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Principal's Blog

In this blog, Principal Paul Hogan will regularly share with us his insights and observations. We hope you enjoy Paul's posts!

Serena, Harry Potter, and The Heroic Journey

At Commencement on June 5, Senior speaker Serena Oduro ’16 reminded her classmates about the lessons of the hero’s journey in a powerful and deeply moving address. A few minutes later, Principal Paul Hogan picked up Serena’s theme and reminded the seniors of the lessons they have learned at Jesuit, especially this spring.

Serena Oduro’s Commencement Keynote: The Heroic Journey

Something that has stuck with me throughout my Jesuit High experience is the concept of the hero’s journey. For those who may not know, the hero's journey is the format by which most books and movies abide, and I'd even argue that most people's lives do as well. To me, there is no book better to relate the hero’s journey to than the Harry Potter series. Through the process of the hero’s journey, such as the call to adventure and finding his mentors, Harry finds his power. It is the journey that all of us should, and I’d even say must, take in various forms, so we all find our own individual roles, our forms of heroism.

The call to adventure: At the age of 11 Harry receives a visit from Hagrid, who gives Harry a letter explaining that he is a wizard and has been accepted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. But Harry rejects his call, thinking that there is nothing magical about him. Though none of us have been accepted to schools that practice magic, we are all experiencing a range of emotions as we embark on this new journey of college.

Some of us are ecstatic, many just ready to be done with high school, and others resenting having to leave the familiarity of the homes where we have grown up. But, like Harry, what might seem a place where we don't belong, or might appear scary, may actually be magical and teach us the power that each of us possesses. We just need to find our magic.

Next, we have to meet our mentors. Though most of us probably won't find a Dumbledore look-alike in college (though we may find a Mr. Falkner look-alike), our parents and friends will continue to fill this role, whether we're homesick at college and need to FaceTime with them, or are on a different continent. Our family members and friends are our connection to our roots; they continuously bring us back to the path of our hero’s journey when we are led astray fighting villains, or maybe creating our own demons that aren't worth our time, because they know our true selves, what’s behind our masks.

Now, I am not going to continue to go through the rest of the hero’s journey and make Harry Potter references for each step. Frankly, the first two were the only ones I remember from freshman year. But what makes the hero’s journey so amazingly applicable, and why Harry Potter fits so well the point I am trying to make, is that Harry didn't believe that there was anything special about him. But by the end of the series, Harry fully comprehends that he is the most powerful wizard in the world.

That's what we should all experience. Obviously we are not all the most powerful, but we all have inherent magic inside of ourselves, a magic that was given to us by Jesuit. Throughout these four years, Jesuit has taught us how to love, a true agape love, how to be empathetic and compassionate, how to stand up for the marginalized, whether abroad, in our own country, in our towns, or in our school. That is a magic that many will never get to experience, and a magic that many wish would be imparted so they can be freed from shackles clamped on them by others who don't understand these concepts.

To be a man or woman for others is to know when to put yourself aside, like Harry did, to fight for what is right, even if it is uncomfortable, even if it goes against the narrative you've always been sold. To be a man and woman for others does not mean to always be a leader. No one can always be a leader. Many are not meant to be leaders, and that's perfectly fine. It doesn't matter if you lead, but whom you follow, whom you support through your actions, your votes, your words, your tacit approval.

Hermione, Ron, Neville, and Ginny were followers, but they followed someone who embodied the values of justice, compassion, and empathy, and that makes them heroes. We too have learned these values here, through following the Jesuits’ way of proceeding—not necessarily by being Catholic, but through adopting how the Jesuits treat others, and seeing the value in every human being. We have begun to strip ourselves of our preconceptions, privileges, and biases and see the inherent human dignity in every human being, and that, not our intellect, but with our intellect and ability to love, will forever be our greatest weapon, our wands or source of magic.

While embarking on my own journey, I want to thank my mom, dad, sister, brothers, and family for always teaching me that I was the hero in my own story. For those who may not know, I am a dreamer. Because of my family, ever since I was a child I have been provided a place of solace, where despite what society has told me, I have never been limited in what I imagined myself to be. I have always been magical.

I hope our whole class can commence the next part of our lives with that attitude. A quote that embodies this idea comes from poet Marianne Williamson, famously quoted and misquoted by Nelson Mandela: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others

We should always feel like wizards, warlocks, queens, kings, and goddesses, not so that we feel better than everyone else, but so that we realize the power we hold in ourselves. So that by using our own magic, we can help others find theirs. So that we can liberate others.

Each of us has a duty to improve this world, to attempt to rid it of injustices. Let’s use college to find the methods by which we will do this. Let’s light this world with our magic.

