.
My hope and prayer for 2023 is that each of us finds our place here, that each of us share moments of inspiration and aspiration, that we all make new connections and learn new things in an atmosphere of support, encouragement and challenge, and that we know our God walks with us always, but particularly at those more difficult moments.
Last Wednesday evening, our College community came together at Robert Blackwood Hall for our annual Evening of Celebration. Over the past two years, like so many other events, the evening was held online so it was with great excitement and hope that our community was able to gather to celebrate the efforts and achievements of our students and to showcase their many talents on the stage, together, in one room.
I have been reflecting a great deal lately on the concept of transition, that process of changing from one state or condition to another. In my own family we are in a state of transition as the last of our five children moves out of home, leaving my wife and I as empty nesters.
Often when I ask a person how they are or what they have been up to in their life the response is invariably the same, “I’ve been really busy” or words to that effect, is generally the answer. Some of you may remember years ago when computer technology was just taking off. The catch cry from promoters of this new technology was that we would all have so much more time on our hands. I think most of us are still waiting for that to kick in! The busyness of life is increasing. Newtons third law of relativity tells us that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In this case the equal and opposite reaction of busyness could be a lack of time to stop and reflect on who we are, where we are in our lives and where we are going. How often do any of us take time to stop and reflect on these bigger questions of life?
Last night, our College community came together to celebrate the efforts and achievements of the Class of 2022. The evening commenced with a celebration of the Eucharist in the spirit heart of the Catholic Church in Melbourne, St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Following this significant celebration, we ventured onto the Sofitel Melbourne to enjoy each other’s company and to reflect on the time these young men had spent at Whitefriars.
Dear members of the Whitefriars College Family,
I often quote the prayer to the great Archbishop of El Salvador St. Oscar Romero… It helps now and then to step back and take the long view.
I believe the opening line for this prayer is quite fitting for the last week of a school term. It is also pertinent to who we are as a Catholic School in the Carmelite Tradition. It is not by chance that the first of the three tenets of the Carmelite Charism is Contemplation (the other two being Community and Service). How often do we step back and take the long view? How often do we take a moment to reflect on what has been, to just take a moment to breathe? It might sound simple and a bit strange but the simple act of stopping and just focusing on your own breathing just for a few moments can be very good for your health. Some call these moments mindfulness, some call it mediation, some even call it prayer.