September Rapp Up

Last night I brought my kids up to the Academy for one of my favorite nights of the year: Homecoming Hallway Decorating. In the past, this was a very stressful night for me. When I was Director of the Community/House System, it was my job to enforce all the rules, a task that I was more than happy to pass along to Mrs. Walters last year.

This year, I just got to enjoy the evening. I brought my wife and kids up for about an hour and we walked amidst the frenzied activity as our corridors were transformed into Jurassic Park, a 1950’s drive-in theater, Boston Harbor in the 1770’s, and other scenes from history (and fiction!). Perhaps my favorite was walking through “future St. James,” complete with “John Muehlberger Field at Tom Radke Stadium,” an eighth Community named after “Blessed Luke Doyle,” and a memorial built to Mr. and Mrs. Walters. I even made an appearance as the talking head on top of a robot telling students to follow the rules. Not exactly sure how Mr. Muehlberger got a field named after him and I was memorialized by forever dampening students’ spirits, but that’s a matter for another time.

We talk about “community” a lot as Catholics and even more so at St. James. Sometimes it is easy to toss words around without considering them, but as I used to tell my English students, we need to always be intentional with words. Words have power because “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). There is something about language that invites us into the mystery of the “Logos,” Jesus Christ.

Which is why nights like last night are so important. I think an authentic community is one of those things that is easier to see than describe, and I saw it last night. I walked past students, parents, younger siblings, and teachers working side by side. People were laughing, eating, disagreeing, building, problem-solving, shouting, listening to music. There were freshmen and seniors, jocks and artists, kids who love school and kids who hate it, all in a cramped hallway trying to make their visions into reality. My daughter loved jumping on the dance floor in the ‘70s hallway, looking around at all the teenagers very seriously while shaking her hips. My son Ryan joined in his Ninja Turtles pajamas, though a bit more cautiously, scanning the area suspiciously the whole time. Our students laughed and encouraged them while my wife talked to some parents helping out with decorations for the first time. I simply soaked it in.

It was a beautiful moment. I sometimes feel torn between my two worlds, my more important Vocation as husband and father and my more time-consuming vocation as educator and leader. But last night was a night when I got to have my worlds together as one, to watch so many of the people I love get together and enjoy the presence of each other while trying to create something amazing.

Every year, no matter how stressful it might have been, the end of the night made it all worth it. Though I wasn’t there for it this year, it ended as it always does with all the participants in the chapel for prayer and a signing of the alma mater. The Holy Spirit is there, every year, as our kids join hands and sing together in the presence of the Eucharist.

Now, St. James is not Disney Land. It’s not all fun and games all the time, and adults and students here make mistakes and bad choices like everyone else. That’s a part of community, too. But nights like these are why we have Catholic schools. We need these moments which are glimpses of our destiny, reminders of our purpose: to spend life together in relationship, using all our gifts and talents in conjunction with one another to build something beautiful, ending in the presence of our King, Jesus, joined in song and spirit before the altar of our God.

THAT’S why I love to come to work every day. For moments like those. That’s why I want to fight for our school, for our Church, so that our kids have a chance to get a taste of the goodness our Father has in store for us. Once we have a sip of the Living Water, we know nothing else will satisfy. I am so blessed to be here where that water flows from the rock at the center of our building.

Happy Homecoming, and as always, thank you for the gift of your children!

Your brother in Christ,