Our theme for the 2018-19 school year comes from Fr. Jim Martin SJ's highly-readable 2010 book The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything: "Noticing helps us to realize that the whole world is already suffused with the presence of God."
As an English teacher, I love to dig into words, and "suffuse" is a verb that I really dig. It means "to saturate, to permeate, to spread entirely through, as with light or water." Or Spirit.
On last weekend's Senior Pilgrimage, we were all certainly saturated. But while the seniors' shoes and socks and shirts and even some tent interiors got a bit damp from the rain that hit late Saturday afternoon, it was the Holy Spirit that was streaming into every nook and cranny of our beings.
In this distracted age, we are trying to remind our students to notice the presence of God. St. Ignatius, and Fr. Martin, whom the student body met via Skype on the first Friday of the year, remind us that God is in all things—and all people.
For a teenager, it can be a challenge to notice God when running from breakfast to the shower to the car to school to classes to... after school activities to dinner with the family (if we are lucky) to homework, with plenty of moments onscreen checking our status and our likes and our snaps and... then, maybe blessed sleep.
On the Pilgrimage, however, God showed up just as surely as the rain and the sore muscles. We could see God in the rain, in the skits, in those generous seniors pushing their hobbled pals up miles-long stretches of highway in wheelchairs.
In the Chapel of St. Francis Xavier, the Class of 2019 welcomed the Holy Spirit in a very big way. That tiny stone chapel fairly rocked with the Spirit. Not only during rousing renditions of "Lead Me, Lord" and the Chamber Choir's mellifluous "Shelter His Name," but in the moments of profound, poignant silence as we prayed for our school and our world, and installed new Eucharistic Ministers. We could feel God's presence suffusing that space in a special way during the shaggy, wet-wool-scented sign of peace at the end of the liturgy. That was a Sign indeed, and it lasted more than a few lovely minutes.
Just ask any of the 300 seniors who were there if they noticed the presence of God in that chapel. Ask any of the adults fortunate enough to have been there to witness the goodness and faith and love of young people today. To see these "kids today" walking long miles and belting out their sacred songs is to have your faith in this broken world restored.
So, during this 2018-19 school year, let's try to pause as frequently as possible, look up from our busy-ness, and notice that the whole of Creation is suffused with the presence of our Creator.
Paul J. Hogan