Chaplain's Corner

Spiritual Life

Here at St Joseph High School, each day presents many opportunities for growth and an increase in knowledge of the faith. Classroom learning, service opportunities, moments of worship and liturgical participation are all part of each student’s day to day life. This monthly blog from our Episcopal Chaplain, Fr Eric Silva, is a way to connect parents and guardians to what is going on in the spiritual lives of their children as well as present an opportunity for the parents own growth and knowledge of the faith. In a culture that often drives parents and children apart it is a way to bring those parents and guardians into the lives of their children in a small way. 

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My junior year of high school at St Joe’s introduced to me for the very first time, the March for Life, where 45 or so teenagers and a handful of adults took a coach bus that left the school at midnight to travel down to Washington DC and participate in the largest annual protest in the country; it was an unexpected trip to our nation’s capital during a school day that opened my eyes to the reality that there can be so much unity, love, and beauty in addressing what some consider to be the most divisive issue in our country today. Year after year, the shock wave of over 250,000 people gathered together to march on Washington, effectively shutting down all of the government buildings in the area, not only sheds a powerful light on the reality of what abortion truly is, but it unites an often polarized people for just one day. Young and old, rich and poor, east coast and mid-west, and so on and so forth, all gathered for a singular purpose: to ensure the safety and survival of the pre-born.

After having attended my 10th trip down to Washington DC for the March for Life, I look back and think, has anything changed…have these marches changed anything? The honest answer is, I do not know if they have changed policy or have moved the minds of our nation’s leaders, but I do know they often have a much more profound effect; this beautiful exercise of our constitutional right more importantly moves the hearts of each and every single person with the courage to attend because it brings people together to encounter the truth that issues that have been hijacked by political parties and campaigns are not a matter of mere arbitrary rules and regulations, but that they effect real people. When watching two people argue over the moral, physical, and spiritual effects of abortion, the argument often finds itself in the realm of theory, but not at the March. Complex moral issues seem to fall apart when staring into the eyes of they who have suffered.

Saint Mother Theresa once wrote that, “if we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” In a culture that claims to be more connected because of social media, nothing compares to true face-to-face interactions which is why I am asking each and every one of you who find yourself reading this to consider either going to the March for Life yourself or allowing and encouraging your daughter or son to attend. The March for Life will take place on Friday, January 24; the bus will leave from St Joe’s at midnight and return around 10pm on Friday. An email was sent out to the student body by Mr. Smith with a google form link for sign up. I have also linked a short YouTube video put out by Real Life Catholic that illustrates exactly what goes on at the March and how it is so heavily championed by the young generations, giving hope for the future. Our school motto is “privilege and responsibility” and being privileged enough to be born into this world demands that we live out our responsibility of ensuring that so many babies have that same right. If you have any concerns or questions, please do not hesitate to reach out and contact me directly either through my school email address or by phone call. God Bless and please be assured of my continued prayers for your discernment. 

  

In Christ & Mary,
Father Silva

I am certain that we have all heard before the homilies about how Christmas is the season of giving, emphasizing being charitable and giving back to both community and global endeavors to end poverty or simply to ensure that families in financial need are able to have a joyous Christmas with presents and the like. The aspect that the secular world often understands, even without the Gospel message, is that we are, in fact, our sister’s and our brother’s keepers and we who have been given so much, owe it to those who are need, the gift of giving back, however we can. Even the secular world is able to understand to some degree and emphasize a great deal the need for giving back. While being charitable is necessary to be the saints that we are all called to be in this world that so desperately needs them, it is often receiving charity that so many find to be more challenging than giving. We as a culture are generally very good at giving, but the culture struggles with receiving the gift of charity from others.

