Responding to the Message of Peace

When I was in grade school, I looked forward to May, not because it was the end of the school year – though that was exciting – but because it was the month of the Blessed Mother (and my birthday!) Every May, I would set up a “May Altar” in my bedroom. I really don’t know if that concept even relates to this generation of young people. I just recall that devotions to the Blessed Mother were very special in my family and in my school community as I was growing up. I attended Saint Helena Parish School staffed by the Sisters of Saint Joseph. And each week in the spring, we would practice the hymns and format for the May Procession that took place in the parish church. It was simply magnificent! As students, we would process around the block and into church as we sang hymns to Mary. There was the crowning of the Blessed Mother statue in the church, followed by Benediction.

On May 13, 2017, the Vatican canonized Jacinta and Francisco Marto, two of the three children who saw the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary six times between May 13, 1917, and Oct. 13, 1917 at Fatima. They died in the influenza epidemic during 1918-1919. Lucia Santos, who was their cousin and whose beatification process began in 2008, died in 2005 at the age of 97. The vision told the children three “secrets,” and according to the Vatican website, they are described as: “The first and second parts of the ‘secret’ . . . refer especially to the frightening vision of hell, devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Second World War, and finally the prediction of the immense damage that Russia would do to humanity by abandoning the Christian faith and embracing Communist totalitarianism. . . The third part of the secret is a symbolic revelation, referring to this part of the Message, conditioned by whether we accept or not what the Message itself asks of us: ‘If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, etc.’. “

Saint Norbert, when he established his first community of Norbertines at Premontre, France, incorporated a special devotion to Mary, and since that time, all of the churches or communities of the Norbertine Order around the world are dedicated to the Blessed Mother. Archmere is dedicated to the patronage of Mary of the Immaculate Conception.

So why are there many different titles for Mary? Wasn’t she just one person? It is true that Mary was singularly the Mother of Jesus, but she has been given a variety of titles over the centuries that are dogmatic, poetic, or allegorical in nature. Additionally, more titles of Mary are found in religious art. All of these are reflections of the ways in which Mary has revealed herself to us, delivering messages of peace, love, and devotion to her Son, Jesus.

The Blessed Mother is the quintessential figure of motherhood in the Catholic Church and in other Christian faiths. A life of sacrifice completely dedicated to God’s will and to her Son’s ministry, she said, “Yes,” to a plan that included her holding the lifeless body of her son after he was crucified. She also had to “let go” of her Son so that he could fulfill his life’s plan, and potentially hear words that may have been difficult to understand or emotionally accept:

“Someone told Him, “Look, Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to You.” But Jesus replied, “Who is My mother, and who are My brothers?” Pointing to His disciples, He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers.…” (Matthew 12:48)

The Blessed Mother is a powerful role model for parents. At this time of year, we contemplate our seniors graduating and leaving “the home nest” to go on to college. Being with family pretty much every day, students will become more independent, finding their way in new academic communities and creating new social circles. Just as Mary, with her husband, Joseph, provided guidance and support for Jesus through his formative years so that he would be ready to take on his public ministry later in life, parents have created the foundations for their sons and daughters to take the next steps in their lives.

As we graduate the members of the Class of 2017, let us pray for them through the intercession of Mary, our Blessed Mother. May they be inspired to challenge themselves academically, enrich themselves with new friendships, and strengthen themselves through prayer. Our graduates have the capacity to make change in the world, and to respond to the messages of peace delivered by Mary under her many titles.

Coming Home

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The Class of 2016 unveils their class gift, “The Great Auk”

Although the weather was rainy for Homecoming Day festivities, the crowds were enthusiastic and significant in size to celebrate well the Archmere spirit. One of my favorite roles as Headmaster is to serve and host and act as a tour guide to guests visiting the campus. It is particularly exciting to lead a tour with fellow alumni who have not been to the campus in a number of years. One can usually tell who they are. For example, last year, I watched an alumnus in his car negotiate the pedestrian walkway in front of the Science Center, looking bewildered because there was no parking lot in the center of campus – only a grassy quad! This year, graduates were impressed by the renovations to Saint Norbert Hall. Although they could no longer visit “their locker,” they had fun remembering classes in a very similar classroom footprint. The added student lounges, study rooms, and renovated library and learning commons generated good discussion around how the style of learning has evolved over the years.