Posted by etuenge on Wednesday June 8 at 11:17AM
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Guest Blog: John Gladstone's Homily

Last Friday, at the last “regular” Friday Liturgy of the year—meaning one with all four years present, at an optional Friday Mass, President Gladstone offered these reflections to our students.

John Gladstone’s Homily - May 20, 2016

Good morning. Thank you for choosing to be at our Mass. I want to share with you several special happenings in history on May 20th, then share a story:

  • Last year in Kenya, archaeologists found stone tools 500,000 years older than any known tools used by humans.
  • On this date in 1927, 1932, and 1939 three aviation firsts occurred in this order: Charles Lindbergh took off for the first solo flight across the Atlantic to Paris; five years later, Amelia Earhart left Newfoundland as the first woman to fly solo across that same ocean; in 1939 Pan American Airlines began trans-Atlantic air passenger service.
  • On May 20, 1916, 1917, and 1918 tornadoes hit the same small town of Codell, Kansas.
  • In 1892, George Sampson patented the first clothes dryer.
  • In 1874 Levi Strauss marketed blue jeans with copper rivets - $13.50/doz.
  • In 1521, a wealthy womanizer and soldier, Ignatius of Loyola, was struck in the leg by a cannonball that changed not only his life but ours as well. If that hadn’t happened, we wouldn’t be here today.

Fast forward from Ignatius’ cannonball in 1521 to my junior year at St. Ignatius, a Jesuit high school located in Cleveland, OH. I had been born into a very traditional Catholic family, the second oldest of seven children. As a family we never missed Mass on Sundays and holy days or our monthly confession rite. We also prayed the rosary together in May and October.

Our Catholic Church was very different then. We could not eat meat on Fridays—so I had lots of fried egg sandwiches, tuna casseroles, fish sticks, and homemade meatless pizza on those days. Masses were said in Latin, and, as an altar boy, I learned all of the responses in Latin. In order to receive communion you had to abstain from all food and liquids, including water, from midnight until you went to Mass and received Holy Communion. You could not touch the host with your hands or teeth, you always knelt at the communion rail to receive communion, and all women and girls had to wear a veil or hat in church. The priest always said Mass with his back to the congregation. It was a different time, and this was the only church I knew.

On my birthday in 1958, I was in 7th grade and a new Pope, John Paul XXIII, was elected. I had an instant and lasting connection because we shared the same first name. My 7th grade teacher, Sr. Mary Alice, told me how special this was in front of the whole class.

Four years later, on October 11, 1962, hundreds of finely-robed church delegates strode into St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome to signal the start of a very historic three-year convocation, called Vatican II, and convened by Pope John XXIII that would forever change the way Catholics, the world’s largest Christian denomination, viewed themselves, their Church, and the world. I loved those changes.

In 1962, when Pope John XXIII unveiled Vatican II, he said it was time to open the windows of our church and let in the fresh air. And, oh, did he ever do just that! Because of Vatican II, priests began celebrating Mass not in the traditional Latin but rather in the language of countries in which they and their congregations lived. Also the priests faced the congregation – not just to be heard, but also to tell those in church that they were included as a vital component of the celebration of Mass.

People became active sharers in Mass. The changes were not limited to Mass. Nuns could change their habits in favor of apparel similar to that worn by the lay people they served. Over time, those going to communion no longer had to kneel and could receive the host in their hands. Women no longer had to wear veils and could actually enter the sanctuary.

With these and other changes occurring, many people, including many priests and laity, could not accept their new church. For these, Pope John XXIII’s breath of fresh air became a hurricane.

Other major changes followed. The church was no longer passive and sitting on the sidelines. Instead many Catholics in America and around the world, including many priests and nuns, became very active and outspoken in a decade torn apart by racism in our country, women’s rights, political upheaval, worker’s rights, and the Vietnam War. Through Vatican II the church and Pope John XXIII were disseminating the message that the Church, our Church, was becoming part of the modern world and were trying to show that human dignity and the Gospels were truly complementary.

I see many parallels in the Church between what Pope John XXIII was trying to tell our Church in 1962 and what Pope Francis is saying to us now. In my lifetime I have been blessed by these two remarkable popes, who believed in and welcomed all people into this larger tent to share conversation and to learn about our faith. Many of the same issues raised in the 60’s are still with us today – and new ones have arisen too. Let’s embrace the conversation and open our own windows and be willing to bring about change in our Portland community, in our archdiocese, at Jesuit High School, and in our hearts.

Be the change.

As I am about to leave Jesuit, I simply want to thank all of you for making this Friday Mass a part of your lives and my life every week. You have made our school better not only by participating and praying and singing at these Masses, but also by carrying forward the spirit of these Masses into your everyday lives right here at Jesuit and beyond. There is, indeed, goodness in our school.

Thank you.

Posted by etuenge on Thursday May 26 at 03:03PM
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