This Advent season leading into Christmas focuses entirely on preparing oneself for the coming of the Lord…the greatest gift mankind ever received, God become flesh. Just as Mary and Joseph prepared a humble spot, as best they possibly could with the means at hand, for the Lord’s birth, so we must prepare ourselves humbly, as best we possibly can with the means at hand, for the Lord’s coming into our hearts this Christmas season. Since the fall of mankind with the original sin of Adam and Eve, God has been preparing His people for generation after generation to receive His Son, Jesus Christ; each time God commanded or spoke to His prophets, He did so ultimately to ensure that they knew that they were loved infinitely by their Heavenly Father and to prepare them for Jesus’ coming. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called ‘Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9:6).” All of the images of Christ being born in the manger, being wrapped in swaddling clothes, even being born in the town of Bethlehem, all speak to the reality that He would come to reveal during His public ministry: that Jesus Christ is the long awaited Messiah come to rule over our hearts, minds, and lives.

During this Christmas season, be sure to do more than “Keep Christ in Christmas”, be sure to give thanks to God for the reality that Christ IS Christmas. We all know that how we give thanks is just as important as giving thanks so if you want to give thanks to God in the best way that we as Catholic Christians can, show Him! If it has been a long time or even if it has not, find the nearest parish that offers the Sacrament of Reconciliation and come back to the Lord’s loving mercy that is most perfectly offered in Confession; after having cleansed your souls with the purifying mercy of Jesus, have courage and be sure to take your family to Mass on Christmas. Even if it gets in the way of other family traditions, it is always a good time to start a new tradition! I hope that this Christmas season is a new and beautiful opportunity for you all to encounter the God who became one of us, for us. Please be assured of my prayers in a particular way during the break and have a very Blessed and merry Christmas!

 

In Christ & Mary,

Father Silva

November 2019

CS Lewis wrote in his book The Four Loves that, “Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening friendship would be something like, ‘What? You too? I thought I was the only one.’ ... It is when two such persons discover one another, when, whether with immense difficulties and semi-articulate fumblings or with what would seem to us amazing and elliptical speed, they share their vision - it is then that friendship is born. And instantly they stand together in an immense solitude.” 

So many believe that they have the key to what is wrong with the world and thus believe they know how to fix it: a crisis of love, or a better understanding of human anthropology, or even just a simply lack of charity are all the traits of this fallen world that are only furthering us from loving one another as Christ intended. While all may be true in some way or another, I believe that there is a particular crisis that afflicts the majority of today’s youth, particularly in the west. I believe we have a crisis of friendship; it is not a crisis of companionship, of connection, or of communication, but a crisis of friendship. Real, authentic, sacrificial friendship is so much of what is lacking in the culture because real friendships are not fostered or nurtured in a world that would have us believe that it is far more important to get “likes” or “retweets” than it is to give of oneself for those whom we call friends. Each and every story of old and new novel contains within its tale trial, struggle, perseverance, and courage; without sharing those experiences with another, namely a friend, the tale would be bland and almost without meaning for to share in those experiences is almost as important as experiencing them in the first place. 

Whether it be a dreary high school day or a long day at work, something seems much more bearable about it when it is endured with someone whom you call your “friend”. The world would have us believe that a friend is something that is for mere utility but nothing could be farther from the truth. Friendship is something which stems from the deepest longing of our hearts, almost as much as love does. This friendship remains not only true on the physical plane but also on the spiritual because without friends to experience that which we experience, things seem a little less real. This is especially true when it comes to matters of the faith because without friends in the faith, things seem less real. That is why becoming “friends” with the saints makes the faith more real; people who experienced what we experience in this life: doubt, fear, love, excitement, sorrow, and every other human emotion…people who have lived what we live but yet are not dead and if they are not dead, then we do not share a bond with them as a connection to the past but very much one of the present, no different than what you share with your friends of today. Find a saint who you can relate with, learn about her or him, and form a friendship where they can intercede for you and you can learn from them. Friendship is meant to forge a bond between two people, making this life not just bearable but exciting, no matter how trivial or mundane. 

Jesus says, “no longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends…”. The God of the universe calls us friends so is it really any wonder why the devil makes it so very difficult to form real, true lasting friendships? Find a friend here and now who you can share yourself with, making each and every moment of this life into an adventure. God Bless you all and be saints, nothing less. 

