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What Did You Learn Today?

September 12th, 2013by Joe Ollier

On my first day of high school I walked into homeroom and met Mr. Ballaban.  He was big, gruff, and larger than life.  He’d been at the school for over 30 years, and had been both the basketball and football coach back in the day.  That first day he gave us homework.  That’s right, homework for homeroom!  We had until Friday to learn 3 things, or face JUG (“Justice Under God” – you probably just call it detention):  1)the school’s Alma Mater, 2) the fight song, and 3)the following prayer by St. Ignatius:

Lord, teach me to be generous.

Teach me to serve you as you deserve; 

to give and not to count the cost,

to fight and not to heed the wounds,

to toil and not to seek for rest,

to labor and not to ask for reward,

save that of knowing that I do your will.

We sang the Alma Mater a few times every year, mostly at the end of mass and assemblies.  The fight song was ubiquitous at pep rallies, football games and basketball games.  But the prayer by Saint Ignatius – that we said every day for 4 years.

I still remember the fight song and the Alma Mater, but let’s be honest, you really don’t need those things too much in life outside of high school, especially 30 years down the road.  But the Ignatian prayer – that’s a different story.   Those are words I’ve said countless times in the years since graduation.  As I look back on those four years of high school, it occurs to me that the most valuable thing I took away from that experience was bound up in that prayer – the knowledge that everything I was, am and will be comes from God and the best thing I can do is to give it all back to Him.

I came to see that knowledge is only worthwhile when it is laid at the feet of the One was gave it to us.  Sure I got a great education that prepared me for academically for college and work.  But the reason it was such a great education was that every adult there, Mr Ballaban included, believed that education has a deeper purpose.  Science, history, math, literature – all those subjects are really all about helping us to know God through the realities of this world; the people, events, and natural laws that God put here in order to reveal Himself.  We were taught that we had an obligation to excel in school, and in everything we did, not because it would mean a good job down the road, but because God deserved nothing less than our very best.

As you walk the hallowed halls of your school this fall, may you come to know God more deeply through your teachers, friends, academics, clubs, and sports.  And may you put all you are at the service of the God who made you.

God Bless!

Joe Ollier

Joe Ollier is the Coordinator of Youth Ministry at Ascension Parish in Kettering where he and his family are. He has 20 years experience in youth ministry and a Masters Degree in Theological Studies from the University of Dayton.