As a Principal, I do tend to spend a fair bit of my time responding to other people’s questions, concerns, ideas and initiatives. In these situations, as the person is speaking to me, I often find myself thinking about how I am going to solve their issue, what statement I am going to make which will ‘fix’ the problem/issue/dilemma they are presenting, what words of wisdom I could provide to support the other person. In other words, I focus more on making statements than asking questions. In doing so, I acknowledge, perhaps I am not listening as intently as I should be.
In William Shakespeare’s play, Twelfth Night, there is a quote which says, “Some are born greatness, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them”. In the context of the play, the statement is part of a joke being played on one of the characters. In the modern day context we use it to speak about how people achieve positions of leadership. We use this phrase to mean that some people are born into power; others work for it; still, others are forced to accept it.
I was reminded of this phrase when listening to Sunday’s Gospel reading. The reading was from Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 16 verses 13 to 20, where Jesus asks his disciples: “Who do they say the Son of Man is?” Many of the disciples provide their thoughts on the question but it is the Apostle Peter who shows the greatest insight into the identity of Jesus when he says “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”. If we were to view this passage in isolation, we would be excused for thinking Peter had all the answers, a natural born leader. But we know that Peter was of flawed character, a man who got it wrong far more often than he got it right.
Do you ever get that feeling that the passage of time has crept up on you? That you are so caught up in the busyness of life that you don’t realise that time has slipped by without you even noticing? I had this feeling last week when I realised that we are more than halfway through Term 3!
Recently, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with several young primary school students and their parents at one of the many College tours we run during the school day here at Whitefriars. One young man was telling me how excited he was to come to secondary school because of the many new and exciting opportunities our College provides both in and outside the classroom. I asked this young boy what activities he had heard of that he was most excited about participating in on his arrival at secondary school. Without hesitation the boy responded – “debating.” I commented to this quiet young man that this was an excellent choice, firstly, because he would develop especially important lifelong skills such as clear thinking, problem solving, collaboration, cooperation and teamwork. Secondly, and equally importantly I guaranteed my young friend that through involvement in debating he would also find some lifelong mates!
Boys and self-expression. Some people would suggest that these two terms are mutually exclusive ideas. Many think that young men lack the ability to express their thoughts and feeling in comparison to girls, who are more naturally inclined toward this action. I disagree with this assumption. Boys are equally adept at, and desiring of opportunities to express who they are, what they are thinking and how they are feeling. They just require particular conditions and the environment in which to do so.
When people ask me “what is Whitefriars College?”, my response is that we are a Catholic school for boys’ in the Carmelite tradition. Emphasising the word “Catholic” is deliberate because our foundation stems from the Carmelites, led by Fr Frank Shortis, who envisioned and established a faith-based educational institution for boys in Donvale back in 1961. Their motivation was to develop an educational institution founded in faith and grounded in the message of the Gospel.
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.