Saints and Scholars Newsletter November 11, 2022

Words from our Principal

Dear families and friends of Lumen,

Sunday’s first reading came from 2 Maccabees 7:1-14 and told the story of the martyrdom of a mother and her seven sons, who had been arrested for refusing to eat pork (and thereby show their obedience and loyalty to Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the pagan Seleucid king). While this story is notable for its heroic and courageous testimony of gruesome and torturous martyrdom, and for its affirmation of the doctrine of bodily resurrection (about which the Sadducces attempted to challenge Jesus in Sunday’s Gospel), I wanted to call attention today to a brief line that was left out of yesterday’s reading but I think relates back to our Honor Code principle of taking an active part in seeing to it that others as well as ourselves uphold the spirit and letter of the Honor Code.

After the king saw that the brothers and their mother would not eat the pork, he ordered them to be cooked in a cauldron. After watching their first brother be maimed, mutilated, and thrown into the pan, we are told:

As the cloud of smoke spread from the pan, the brothers and their mother encouraged one another to die nobly, with these words: “The Lord God is looking on and truly has compassion on us, as Moses declared in his song, when he openly bore witness, saying, ‘And God will have compassion on his servants.’”

The key words here are “encouraged one another.” As I have said before, I truly hope that none of our scholars will face such brutality in their lifetimes (though I also hope that, if God calls them to suffer death in martyrdom, what they have learned at our school will prepare them to face it!). But even in smaller ways – in our “daily” martyrdoms, our daily sufferings and sacrifices, I hope that our scholars can encourage each other as these brothers did.

The word “encourage” comes to us from Latin through French, and literally means to “put heart into.” The heart, C.S. Lewis reminds us in Abolition of Man, is the “seat. . . of Magnanimity, of emotions organized by trained habit into stable sentiments.” The heart is where we learn to train our emotions “to feel pleasure, liking, disgust, and hatred at those things which really are pleasant, likeable, disgusting, and hateful.” Lewis believed (correctly, I think!) that emotions – or that which goes on in the “heart” – do not just “happen” to people without a moral or ethical dimension. Instead, he said that our emotions can either be true or false – that reality “demands a certain [emotional] response from us whether we make it or not.” In other words, there can be right or wrong emotions – and to cultivate the heart, we must learn to feel properly.

To encourage someone, therefore, is to help them train and shape their hearts and their emotions in accordance with reality – to know, love, and pursue what is true, good, and beautiful. We see this truth revealed in the reading from 2 Maccabees. The mother and her sons encouraged each other through hope in the truth of God’s compassion, faith in the truth of God’s promises, and love of the truth of God’s law. By training their emotions in light of the truth, they were able to overcome what would have been a very natural fear. Thus, one of the sons is able to say, as the soldiers are preparing to cut off his hands:

“It was from Heaven that I received these; for the sake of His laws I disregard them; from Him I hope to receive them again” (2 Macc 7:11).

Acknowledging the truth that his hands were given to him by God in order to serve God, this young man was willing to give up his hands when God’s law demanded – all because he had been encouraged by his love for the truth.

When we ask our scholars to support each other in upholding the Honor Code, we certainly do expect them to speak up when they see school rules being violated and to take responsibility when they themselves have violated school rules. But that is the bare minimum. We hope that they will also encourage each other to respond with love to things that ought to be loved – to love Christ, to love the Church, to love their school, to love learning, to love each other, and to love themselves enough to strive for virtue, honesty, integrity, and excellence in all their actions and in all their work – and to be willing to make sacrifices for the sake of those loves. And we hope that they will encourage each other to love their daily crosses – their daily struggles, burdens, and labors – and to learn to respond with courage and perseverance even and especially when they are tempted to give up or run away.

Today, please know of my personal prayers of encouragement for each of you – that whatever crosses you are bearing, whatever difficulties you are being asked to face, God may send you His encouragement in discerning, knowing, loving, pursuing, and sacrificing for the truth of Christ in all things.

May God bless you all this week!

Pax et bonum,

Karen Celano

Christ – Centered Learning

Photos by George Martell

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