In his Salutatory address at the Commencement Exercises at Bishop Ireton High School (Alexandria VA), Graduate Charles Ladd said the following:
I had the privilege of attending Salesian Leadership Camp last summer in Brooklyn, Michigan with my fellow seniors and friends. We spent the week with kids from other Salesian schools. We learned a lot from talks, group time, and conversations with the various novices, Oblates, and priests there. We focused on the spirituality we so proudly follow, that of St. Francis de Sales.
Indeed we learned a lot about ourselves, such as the various levels of consciousness, our personal relationships with God, and why God may not only reveal himself through prayer. We learned how these elements connect, and why they do. We learned that we must “Live Jesus” (you knew this was coming) in our daily lives in order to carry the banner of Salesian Spirituality.
Hopefully, we all know this is by now. I don’t think we would be here together today if we didn’t know what Living Jesus meant. Not only do we sing a song about it at the closing of every mass, but we also have taken a class this year entitled “Salesian Spirituality.”. If you have forgotten everything already, because exams have come and gone, and because, sorry Mr. Gordon, but I would not be able to do basic arithmetic right now, here is a refresher.
At SLC we learned that Salesian Spirituality, or Living Jesus, is all about the little things that matter. We do not need to be martyrs like St. Stephen or bear the stigmata of Padre Pio to live out God’s plan for us. In order to be “Salesian” we just need to do the little things, holding the door for the freshman with books in his hands, smiling at the someone who needs a smile, or lending a pen to the kid who never seems to return it, to name a few. This is similar to St. Therese of Liseux’s “Little Way,” that we learned from Ms. Strukley our sophomore year, which tells us that the little things we do indeed add up. Truly, it has been our challenge to do “the ordinary things extraordinarily well,” as St. Francis de Sales encouraged all to do.
The bricks that I mentioned and the many I did not are so special because of the mortar with which it was laid. Class of 2016, we lived out our school motto, “Be who you are and be that well.” However, that is not the entire quote, as Mr. Dunn will be quick to remind you. Saint Francis de Sales encouraged everyone “to be who you are and be that well, in order to honor the Master craftsmen whose handiwork we are.” Not only did we seek to honor God with our incredible work ethic, but we acted as mini craftsmen ourselves, constructing these buildings with the bricks of our accomplishments, which were in turn held together by our Salesian spirituality. We accomplished building this small city because all of our success was held together by our Salesian values: kindness, respect, and gentleness (unless we were on the football field). We were open to the inspiration of our teachers, our coaches, and our mentors. We are the better for it, because of everything we’ve learned in and outside of the classroom these past four years. We have consistently brought a positive attitude, thus showing ourselves and others that we are ready to face challenges on the road to success.
I don’t believe anyone sees the Class of 2016 as ordinary. We did all of the little ordinary things extraordinarily well, just like the Master craftsman. We worked hard to not only build ourselves that shining city on the hill but also keep the Salesian flame within our tiny city alive, which brought us to where we are today. Thank you Class of 2016. May that flame light our way. We now pass the torch to the Class of 2017 in order to inspire them and we move onward with that fire in our own hearts.