Even though alumni noted with pride and approval the many changes on campus, I believe that the sense of community and belonging that they remembered still exists, and our current students are having a similar experience. After Homecoming weekend, I invited the members of the Student Council to meet with me over lunch to discuss their views about the school. Their comments were positive, hopeful, and inspiring. One student asked how the senior class might help with the current fund raising effort to underwrite the renovations to Saint Norbert Hall. Another student talked about strategies that help measure the school spirit of the students by the number of extra-curricular events they attend. Our students want to be engaged and partner with teachers and administrators in making the Academy the best it can be.

Most of us have had positive experiences in our childhood homes, and returning home, whether to the physical place or to be with the ones who love us and know us best, is usually a heartwarming experience. Archmere is like home to many people on many levels – from alumni who used to board at the Academy in the days when there was a boarding program, to the members of the Class of 2016 who gathered excitedly to unveil the bronze statue of The Great Auk, a project they underwrote with their five-year class pledge. The fact that Archmere was founded in the home originally built by John and Helena Raskbob for their 13 children also contributes to the special feeling that is Archmere. As Mrs. Raskob wrote in the conclusion of her Raskob-Green Record Book, “And so ‘Archmere’ now is a beautiful dream come true. But the greatest charm, aside from the voices of the children, is the homelike spirit that has been fostered within its walls. I value the delicious home feeling as one of the choicest gifts a parent can bestow.” I hope that Archmere may always be a place for students, alumni and their families to feel “at home.”

Sincerely,

Michael A. Marinelli, Ed.D. ‘76
Headmaster

Give of Your Hands to Serve

200202_32_servantOn Tuesday, September 6, 2016, we held our traditional Installation Ceremony for the newly elected Student Council officers. The entire student body, faculty, and administration participated in a prayer service during the morning assembly period. The first reading was taken from the writings of a Norbertine priest, Father Alphonsus van den Huck, O. Praem., about the virtues of Saint Norbert. The second reading was taken from Luke’s Gospel, when Jesus tells his followers that the “the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves.” (22:24-27)

In preparing my remarks for the ceremony, two thoughts came to mind. First, I considered Saint Norbert’s conversion experience, described as a very dramatic moment when he was on his horse on the way to Freden, Germany. He was caught in a bad storm, and a bolt of lightening frightened his horse, throwing him to the ground unconscious. As he awoke, he heard a voice saying, “Turn away from evil and do good.” He decided to spend time in private prayer in a nearby abbey, and for three years after, became an itinerant preacher, giving up his possessions and his nobility status. It was only after three years of discernment that Norbert founded a new community of religious and laymen and women in a forest clearing in Premontre, France. In 1120, the Premonstratentian Order was born.

I commented to the students that Norbert was a leader before and after his conversion experience, but I suggested that the kinds of leadership he demonstrated in each of these periods of his life were different. As he grew up as part of the nobility of the time, he was given opportunities to be educated and have a position in the Catholic Church of the day. Because of his family’s noble status, his talents, and personal gifts, he served in the court of the Holy Roman Emperor and was a leader in developing liturgical traditions and celebrations. He had positional power in the Emperor’s Court. However, it was only after his conversion experience that Norbert’s leadership deepened and became even more effective, for he not only had the education, skills, and talents, including persuasive oration, that he developed in his youth, but he also was passionate about his life’s work – a vision of reforming the Church by creating a new community that would be inclusive and true to the Gospel – a Gospel that preaches love of God and service to others, especially the poor. Norbert recognized that the servant-leader model, demonstrated by Christ himself, was more powerful than any positional or man-made authority could give.

I challenged our students to consider two things: first, to be servant-leaders, and to understand that it involves using their talents to build community with each other, and being passionate about what they are learning and doing. Second, to be effective leaders, carefully choose what they say and do. Jesus, before or after he preached or performed acts of healing, often went off to pray alone. Norbert, after he experienced a moment of enlightenment and conversion, spent time in an abbey in prayer, and continued to discern his purpose in life for three years, while he preached from town to town. In our highly technical world, it is so easy for us to send a quick electronic message or photo without thinking or as a reaction to a strong emotion. A truly effective servant-leader pauses, thinks, and prays about the appropriateness of that message or photo, and how it might affect others, including their relationship to others.

We have an impressive group of young people at Archmere Academy. I am excited to begin another school year with them as we lead and learn together, ever shaping our school to be a creative, welcoming, and inclusive community in the spirit of Saint Norbert.