In Christ & Mary,
Father Silva

October first is the feast day of one of the most well-known saints in the history of our 2,000 year old Church. The saint with many names: Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, or most affectionately known by most as “The Little Flower”. This young woman whose writings only existed because her religious superior (who happened to also be her biological sister!) mandated that she write, is a sign of great contradiction to the world. She is the patron saint of missionaries and yet she remained a cloistered nun behind a grill for the short duration of her adult life, before passing at the age of 24. Why would the patron saint of missionaries, those whose entire life revolves around traveling out into the world, why would this saint who remained stationary for her entire adult life be the patron saint of missionaries? Saint Thérèse understood God’s plan for her life from an early age and with a boldness that only comes holiness or pride, made that plan happen in her life happen using all the opportunities that God had placed into her lap.

Saint Thérèse wrote, “I understood that every flower created by Him is beautiful, that the brilliance of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not lessen the perfume of the violet or the sweet simplicity of the daisy. I understood that if all the lowly flowers wished to be roses, nature would no longer be enameled with lovely hues. And so it is in the world of souls, Our lord's living garden.” For her, after coming to know God’s will for her life, living it out faithfully was the same as existing as those plants in nature; she did not will to become that which she was not but embraced the plan that God had laid out for her life knowing full well that it is God’s plan that will bring about the most joy, excitement, and adventure in our lives. Do we believe that living out God’s will in our lives will actually bring about a life of joy and excitement or have we equated God’s will with the most boring, mundane, and bland life imaginable? Saint Thérèse’s parents were canonized saints of the Catholic Church in 2015 and her sister Leonia’s cause for canonization has been opened up as well…a true family of saints! This is a family who knew well that a life of holiness and following God’s plan will only bring about all the excitement that comes from being a saint in today’s world. I hope that this is the beginning of an entire generation that reclaims all the excitement, joy, and adventure from seeing God’s unique plan for our lives and striving to live it out. God Bless you all and be saints, nothing less.

In Christ & Mary,
Father Silva

Catechism paragraph number 2223 reads, “Parents and guardians have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for the education in the virtues.”

In the past year and a half serving here at St Joseph High School, the quality of the students who walk through these doors each and every morning never ceases to amaze me; young men and women who are not virtuous because someone is watching but rather because they are simply living out what they are internally. I have no doubt that this is because of the hard work and dedication of so many faculty, administration, and staff here at St Joe’s (and their previous places of education), but also because of the tireless work of so many parents who continue to sacrifice of themselves to ensure that their children grow and mature into the young adults that will lead this country and this world into a brighter tomorrow.

It is my duty as their spiritual father and it is our goal here at St Joe’s not only to give them the best intellectual formation, spiritual formation, social formation, and athletic formation they can possibly get, but also to create an environment that develops and fosters virtue and a love for striving for virtue. We want your children to be not just the most intelligent but the most intelligent people who will use that intelligence for the betterment of the world; this comes from ensuring that this school is living out intentionally the idea that virtue is not something that is acquired passively but very much actively.

While it may be true that we have your children for what seems to be the majority of the day between school hours, after school activities, and sporting events, it is also true that you all as parents and guardians have a far greater capacity for influence over your children because of who you are. This year, in a most intentional way, we must present a united front in ensuring that these students, your children, are educated not only in math, science, history, English, the fine arts, and theology, but also in the way of virtue. Virtue begins in the home in the simplest of ways -- from ensuring that your child leave for school on time dressed according to the school’s dress code, to ensuring that they are not using excessive foul language or overusing/misusing social media. Instilling virtue in your children is a task that will take the entirety of your lives and certainly the entirety of your energy, but it is one that does not go without great benefits. A child may not be the best athlete in whatever sport they play, they may not be the smartest in their class, and they may not be the leader of whatever group they are involved in, but a virtuous child will be prepared to encounter whatever the world will undoubtedly throw their way. It is my goal to ensure that your children walk into a school that fosters virtue in every area of their lives and it is my hope that that education of virtue is only simplified in the home.

Know of my prayers and support for the many difficulties that face parents each and every day. God Bless you all and be saints, nothing less.

In Christ & Mary,
Father Silva