Saturday, June 6, 2015



Yielding to the impulse of the moment I spent the past several days thoroughly weeding out old file folders from drawers in my offices in both monastery and school. What an interesting experience!  

There were lots of folders that I had not looked at in decades, such as class notes from graduate school, and newspaper articles, and other odds and ends. These simply went into the big paper recycling dumpster. A second category of folders contained material destined for the archives of our monastery and school. I did glance into a lot of these, and found some interesting things, such as a yellowed sheet of looseleaf from  1972 filled with pencil-written notes outlining the shape of a possible school, or another from one year later containing a handwritten list of students from one of the first classes I taught in our newly reopened St. Benedict’s. Three boxes of such things went to the archives.

Two things struck me about the experience of sorting through these old files. First, when I looked at the titles on the folders full of class notes from grad school and seminary and old news articles I realized that all of the things in those folders had contributed to shaping my attitudes and approaches into what they are today. I didn't feel the least need to peek into any of those files -- their contents had become part of me (or not), and so the paper they were written on could now safely be recycled.

I was reminded especially of how all those various ideas had helped shape my thinking back when we were giving form to the “new” St. Benedict’s Prep: Cultural Anthropology, Secondary School Administration, Counselling, Racism, Martin Luther King, Epistles of St. Paul, Curriculum Design, and on and on.

A second aspect of the experience was getting reacquainted with the Albert who had studied those courses and had written those scores of outlines, memos, proposals and lists at age 29 or 30. I tried to remember what it felt like to be doing all that stuff, to be so filled with energy and enthusiasm that I’d stay up past midnight to try to get it all on paper. As I sifted through those sheets that were now on their way to the archives I smiled, trying to recognize the young man who had written all that stuff.


Now, of course I’m left with the question “So what?” What’s the upshot of the experience of emptying these file drawers? For one thing, I realized that as important as these ideas were, the intellectual was only one side of me, perhaps the most obvious and certainly very useful, but ultimately not the most important dimension of who I am. There are no file cabinets full of all those experiences and people that shaped my character and my moral fiber.

It got me to thinking about the various influences that shape our lives and our characters. Yesterday, the final day of school, the students and faculty watched a retrospective slide show about the graduating seniors, sometimes  laughing at the pictures of them as seventh graders or freshmen. Then we had the ceremonial installation of the new student leaders for next year, and the official promoting of the freshmen into full membership in the community (meaning that now they will wear a black hoodie instead of a gray one). During the whole time this was going on I was aware of how much we are shaping these kids' lives by everything we do here in school here both intellectually and in terms of character education and religious belief. I said a prayer that I can do a good job of holding up my end of that task.

Last night there was a reception for the class of 1965. Several of these alumni volunteered to me that St. Benedict’s had been one of the most formative experiences of their life. More thoughts about how we help to shape one another.

Then just a few minutes ago I was in the gym shaking hands with kids who will be coming here next year as new students. More shaping to be done!


Maybe the most important lesson for me to take away from this week is not that I’ve been shaped by so many people, or that as a school person I have helped to shape thousands of young people over the years, but rather this: I am not yet fully formed, and God is going to continue to shape me and challenge me and encourage me.

God said to me this week, “I love you just the way you are, but I love you too much to leave you the way you are. So be prepared for more growing. I’m not finished with you yet!”


  1. I am going to be 82 this year, Fr. Albert, and feel the same way you do. God is not finished with me yet!!

    Love your blog. Many blessings to you in the coming school year!!

    1. Good for you! Thank you for the encouragement!